June 29, 2015

Bees, butterflies, and being a better human being

As long-time readers of the blog know, I love reading and learning about environmental science and what it all means in terms of the conservation of resources. To that end, A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm was a logical choice. (Its predecessor, A Sting in the Tale, which focused on bees exclusively has now been added to the list.) This book focused on Goulson's quest to recreate a meadow with biodiversity of fauna and flora on a plot of land (used to harvest cereal before his purchase) he bought in France. Not only was he hoping to play his part in conservation by starting this project but he was discouraged by the limited resources of his university for conducting wildlife experiments over extended periods of time and hoped this would remedy that problem. He has gone to great lengths to learn as much as he can about the creatures and plants that inhabit his small paradise. Each chapter begins with a small journal excerpt  from the summer months when he and his family live on the property. (These are typically humorous or wistful in turns.) The book was divided into parts which covered his cultivation of the meadow, different plant and animal species and their behavior, his work with bees which was covered in his first book extensively, and ecological conservation. It wasn't written in dry, academic jargon so the layperson should feel comfortable enough to give this book a shot. If you're curious about the mysteries of the natural world or want to dip your toe into conservation/environmental sciences  then I definitely recommend this book to you. (Also, I think we should all read A Sting in the Tale together.)

I love perusing the new additions to the non-fiction section of the library. I've found some real gems there such as the next book up for review: The Great Fire: One American's Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century's First Genocide by Lou Ureneck. This is the story of Asa Jennings, a YMCA worker, working in Smyrna at the time of the Turkish soldiers advance through the city. Many people were killed during this time and many Greek and Armenians fled. However, Jennings stayed and along with a naval officer named Halsey Powell they were able to rescue more than 250,000 people. I know very little about this historical event so I'm very excited to read this one.

June 22, 2015

A book series that should be made into film

Yep I said it. The Lunar Chronicles should be turned into films. (I just checked to make sure this dream hadn't turned reality yet...it hasn't.) As I mentioned in my review of Cinder, Meyer has created a world where favorite fairytale characters are very different from the stories we read as children. Scarlet is the story of a regular farm girl who discovers that her grandmother has kept a secret from her and now it's gotten her into a lot of trouble. Cue Wolf (who I must say makes Jacob from Twilight a distant memory) to the rescue. He seems to have all the answers as to why her grandmother has disappeared and how this fits into the puzzle regarding the missing Lunar Princess. And we can't forget Cinder who is on the run from the authorities...all of them in fact. Long story short: The sequel didn't disappoint. It delivered an action packed, high energy, emotional rollercoaster that I highly recommend you give a shot. If you enjoyed the first in this series or The Dorothy Must Die series then you'll probably enjoy this one.

Next on deck is A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm by Dave Goulson. I was intrigued by this because of the beautiful butterflies on the cover and from the description of the first book that Goulson wrote (and which I fully intend to read as well) about his study of bees. A Buzz in the Meadow is a look at the other creatures that inhabit his farm (where he cultivated the aforementioned bees). It's a conservationist's call-to-arms, I believe. We shall shortly see!



** If you're interested in a book like Scarlet, you can click here. This will re-direct you to ThriftBooks.com which is a website which I have used to purchase used books many times. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 17, 2015

Reality or fantasy...I can't decide

Okay, I can admit that I have a vivid imagination and at times it has run away with me. This might be one of those times. I was about 50 pages (or fewer) into The Historian and I started to question if what I was reading was actually a work of nonfiction. Let me remind you that this is the story of a quest to locate Dracula. DRACULA. And here I am reading it and the story is too believable to be a work of fiction. The main voice (if you can call it that) of the narrative is the author who has assembled together various pieces of evidence such as letters, manuscripts, book passages, maps, and folk songs to weave the story of her parents mission to find and kill the man who was Vlad the Impaler but more widely known as the mythical vampire, Dracula. Even now as I'm writing this, I feel a thrill of horror that the man Vlad the Impaler was an actual living breathing man. He did unspeakably horrible things in his time (mid to late 15th century) which is why many people felt he was too evil to die outright. This is how the legends that he was an immortal, evil creature came into being. Elizabeth Kostova took this even further by using historical documents that made it all too believable. (I have no desire to check and see if those items mentioned in the book are real or fictional by the way.) I urge you to give this book a try and let me know if you finish it absolutely convinced that it couldn't be real.

