Sunday, December 22, 2013

Title: A Guide for the Perplexed
Author: Dara Horn
Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Oh, my poor neglected blog, how I have missed you! The lack of updates for the past few months has been due to college taking over my life. I had to devote any spare minute/hour I had to keeping up with my three classes. Thankfully, all my hard work paid off- I received an A in all three classes! Now I get a mini-break until the spring semester starts up again on January 6th. Enough about me, now some good stuff....

A Guide for the Perplexed is a mixture of regular fiction and historical fiction due to three interweaving stories (the reader learns how all three timelines and plots are connected at the end of the novel). Josie Ashkenazi, a genius and the envy of her sister, Judith,  lives in present-day Massachusetts and has designed the Genizah: a software program that records your daily life and categorizes every important or mundane moment for your convenient retrieval later. (And you thought Facebook was intrusive...) Josie's inspiration for the Genizah program came after a near-fatal asthma attack in the woods and from the real-life genizahs (archives) that are located in every Jewish synagogue.
Judith urges Josie to travel to Egypt to sell the Genizah program to the Alexandria library. Near the end of her trip, Josie is kidnapped and made to create a genizah for her captor who recently lost his teenage son to police brutality. While Josie is being held prisoner, Judith is taking over Josie's life back in the States and moves in with Josie's husband and daughter. Towards the end of the novel,  Judith finally decides to do the right thing and atone for her past actions and hatred against Josie.
I can't give any more of the plot away but this was a nice, intelligent, yet escapist book to read after a very stressful semester.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Title: Dexter's Final Cut
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Genre: fiction, books-to-TV, mystery

I've been on a non-fiction reading bender lately, so it was nice to take a "break" and read some fiction. That said, I had mixed feelings about this book. Lindsay's writing and Dexter's wittiness was spot on, as always, but Dexter got him into some major moral dilemmas in this book which I was uncomfortable with (Dexter, of course, was not).
A TV show is filming in Miami and Dexter and Deborah become "technical advisers" to the show. Basically, this means they become glorified babysitters for the celebrities who will be playing their characters on the show. Dexter becomes caught up in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as his duties are taken a step further and he becomes bodyguard to Jackie Forrest, the beautiful starlet. Our favorite serial killer who keeps a low profile and stays in the shadows, becomes enamored with publicity, his client's fame and the wonderful food that surrounds celebrities. This infatuation with a different world causes Dexter to become dissatisfied with his "normal life" that he had previously created for himself: Rita, the kids, work, etc. As Dexter is about to make a choice that will change his life forever, his first foray into the world of humanity and human emotions comes crashing down on him.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Title: Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
Author: Melanie Warner
Genre: non-fiction, food issues, health

"Just because it's edible doesn't mean it's good for you" (xvii)
Melanie Warner's mom, quoted above, was onto something and way ahead of her time. While most kids had the freedom to eat whatever processed food came their way, Melanie was only allowed to eat whole foods; "gooped-up" foods were not allowed in the house when Melanie was growing up.

Nowadays, food science has taken technology and food processing to a whole new level: hexane is used in the manufacturing of soybean oil, synthetic Vitamin D is created from sheep grease in Chinese factories (won't be buying vitamins anymore), other vitamins are created from coal tar and acetone. Yuck!

Warner takes us through the history of American cereal. Americans used to eat oatmeal and various meat products for breakfast until the Kellogg brothers figured out how to create cereal flakes. Sugar was added to make the flakes more palatable and now modern cereal grains undergo extrusion and gun puffing before they are filled in the cereal box. Unfortunately, "industrial processes like extrusion and gun puffing ... dismantle foods to the point where there's not much left for our digestive systems to do" (65). So what's the big deal about that? "Depriving our stomach of its gastric duties by giving it disassembled food appears profoundly to alter energy metabolism and the dynamics of hunger and satiety" (65). Sounds like our stomach needs to work out too.

Warner, like other food-issues authors I have read, discovered that food scientists don't partake of the products they create; the food scientists she interviewed bought their produce at farmer's markets, planted their own garden, and cook their own meals from scratch (one scientist she interviewed even makes his own yogurt!).

Not only are synthetic chemicals and vitamins added to our food, but there is special category that food scientists refer to as "food-contact substances." These are "things manufacturers use in their packaging and apply to machinery to keep it running" (109).

