27 September 2010

Jumping in a Meme


Hey all! Hosted by Sheila!

So, right now i am about to finish Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation. I'm also working on Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. And i am going to read The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins next.

26 September 2010

A Great Book to Finish on a Lazyish Sunday when You are Sick of Your Corporate Job


While Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream by William Powers was NOT what i expected, it was something i needed to read.


I had expected a book along the lines of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Like a guy decides to go off the grid, hijinks and meaningful moments ensue. This book is more about the spiritual journey of someone who is already far more aware of the problems with consumerism and globalization than most people. William Powers stays in a friend's home, a twelve by twelve cabin, that size because any larger and it would be a house and the owner would have a requirement to have electricity, pass codes inspection, and pay property taxes. He doesn't exactly house sit, he more just sits. He's burnt out on the world and doesn't know if his aid work and conservation efforts in Africa and South America are worth anything. There's lots of walking, biking, meditation and communing with nature. He finds the good places in himself.

I loved this book. a 6. I work in a crazy environment, a cell phone company call center. I'm beyond burnt out; every day i wonder what i'm doing there. it is the epitome of modern consumerism, everyone wants better newer phones faster and now! and cheaper! and free service too! I want to get out, slow down. Being with B helps tremendously. I have come round to the fact that i would enjoy living on a farm, something i thought i'd despise even 10 years ago. so that may become part of the plan. I should add on some sort of how-to-do-that book to my to read list.


I've been on a non-fiction spree recently. I enjoy non-fiction and i had felt like i was neglecting it this year. Though i have two more non-fiction books i need to get to so i can return them I just picked up The Fall, Mockingjay, The Vanishing of Katherina Linden and Lady Audley's Secret from the library today, and all but the last have lengthy hold lists. I'll be tearing through some of those this week.

24 September 2010

An Unfortunate Title

I finished up Catching Fire today. No, i didn't reread the second Hunger Games book. This book is non-fiction; it just happens to share a title with a massive YA hit. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham is an anthropology book.

The main idea is that man started controlling fire and cooking around 1.8 million years ago, corresponding to the change from the habilines to Homo Erectus. Cooking allowed our food to be more easily chewed and digested, which led to shorter gut systems and more time to do things besides sitting around and eating. With the energy savings of our stomachs, we were able to grow our brains. Since food being cooked is food easily stolen, pair bonds became stronger and women became the cooks/gatherers while men became hunter/protectors.

I enjoyed this book but it really needed pictures and tables. I've got a nice grasp of the various time periods and species the author talks about but i feel even i would have understood better with some visual graphs. A more novice anthropology reader would really benefit greatly. a 5.

On the personal front, I am now registered for the GRE. I'll be taking it November 17th. Wish me luck! With a good score, I'll be applying to UT's Masters of Science in Information Science program in January. EEK! I'm a bit nervous about going back to school. B has been crazy supportive! What if i've forgotten how to study? Or write papers? Will all that school stuff come back to me?

Currently: pensive.

22 September 2010

Nomad

I've got to work on better titles for posts. clever things. I also need to work on improving my writing skills for the GRE and grad school.

An interesting piece, completely unrelated to the book i am about to write about!

Today i finished Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Way back in 2007, exactly 3 years ago in fact based on that review date, i read Infidel, Ali's earlier memoir. She divides this book into four parts. The first is about her family, the second about leaving Holland and moving to the USA. The third is about Muslim and tribal attitudes toward modern ideas, like sexuality, education and finance, and the fourth contains her recommendations to combat the rise of jihadist Islam in the west and worldwide.

These last two parts i find the most interesting. I especially found the piece on feminist attitudes toward Islam fascinating. While she recommends that Christian churches aggressively proselytize to Muslims, there are so many different denominations of Christianity who believe as Muslims do about the rights of women, gays, and science i don't know if that would really advance her goals.

This book is a 5. I do recommend it but feel Infidel is a stronger book. This counts for the POC challenge and as a "New in 2010" for the 2010 Challenge.

21 September 2010

RIP Graphic Novels


Got a couple of graphic novels to post about, one part of a new series and one the latest in an old series i've enjoyed.

