Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review: Undaunted by William Manchee

Undaunted by 

Summary: As a youngster Stan Turner is determined to become an attorney. He is mysteriously forewarned that the path to his dream will be difficult and fraught with danger. At every turn, Stan is confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet he pushes forward, undaunted by the unknown forces that seek to derail him. Forced into the United States Marines by a vicious twist of fate, Stan leaves his wife and family and reports for duty. On his first day he unwittingly befriends a serial killer and soon finds himself charged with the murder of his drill sergeant. Aided by a lustful nurse who wants him and a journalist who wants his story, Stan desperately searches for the actual killer to prove his innocence. 

Review: A decent mystery read, but the main character really irked me. 

The author provides a lot of background information at the beginning of the story. It takes a few chapters to get to the actual story. It felt very unnecessary and it takes longer to get to the actual story. Also, within the first few chapters, there is a chapter that is told from another viewpoint. At first I thought that it was the author many years later, but it turns out later that it is a reporter. Later in the story, there is another chapter told from the reporter again and I was able to tell it was from the viewpoint of the reporter. Those two chapters should have been marked and caused a lot of confusion at first.

Stan is a jerk. I really hated his character. He has two women who want him and he somehow falls in love with one in a few days (and I thought you were happily married). He doesn't sleep with the women and they call him a great guy because he didn't cheat on his wife, but I call him a hypocrite! He constantly talks about how he shouldn't be doing this, but he didn't want to disappoint the women or disobey orders (and those orders weren't orders!). The mystery was decently intriguing and had a few twists, but I couldn't enjoy this novel because I wanted to strangle Stan.

Rating:






Recommendation: It's hard for me to recommend this book because of my strong dislike of the main character, but I suppose big fans of military fiction and mysteries might enjoy this.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: The Eighty Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired A Nation by Elizabeth Letts

The Eighty Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired A Nation by 

Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a bleak winter afternoon between the slats of a rickety truck bound for the slaughterhouse. He recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up horse and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, the horse thrived. But the recent Dutch immigrant and his growing family needed money, and Harry was always on the lookout for the perfect thoroughbred to train for the show-jumping circuit—so he reluctantly sold Snowman to a farm a few miles down the road.

But Snowman had other ideas about what Harry needed. When he turned up back at Harry’s barn, dragging an old tire and a broken fence board, Harry knew that he had misjudged the horse. And so he set about teaching this shaggy, easygoing horse how to fly. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping.

Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo, based on the insight and recollections of “the Flying Dutchman” himself. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. Elizabeth Letts’s message is simple: Never give up, even when the obstacles seem sky-high. There is something extraordinary in all of us.

Review: An enjoyable story about a man who rose from long odds and was able to follow his dreams. Plus, there are horses!


I shamelessly love horses so I was interested in reading this book, especially since I had never heard of Snowman. As I learned in this book, Snowman's fame was during the late 50s and 60s so it made sense that I had never heard of him before. I am very glad someone told Snowman and Harry's story. Letts provides a lot of background information of horses, their riders, and the culture that surrounds them. It is sad that horses have declined in importance in their use, especially for use on farms. As I mentioned before, Letts provides a  lot of background on horse, which can easily get boring and dry for those that only have a casual interest in horses or little interest in history. 

Snowman and Harry are inspirational because they both wouldn't give up. The two were really meant for each other. Their story shows what trust, love, and a good amount of hard work can accomplish. I found myself cheering for Snowman and cringing whenever he made a fault. Like Harry, I wanted him to be the best. Snowman had a lot of triumphs in his life and he lived a full, fulfilled life. I know it was inevitable, but it was still quite sad when Snowman passed away. 

Rating:






Recommendation: I would recommend this book to fans of horses and those who enjoy a heart warming inspirational story. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: House, M.D.: The Official Guide to the Hit Medical Drama by Ian Jackman, Hugh Laurie

House, M.D.: The Official Guide to the Hit Medical Drama by 
"Humanity is overrated." Dr. Gregory House's pronouncement wasn't just a momentary peeve; it represents his philosophy of life. The main character on Fox's long-running House, M.D. series knows that he doesn't reside in a just universe and he refuses to beautify his opinions, medical or otherwise, with niceties. This official guide unfolds the conflicting characters, evolving dramas, and fascinating cases of this award-winning audience favorite. A perfect primer to our secret guilty pleasure.

Review: A very thorough book that talks about how the series got started, is produced, and the running of the show. Chapters on the characters make this book better although it is still a dry read.