The American food industry is like a dog chasing its own tail. Natural nutrients are taken out of a food to make it cheaper to produce. Then synthetic vitamins and nutrients must be added back to said food product so that it can be marketed as healthy. To make sure these vitamins stick to the product, more chemicals must be used. Oy vey, when will it all end?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Title: The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think
Author(s): Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
Genre: animals, non-fiction, science

Is your dog smarter than a 5th grader? Could your dog possibly be smarter than you? If you answered yes to these two questions, you are not alone. Brian Hare is an animal behaviorist who has been studying canines and their cognitive abilities. Using various experiments, Hare hypothesizes that dogs' genius came about due to domestication. (No, he is not saying that wolves and foxes are dumb but dogs perform better on animal intelligence tests which are talked about extensively in the book)
Hare also hypothesizes that canine domestication occurred through the use of breeding for non-aggressive personalities (friendliness) versus breeding for a certain physical trait.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Title: The Cat Whisperer: Why Cats Do What They Do- and How to Get Them to Do What You Want
Author: Mieshelle Nagelschneider
Genre: non-fiction, animals, cats

We used to have a cat with "issues." Rusty would chew things; this was a habit he acquired as an adult cat. He would chew shoelaces, holes in clothes (new clothes, of course), and chomp on computer mice cords and speaker wires, yet, he somehow never shocked himself. Our vet never found anything physically wrong with Rusty and I would always joke that Rusty needed a shrink... Imagine my pleasant surprise when The Cat Whisperer  appeared at my local library.

I have had pet cats for my most of my life; after observing various felines for so long, you think you have a pretty good understanding of the feline universe, but I did learn a few things:
1. Your sweetest cat is usually the most anxious. All that cuddling and rubbing against you may actually be your cat's way of trying to self-soothe (29).
2. Spatio-temporal hierarchy (61). This is a mouthful that means "kitty timesharing." I have noticed this behavior among my four cats but I didn't know it had a name. Examples: Midnight and S'mores will follow me into the bathroom in the morning as I get ready for work. My other two cats, Oreo and Cocoa, will not be in the bathroom at the same time as Midnight and S'mores. At night, Oreo will snuggle by my feet or behind my knees. Cocoa will snuggle near my chest. Midnight will be hanging out in the room but not on the bed. S'mores will be hiding in the closet and will come out every now and then for some head rubs. Oreo will groom Cocoa but not the other cats; Midnight and S'mores will groom each other but not Cocoa or Oreo.
3. Flehmen response. Do you ever see your cat sniff a spot (or some stinky shoes) and make a weird face? This is the cat sniffing and tasting a scent, "A can take in the taste and scent of something simultaneously with this organ [Jacobson's organ], which is just behind the incisors in the roof of the mouth" (209).
4. The plague spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages after widespread persecution of cats.
5. There are 40 to 70 million homeless or feral cats in the United States but "relatively few homeless or stray dogs (21)." Why the feline to canine disparity? Cats are not highly valued as dogs (21).

So how did Mieshelle Nagelschneider become a cat behaviorist (and get paid for it)? As a little girl she would (try) to befriend the feral cats near her family's ranch. A combination of patience, experimental techniques, and having a special gift set on her on the track of helping cats and their humans resolve difficult cat psychological issues. Working as a vet tech and moonlighting as a pet sitter helped solidify her work with cats. When she starts feline behavior therapy, she first corrects the behavior of the human (usually the cause of the cat's behavior problem):

"Cats are more often killed for unwanted behavior than for any other reason. Imagine if the number one killer of human beings was not disease but behavioral problems. We'd view this as a mental health epidemic" (20).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Title: Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords
Author: Henry Jacoby (editor)
Genre: non-fiction, books on TV, fantasy

Game of Thrones and philosophy in the same sentence? This pop culture/philosophy mash-up caught my eye because 1. Game of Thrones is my favorite show and I need something to hold me over until next year, 2. Since I'm going back to school, I thought this book would help get my brain back into a semi-scholarly mode.

Topic Covered                                     Case Study
biomedical ethics                                   Bran Stark, Khal Drogo
metaphysics                                           direwolves, wargs, wights
evil & injustice                                       Cersei (need we say more?)
moral luck vs. moral responsibility          Tyrion Lannister
cultural relativism                                    Dany
fatalism                                                  "Winter is Coming"
game theory                                           Lannisters' modus operandi
why be moral?                                       Joffrey Baratheon

Other topics include Ned Stark's idealism and how/why that ended badly for him; epistemology- "what we know, how we know it, and what it means to know something" (143)- "You know nothing, Jon Snow"; the dangers of chivalry (keeps women dependent and narrowly defined gender roles & societal roles for both sexes); virtue ethic theory (how to lead the good life), and the golden rule of game theory: "Understand others as they understand themselves" (262).

