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Friday, July 29, 2016

The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan

For thousands of years humans have been cultivating and manipulating the natural world to support them. Choosing the seeds from the plants that created the biggest fruits, choosing seeds from the heartiest grain, adopting animals and breeding them to haul or hunt, and even choosing the brightest and most unusually colored flowers for beauty. While we assume we are the ones controlling the plants, perhaps we should ponder if the plants are the ones controlling us.

Pollan ponderously explores the history of four influential plants: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes.

Apples came to America from Europe, yet they are ingrained in the American culture with phrased like "As American as mom's apple pie." Pollan explores the curious life and fantastic tales of John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed, and his influence in making this possible. I was taken aback as the author talks about all of the variety of apples that once existed before the big three became the standard.

While flowers are a thing of beauty, they are often ignored in favor of fruit-bearing plants in a home garden. After expressing his own relationship with tulips from childhood to adulthood, Pollan explains the unexpected upheaval over these gorgeous bulbs in Holland when they made their arrival and the just as unexplained downfall of their trade.

After marijuana was made an illegal substance in America, it has become a heated topic of debate. Pollan explains the differences between the plant raised from hemp fibers and plants raised for other uses, like medication or drugs.

In the final chapter on potatoes, Pollan tells of the rise of the potato as a food source in northern Europe and its failure during the potato famine in Ireland. He also discusses Monsanto's genetically altered "New Leaf" potato.

The bulk of the book wanders far from the premise given in the summary, but I found it all informative and interesting. The writing style is like listening to a friend tell you about what they have learned about various topics they've researched. I enjoyed this book, but warn the reader to be prepared for something different than promised.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wolves & Honey - Susan Brind Morrow

Growing up in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Morrow benefited from a unique understanding and appreciation of nature. Her experiences fishing and foraging were complemented by two remarkable men, one a trapper and the other a beekeeper. As Morrow retells her experiences growing up with the addition of lessons from her studies and the startling insights given to her by her two older mentors.

Morrow's storytelling made it easy to immerse myself in her memoir. Tales of her experience seemlessly mingle with lessons from her mentors and insight from her studies of the natural world in academia. Anybody curious about wilder living and the human connection with nature will enjoy this short book.

Recommended Reads:
The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan
Little House Series - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, July 15, 2016

Morning Star - Pierce Brown

After months spent in agony in the torture chamber controlled by the Jackal, Darrow is finally rescued by his allies. During his absence the rebellion has fallen into disarray after the sovereign's transmission of his public execution.

There is no shortage of hardships awaiting Darrow and his rebellion now. He has to recover the loyalty of the lost sects of the Sons of Ares, keep enemies like the wild Jackal off of his trail, and manage to reach the Sovereign to kill her and take over the society to begin anew.

Former foes become friends and many friends change coat. Unfortunately, Darrow may have put his trust in the wrong people and he and all those he loves will pay the price.

As with the previous two installments, there is no shortage of violence in this final installment. The torture scenes at the beginning are brutal as are all of the battle scenes. The evolution of Darrow and his companions over the course of the series is realistic and sometimes difficult to accept as a reader. I was glad I decided to follow this trilogy to its satisfying conclusion.

Books in the Series:
Red Rising
Golden Son

Recommended Reads:
The Hunger Games Trilogy
Ender's Game

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dexter is Dead - Jeff Lindsay

After being framed for murder, Dexter is left to rot in jail seemingly forgotten by law. The only person willing to stand by him is his criminal brother. If he can find evidence to prove he's being framed maybe he can escape his fate, but that will be hard when they entire department and even his adoptive sister is against him.

But his troubles don't end there. After losing custody of the kids, they are kidnapped by some drug kingpin out for revenge. On top of trying to prove his innocence, Dexter now needs to recruit allies to save his kids from a man who certainly won't willingly part with his hostages no matter what is offered in exchange.

Keeping with the passive narrative and disconnected voice, Lindsay portrays Dexter faithfully in this latest and last selection. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the same enjoyment of this novel as I have for the past ones. I was hoping for a better send-off to this curious and intriguing character. Alas, I have had to say a unsatisfying farewell.

Books in the Series:
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Book 1)
Double Dexter (Book 6)
Dexter's Final Cut (Book 7)

Television Series:
Dexter

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Art of Imperfection - Veronique Vienne

Accompanied by beautiful sepia tone photographs of landmarks, people, and natural places by Erica Lennard , Veronique Vienne seeks to remind the reader of the the importance of living life as they are in ten short chapters. Through mistakes, disorganization, and not being right. By being shy, not knowing what to do and embracing silliness. By looking like yourself, having nothing to wear, and having ones own personal taste. by not being rich or famous. In the end, she seeks to enforce the importance of self-acceptance and embracing that self. At the end of each chapter is a collection of tips to help one make the most of each feature.

An unfortunate repetition in this book is the cliches she repeats. The purpose in recalling these common refrains found in every day life is to help dispel them, but they are no less annoying. Otherwise this short book is a nice minimal text to remind oneself to embrace life and the self in all ways.
More by the Author:
The Art of Doing Nothing: Simple Ways to Make Time for Yourself
The Art of Growing Up: Simple Ways to Be Yourself at Last
The Art of the Moment: Simple Ways to Get the Most from Life