Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

You’d honestly think that reading a book about plants would be as about as exciting as, well, watching the grass grow. Fortunately, I long ago learned to expect better things from Michael Pollan. In his book, The Botany of Desire, he categorizes four plants and how human desire shaped their evolution, genetic sprawl, and guaranteed their success in the modern world. bod-3

There are apples for sweetness, tulips for beauty, marijuana for intoxication, and potatoes for control

Basically, because each of these plants provided something that we wanted and/or needed, they ensured their own survival based on the roles they filled in human life. Pollan definitely taught me something along the way:

  • Folk hero Johnny Appleseed really guaranteed the spread of alcohol (hard cider) across the US.
  • A rare color strain of tulip, worth thousands of dollars to the medieval Dutch, was actually caused by a flower-killing virus/mutation.
  • Potatoes are one of the first (and most successful) genetically modified crops–Monsanto having produced a type that emits its own insecticide.

Crazy stuff.

I really enjoyed TBOD, and Pollan has yet again managed to be informative without being boring. He’s almost like that cool teacher you had in high school that somehow snuck learning into your curriculum without you realizing it.

4 pot leafs of 5

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Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus by John Gray (and in the Bedroom, too!)

I know, I know… You make one mention of “relationship book” and women put on their glasses to do some research, while men run screaming for the hills. But seriously, Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus is a classic for a reason. Never before have I had so many AHA! moments while reading a self-help/relationship book. To put it simply, Gray points out what men do to drive women insane and what women do to annoy men to death. By relating to each other as if we are from different planets, it’s easier to change our expectations about how the opposite sex “should” react. men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus-by-john-gray-phd-2010-01-15

Even I initially rolled my eyes thinking of reading this book. Now, I’m a strong believer that EVERYONE should read it, male and female. Because it’s oh so true. The book could’ve been written based on a case study of myself and my live-in boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, we have a great relationship, but… he’s from Mars…

There were actually examples of conversations that we have actually had, and it perfectly described his need for alone time versus my ups and downs. It makes it much more simple to realize that the two sexes handle things

51vnt96a25l_494_origdifferently and men aren’t “insensitive” and women aren’t “crazy.” They are just from two different planets.

However, when I decided to read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus in the Bedroomthat’s when Gray started to go a little awry. I couldn’t really relate to the exercises he’d prescribe couples and the whole thing read uncomfortably–like that weird squirmy feeling you get when you’re watching a movie with your parents and a sex scene comes on. Gross.

So, definitely DO NOT miss out on MAFMWAFV, but you can totally skip the creepiness that is …In the Bedroom.

5 dumb boys out of 5 for the former, 2 flannel nightgowns for the latter


My New(ish) Tattoo!

I don’t know why the hell I forgot to post this back in April when I initially got it, but I am now the proud human canvas of a book nerd tattoo! It says, “I am the heroine of my own story.” It’s just a daily reminder that I’m the main character of my own life 🙂

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Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Since its original publication in 1938, Think and Grow Rich has sold about a quazillionbilliontrillion copies. For realzies. It’s all about how realizing your dreams–using visualization, positive thinking/energy flow, and perseverance are the way to achieve fabulous wealth. There’s no formula for getting rich while sleeping??

Dang it. There go my plans… ThinkAndGrowRich3

Written around the time of the Great Depression, TAGR was probably one of the first (if not THE first) motivational book on making money. I’m sure it’s inspired tons of people to pursue their dreams over the last several decades. My only problem with the book is that it was written during the time where America was still portrayed as “the land of opportunities” and that the “streets are paved with gold.” Flash forward seventy-five years, and things don’t seem quite so peachy. It’s much more difficult than it once was to just contact the head of a company and, say, get a book published, or land your dream job. College degrees hardly mean much anymore.

While I definitely support the ideas that Hill demonstrates, like self-confidence, dreaming big, and not taking no for an answer–his “answer” to all our modern-day money woes seem to be a little out of reach. (Plus, his suggestion to channel all excess sexual energy into productivity is just… strange.)

I feel pressured by society to rate this book higher, but for application with MY generation, I feel like it deserves:

3 dolla dolla bills ya’ll of 5


War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

I’m sitting here trying to think of how I felt while reading War for the Oaks and I’m really having a hard time remembering any sort of emotional response. I wasn’t thrilled, I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t really that captivated…. Eh… It was just another in a long line of books that I will probably never pick up again.

That being said, I TOTALLY give it mad props for being what it is—Bull published it in 1987 and really it was one of the first books of its kind. She helped establish one of my all time favorite genres, urban fantasy, and for that I will forever be grateful. Not to mention, she’s made a cameo in some of my favorite anthologies–the Bordertown series, the Firebird anthologies, and The Faery Reel. Love love love.