Now that I have thoroughly freaked myself out, let me tell you about my next book. About a month ago I reviewed Cinder by Marissa Meyer and I mentioned that it was the start of a series called the Lunar Chronicles. Do you see where this is headed yet? That's right, I'm reading book two in the series, Scarlet! For those of you who heeded my advice and read the first book in the series you will remember that it ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger. This book picks up at that point but it also introduces us to a completely different character, Scarlet, who is on the opposite side of the world from Cinder. She's got problems of her own because her grandmother is missing and she soon discovers that she is in grave danger. Who can she trust? How do the paths of these two girls cross? LET'S FIND OUT!

June 9, 2015

Bringing a whole new meaning to the term 'connected'

Think A Clockwork Orange meets I, Robot and you're on the right track to grasping the concept of Feed. If you've ever read or watched A Clockwork Orange, you'll remember the made up language/slang called Nadsat which was so complicated that a glossary was included at the back off the book. Feed isn't quite that difficult but it does take a meg long time to get used to (that was a little example there). As veteran readers of the blog will know, I am fascinated (or you could say horrified) by the theory that technology will one day destroy humanity as we know it now. One could even argue that it's already well under way. What M.T. Anderson has done is look at how corporations and the media have shaped our culture and what might happen if we surrender fully to it. This is a worst case scenario (at least I hope it is) of what happens when we cease asking questions and nourishing our natural curiosity. What if we were all tapped into the media and each other in such a way that we soon became mere vessels for corporations to exploit? Would life find a way? Find out by reading Feed and letting your imagination run wild.
  
(I am actually reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova now.) A young woman stumbles upon letters written by her father which detail a quest to find out the truth about Vlad the Impaler (aka the guy who inspired Dracula). She must decide if she wants to follow in her father's footsteps and seek to unravel the mysteries that might just cross over into modern times...

June 5, 2015

The History of the Thing (not the monster)

So we finally get to find out how Dorothy made it back to Oz and how she came to be in power. When I was reading Dorothy Must Die, it never occurred to me to wonder about Aunt Em and Uncle Henry…let's just say their story is full of irony and leave it at that. No Place Like Oz focuses on what makes Dorothy tick and her relationship with Ozma is especially interesting. We get a glimpse of her three companions at their midpoint of transformation into the monsters we met in the first book of the series. I think it's particularly clever of Danielle Paige to structure her series like this. The reader is able to get all of the back story on the main characters in short bursts to hold them over until the next book in the series is out. I do hope, however, that she'll release everything in print as a nice box set (I love a good box set, y'all).
I wouldn't say that this is a particularly cheery series but for some reason I found The Wizard Returns to be more sinister than the last two novellas. This might be because 1. I always found The Wizard to be a rather shifty fella and 2. This book did not resolve the mystery surrounding this character. Is he good? Is he wicked? Who's side is be actually on? Nobody knows!! What we do know is what he was up to when the people of Oz thought he had returned home (you're not even ready for that anticlimactic reveal). I, for one, am chomping at the bit for the next book in the series, The Wicked Will Rise, which I'm sure will more than satisfy my burning curiosity…I hope.
What am I reading next? Roll a die to find out!
 Feed by M.T. Anderson
People are connecting themselves directly to the Internet vifeeds to their brains. That's it. That's what drew me to this book because I am masochistic and have a real fear of technology destroying us all.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A young woman stumbles upon letters written by her father which detail a quest to find out the truth about Vlad the Impaler (aka the guy who inspired Dracula). She must decide if she wants to follow in her father's footsteps and seek to unravel the mysteries that might just cross over into modern times...