Sounds mind numbing, but the essays are written in down-to-earth styles (with some humor here and there) and really helps the reader think about the characters and "what makes them tick" and they approach life.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Title: Dad is Fat
Author: Jim Gaffigan
Genre: non-fiction, humor, parenting

Hot pockets!
This book was hilarious and a great stress relief after the past few weeks: getting my son ready for kindergarten and  dealing with the financial aid nightmare at the college I'll be starting at on Monday. Jim Gaffigan adds a humorous spin to the normal parenting/frustration nightmares: taking (multiple) children on an outing, sleep (or the lack thereof). Another bonus: he loves his wife, which shows in his writing but he doesn't get too mushy. The Gaffigans also practice attachment parenting which is usually wonderful until you get a foot slammed in your mouth at 3am. I laughed so hard at some passages during my lunch break that my coworkers demanded I read the passages out loud.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Title: River Cottage Veg
Author: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Genre: cookbooks, non-fiction

The photography in this cookbook is absolutely gorgeous- almost makes you want to reach through the picture and eat the selected dish.

This is not a vegetarian cookbook and but a cookbook devoted to the encouragement to eat more vegetables, without getting preachy- for our personal health and the planet's environmental health.

Lots of inspiring recipes that make me want to try something new.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Title: Relish: An Adventure in Food, Style, and Everyday Fun
Author: Daphne Oz
Genre: non-fiction, cookbook, home decorating, fashion, makeup, women's health, motivational

Yes, Daphne Oz is Dr. Oz's daughter!
This is more of a lifestyle book (hence, all the tags I gave it) than just another cookbook. Daphne ties the concept of relishing the moment, relishing our lives to food and how we treat ourselves physically and emotionally. She wants her readers to enjoy life now, not when they're older, "For some reason or other we convince ourselves that ...we're not supposed to have it [the life we want] until we're pushing retirement." (x) "Who taught us that the life we've been waiting for kicks in when we're older, wiser, wrinklier?" (x)
Thank you, Daphne! I've also wondered why we wait until "someday" to work on our bucket list, pursue a hobby, travel, or even relax. I have heard or seen so many people wait until retirement to enjoy life but by then they are too tired or ill to travel or pursue their interests.
So how does this all tie in to food? Daphne talks about her struggles with weight and love of food as a teen. She still loves food but has gained mental control over her feelings toward food which helped jumpstart her weight loss and keep it off. She encourages her readers to be smart food shoppers and cooks so that they can have the energy, endurance, and vitality to pursue the life they want now, not in retirement.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Title: Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI
Author: Dana Kollmann
Genre: non-fiction, memoir, humor

Catchy title, eh? Dana Kollmann writes about her serious and thankless job as a CSI with humor and sarcastic wit which makes for a light and easy read. Some stories will curl your toes with the gross factor so, if you have a sensitive stomach, you are forewarned! Eventually, the long work hours along with the lack of social life caused Dana Kollmann burnout and she had to leave the CSI team. She now uses her experience to teach forensic science to others.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Salt Sugar Fat

Title: Salt Sugar Fat
Author: Michael Moss
Genre: non-fiction, food issues, health

Salt. Sugar. Fat. 
Humans beings need all three to function but these three ingredients have become ticking time bombs in American society. Why? Because we eat too much of all three-usually at the same time! Who do we go to for help? The food companies? Nope. The government? Nope. 

Unless you have been held captive in a cave for the last two decades, you have probably noticed the expanding waistlines and rising obesity rates over the past two or three decades and the decrease of physical activity for all ages. Michael Moss explains how we got here and it's a perfect storm of convenience foods, bad choices, busy schedules, psychological advertising and food companies determined to increase their sales, no matter the cost. 

Food companies specifically target children and their guilt-ridden mothers. Why do food companies exploit the guilt of mothers? In the morning rush, some mothers claim they have no time to feed their children a healthy meal. Well, the food giants will take care of that for you, as long as you don't mind cereal with 50-70% sugar content! Or cereal that specifically targets kids by featuring their favorite cartoon character. Dinner is rushed meal as well as parents deal with whiny, hungry and tired children. The parents themselves are tired from the stress of working outside the home during the day. Frozen, packaged food to the rescue! Unfortunately, these convenience foods have high levels of sugar, salt and fat. 