I was very eager to read this book because I am a huge House fan although I am so behind on the seasons. Plus Hugh Laurie is quite sexy. ;) The book is structured with chapters dealing with the show and how it is run interspersed with chapters on the characters. There are some color pictures and pictures scattered throughout the book. The book has quotes from various members of the House team and little interviews along with the standard written parts of the chapter. The quotes and little interviews break up the chapters in annoying way, distracting readers with different fonts and text sizes. 

I was expecting this book to be more about the show itself, not how the show is produced. Some of the information including props and how special effects are created are pretty interesting, but I didn't want to read a whole book about it. There are still plenty of quotes and information about the characters (besides just the chapters on the characters) that give thoughts on the philosophy of the show, the characters' interactions, and where the show may be headed. The chapters on the characters were the most interesting and I would have gladly read a book that was just about the characters. This book was a bit dry and also has some spoilers for various seasons.

Rating:



Recommendation: I would recommend this book only to people who are big fans of House and possibly people who are very interested in the production of a tv show.

Review: The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

Summary: Female journalists are rare in 1879, but American-born Clara Endicott has finally made a name for herself with her provocative articles championing London's poor. When the backlash from her work forces a return home to Baltimore, Clara finds herself face-to-face with a childhood sweetheart who is no longer the impoverished factory worker she once knew. In her absence, Daniel Tremain has become a powerful industry giant and Clara finds him as enigmatic as ever. However, Daniel's success is fueled by resentment from past wounds and Clara's deeply-held beliefs about God's grace force Daniel to confront his own motives. When Clara's very life is endangered by one of Daniel's adversaries, they must face a reckoning neither of them ever could have foreseen.

Review: An enjoyable romance with likable characters and a good message.

I honestly didn't realize that this book was a Christian work. I had downloaded because it sounded like it might be a good romance. And it was. The time period allows for the strong faith that Clara displays, but the author does not hit the reader over the head with Clara's faith. It is a part of her convictions and drives her journalism. Clara is unique in the fact that her father encourages her to pursue her journalism even though women were rare in the field. I do not know enough about the time period, but I do suspect that women like Clara were few and far between. Daniel is a really sweet and strong character and you can tell how much he cares about his sisters and Clara. 

The beginning prologue demonstrates the friendship between Clara and Daniel. It's a very heart wrenching chapter and you hope that Clara and Daniel will get together in the end. I liked the political background to the story. It's add another level to the romance and demonstrates what life was like back then for the working poor. Both characters are very stubborn and you will see that in the story, especially Daniel. The theme in this story is change and I was certainly glad for the change that occurred. To me, the change seemed to happen too fast though, especially since two of the characters were so set in their ways and had been for years. The ending was sweet and satisfying.

Rating:






Recommendation: I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction, historical romance, romance with a bit of suspense thrown in, Christian romance, and/or clean romance.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Summary: In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Review: A cool read that involves angels and a love triangle that actually makes sense and doesn't annoy me.

I do so love reading angel related fiction and I must admit to wishing I had wings. I also plan on being an angel for Halloween too. I love the mythology behind the angels in this book although I still don't understand how or why angel blood can be transmitted, but I can look past that. There is a lot of information not revealed in the book about angels and I am very eager to learn more, especially after the ending. What is the purpose of angels? And what happens if angels don't find their purpose? Why are they on earth, not in heaven?

Clara has a dash of Mary Sue in her although they can somewhat be explained by having angel's blood. I did sympathize with her, genuinely liked her, and I was glad that she followed her heart even though there might actually be consequences (unlike many stories where one or both characters say they can't be together because there might be trouble). I liked Tucker much more than Christian and I was glad the love triangle actually made sense instead of being there just for extra drama. The ending was deliciously unexpected and I  am eager to see what happens in the next book.

Rating: 





Recommendation: I would recommend this book to fans of young adult supernatural fiction, angels, or anyone who is sick of love triangles that are thrown in books just because and wants a good romance read. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

Summary: Salvation has its price. 
The words stunned Adrian for a moment, but he kept going. "You're lying. What you're describing is impossible. There's no way to save a Strigoi. When they're gone, they're gone. They're dead. Undead. Forever." 

Robert's next words weren't directed at Adrian. They were spoken to me. "That which is dead doesn't always stay dead....

