Saturday, August 31, 2013

Talking About: The Omnivore's Dilema

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four MealsThis is one that I've meant to read for years. (I seem to have unusual ambitions, don't I?)

This was a really neat read- food sciences and agriculture are two of my interests, so this was a good read. This one is all about where food comes from and all of the dilemmas we humans go through when choosing what we should eat.

Michael Pollan focuses in on three meals: a fast food meal, one made with food grown sustainable, and one made from ingredients that were hunted and gathered. Before focusing on these meals, Pollan takes us through the current state of the agriculture industry, which boils down to one thing: corn. I know more about corn than I thought was possible. The economics, the reproductive cycle, the processing, the effects on the environment, and its roll in the industrial farming industry. Corn. That said, it was an important part of the book.

I enjoyed reading about sustainable farming. I'm kind of a sustainability geek there so, make of that what you will. It was nice to read about letting nature do it's thing a little more using rotational farming. (See, geek). It seems to be the more hopeful part of the book (hunting and gathering takes so much time and energy that an individual couldn't survive in our society that way, and couldn't support populations, simply because of space). I hope that we can one day get to the point where we can farm sustainably, since the industrial food chain really isn't sustainable.

Basically I loved this book. I have my copy bookmarked all get out (do people say that anymore?), with notes to myself. Again, food sciences and sustainable living in a modern age are two passions of mind, and this book marries them. It took me a little longer to read than fiction usually does, but it wasn't too heavy a read, and was generally quite intresting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Harry Potter Re-read: Wrap Up

Well, I've finished. A little late, even with the extension, but I'm glad that I took my time. I think I got more out of it this way anyway. Anyway, this post contains spoilers... so be warned.

I really got a lot more emotional about it this time. This was the first time through that Cedric's death upset me, and Sirius's death was kind of harder to read too. Dumbledore's death and the funeral were always tough. Kreacher's Tale gets harder to read each time. Regulus Black was a character that I would have liked to know more about. And of course the end of the Deathly Hallows was as upsetting and wonderful as ever.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was still one of my favourites (actually they all were). The way J.K. Rowling manages to intersperse despair and hope. One of my favourite scenes was always when Ron managed to get Potterwatch on the radio.

The Forest Again and The Flaw in the Plan are some of the best final chapters in any book I've read so far and the ending is one of my favourite endings to a series ever. When Harry and Voldemort have their final duel in the Great Hall, I loved all when Harry reveals everything. He starts calling Voldemort Tom, and I liked the build up. Six years and it is still one of the best endings I have ever read.

You could tell that J.K. Rowling really planned out the story before she wrote it. The character arcs were really well planned out, and the story was exquisitely detailed in its way.

The messages are fantastic. Its all about the power of friendship and love, the value of bravery and the power of hope.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Harry Potter Re-read Day 10

So, as you can see, I'm doing it in two weeks this time.

I'm taking my time with it this time. I'm also finding that I'm getting way more emotional over these books, this time.

Goblet of Fire: This is the first time that I was upset about Cedric dying (in the past, I've kind of skated over it and viewed it more as a plot device). It really hit me that he is a genuinely decent human being. I don't know how else to say it. So that was upsetting. Also, as a side note Barty Crouch Jr. did a really good job of pretending to be moody. Someone give the lunatic a prize.

Order of the Phoenix:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)
In keeping with the lack of matching in the Harry Potter collection at my place of residence. The first hardcover in the collection (we finally got caught up). This book is falling apart. The front cover is taped on and the back is water-stained. 
I have found in my soul a new depth of loathing for Umbridge. I seem to dislike her more and more each time I read the books. Between her and Bellatrix later on, there are some characters I dislike as much as Voldemort. Both Umbridge and Bellatrix like to play with people, albeit in different ways. They just like to cause suffering. They find it enjoyable. And I hate that. (By the way- minor spoiler- what happens to Umbridge anyway, I mean they leave her in that courtroom unconscious with a couple of Dementors...)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Harry Potter Re-read: Day 7

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)
This is the version I have. It is again much more destroyed than this example. The protective plastic on the cover is half off and the last twenty pages have been stuffed back into the book. Most of them are in bad condition, and that's precisely why we love them. They've got a history.

This is what I discovered inside the cover of our copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Note how I apparently failed to make my name legible the first time, and so had to scribble it out (I'm unsure as to why I couldn't have used and eraser) and try again.
And yes, I am still behind. I'm pretty sure I'll have to make this a two-week endeavor, as oposed to my usual one-week. There is no way I am finishing all of them tonight.

Monday, August 5, 2013

July DNF

The Last Academy
I got about sixty pages in and was basically completely bored. I really disliked the narrator, in that she really wasn't a very interesting character. I really wonder why I keep trying anything labeled paranormal. If it is labeled "paranormal" not fantasy or supernatural or anything else along with the paranormal, it seems doomed to bore me.

The Scorpion Shards (Star Shards Chronicles, #1)
This is another one where the characters didn't snag me. In the case of this book, I wonder if I just didn't get to the plot. I barely finished the introductions to all of the characters, few of whom had any draw for me, before I put it down. In this case I think it was more that this wasn't a book for me than that there was anything particularly wrong with the book.

A Temptation of Angels
The writing style didn't carry the concept, and the plot turned out to be pretty formulaic so far as I could tell. The heroine didn't really intrigue me and the love interest was kind of dull (I only managed to meet the first one, I quit before the second showed his probably devastatingly-handsome face (see rant here)). 