The Walking Dead, Volume 12: Life Among Them by Robert Kirkland and Charlie Adlard, starts shortly after Carl's huge revelation dropped at the end of book 11. As Rick and crew finally get to Washington DC, they find a group of survivors that seem too good to be true. Living in a walled community, headed by a Congressman, this little place seems like it is almost untouched. The kids don't carry guns; they can just play. They don't even have guards posted on the walls. Our heroes must decide if, after all they've been through, they can trust these new people and if it is even possible to go back to normal life.

I realized, whether this is intended by the authors or not, that i don't want to like the new characters! I don't want to know their backstory, what they've lost or done, because i just know that somethings coming in the story to kill them soon. we're now only left with maybe 6 characters who we met at the beginning or early in the series. I don't want to loose them!

Volume 12 also seems like a set-up book, like the previous one titled "The Calm Before". I can't wait for volume 13, coming out in November. The TV series starts on Halloween and i will be tuning in! a 5 for this book. d

House of Mystery, Volume 1: Room and Boredom by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham and Luca Rossi, is a weird little book. The book opens with Cain and Abel from the Sandman series, doing what they normally do. Cain heads back to his house an discovers it is missing! Then we meet Fig, an architecture student running from some strange hand-holding specters. She runs through a door and finds herself at the House of Mystery, a cross-dimensional bar, that she cannot leave. Most of the patrons can come and go, telling stories to pay for their food and drink. But five, including Fig, cannot.

Also a 5. i really do want to continue this series. my library does not have it though. So i'll be purchasing slowly through McKay's or maybe used online. There are 3 more volumes collected now.

Both these count for RIP. I'm just cruising through this challenge this year. YAY!

20 September 2010

Really late Farmer's Market Post

About a month ago my shift changed. Now i work on Saturdays, 945 to 845. i dislike it. One reason is that Saturday mornings used to be my farmer market day! Several vendors, like the milk guy, aren't there any other day. So i need to get up early one morning!

I didn't get a picture of this week's farm box. R picked it up for me and it had 3 sorts of eggplant, turnip greens, arugula, bell peppers, red Russian kale, butternut squash, acorn squash, purple island peppers and cucumbers. The butternut squash was kinda small, just over a pound cut up but we made it into butternut squash bake: chunks of squash mixed with onion, a little olive oil, bread crumbs, italian spices and bleu cheese. Sprinkle extra bread crumbs over the top and bake at 400 for 35 mins. YUM!

My plants have had a resurgence due completely to B's intensive watering. The tomato plant is gigantic!
And there are tomatoes on it!

The daisies are producing again too.

lots of purple basil.

and garlic chives, rosemary, and some sad sage.

I'm concerned about how everything will handle us moving apartments on Oct. 17. Especially the tomato plant. The new place has a balcony but nothing above it so i'm not sure how i can let the tomato run up. maybe i'll have to make a dish of green tomatoes the night before we move! I gotta start packing up things as well but don't know where to start. soooooo many books! I am going to post a picture of just the book boxes, of mine, when they are all packed. and i went by Mckay's this weekend and got 4 more. eek. someone save me!

17 September 2010

Beloved


I haven't read much Toni Morrison. Actually, before this book i'd only read Song of Solomon. I thought that was ok but felt like i didn't understand much of it. Beloved is very different. I thought it was very Gothic Tragedy.

The story plays with time, going back and forth with flashbacks and memories. The central event around which everything hinges takes place 18 years before the "present" of the book, pre-Civil War in Ohio. Sethe, a runaway slave with 4 children, sees her owner coming for her and the kids. In an attempt to save them from slavery she tries to kill them, succeeding in killing her year old daughter, Beloved. Sethe goes to jail and the other children do not go back to slavery. Beloved then haunts the home, driving away her two brothers when they become teens. Eventually only Sethe and her youngest daughter Denver remain. After the war when Paul D, a man who was a slave with Sethe, appears for a visit, he drives out Beloved's ghost. But who is the young woman who shows up, calling herself Beloved, with no memory?

This book shows so much horror of what people will do to each other, and i am not referring to what Sethe tries to do. By the time we see those specific events, her motivations are so clear you can almost see yourself making the same choice. it is terrible but...reasonable.

I managed to pick a book that counts for 5 challenges: Classics Challenge, 1% Challenge, RIP Challenge, POC Challenge and the 2010 Challenge in the "charity" category. YAY! A 6 from me.