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri’s birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir’s—and to her best friend, Lissa Dragomir. It's graduation, and the girls can’t wait for their real lives outside of the Academy’s cold iron gates to finally begin. But even with the intrigue and excitement of court life looming, Rose’s heart still aches for Dimitri. He's out there, somewhere. 

She failed to kill him when she had the chance, and now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and she knows in her heart that he is hunting her. And if Rose won't join him, he won't rest until he's silenced her...forever. 

But Rose can't forget what she learned on her journey—whispers of a magic too impossible and terrifying to comprehend. A magic inextricably tied to Lissa that could hold the answer to all of Rose's prayers, but not without devastating consequences. Now Rose will have to decide what—and who—matters most to her. In the end, is true love really worth the price? 


Review: My favorite in the series so far. An enjoyable read with plenty of intrigue and unexpected events.

Rose has really grown on me. I still believe that she is still obsessed with Dmirti in a way that can be construed as unhealthy. I also don't like how she doesn't believe that Lissa should be learning ways to defend herself because it might put her in danger. She has protected Lissa for so long, but she can be too protective and a bit smothering of her friend. Despite all that, I really feel for her and I want her to be happy. I was also quite excited that she finally got together with Adrian. I really like Adrian.  

There is a lot of action in the book, which make sense since the series is wrapping up in the next book. The first third of the book is a bit of blur due to the action of the last two thirds. I will not spoiler the book, but I still can't believe what Lissa, Adrian, and Rose do in their quest to attempt to save Dmitri. They chase a rumor and risk so much. I was very surprised by the ending and I wonder how Mead will manage to wrap it all up in the last book. 

Rating: 





Recommendation: I would recommend this series to fans of young adult supernatural fiction and vampires. I am glad I stick with this series so I would tell people to stick with it since it gets better. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Miles Away... Worlds Apart by Alan Sakowitz

Miles Away... Worlds Apart by Alan Sakowitz

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Alan Sakowitz, a whistleblower of a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme masterminded by Scott Rothstein, fraudster extraordinaire, tells the story of his decision to turn in Rothstein regardless of the possible dangerous ramifications of such a decision. The saga of Rothstein's rise and fall which included a Warren Yacht, two Bugattis, Governor Crist, the former Versace mansion, The Eagles, and even the murder of a law partner, is the stuff that Hollywood movies are made from.

Instead of the mere accounting of such a scandal, Sakowitz uses the Rothstein scheme as a cautionary tale in stark contrast to the stories of humble, ethical individuals living within Sakowitz's neighborhood in North Miami Beach, Florida. Sakowitz's neighbors are people who have spent their lives trying to assist others, not line their pockets, and through these stories Sakowitz creates a sharp dichotomy between the greed, of a Rothstein and its mainstream culture of consumption and the charity, kindness and selflessness of a principle-oriented community. Indeed, Sakowitz speaks to the symptoms of a culture that could create a Scott Rothstein, and, though acknowledging that the easy way out is not simple to dismiss, offers remedies to the growing ills of our entitlement society. The answer, Sakowitz says, lies in thinking first of others, and how one's actions should benefit the lives of friends, not one's short-term gratifications.


Review: A gratifying book that tells the story of extreme greed and contrasts it to a community of people that are willing to help others without a second thought.

The motto of this story, if it's too good to be true, then it is. Sakowitz turns a lawyer's eye on the situation and can easily see the red flags. Still, even if you aren't a lawyer, I hope that people wouldn't be so easily taken in by something that seems too good to be true. It's always worth getting a second opinion. It is also very important to trust your gut. Too often people are blinded by greed. 

The story of Rothstein's fall could have been a very sad and tragic story. Sakowtiz balances Rothstein and his greed with stories from his community. Those stories are very heartwarming and I would gladly read a book just of those stories (Sakowitz mentions the possibility of such a book in his acknowledgments). I am very glad Rothstein gets prosecuted and gets what is coming to him. I had hoped to learn exactly how Rothstein was taken down. The fall of Rothstein and his scams is a cautionary tale. I do not think there is anything wrong with earning money and wanting to have some of the nicer things in life, but there is a point where there is too much money unless it is being used for good purposes.

Rating: 






Recommendation: I would recommend this book to people who enjoy legal/law nonfiction and anyone who enjoys heartwarming stories and good messages.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Summary: With Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson pairs the insight of his bestselling Everything Bad Is Good for You and the dazzling erudition of The Ghost Map and The Invention of Air to address an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? Answering in his infectious, culturally omnivorous style, using his fluency in fields from neurobiology to popular culture, Johnson provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how we generate the ideas that push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward. 