June 2, 2015

How to Government Step 1: Atomic Bombs

Jonas Jonasson has a gift for political satire couched in extraordinary tales of endurance and intelligence. His characters are at once completely believable and extraordinary caricatures. You want to believe that people like this really do exist (and sometimes you shudder at the thought). The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a story of a girl who started at the bottom but struggled her way up through any means necessary. Hers is a story of patient determination to succeed and attain a happy, "normal" life. Much like the other book of his that I reviewed, this book is a rollicking (and at times quite raunchy) ride from beginning to end. For me, it was a solid 10/10. If you enjoy political satires with a bite then I think you'll enjoy this one.
What's next? Nobody knows.
Except for me. I always know.

 Feed by M.T. Anderson
People are connecting themselves directly to the Internet vifeeds to their brains. That's it. That's what drew me to this book because I am masochistic and have a real fear of technology destroying us all.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A young woman stumbles upon letters written by her father which detail a quest to find out the truth about Vlad the Impaler (aka the guy who inspired Dracula). She must decide if she wants to follow in her father's footsteps and seek to unravel the mysteries that might just cross over into modern times...
  
No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige
We finally get to find out how Dorothy returned to Oz and what caused her to change from its savior to its ultimate enemy.

The Wizard Returns by Danielle Paige
Everyone assumed that when the Wizard floated off in his hot air balloon that he had returned to The Other Place but he didn't and when he woke up he discovered that he had no memory of who he was. Hooray we finally find out (I hope) what side he's actually on and maybe if he has a plan to dethrone Dorothy.

May 28, 2015

The universe and our place in it



Science enthusiasts, especially physicists, astronomers, and cosmologists, will love The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. Richard Panek gives a detailed and thorough account of the history of cosmology (the study of the universe including its birth, composition, and laws). All of the heavy hitters are mentioned along with some I had never heard of (Adam Riess, anyone? Saul Perlmutter?). Mathematics abounds but if you're looking for diagrams or charts you've come to the wrong place which I personally found disappointing. The writing style is not written with the layman in mind. If you're unfamiliar with the standard terminology and not completely cognizant of some of the finer points regarding these specialized science disciplines you might find yourself a bit lost. However, if you are fascinated by what lays beyond our galaxy and how we fit into the grand scheme of things then you should definitely read this book (but be prepared to come away without all of the answers that you seek).

Now I've made a slight error in judgment and the books that I had placed on hold as far back as 2 months ago have suddenly all become available at the same time. This means that I may or may not review these next couple of books in a predetermined order. Also, some of these might be lumped into one single blog post (I'm looking at you novella prequels).

Here's what I've picked up:

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
Another English translation of the Swedish author whose work I recently reviewed. This is work of adult fiction featuring a South African girl who works her way up from being an illiterate poop hauler (Slumdog Millionaire, ahoy!) to the right hand of the King of Sweden (I think that's where this headed at any rate).

 Feed by M.T. Anderson
People are connecting themselves directly to the Internet via feeds to their brains. That's it. That's what drew me to this book because I am masochistic and have a real fear of technology destroying us all.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A young woman stumbles upon letters written by her father which detail a quest to find out the truth about Vlad the Impaler (aka the guy who inspired Dracula). She must decide if she wants to follow in her father's footsteps and seek to unravel the mysteries that might just cross over into modern times...
  
No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige
We finally get to find out how Dorothy returned to Oz and what caused her to change from its savior to its ultimate enemy.

The Wizard Returns by Danielle Paige
Everyone assumed that when the Wizard floated off in his hot air balloon that he had returned to The Other Place but he didn't and when he woke up he discovered that he had no memory of who he was. Hooray we finally find out (I hope) what side he's actually on and maybe if he has a plan to dethrone Dorothy.