15 September 2010

The Moonstone


A book that i loved that even counts for 3 challenges? That's a reading home run!

Critics consider The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, the first real detective novel. While not a murder, it does have a locked room, English country house cozy mystery at the center. An English colonel in India steals a large diamond which the locals hold sacred. Ostracized from his family as another family member saw the crime, the colonel leaves the diamond, called the Moonstone, to a niece, in the hope she will be cursed as he feels he was. The niece, Rachel Verinder, is a headstrong young lady. A cousin, Franklin Blake, related to both Rachel and the Colonel, is to deliver the diamond to Rachel on her birthday. He notices a trio of Indians following him and worries about the safety of the household, especially once he falls in love with Rachel. On the night of the birthday party, Rachel gets the diamond, but by the next morning it has disappeared!

I did wonder why the Indians didn't just get a crew together to rob one of the banks the Moonstone is held in at various times! other than that bit, i loved the story with the twists and turns, false leads and high drama. I loved Betteredge, the house-steward of Lady Verinder, who tells the first half of the story. The detective, Sergeant Cuff, is obsessed with roses and makes brilliant deductions while whistling.

a 7 from me. Counts for the 1% Challenge, RIP Challenge and the Classics Challenge. Whew!

11 September 2010

Packing for Mars

I stayed up late last night to finish Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. It's great! Ever wanted to know the weird, gross, TMI stuff about the space program? Like how did the Apollo astronauts go #2? Or what happens when you don't bathe for 2 weeks? what were the space chimps all about? is book answers those questions and many more. Roach is perfectly willing to ask about sex in space, and then to hunt down old Russian porn in an attempt to see it. And how she manages to get in on so many various science experiments I don't know. She gets to ride on the Vomit Comet, NASA's plane that lets the astronauts practice weightlessness. She goes to Devon Island, a desolate place NASA tests vehicles. And she seems to have such a great time!

One chapter talks about the effects of zero/low gravity on the human body. The NASA doctors are still doing studies about this topic and pay people up to $17,000 for 3 months work. Since the work requires lying in bed, my first thought was, "i'd get so much reading done if i could get in on a study!". heh.

Roach has a winning writing style, very casual but informative. The footnotes are the best parts, DON"T skip them! a 6!

06 September 2010

The Murder Room


The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Michael Capuzzo wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. I was expecting to see the details of a series of cases the group solves just by going over the clues. Maybe a mixture of really old things and newer ones. Maybe at the end they'd announce who Jack the Ripper was.

The book covers more of three men's lives: Frank Bender, a ladies man forensic artist; Bill Fleisher, a Jewish federal agent family man; and Richard Walter, an ascetic forensic psychologist. How they became crime fighters, their personal lives, became friends, how they form the core of the Vidocq Society, named after the first private detective. The Vidocq Society is a group of elite agents, detectives and specialists in crime. They get together and socialize but also turn their varied talents to cold cases brought before them. Frequently it seems the case may be solved by the end of the luncheon, even if the police don't have enough evidence to convict at that point.

I liked the really old cases they looked at. Trying to identify a serial killer Eliot Ness tried to capture or looking for the identity of the Boy in the Box from 40 years earlier tests these men far more than some of the recent cases. In the recent cases there is more satisfaction though because the killers are still alive, able to receive their punishment. The families are able to bury their missing loved ones found by Bender's sculpture skills.

I say this book is a 5 for me. I did tear through it in a day and found the characters very compelling. But the way the author constantly describes their feelings and thoughts leads me to think that he either A) knows these men better than they know themselves, B) is an even better profiler than Richard Walter, or C) took some liberties with those parts. So while the facts are amazing i'd say the actual writing could have been more realistic. This one will count for my RIP Challenge!

Currently: Watching Boise St/Va. Tech game

05 September 2010

Only Influenza

I've only gotten the flu once. It was winter, December of 2004 or 2005. Sunday night i went to bed with a bit of a headache and a scratchy throat. No big deal. Monday morning i woke up with a fever and achy all over. For the next 7 days i felt terrible. Hot then cold, exhausted but unable to sleep, headaches, muscle aches, shakiness, coughing, congestion. Pretty much every body part/system but my digestive was affected. While not the worst i've ever felt, it was pretty bad and not something i want to repeat. So reading a whole book about the flu was a bit of a challenge.