"Food manufacturers now spend nearly twice as much money on advertising their cereals as they do on the ingredients that go in them." (77) Coke is notorious for marketing "toward particularly poor and vulnerable parts of the country where consumption seems to know no bounds." (109) Food companies spend millions of dollars each year on the "bliss point" of food. The bliss point is the "precise amount of sweetness (or fat or salt) that makes food or drink most enjoyable." (10) In other words, the bliss point keeps us coming back for more- buying more and more until you become addicted. Of course, the word "addiction" has a negative connotation to it, so the food industry refers to their most loyal buyers as "heavy users." (109) Sounds similar to drug addiction, no?In fact, scientists have treated overeating by using the drug that "counters the effect of heroin." (156)

The government (the FDA and the USDA) are guilty parties as well: "When it comes to nutrition, the role the government plays is less a matter of regulation than it is promotion of some of the industry practices deemed most threatening to the health of consumers." (211) Michael Moss uses cheese and red meat as a case study. We know that cheese and red meat are high in saturated fat, yet the government continues to encourage Americans to eat cheese and red meat. Cheese consumption has skyrocketed in this country, mostly because it is included in other processed foods. The government allows ammonia and other additives to be added to the meat supply for various reasons, knowing that said additives can be dangerous.

Humans are born loving sugar not salt, but the high rates of salt in processed food has created an unnatural addiction (er, heavy usage) in America. "Each year food companies use 5 billion pounds of salt." (281) As increased salt consumption has come on the public radar, food companies have responded by changing the wording on their packaging (especially when targeting ads to women). "Fried" has been replaced with "toasted" or "baked" and the 100-calorie packs were invented a few years ago but with mixed results; people still overate when eating from the packs- they just opened another package. Thankfully, salt addiction can be reversed by eliminating processed food from your diet (283)

Why aren't food companies more health conscious? In the business world, it is not "in the nature of these companies to care about the consumer in an empathetic way. Food companies are also deeply obligated toward their shareholders... they're thinking about consumption and sales." (338) In other words, money is the bottom line, not the health of their fellow human beings. Many of the executives interviewed by Michael Moss avoid their own products! (341)  "There is a class issue at work in processed foods, in which the inventors and company executives don't generally partake in their own creations. Thus the heavy reliance on focus groups with the targeted customer." (209) "People who work in these companies have very little in common with their audience." (209) What does this mean? Food company head honchos don't eat crappy junk food! Is that a wake up call or what?

"Some food industry insiders argue that the low cost of processed foods has been thwarting the development of healthier ways of feeding the world." (340) Think about that statement. Read it again if you have to. Instead of spending millions of dollars on the next soda or snack chip, these companies could have been figuring out how to feed starving people in the Third World or helping citizens in undeveloped countries improve their farming practices. Instead Coke and Oreos have been introduced to the Third World.

Thankfully, newer generations are challenging the "doctrine of convenience foods." 
So what can we do? As Michael Moss simply states, "Only we can save us." (343) Be aware of advertising tactics that prey on your emotions; look out for the soda and chip display that are placed at convenient eye-level and usually in front of the store; don't let your kids beg, whine, and demand for sugar-laden cereal. Wean yourself from processed food and start eating healthy, fresh food again. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Title: A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Cooking Companion
Authors: Chelsea Monroe-Cassel & Sariann Lehrer
Genre: cookbook, books on TV

I did a Game of Thrones program last night at my library and I had checked out this book to get ideas on what kind of food to serve. This cookbook features more meal-type food and I was looking for finger foods to serve. I eventually found some cute Game of Thrones-themed snacks on Pinterest, but this fan cookbook was still interesting to read. This cookbook was the creation and brainchild of two women who have been fans of the Game of Thrones series since it debuted in 1996. They created a blog (Inn at the Crossroads)solely devoted to the food and dishes mentioned in the books. In this cookbook they divided dishes by regions, found a medieval version of a dish and modern version of the same dish. There are recipes here that can enjoyed by all cooking skill levels and would make wonderful dishes at a Games of Thrones viewing party and could be used to hold over a GoT fanatic until the next show season or book comes out (whichever comes first).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Title: A Dance with Dragons
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: fantasy, books on TV


The saga of Westeros continues...

Danaerys is in Meereen against the counsel of Jorah Mormont. The plight of the slaves fills with her pity; her infatuation with Daarion Naharis and fatigue from war make her stay.
Tyrion Lannister is on the run from King's Landing. He ends up on a fishing boast containing an odd assortment of folk who are part of a larger secret.
Arya Stark is in Braavos learning to be invisible...
Cersei is in religious prison accused of various crimes.
Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen journey beyong the Wall and into the earth.
We finally get into the head of Barristan the Bold, the prince of Dorne, Victarion Greyjoy, Asha Greyjoy (who is growing on me), and Melisandre.

Old alliances are broken; new alliances are forged. Characters thought dead reappear.

My only beef: no chapters about Sans or Sam and we still have no idea what happened to Benjen Stark.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Title: Warm Bodies
Author: Isaac Marion
Genre: supernatural fiction, zombies, apocalyptic

I read my first zombie novel this week and it was pretty darn good....