So honestly, I can’t talk too much smack about it. It was her first book and for the love of god, it was set in the 80’s! Eddi McCandry is part of a wannabe famous rock group, but when her lead singer boyfriend dumps her and the band splits up, she understandably feels a little low. Too bad she doesn’t have time to wallow in it, cause pretty soon all of the Fairy realm comes knocking at her door. Ok, well not knocking… barking. Let’s just say one very annoying shape-shifting phooka gets her smack-dab in the middle of a fairy war. warforoaks

But also gives her the potential to be a member of the greatest rock band of all time!

What to do?? *cue cheesy synthesizer music*

Honestly, when you picture urban fantasy mixed with the 80’s, does anything OTHER than David Bowie’s crotch come to mind? (The Labyrinth, duh). I couldn’t help but giggle when Bull described the character’s outfits and musical stylings. Looking back on the 80’s… they were a terrible time. Bull’s dialogue was a bit cheesy and her characters were pretty predictable, but the Phooka was her saving grace. (By the way, if you claim to have pictured anyone other than Prince to play him in your mind, you are lying).

I enjoyed it, and I thank her for helping to create urban fantasy–but this one I think it’s safe to pass on.

3 puffy sleeves of 5

 

 


Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson

Ok, at first glance Shadows Cast by Stars is a post-apocalyptic novel about a half-aboriginal girl who has Plague-immune blood. The government is seeking all fullblood and halfblood aborigines to drain of blood and use to save non-natives. Or wait, is it about Canadian indian magic and folklore intertwined with the modern day? Hmm… or maybe it’s a combination of a YA love story and Indian legends? 6931234

Honestly, I have no clue and I’m pretty sure Knutsson didn’t either. The way the book is described on the jacket insert is WAAAAYYY off from where the story actually sits. Sixteen year old Cassandra moves to a tiny Canadian island with her father and brother after her mother’s Plague-related death. There she struggles to integrate with the existing tribe/townsfolk and has some creepy-ass encounters with the characters of Indian folk legend. Sprinkle in a cute chief’s son and a weirdo sea monster, and there ya go–there’s the story in a nutshell.

It really has NOTHING to do with the post-Plague world and NOTHING to do with the government seeking native blood. I have no idea why this was even mentioned because it was rarely brought up in the plot. So many random things started to happen to Cassandra and then just…didn’t… that I had to flip back a few times to check if I’d missed something. Half the time I was confused and the other half I was bored.

I really liked the monsters/magic/medicine woman aspect of the story, but I felt like Knutsson bit off more than she could chew. Why not just scrap the whole Plague thing and focus on the native folklore?

Too much added up to too little…

2 sea serpent pearls of 5


Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes

I read Darkbeast about two weeks ago and I’m still not quite sure what to think of it. It’s one of those ambivilant stories that I enjoyed enough to get through without a problem, but not enough to be all OMGICANNOTWAITFORTHESEQUEL. In fact, until the last few pages, I had no idea it was even part of a series as it wasn’t listed anywhere in the book. Darkbeast

In 11.9 year old Keara’s world, every child is designated a “darkbeast” at birth. They grow up with this magical pet and the animal takes all of their negative emotions (anger, jealousy, sadness, etc…) and absolves them away. On their 12th birthday–apparently the cusp of adulthood–the child must take their darkbeast to the temple and slaughter it, thus marking their passage into adulthood and away from the bad behavior of childhood.

Thing is, unlike most children, Keara actually loves her darkbeast–a crow named Caw. He advises her and makes her feel better for all the wrongs she’s done. So when the crucial moment comes, Keara finds that she can’t kill her pet, even at risk of the village’s wrath and her family’s disappointment. 

And there ya go! La dee da, adventure!

At first go, you can’t help but be SUPER reminded of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Material series, with the whole animal familiar thing. This book isn’t really like that at all, but some things still make me question Keyes’ logic. I mean, I get that it’s a middle grade novel, but the annoyingly childish cover  and darkbeast names were overkill. (Caw for a crow, Murk for a toad, etc…)

Not to mention, when it comes to killing the darkbeast…why at age 12? 

Are you really ready to become an awesome adult at that age? And, if you really think about it, wouldn’t all the adults be so much nicer and cooler and laid-back if their darkbeasts had actually done their jobs??

I don’t get why you would get rid of something that would make you a better person throughout your life. I understand that that was kind of Keara’s whole point, but still…

I’ll probably read the next in the series, but only because I’m really nosey–not because I can’t live without it…

3 dead snakes of 5