Friday, January 21, 2011

For A Few Demons More by Kim Harrison

The fifth book in the Rachel Morgan series is probably the best. Beware of spoilers, they be ahead.

Rachel is a 20-something Earth witch who has been working ley line magic and dabbling in demon spells. Granted the demon spells were to save her friends, but demon spells leave smut and Rachel's aura is coated it in. Word has also gotten around that she is a demon practitioner. Weres are being murdered in this book and it's discovered that The Focus can actually turn people into werewolves. David, her alpha, has been sleeping with quite a few ladies and they've all been turned.

Trying to figure out how to deal with the Focus, Al the demon, Newt the crazy demon, Ivy's desperate need to have Rachel, blood and body, plus Trent's wedding almost proves too much for Rachel. With a lot of screw ups, we have to remember she is only in her 20s, she does manage to bring some peace to the fighting were packs and still have some good birthday sex with her boyfriend, vampire Kiston. (Wow...that scene.)

Things turn very very ugly and Harrison hints at the unthinkable....then does it. Main characters are actually killed off in book 5! We, as readers, had 4 books to really get to know these people and wow....good on you, Harrison

Already downloaded book 6 to read.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Harvest for Hope by Jane Goodall

I fully expected to encounter a preachy Goodall telling me that I was a murderer, carcass-eater, and all the other niceties that vegetarians seem to call people who eat meat. But Goodall is smarter than the average vegetarian. She understands that people are different and that being preachy and judgmental isn't the way to save the world.

Instead, Goodall lays out the facts, bit by bit, and leaves it up to you to decide what to do. The facts are many and they are scary. I found myself unconsciously eating less meat while reading this book. She starts off the book with a celebration of food. Why we love it, why we need it and how the different cultures celebrate with it.

Then we get into some dire facts. I honestly had no idea of the extent of the plight of the farmer, no idea about genetically modified foods or how cows, chickens, pigs, etc are "harvested" for their meat. I already knew about the obesity issue in Americans, everyone knows this. But with some helpful suggestions from Goodall, it seems like something that is fixable. She has a chapter on becoming a vegetarian but she repeatedly states throughout the book to just eat LESS meat. The amount of energy, grain and water that is needed to support the meat industry is staggering and if everyone just ate less, it would make a huge difference.

Obviously becoming vegetarian would be helpful, but she says that even becoming semi-vegetarian is helpful. Eating meat only occasionally and eating meat that is organic and free-range shows your support to the farmers who are trying to make a living and make a difference in the world. Going to farmer's markets, buying local produces, buying organic, forgoing bottled water (apparently tests have shown that bottled water has some pretty nasty toxins in it simply because this area isn't regulated like regular tap (public) water is) and growing your own food are just a few ways to help keep the world healthy for the future generations.

The United Nations released a study showing that if we don't stop the degradation of the land, pollution, and overfishing of the seas, we would literally run out of food for the world's population by 2050.

Just reading the book is enough to spur people into action, to take the small steps necessary to protect the earth's food supply for many many more generations. This is a really motivating book.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

This quick read is a romantic fable centered around a traditional Mexican family. Fables are generally great exaggerations that are meant to tell how things come to be. This is no exception.

Tita, the youngest daughter of Mama Elena, is destined to never marry and to take care of her mother until she dies. This is the tradition of the family. Tita ends up finding love in Pedro, but is forbidden to marry him. Pedro instead marries Tita's older sister so he can stay close. A complicated mess, but somehow it works out.

Tita is a gifted cook and, through some fable-y magic, imbues her moods into her cooking. When she is happy and passionate, her food makes everyone passionate. When she is sad, everyone eating her food ends up crying and upset.

This isn't the type of book I normally enjoy and while it was entertaining, it's not in my top books. I appreciate the recipes given but they appeared right in the middle of the stories and just seemed odd.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

A gift card for Christmas brought this book into my home. I had recently sworn not to buy Koontz books until they got a little better, but my excitement over this won out.

And yay, this one is so much better. Koontz managed to completely creep me out, make me question strange noises in my home and do double takes at shadows. The climax of the book occurred at work on my lunch hour and he made me come so close to taking an extended lunch just to finish. Kudos, Mr. Koontz!

John Calvino is a homicide detective and we land right has he is entering a state mental hospital to find out why a 14 year old boy just butchered his entire family. Right from the start, we get a feeling of "That was weird. Why did he do that?". We find out that John's family was also butchered by a madman 20 years prior. That madman, Alton Turner Blackwood, seems to be coming back from Hell to start his murder spree again. A Hell that Calvino sent him to.

I had some frustrations with the book, mostly with the overly creative language used. Koontz seems to be more into lengthy descriptions of late, instead of straightforward writing, but I let it pass because the plot moved along pretty quick. Thankfully, unlike some of the Odd Thomas books, we don't have pages describing one object. My other frustrations came with the characters but as I kept reading, I saw that those problems were actually part of the plot and it made more sense.

I'm pretty glad I bought this book, I'm almost a believer again.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I'm not a romantic type of person. I don't read romance novels, swooning and clutching my bosom and wishing for Prince Charming. Which is why I never really read Jane Austen. Life isn't a happily-ever-after and I don't enjoy reading that it is.

I gave Pride and Prejudice a try a year or so ago and it was ok. Austen IS a good writer and her characters do have some serious flaws, even the characters you are supposed to be rooting for/swooning over. While listening to a CraftLit podcast, the podcaster announced we'd be listening to Persuasion. Ugh, I almost passed them all by.

While there is swooning and happily-ever-after, Persuasion turned out to be incredibly good and interesting and, might I say, exciting. Persuasion was Austen's last novel, published after her death. The main character, Anne Elliot, is a girl from a desired family, wealth and all. But she isn't a horrid person. In fact, she is much maligned and ignored by her own father and sisters, unless they needed something from her. She spent a good deal of time in the shadows, being helpful and ignored.

She was persuaded by her stand-in mother, Lady Russell, to not marry a certain Mr. Wentworth because his status would bring hers down. Years later, when she is 27 years old, she meets up with the now Captain Wentworth and finds she is still in love.

Drama drama drama and happy ending. But still in all, an excellent story with a heroine who is kinda normal for the times.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Universe in a Single Atom by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I will admit it took me a long time to read this. Even though I'm a science geek, a lot of the concepts do go over my head. It doesn't make it less interesting, it just takes me longer to try and grasp the concept or just give up and move on.

HHDL takes some of the concepts of science and compares and contrasts them to Buddhist practices. If you are interested in either, then this is probably a good book for you. We're taken through the Big Bang vs the Buddhist beginningless universe, Quantum physics and relativity vs Buddhist emptiness, evolution vs karma, several chapters on sentient consciousness vs neurobiology and finally into genetics vs the entire human race.

In the concepts I did grasp and make notes on, HHDL makes excellent parallels between the scientific world and the spiritual world, something that the majority of religions maintain cannot happen. HHDL is all to happy to point out the similarities and encourage scientific progress, but with warnings of keeping the human compassion and ethics along for the ride.

HHDL has often said that every human on this earth is the same, and should all be treated with compassion. He was essentially proven right when the human genome was finally sequenced.

In his own way, he implores (nicely and gently) for society to get better educated about science so that we don't fear it and so that we do not cross a line. "We must be willing to be revolted when science - or for that matter any human activity - crosses the line of human decency, and we must fight to retain the sensitivity that is otherwise so easily eroded."