R is a zombie living in an abandoned airport. He doesn't remember his real name, the age at which he turned, or how long he has been Dead. He lives a static, zombie existence with his fellow dead which mostly consists of shuffling, moaning and occasional hunting trips. Even though R has lost the ability to read and his vocabulary consists of simple words and shrugs, his narration is very articulate. On a random hunting trip he captures Julie and brings her back to the zombie airport. While keeping Julie prisoner, R finds that the last brain he ate (it belonged to Perry, Julie's boyfriend) is slowly changing him. First, his hunger for human flesh slowly subsides, then, he starts to dream. The more Perry's consciousness invades R's brain the more articulate R becomes. Shrugs and one-syllable words turn into short sentences. His feelings for Julie deepen and he takes Julie back to the land of the Living, only to penetrate the stadium a few days later to be with her. Mingling with the Living changes R and Julie and ultimately the world...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Title: Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation
Author(s): Elissa Stein and Susan Kim
Genre: non-fiction, women's health

Ah, yes, that favorite time of the month when Aunt Flow comes to visit... Most cultures view a girl's first period as a sign she is a woman and ready to be married. For Western women, we view nature's red gift as an inconvenience or annoyance. The authors have produced an irreverent, yet educational book about menstruation in American society. What is a natural, biological process has been medicalized by the advertising establishment. Stein and Kim also look at how menstrual flow has been viewed throughout history (sacred yet dangerous), the various birth control options available to women (and how it changes our flow), the controversies surrounding hormone replacement therapy, and the various methods that have been used throughout history to gather "nature's bounty." A must-read for all women!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Title: How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table
Author: Russ Parsons
Genre: non-fiction, food issues, food history, cookbook

Part vegetable/fruit primer, part cookbook, Russ Parsons discusses (very briefly) the growing history of the most popular fruits and vegetables in the United States. The book is divided seasonally with recipes and food history for the vegetable or fruit that is harvested in that particular season. Parsons' focus in this book is flavor; he doesn't get preachy about organics, the environment or vegetarianism, so this might be the right book for someone who is interested in eating healthier but doesn't want to be preached at for not buying 100% organic.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Title: Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me
Author: Jenny Gardiner
Genre: memoirs, animals

I am an animal lover but after reading this book there is no way I want to get an African gray parrot. Jenny and Scott Gardiner inherited a wild and scared baby parrot after they were already dealing with a dog (who was allergic to the Earth) and a newborn. Grayce never "tamed" and had an irascible personality (imagine a grumpy homicidal teenager in a bird's body). While dealing with their parrot's personality they had to deal with her nasty mess (food slung everywhere; trails of poo if they let her walk freely throughout the house). Add three children, two cats, vacations gone bad, and various illnesses (human and animal) with a hefty dose of humor and you get this enjoyable, yet exhausting read.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Title: Dead Ever After
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: urban fantasy, paranormal, books on TV

The latest and last in the Sookie Stackhouse series...After bringing Sam back from the dead using the cluviel dor, Sookie is dumbfounded by Sam's stiffness around her and Eric's silence. A frenemy from the past (Arlene) is released from jail and comes back to Merlotte's looking for a job. Since Sookie is  part owner, that ain't happening. The next day Arlene is found dead with Sookie's scarf around her neck. When Sookie is arrested for murder, the supes and humans come to her defense financially and legally and start their own investigation into who has it in for Sookie (the list gets longer with each book). Sookie finds new love that has been under her nose all the time... and that is all I'm going to say without accidentally giving away any spoilers. A satisfying ending to an enjoyable series.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Title: The Rhino with Glue-on Shoes and Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and Their Patients
Author(s): Lucy H. Spelman and Ted Y. Mashima (editors)
Genre: essays, story collection, non-fiction, animals

A quirky and eye-catching title of essays/non-fiction short stories from zoo vets around the world. The vets that submitted these stories literally had to "Macgyver" a treatment plan for their patients: MRI for an octopus, fish puree for an orphaned-yet-too-young-to-wean dolphin, orthopedic cast for a giraffe, root canal on a hippo, poison antidote for a tiger, and the "glue-on shoes" for a rhino (inspired by horseshoes). A quick, educational and entertaining read; not all the stories have a happy ending but no story turns sappy. This book shows you how improvisation and inspiration helped vets propel zoo vet technology forward.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Title: Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America
Author: Nathan J. Winograd
Genre: non-fiction, animal issues

Our local newspaper ran an article a few weeks about the kill rate at our local animal shelter; the rate is between 60-70%! I was shocked and appalled by these numbers. I researched our animal shelter because you never hear about them. Even though our animal shelter has a website, there are no pictures of animals available for adoption and the shelter's Facebook page hasn't been updated since November 2012. Seeing a glaring need, I called the shelter about volunteering and volunteer hours are only Monday-Friday 1-4:30 and the shelter is open to the public Monday-Friday 11-5. Hmmm... My first thought was, "When are working people and families supposed to come out to the shelter and save an animal?"

