Monday, December 31, 2012

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

There's not a lot to say about the Stephanie Plum series except they are your tiny cupcakes in life. The little fluff you need and want to make your day better. Nineteen was a good one, read in the span of one day.

Evanovich really knows her audience and what we want. And she always delivers.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

I can't guarantee no spoilers here.... be warned

Harry Dresden is BACK! From the dead! Oh, thank goodness. I didn't like ghost Dresden at all.

So Dresden ended up making a deal with Mab, the Winter Queen, in order to come back to the land of the living. She helped make sure he lived and was being "cared for" on the island of Demonreach after he was shot and killed. Now, Dresden is the Winter Knight. Oh, Dresden.

He awakens in Mab's world, getting a form of physical therapy, which includes being nearly killed in creative ways every day by Mab. Keeps him on his toes, ya know. Mab sends Harry back to Chicago with his first order: kill Maeve, Mab's daughter, the Winter Lady. Except...she's immortal.

There is so much action going on in this book it was a little hard to follow. True, Harry has his order, but he also has assassins after him, coming back to his friends and family (who think he's dead), Demonreach (it's a jail for evil evil things) about to explode, The Wild Hunt, meeting Mother Winter and Mother Summer (whoa), the war on the outer edges of NeverNever, the Nemesis, Outsiders..... The list is endless.

All in all, this was a great Dresden book with a whole lot going on. Exactly what I come to expect from Jim Butcher. BUT.... the ending was a game changer. Completely unexpected (at least to me!) and points us and the characters in a whole new direction.

Can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Space Chronicles by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I can't help loving this man. I can't believe I'm saying that about an astrophysicist but he's just awesome.

That said, I wasn't as impressed with this book. I really liked some of his others, his writing style is incredibly conversational and he's full of fun facts to show and tell. But this book felt very jumpy to me, like he was talking to me but rapid fire and changing trains of thought too fast.

That's not to say I didn't learn anything from this book. I learned that America is doomed. (Just kidding, kinda). He's saying what I already know: America is falling behind and losing the traction that we once had. For whatever reason, the high and mighty people don't think we need to explore space anymore. That the STEM studies aren't as important.(Science Technology Engineering Math). Tyson has the perfect counterpoint to the argument "We need to take care of the people on Earth first". When that asteroid comes barreling towards Earth? You'll wish we had invested time and money into space.....

He included lots of Tweets of space facts into the book which were (almost) redundant. I follow him on Twitter anyways so I've seen a lot of them.

Read the book because it's Tyson and because it's NASA, but be sure to read his other books too.

Julia Child by Laura Shapiro

This was a fairly short (5.7 hours) audiobook from the library. I had listened to a podcast on Julia from The History Chicks and was intrigued enough to dig around for more on her. I think everyone knows who she is, but there was more to her than her famous voice and TV series.

Ah, the lady loved food. And wine. How can you not love someone so enthusiastic about being happy?

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
Julia Child

I don't know where this book lies in the best of the best, since it was the first one I picked up about her, but it was pretty good. We get to travel from being a young, privileged woman in Pasadena, to travel in the Foreign Services for the war, to meeting Paul Child and becoming a strong team of two. The relationship between her and Paul just makes you believe that good things can happen and that there are people out there without tremendous egos that want you to be happy.

I was a little (a lot) unhappy about Julia's prejudices against homosexuality, but I try to remember the era that she was raised in. It makes it worse that the book describes her dad's prejudices and how she abhorred them because she clearly though her views were fine. It took the AIDS epidemic and losing several dear friends to make her come around.

I don't think any of the Food Network "stars" have the power that Julia did. How the world created such an optimistic and enthusiastic person, I will never know.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Purchased through my account (ok, so it's not a *total* book diet), this has been on my list to read for a while. I just finished it and literally am torn on what I thought of it.

On one hand, Walls describes a self-induced poverty, with parents who never wanted to act like parents, who let the kids raise them. Some of the acts of the parents were pretty heinous and made me angry, such as when the dad, Rex, stole money from the kids for liquor and cigarettes. When the family moved to West Virginia, it was the kids who found jobs and the parents who wanted to do whatever they wanted and that never included work. They lived in squalor and poverty.

On the other hand, it's clear from the book that the parents loved their children. When they couldn't afford Christmas gifts, the dad would take the kids out into the desert backyard and tell them they could each have a star. Whichever star they wanted out of the sky. Jeannette chose Venus. Clearly, something in the raising of the kids went ok, because they moved on, went to college and got careers.

The parents chose to be homeless in New York while the kids were there working and attending school - just so they could still be a family.

I think the most frustrating part, for me, was finding out that the mom had property in Texas worth millions. If they had compromised just a little, the Walls family would not have been subjected to the poverty they lived in. But who knows how that would have changed the kids.

A complicated but very good book. How do you second guess the life that made you who you are?

Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox

I can't for the life of me remember where I heard about this book, but I apparently put it on hold at the library as soon as I heard about it. When the email came that it was in, I was a little confused. But I gamely went and got it and started reading.

Side note: people really shouldn't wait so long past the library due date to bring books back. It confuses the next people in line who forgot they requested it.

Lynne Cox was born in 1957 and has been swimming pretty much all her life. She discovered when she was younger that she loved swimming "in the wild" when she was swimming in an outdoor pool during a storm. One of the parents of another student was amazed she was out there and proclaimed that Lynne would swim the English Channel someday. That idea stuck.

Fast forward a bit, but not too much, and Lynne is swimming the English Channel and breaking world age 15. What did YOU do at age 15?

Not content with just that, Lynne moved on to other projects, each more challenging than the next. She paired up with some research doctors in college to help them understand cold water swimming and its affects.

Lynne's big goal was to swim the Bering Strait, from Alaska to Russia. This was during the time of Reagan and the Cold War and she needed permission from both sides in order to swim. Lynne saw this as a way to bring countries together and it did, amazingly enough. The Soviets agreed, after 11 years of trying, and Lynne did the swim in frigid waters (around 40 degrees F).

Another side note: reading this book made me cold. Cox swam around icebergs, in water so cold it was partially frozen. I was perpetually covered up with a blanket throughout this book.

As the title of the book implies, Lynne did a swim in Antarctica where the water temperature was around 32 degrees. There was no particular reason for this swim, except that it hadn't been done before.  She swam 1.2 miles in 25 minutes.

Her crew always contains doctors in case there are problems. With the last swim in the arctic, I had issues with what she described. She mentioned that she didn't know at the time that water that cold could kill nerve endings. She listed several things she didn't know "at that time". All the doctors that surrounded her, went with her, and wanted to help one mentioned this? Apparently it took quite some time for the feeling to get back to her extremities due to the nerve damage.

I'm not a swimmer, I just somewhat flail in the water, but this was an interesting read. Well written and engaging enough, that it was a pretty quick read as well.