Strands of Bronze and Gold (Strands of Bronze and Gold, #1)
Don't hate me. I really wanted to like this one. I may actually try this one again at some point. What bothered me was how naive the heroine was. I know she had every right to be, but it really got under my skin. If someone can tell me she opens her eyes and comes into herself a little more, I'll probably give this one another go.

And to conclude, it anyone passionately feels that I should give one of these books another try, let me know why and I might consider it (I can be a little pig-headed). 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Angelfall

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)Title: Angelfall
Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn and the End of Days
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Paranormal

Why I Read It: I have had a long standing prejudice against angel books. It isn't for any religious reason- I just dislike angels on principle. I'm not explaining very well. I don't love the glowing, joy-bringing divine being thing- I don't know why. However, I like the idea of scary angels (which is actually more accurate according to the research I've done- angels were kind of into smiting and divine justice and leveling towns for immorality). This one had good reviews and Amazon kept recommending it to me (because Amazon knows me oh so well), so I figured I would give it a go.

A Quick Summary: It has been six weeks since the angels came and started leveling cities. The human world live in fear, and society has disintegrated. Penryn is now struggling to keep her family going- her wheelchair bound eight year old sister and her paranoid schizophrenic mother. When they are out in the streets, they watch an angel having his wings sliced off. When the angels who did the slicing see Penryn and her family they take off with her little sister, leaving Penryn to do whatever she can to get her back. Including allying herself with the now wingless angel in an attempt to retrieve her sister and get his wings sewn back on.

What I Thought: That summary is awful for one thing. I am a terrible summarize-r. That not withstanding, I enjoyed this one. Penryn was an interesting character- she's both very brave and very vulnerable. She's been forced to become a tough survivor, and to provide for her family, and she's risen to that challenge. She's a strong protagonist, but she's also human- she's angry and scared. She'll run, but she won't abandon anyone- she'll stand at a distance and throw rocks (with mixed results). I enjoyed the banter between her and Raffe.  Raffe as a character... well, I'm actually not sure. He's a decent male lead and he's certainly got some problems of his own. The fact that he's an angel makes me a little wary- like I said, minor angel prejudice.

The angels are actually a lot more human, for all of their superiority, than I typically expect angels to be. I mean, for one thing, they're not ten-plus stories tall or glowing, and their wings are corporeal and feathered. The politics going on is interesting... and they're all behaving like children, because, what with running the apocalypse and everything, they still have time to bicker.

All in all, I think this was an enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Fun Fact: From what I've heard, angels, in the bible, were frightening. If they were coming to do something non-destructive, they would have to tell the fearful townsfolk not to be afraid, because they were terrifying. (Correct me if I'm wrong, this isn't something I'm very knowledgeable about.)

Harry Potter Re-read: Day 5

I've gotten really behind. I'm only at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. *Crawls into a corner in shame*. I've basically been really distracted this week, so I might have to expanded it a week, seeing as I am apparently incapable of doing what came easily when I was fourteen.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)
This is the version that I have of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I got this one second hand the summer after my family finished the first one (we read one each summer- we were caught up by the fifth book and then there was a very fun waiting game).  It still has the price from the second-hand shop where we picked it up penciled in on one of the first pages.

You know that car pretty much never gets mentioned again following this book. I suppose we can assume it is still running wild in the forest? 

In other news, I want the Hogwarts library. I mean, really. It just sounds incredible-like you could find anything in there if you looked hard enough. And all of those big old books. I just find that really, really attractive. They complain about going to the library and I can't see myself doing that. I would go there and just pour over random books in my spare time. The thought of it just makes me happy for some reason. More on that later.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)
And here is my version of  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I mean, mine is a lot more destroyed than this. It's been through a lot. It was one of the first books I bought on my own, too. 
Here at home we have a ramshackle collection. None of the covers match, if you're seeing a pattern. Their a bit of a mess. And I love them. We even have the pieces of the Philosopher's Stone book that fell apart after an unfortunate several months at the bottom of a book bag.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Ink

Ink (Paper Gods, #1)Title: Ink
Author: Amanda Sun
Series: Paper Gods
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Why I Read It: The concept of the drawings coming to life was interesting. Also, the cover is pretty. I do like a watercolour and ink cover. It is even on paper very similar to that used for watercolours and ink work.

A Quick Intro: When Katie Greene's mother is killed in a car accident, she unwillingly sets off to live with her aunt in Japan. She struggles with how foreign it is in addition to her grief for her mother. And as if that isn't hard enough, now her doodles are trying to kill her. The only person she can find who might have answers doesn't want to talk to her, and seems to go out of his way to treat her badly.

What I Thought: This one was alright. I don't really have many feelings about it. I feel like a lot of the plot points are forced. In any event, I wasn't huge on the romance in the book, to me it felt a little flat. Katie herself wasn't a character I could easily connect, much of the time. That said the book still had some interesting elements.

I'm curious about why Katie could influence the ink when she's not a Kami (as far as she knows... maybe something to do with her dad?). I can't really see where the story is going from here. Are there going to be other Kami introduced? There isn't that much background given into aspects of how it works.

I'm not sure yet, but I think I might just be curious enough to read the next book, though maybe I'll get it from the library or wait for it to come out on sale.

Fun Fact: As I kind of kept waxing on about the watercolour cover, I'll give a small fact about watercolour painting. When watercolour painting, two cups of wash water can be used, one to rinse the brush and another to dampen the brush with clean water before touching it to the pallet (or paint from a tube). This is originally a Japanese technique.