Then I came across this book. When I first saw the subtitle, I thought, "What does he mean by the myth of pet overpopulation?" Winograd introduces us to the humble beginnings of the American SPCA and how the 200 years of shelter killing has not reduced the number of strays, owner turnins or feral cats in this country. In order for there to be lasting change, Winograd says that shelters need a change of thinking and usually a change of leadership; shelters must become No Kill. What does No Kill mean? It means establishing a foster program, a behavior therapy program, implementing Trap, Neuter, Return for feral cats and free or low-cost spay/neutering for adopted animals. It sounds impossible but the San Francisco SPCA achieved this in the 1990's (until the director left and his successor changed things for the worst) and Tompkins County, New York has achieved this as well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Title: The Compassionate Carnivore
Author: Catherine Friend
Genre: non-fiction, food issues, animals

Factory farming first hit home to me in March 2008. My husband and I were driving home on the interstate from Gainesville, Florida, when a semi passed by me. This semi was full of live chickens crammed together throughout the bed of the truck. I remember it was cold out and that there were lots of feathers floating through the air. My husband and I looked at each other, horrified, decided we were not going to have chicken for dinner that night, and my research into American food issues began....

Catherine Friend runs a small farm with her partner in the rolling hills of Minnesota. Although Catherine is a carnivore over the last few years she has worried how her meat consumption affects the planet and the lives of animals destined for the slaughterhouse. In a non-preachy tone, Catherine walks the reader through the increased meat consumption in the US, the rise of industrialization after WWII, the increase of corporations buying out farms, the decrease in small, local, family farms and step by step through the slaughtering process (not an easy section to read). If you want to continue eating meat while supporting your local farmers, Catherine Friend walks you through a list of questions to ask the farmer and butcher. She also advocates buying from small, conventional farmers: they need the money, they will be willing to try organic, grass-fed methods if the customers request it and have established relationships with the farmer. Friend also explains why organic, grass-fed organic meat is more expensive and encourages the reader to take baby steps in their eating-local strategy; she even admits to "falling off the (meat) wagon" especially when busy or when she has an empty freezer.

I would recommend this to meat eaters that want to be responsible meat buyers and don't want to be preached at while doing research.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Title: Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time
Authors: Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith
Genre: non-fiction, technology, blogging

About 3/4 of this book is geared towards the business that wants to expand their customer or networking base through blogging. As a personal blogger, these are the tips I came away with:
  • post a link to my blog on my LinkedIn account
  • create a tagline for my blog
  • figure out how to create an email signup link to my blog
  • post my picture on my Blogger profile
  • use Google analytics
  • create a Facebook page for my blog
Now all I need is the time to do this! (ha, ha) Do you have any blogging tips or ideas you would like to share?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Title: A Feast for Crows
Author: George R.R. Martin
Genre: fantasy, books to TV

The fourth installment in the Song of Fire and Ice saga (aka Game of Thrones) brings us new character POVs plus an in-depth look at the cities of Braavos and Dorne in Martin's complex, yet addictive, writing style. The ironmen have a new king, Arya claims yet another new identity, Sansa embraces the role of Alayne, Sam and Gilly head south, Jaime and Cersei's relationship sours and Cersei rules Westeros through Tommen and continues with her endless scheming. Can't say more without giving away spoilers, you'll just have to read it yourself to get the nitty-gritty details....

Friday, March 29, 2013

Title: Catch-22
Author: Joseph Heller
Genre: classic, war literature, humor

I have a confession to make. I am 33 years old and I have finally read Catch-22.
Why did I wait so long to read it?
Well, I really didn't have an interest until my friend D.C. dared/challenged me to read it and review it on this blog:
"If/when you read Catch-22 pay particular attention to Chapter 10.  Some of the best irony ever written.   I'm reading it again and realize this book contributed a great deal my to cynical attitude. It is complex, confusing, and disorganized for most people used to reading plots.  There isn't one.  Heller's descriptions of the characters and their expressions is top notch.  The whole book is about irony."