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry covers many topics. It is the story of the flu pandemic that spread through the world in 1918. To cover the story of the illness you have to cover the doctors who treated it and searched for a cure. So you have to cover how medical education in America went from being a profession anyone who could pay the fee could enter to being science based and rigorous. And you have to talk about the political situation and censorship in WWI America. And how technology was rapidly changing. And then there is the disease process itself. This book covers so much territory it would be easy to get confusing or boring.

It doesn't become either. i found it completely fascinating. As the title says, there was a massive epidemic of flu. With America's mobilization for war and new transportation capabilities it spread quickly. It was lethal in a different way as the majority of deaths occurred to those between 20-34, as opposed to normal flu which kills the elderly and young children, usually from complications like pneumonia. And it was rapid, sometimes killing within a day of the first symptom. Hospitals were completely overwhelmed. Politicians made mistake after mistake, censoring news of the illness to try to keep up morale, continuing to ramp up the army even as the war was almost over. Doctors and nurses literally sacrificed themselves to their patients. The brilliant medical minds throughout the world tried to fight the problem. Their research later led to major discoveries about humanity.

It is 460 pages with an additional 60 pages of notes and bibliography and it really could have been longer. I kept mentioning various tidbits to B: your lungs, when healthy, are sterile; many medical schools in the 1800s didn't require any college education and none required science courses; influenza mutates so fast that more than 90% of the replicated viruses don't work. I wanted to take notes. I want to read more about the various groundbreaking research doctors. I went looking for a biography of Anna Williams, a vaccine expert who created a diptheria antitoxin, but there doesn't seem to be one. Perhaps i should look up one on diptheria.

This will be my second book for the Science Book Challenge and a 6. If you liked things like The Hot Zone you will probably enjoy this one too.

03 September 2010

Mr. Peanut

Wednesday night i finished Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. Super short recap. David Pepin's wife dies, he says it is suicide. She's allergic to peanuts and ate some in front of him. Two detectives, one of whom is Dr Sam Sheppard, (i've watched too much LOST, i first wrote Jack Sheppard), the guy who The Fugitive is based on, think Pepin forced her to eat the peanuts. We jump around in the Pepins' lives, as well as getting Sheppard's story and the story of the other detective's marriage.

Essentially, this book is about how men suck ass and women can't explain themselves. and after thinking about it for 2 days i still haven't decided if i like it or not. It has the unreliable narrator thing going on, times 3. and the women characters are disappointing. Especially the detective's wife who just goes to bed for months. It is creepy and chilling in the way events circle around and repeat among the characters. And i did want to find out who killed whom and how. So the book succeeds in that way. So i will give it a 5.

01 September 2010

Happiness!

WHEEE! R.I.P V Begins!

Carl over on Stainless Steel Droppings has announced Readers Imbibing Peril V! As summer ends, theoretically i guess as it is far too warm here to think about fall, the book blog world turns darker and creepier. We all switch from happy summer reads to gothic mysteries and heart stopping horror!

I'm going for to do Peril the First, reading at least 4 books. And i am sure i'll be throwing in a few short stories and movies as well! Here's my pool of possibilities:
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins- old school Victorian mystery
  • The Meaning of Night and The Glass of Time by Michael Cox- historical weird mystery
  • Feed by Mira Grant- YA dystopia sorta-zombies, i think
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Peter Suskind- non-fiction
  • The Year of Disappearances by Susan Hubbard- YA vampires
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison- Well, it is about a ghost!
  • Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers- classic mystery
  • Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist- foreign zombies
  • House of Mystery, Vol. 1 by Matthew Sturges- Graphic Novel
I've also got three books on my library hold list that, if i get them in time, will count for this challenge too!
  • The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Mike Capuzzo- Non-fiction
  • The Walking Dead, Vol 12 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard- Graphic Novel
  • The Fall: Book 2 of the Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan- obligatory BIG Bestseller :)
So i have lots and lots of choices here. I'll be packing and moving apartments but surely i can get through 4 books!

Speaking of moving, I'll be doing that over the weekend of Oct 8-10, which is also the weekend of the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville and the weekend of Dewey's fall read a thon! eek! I guess i'll have to get a little bit of everything done.

What's your peril?