Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Speaking In Bones by Kathy Reichs

Another lovely advanced reader's copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers group. I really love this series so let my bias show.

I do NOT love the TV Show Bones so more bias.

The basic premise of this series is Tempe Brennan is a Forensic Anthropologist who works out of both Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Canada. Her on again off again beau is a detective ,Andrew Ryan, who is currently on again and proposing. Brennan has some cold feet going on during the course of this novel.

A websleuth, Hazel Strike aka Lucky, comes to Brennan with some evidence that some unidentified bones might belong to a Cora Teague. Probably half out of interest, half out of avoiding Ryan and his proposal, Tempe starts investigating.

What comes out of this is actually an interesting case with many twists and turns. If you have ever read Kathy Reichs' books, you know she ends each and every chapter with a cliffhanger. Just enough to make you say "One more chapter" and before you know it, it's 2AM and you have to get up for work in 3 hours...... Sorry...digressing.

Speaking in Bones definitely moved the Brennan/Ryan plot along and picked up an interesting case to boot. Another excellent addition to the series.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Let's start with: there will be spoilers.

I had no idea how to write this review. I have been reading other reviews and hearing other opinions and I know how upset people are over this book. Interestingly enough, this was the first book written. To Kill A Mockingbird came second to give the characters a start. Go Set A Watchman finishes out the Finch family.

So people are upset. I was too! I stopped reading for a bit because Atticus being racist killed me. Scout's vocal outbursts and the vitriol she shouted at Atticus killed me. What is wrong with all the characters I loved??

To Kill A Mockingbird is a book I re-read about every 5 years. And I probably still will. Because, in actuality, Atticus didn't change.

Hear me out.

Keep in mind when both of these books are set. GSAW is in the heat of the Civil Rights movement. By 2015 standards, how the characters react is horrible and sad and despicable. But, back then, I think a lot of people were trying to figure out what was happening.

Now, we have legalized gay marriage and that is a HUGE step forward. But, we still have folks who grew up believing this is wrong. Some people still believe women shouldn't make the same pay as a man for the same job. We'll never stop fighting for equality. Sheesh.

Anyways, yes, Atticus is fully against black people joining the white race in... anything. But Atticus never wavered in defending a black person. He is staunchly standing by his principles of justice. I can't hate him anymore than I can hate someone in my family doing the same. Do I think it's wrong? YES. Humans are humans and we should ALL be equal. What I saw in GSAW though was Atticus breaking the cycle.


Look at how he raised Jem and Scout. Since Jem has passed, we only have Scout to look at as an example. She is color blind. People are people to her. Atticus did not raise her with his beliefs. He raised her to find her own. He raised her to be her own thinker, her own person. She grew into a defiant, stubborn, strong woman. Do I like how she handled Atticus and Hank? NO. I do think compassion is a nice thing to show when you are at a disagreement with another.

One of the things I talked about with my mom was how hard it is to break the cycle of family beliefs. I don't believe what my mom or dad think. I found my own path and I sometimes paid for that.I gave my parents heartache when I went against what they believe....but it worked out. Atticus broke his cycle, knowingly or not, by letting his children make up their own minds. Despite everything Scout said to his face, his response was "I love you".

Atticus is not a bad man. Scout is not a bad woman. I still love them both.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Adventures In Yarn Farming by Barbara Parry

I think if you have any interest in knitting, hand-dying, spinning or sheep, this book is a good one to read. There are several knitting patterns as well as dying and spinning "patterns".

Parry takes you through all four seasons of working on a fiber farm in New England. The photos of the sheep, llamas and goats are just too adorable for words but read on into the book because the amount of work that Parry and her husband do to keep the farm running is a bit daunting if you if ever had dreams of having your own fiber farm (like I do).

Parry literally takes care of the entire process of making yarn: from shearing the sheep (after caring for them year round and through lambing season), skirting the fleece, sending it off to be spun into yarn (with over a hundred sheep on the farm she can't spin it all!), dying the yarn and then heading to fiber festivals to sell it. She also sells the yarn online and through Sheep Shares CSA at Foxfire Fiber and Designs (http://www.foxfirefiber.com/). I would love to sign up for a sheep share!

Even if you are not interested in knitting or the end product of having a fiber farm, you can still delve into the trials and fun of owning sheep and running a farm.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I knew this was an Utopian novel going in. If you've followed any of my reviews for a while, you know that Utopian novels are not my favorites. I probably lean more towards Dystopian because that seems more realistic (Am I jaded? Because I think I might be).

I'm always up to listen to novels I normally wouldn't listen to if Heather Ordover from the Craftlit podcast is handling them. She goes out of her way to do research to complement and expand every book and it's a sheer pleasure to learn from her. If you aren't craft minded, it's ok too, she tells you at the start where the book talk starts.

It was from Heather that I learned this was a feminist utopian novel, although I was already figuring that out by the second chapter. This novel stirred up enough emotions and thoughts that, while it's not a favorite book, it's going to be one I recommend. Written in 1915 by the woman who brought us The Yellow Wallpaper (another uncomfortable book but I still recommend), Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Think for a moment before we start the review about the rights women did NOT have back in 1915......

Keep that in mind.

Herland is a country of 3 million women, absolutely no men have lived here in over 2,000 years, and 3 men have decided to try and find this mythical land. They land their aircraft in Herland and are promptly, but politely, taken as captives. The women of Herland do not harm the men. In fact, they want to teach them about their country and learn everything about theirs. They are secluded from the world, not by choice, but by nature.  Van, Jeff and Terry are happy to tell them the good parts about America (willfully choosing to leave out the undesirable parts). In Herland, there is no crime, war, or domination. Every woman works together in harmony and raise their children to be good, upstanding citizens.

Their children?

Through parthenogenesis (basically asexual reproduction) the women of Herland have their children. They use this to "weed" out the undesirable behaviors. If a woman shows an inclination towards "bad" behavior, she isn't allowed to reproduce. In the book, not allowed to reproduce just means keeping her too busy to think about having children.

Terry was a despicable character in that he is a male that I have encountered many many times. Women are to be conquered and won and are to bend to what he wants. He is certainly in a sad place in Herland. Jeff feels women should be sheltered and protected....again, he is in a sad place here although he bends very easily to what the women want. Women built Herland: the buildings, the roads, the food, the rules, the LIFE. There is some scorn when Jeff takes a basket from one of the women to carry "because women shouldn't carry things" and the women looks around at everything only women built and toiled over and is confused. I'm with you, lady.

Women have come a long way since the time this novel was written, but we still haven't achieved gender equality. Since 1915, we have rights over our own bodies, for the most part, but still can't get the same respect or even the same pay as men.

This is why the novel discomfited me. I wanted to punch Terry and Jeff, often, while listening to this. But I couldn't just think "Well, this was 1915 and we're completely equal now." Because, in the IT world that I work in, it's very obvious that the genders are still not equal. And that..... that makes me sad.

Here are some links that Heather played during the audio of the book. I loved what each one has to say about how much more there is to accomplish in order for the genders to be equal.

I didn't shirk from the label of feminist before and I definitely embrace it now.

Emma Watson - UN Speech - He for She Campaign

Joss Whedon - Equality Now