Hmm. A book with no plot? I'm a chronological, organized, Type-A personality. How would I enjoy a book with no plot? Well, surprisingly, I did! The book is full of irony as my friend mentioned (just imagine Stephen Colbert writing a book of fiction) and parts of it are hilarious. I received a few sidelong glances from my coworkers in the lunchroom when they heard me giggling and snorting. You will also enjoy this book if you have ever worked for an organization or institution where things didn't make sense. The poor soldiers in this book have to deal with superiors who are nit-wits, unoriginal, and prone to repetition and ridiculousness.

What book do you challenge/dare me to read next?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Title: Sweetgrass
Author: Mary Alice Monroe
Genre: Southern fiction

Mary June Blakely and Preston Blakely have been married for forty-seven years; they have spent their entire marriage at Sweetgrass, the Blakley's ancestral home. Unfortunately, their marriage is tested when Preston succumbs to a stroke and when Preston's greedy, developer-friendly, real estate agent sister pressures the family to sell Sweetgrass. As Preston undergoes therapy at home, the various members of the Blakely family finally come to grips with some personal demons and family secrets that have been buried for decades. Interwoven into the family drama is snippets of Lowcountry history and the sweetgrass basket industry that has sustained the African American community since the early days of slavery.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Title: Pie Town
Author: Lynne Hinton
Genre: Christian/inspirational fiction

This was a cute and quick read that wasn't too sappy or preachy; however, I was shocked to see swear words in a Christian fiction novel. I know some Christian fiction has gotten more edgy in the last few years but this really surprised me...

Pie Town. A homey name for a small town that conjures up pies, home cooking, and love. Unfortunately, Pie Town does not live up to its name or warm and fuzzy connotations. First, there is no pie (the bakery shut down years ago) and, second, the Pie Town residents are not the friendliest of small-town welcoming committees.

Father George Morris was sent to Pie Town by the diocese for his first calling out of seminary. Father George was hoping and praying for a parish in a Third World country. Why? Because he is running from a secret that would threaten his reputation and calling as a priest.

Trina has been wandering since she was a teen. After finding out that her latest, sweet-talking trucker boyfriend was older than expected, plus married with two children, she literally walked out on him and towards Pie Town.

Although the residents of Pie Town may be judgmental to strangers and newcomers, the townsfolk rally around Alex, an 11 year-old  boy with spina bifida. Alex is considered by many to be the heartbeat of the community. Soon after Father George and Trina arrive in town, Alex's condition worsens; Alex's worsening physical condition sharpens his senses about the supernatural world and after a tragedy, with a little help from above, he rallies the town one last time.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Title: Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Life and Times of L.M. Montgomery
Author: Irene Gammel
Genre: non-fiction, biography

I read the Anne of Green Gables series as a preteen and teenager and I always wondered about Lucy Maud Montgomery; imagine my surpise and delight when I stumbled upon her biography in my local library.
In this biography, Irene Gammel recounts how life events and literary magazine subscriptions shaped the plot and structure of Anne of Green Gables...Maud's mother died when she was a toddler and her father left her in the care of her grandparents, the Macneills, who weren't very loving. In the book, Matthew Cuthbert is introspective, kind and gentle; the antithesis to Maud's real-life, grumpy and stern grandfather. Marilla Cuthbert was practical and stern; Grandma Macneill was rude, mean and ungracious. Maud developed a lifelong friendship with her cousin, Frede, which was the basis for the "bosom friends" concept between Anne and Diana. Maud loved to flirt and spar with intelligent males which is reflected in the love/hate relationship between Anne and Gilbert.
Maud suffered from seasonal depression in the winter and loved to garden and commune with nature. Writing the flowing descriptions of Prince Edward Island's flowers and landscapes helped her survive the extra long and harsh winter that took place when Maud was writing her manuscript. Maud felt more spiritual when taking a walk through her beloved fields and woods than in a traditional church service. This marked her as odd amongst her traditional, Presbyterian family members and neighbors.
Maud (and Anne Shirley) were prone to melodrama, and unfortunately, Maud was insecure and later in life suffered an unhappy marriage and an exploitative book publisher.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Title: A Storm of Swords 
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: fantasy

Yowzers! I am going to be real vague in this review so I don't accidentally give out any spoilers, but if there are any GofT fans that haven't read this book when Season 3 starts on HBO next month, they are going to be shocked and upset by some of the plot developments... Let me just say that there were  a lot of "Say what?!" moments with a cliffhanger ending that had me thinking, "How is that possible?" Unfortunately, I couldn't start book 4 right away because I had to go bed (it was around midnight) and I had to be at work the next day...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Title: Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows
Author: Kathleen Collins
Genre: non-fiction, food history, American history