Beginning with Charles Darwin's first encounter with the teeming ecosystem of the coral reef and drawing connections to the intellectual hyperproductivity of modern megacities and to the instant success of YouTube, Johnson shows us that the question we need to ask is, What kind of environment fosters the development of good ideas? His answers are never less than revelatory, convincing, and inspiring as Johnson identifies the seven key principles to the genesis of such ideas, and traces them across time and disciplines. 

Most exhilarating is Johnson's conclusion that with today's tools and environment, radical innovation is extraordinarily accessible to those who know how to cultivate it. Where Good Ideas Come From is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how to come up with tomorrow's great ideas.

Review: An enjoyable read that combines natural history, technology, and science to explain how ideas either succeed or fail.

This book wasn't exactly what I expected. The summary and title is a tad misleading. Johnson does not provide "the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how we generate the ideas that push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward." Instead of focusing on a handful of ideas and providing the seven key principles that brought about each of those ideas, Johnson dedicates a chapter to each key principle and provides a few examples for each idea. It is a bit unnatural to divide the key principles up since they can overlap and can be more or less important to an idea.

I did enjoy learning about the stories of how ideas and innovations came about. It makes sense that they don't come from a vacuum and it was crazy to see how some ideas ideas and innovations may have never come about if one or two things would have been different. I had hoped to learn about how more ideas came to be, but Johnson kept using the same stories over and over again. My favorite aspect of this book is how ideas are created and developed in the natural world. Animals, plants, and bacteria are really quite smart when it comes to creating and implementing ideas. 

Rating: 






Recommendation: I would recommend this book to anyone interested in innovation and/or someone interested in the development and history of technology. This book might be a little too in depth for someone with a casual interest in the subject.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review: Thirst by Claire Farrell

Thirst by 

Summary: Ava Delaney calls herself a hybrid - a living, breathing human who happens to have vampire poison running through her veins. The only thing greater than her thirst for human blood is her capacity for guilt. She does her best to avoid the human world, for everyone's sake.

When Ava accidentally enslaves a human while saving him from a vampire, she realises she has to look for help setting him free. Despite her misgivings, she expands her world but finds herself dragged into a possible vampire civil war. With the help of some new friends with ambiguous loyalties, she tries to find a way to keep her human, and herself, alive.


Review: A solid vampire read with likable characters and a slightly different take on vampires.

I must admit to not expecting that much from this book since it was a free Kindle ebook (perhaps I'm a tad prejudice, but a lot of self published books are pretty bad), but I was pleasantly surprised. Farrell had a take on vampires that was between totally sexual creatures and complete and utter monsters. My only issue with the vampires is that if vampires are vampires because of the poison in their blood, why do they still get burned by crosses and silver? 

Ava was an interesting character. She never let herself give into her urges, which takes a lot of self control. She wanted to protect humans from herself, which is pretty damn noble. Saving humans from vampires was another good trait of hers. Her OCD traits made her very human like. She goes to great lengths to try to free Carl after she accidentally claimed him. Carl wasn't much of a character for most of the book due to the thrall, but he seemed like a good guy. I liked Peter and enjoyed the budding feelings between Ava and Peter. Eddie is a jack ass and I know he's up to something.

There was a lot of build up in this novel and the plot moved swiftly. I enjoyed the scraps of knowledge that the reader learned about vampires and am quite eager to learn more. And who exactly is Eddie? The book does leave you lacking a lot of knowledge, but I did not find that to be an issue since it makes you eager to read the next book. The ending was sudden and I felt a little let down since there was such a build up to it.

Rating: 






Recommendation: I would recommend this to fans of supernatural/vampires fans. Plus it's free (on Amazon) and a quick read. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Demon Days by Richard Finney, D.L. Snell

Demon Days by Richard Finney, D.L. Snell

Disclaimer: received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: While on vacation, journalist Sandy Travis and her fiancee, Tom, are in a horrendous helicopter accident. Tom is seriously injured and has an N.D.E. (a Near Death Experience) where he sees a bright light and a figure who tells him that he must go back to the living because there's still more he must accomplish with his life. After Tom is revived, he tells Sandy that he believes he's spoken to God. As it turns out... Tom is wrong. Horribly wrong. The episode plunges Sandy into a dangerous race against malevolent forces who want to trigger Armageddon as foretold in the Bible. She must save her husband from the dark forces who suddenly control his life by following a bloody trail of coded secrets and targeted assassinations. Sandy's plight will pit her against an otherworldly cabal who use the process of N.D.E. as a way of orchestrating events that will usher in the Demon Days!

Review: A very suspenseful novel with a nice dash of horror and a wonderful main character.

This a short book, but the authors certainly pack a punch and a bit of a wallop too in the 188 pages. I'm very excited to read the sequel, which has many pages so who knows how exciting it will be? Pretty exciting I'm betting. Since it is 2012 and all, Armageddon and the end of the world are very big. The History Channel even had a week dedicated to it. I do enjoy end of the world prophecies so I was eager to read this book. I wasn't sure how the authors could fit everything into such a short book, but they certainly managed to do it.  

The book was very suspenseful and I found myself dreading, yet still eager to see what came next. The plot moves at a fast clip and you are catapulted forward into each new event. I really liked Sandy as a character. She was very realistically depicted and was a very strong person. Sandy was able to make decisions about what she could and could not focus on at the moment. I felt like she dealt very well with the trauma she was going through.

There were a number of tragedies throughout the story and the ending was the hardest to take. I wish it would have ended any other way than how it did. It is such a shame what happened to Sandy and Tom. The ending sets the stage for the next book.

Rating:






Recommendation: I would highly recommend this to people who are thriller/horror fans and those who enjoy end of the world fiction.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos by John D. Barrow

The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos by 

Summary: Einstein's theory of general relativity opens the door to other universes, and weird universes at that: universes that allow time travel, universes where you can see the back of your head, universes that spin and bounce or multiply without limit. The Book of Universes gives us a stunning tour of these potential universes, introducing us along the way to the brilliant physicists and mathematicians who first revealed their startling possibilities. John D. Barrow explains the latest discoveries and ideas that physics and astronomy have to offer about our own universe, showing how these findings lead to the concept of the "multiverse"—the Universe of all possible universes. New ideas force us to confront the possibility that our visible universe is a tiny region, governed by its own laws, within a Multiverse containing all the strange universes that could be—an idea that is among the most exciting and revolutionary in all of modern science.

Review: A very thorough and accessible book about our universe and the many possible forms it can take. 

When this book says it's a book of universes, it certainly is a book about universes. Each chapter in this book and each section in the chapter begins with one or two quotes which are quite humorous. The first few chapters in this book are very accessible and the author's humor comes through. A good deal of the information in the first few chapters is a review of what I already know, but provides a good basis for those that are new to physics and the historic and more recent developments in the field. The book follows a roughly chronological line when discussing the universes. 

I did learn quite a bit of new information. I was not aware of just how many universes there were. The Book of Universes is almost like a dictionary of universes. Once the first few chapters are finished, the author lists a handful of universes each chapter and provides a few pages about each one. I feel there are too many universes in this book. It might have been better to provide a couple examples for each chapter instead of three or four or five. This book also does not provide much information about the physics behind the universes.

Rating: 








Recommendation: I would recommend this book to someone who enjoys physics or who is very interested in learning about the universe. I would not recommend this book to casual science readers. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver by 


Summary: Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon. A stirring supernatural teen romance.

Review: A very sweet, romantic read with likable characters and an intriguing plot.

I was initially wary of this book due to the relationship between Grace and her wolf, which I can't really call a relationship at all. One of her friends says she is obsessed with the wolves and it is very close to the truth. Grace still has a life, but she is too into the wolves, especially her wolf. And there was Sam's deceleration that he should stay away, even though he didn't and didn't seem to have the self control to stay away. Why does no one seem to have self control? And early on in their relationship, they both declare their obsession for the other and talk about be unable to imagine life without each other. Despite this ill beginning, their relationship built at a logical pace and was a very sweet relationship.


I liked the werewolves in this book. They can't change at will and can only shift when it's warm. It's an interesting take on a very overdone subject, although not as much as werewolves. The heat plays a big role in the story. The chapters that switched between Grace's and Sam's view threw me off for a few seconds at times because I didn't always look at the chapter title, but that was a small complaint. I liked all the characters. They were well characterized. The ending of the book is very bittersweet and I am looking forward to reading the second book to find out what happens next.

Rating:






Recommendation: I would recommend this book to fans of werewolves, supernatural/paranormal fiction, young adult fiction, and fans of sweet romance with or without a supernatural twist.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Review: The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by 

Summary: Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires—sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control—with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?

Review: A short book (in ebook form at least) that took too long for me to read despite having some interesting facts and good points.