Think lack of cooking skills is a recent, generational problem? Think again! Americans have been culinary-challenged since the early-to-mid twentieth century and in this book Kathleen Collins explores the combination of media and culinary skills.
While we have Food Network, our grandmothers listened to home ec radio shows to get their cooking tips. When TVs became a "must-have" household item, the home ec radio shows evolved into visual cooking shows. Cooking shows in the 1950's to 1970's were more somber and educational than they are now. Cooking shows as entertainment didn't come to fruition until the 1990's- when the Food Network was created. The various cooking shows over the past five decades have helped the American palate to become more sophisticated and more open to a variety of flavors and cuisines.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Title: Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise and Adventurous Eater
Author: Matthew Amster-Burton
Genre: non-fiction, cookbook

When my son was between 1 year and 2 years old, he ate anything we gave him. Growing up as a picky eater, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I had dodged the pciky-eater bullet. That changed when my son turned two; pickiness abounded. He's almost five: some days he's picky and some days he's ravenous. The newest food fad for him is to look at food without tasting it and declaring it "yucky." (Since we don't use the word "yucky" to describe food I'm guessing he picked up this phrase from his classmates.)

Enter Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton; this is not an advice book for parents of picky eaters but a memoir of his daughter's food journey for the first 4 years of her life. The end of each chapter contains kid-friendly recipes- not the usual kid-friendly recipes. Amster-Burton is a freelance food writer and also experienced food elation when his one year old daughter ate everything in sight. When Iris turned two she also turned picky. At first Amster-Burton was baffled but he has now learned how to roll with Iris' changing food likes and dislikes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blog Giveaway!

Join me in my first-ever blog giveaway! Make a list of 5 books that I have reviewed on my blog that you are going to add to your reading list and leave the list in the comments section below. I will select a winner on Saturday, February 2, 2013. The winner will receive my ARC copy of City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Title: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
Author: Jared Diamond
Genre: non-fiction, anthropology

A wonderful book for a wannabe anthropologist like me...

So you maybe wondering, what is a traditional society? A traditional society is a small group of people that are hunter-gatherers (they forage for and hunt their food) that have no centralized state government. Their group is so small that a "government/bureaucratic" decision can be reached very quickly. America, on the other hand, is a modern, industrialized society: we "forage" and "hunt" our food in a supermarket. most of our jobs are sedentary and technology driven, and our "group" is so large that we need to elect bureaucrats to represent us in our centralized government.

Jared Diamond compares major aspects of life in the industrialized West versus the few, surviving traditional societies that can still be found in the Amazon, Australia, Africa and Papua New Guinea. Topics covered are distinguishing between friend and enemies, trade, war, death, child rearing, treatment of the elderly, danger, religion, language and diet. Diamond compares and contrasts the advantages and disadvantages of traditional and modern societies and encourages the citizens of modern societies to adopt certain traditional practices (certain aspects of child rearing, diet, and multilingualism). A recommended read for anyone who wants to expand their view of the world and learn about different cultures.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Title: National Geographic 125 Years: Legendary Photographs, Adventures, and Discoveries That Changed the World
Author: Mark Collins Jenkins
Genre: non-fiction, adventure, travel, geography, science, journalism, photography

This is an amazing "coffee table" book that should be read by lovers of history, archaeology. travel, adventure, geography, journalism, and photography....

National Geographic (or NatGeo) is an American icon but I'm sure many Americans don't know the roots of this classic and elegant magazine: The National Geographic Society had humble beginnings as an academic and exclusive society of Washington, D.C's intellectual elite. The need for funds and an increased subscription base broadened the subscribers to armchair travelers (everyday Americans). Once photography, especially color photography, was added to the pages, the subscription rate soared and the rest is history....

(Jenkins is the chief historian for the NatGeo archives and as someone who works in the local history field, I think this sounds like an awesome job!)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Title: Young House Love
Author: Sherry and John Petersik
Genre: nonfiction, DIY, home decorating

I borrowed this book from the library but there are so many great ideas in here I'm tempted to buy myself a copy for when the home renovation/decoration urge strikes. I think the biggest plus for me when reading this book is the Petersiks' honesty about how much time it takes to remodel a home. It took them years to remodel their first home- like the rest of us, life and work sometimes gets in the way of remodeling and redecorating plans. Now I don't feel so bad so that our remodeling and redecorating plans are moving at a snail's pace.
I also love how the Petersiks aren't afraid to use color and whimsy to turn their house into a home. As I was reading through the book I kept thinking, "Now, why didn't I think of that?" or "This is definitely a Pinterest-worthy idea!" Projects range from simple to advanced, cheap to expensive and home decorators of all tastes and budgets will feel inspired to take one of these projects and make it their own.