I was very interested in reading this book because it sounded like it would be fascinating. I suppose I didn't read the summary well enough and thought this would be more far reaching than it actually was. Having the book broken down into four desires and four plants was not necessarily a bad idea. It could provide a good overview of the plant, its evolution, and interactions and developments with humans. And while I did learn some interesting and downright fascinating facts about plants and their evolution with humans, the author did not do the best of job of staying on track.

The marijuana chapter was the one chapter guiltiest of this, but all the chapters were somewhat rambling in nature, jumping from subject or topic to another. I don't need strictly linear history, but the jumping around had me bored a number of times. My favorite chapter was the one about potatoes and made me want mashed potatoes or my grandmother's delicious potato salad while reading it. The history behind the potato is very interesting and I would like to read more about it, especially the potato blight and how it affected the Irish people.

Rating:






Recommendation: I would only recommend this to people very  interested in plants, gardening, and botany. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey by Ann Rinaldi

Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey by 
Summary: I had freckles. 
I had sandy hair. I was too short.
Would my feet even touch the ground if I sat on the throne?
These are the words of lady Jane Grey, as imagined by celebrated author Ann Rinaldi. Jane would become Queen of England for only nine days before being beheaded at the age of sixteen.
Here is a breathtaking story of English royalty with its pageantry, privilege, and surprising cruelty. As she did in her previous novel Mutiny's Daughter, Ms. Rinaldi uses powerful, evocative writing to bring to life a teenage girl caught in the grip of stirring times.
Review: A quick read, a very quick read actually, but an enjoyable story with a sympathetic character.

I have not previously read a book about Lady Jane Grey, but it is a very fascinating story. It's almost hard to believe that someone was queen for only nine days. I know some people may think of queens as being very powerful, but her story goes to show that even if a woman was queen, she could so easily be powerless. Some queens were more powerful than others, but Jane Grey was very much a pawn, or at least that is how it appears to me.

I found Jane to be a very sympathetic character and I hoped (even though there was no hope) that Jane would not be forced to marry, that she would not become queen, and would not be beheaded. This book had a good deal of foreshadowing due to Jane remarking that she was grateful that she was a not a princess, that she would never be queen, and that she would throw the crown at them if she ever did become queen. I must admit it's a little much because we all know what will happen to her. 

Jane's character took a somewhat significant turn after she became queen, but I am not entirely sure it was warranted due to her actions, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions before. She took to the power she always said she never wanted a little too well. All in all, the story of Lady Jane Grey is a tragic one and this book does a good job of telling it.

Rating: 





Recommendation
: I would recommend this book to fans of young adult historical fiction, the Tudors, or stories dealing with young girls and teenagers in hard positions.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Summary: Cherie Priest's much-anticipated steampunk debut has finally arrived in the form of a paperback original. Its plot features the sort of calibrated suspense that readers of her Four and Twenty Blackbirds would expect.Boneshaker derives its title from the Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, a device designed to give Russian prospectors a leg up in the race for Klondike gold. Unfortunately, there was one hitch: On its trial run, the Boneshaker went haywire and, long story short, turned much of Seattle into a city of the dead. Now, 16 years later, a teenage boy decides to find out what is behind that mysterious wall. Can his mother save him in time? Zombie lit of the first order.

Review: Steampunk, zombies, and a strong woman character? What could go wrong? Unfortunately, it did go wrong. I was expecting to like this book much more than I did so I must admit to being let down.


A few people have mentioned in their reviews that this book would be better as a movie and I agree. It's a somewhat simple story that involves a lot of action and fighting zombies, perfect for the big screen, but not so much in movie format. I thought that Briar was a strong character (I hesitate to say strong female character since that implies that most female characters aren't) although she seemed on the verge of losing it a number of times. It felt like there were underlying issues with her. Zeke was downright idiotic at times in his behavior. He didn't want to listen to his gut, which got him into many messes and forced people to recognized him. I liked Lucy and Jeremiah the best.


I found it a bit hard to believe that people except for those developing and smuggling the drug lemon sap to actually live in Seattle, especially since air ships docked on a regular basis. And I know this book came before Dragon Age, but I kept thinking of the Blight in Dragon Age (awesome game). The plot moved fast enough, but it felt without substance. The ending felt melodramatic and was something of a let down when compared to all the build up so far. 

Rating:






Recommendation: I would only recommend this book to big fans of steampunk and zombie fans who don't mind a bit of steampunk with their zombies.