An entertaining romp of a pirate story, but Kestrel and her compatriots are almost Disney-fied in their cleanliness. I enjoyed the world Massey create...moreAn entertaining romp of a pirate story, but Kestrel and her compatriots are almost Disney-fied in their cleanliness. I enjoyed the world Massey created, but found the characters stock and rather flat. Hopefully, this is just the usual weakness of a first novel; I'll certainly give Massey another if she publishes another.(less)
An interesting trans-genre novel, shelved in science-fiction but equally comprised of romance and mystery. I saw the main plot twist coming from a thi...moreAn interesting trans-genre novel, shelved in science-fiction but equally comprised of romance and mystery. I saw the main plot twist coming from a third of the way in, but that's the case with many a police procedural, and it didn't distract from the story itself.
Shinn's got a deft way of discussing religion within the context of her fiction, and this novel's no exception. Even as a nontheist, I found her world intriguing and well worth the visit.(less)
I heard this book mentioned during a discussion of the Framingham Heart Study on NPR. Unfortunately, this was no more than a superficial review.
There...moreI heard this book mentioned during a discussion of the Framingham Heart Study on NPR. Unfortunately, this was no more than a superficial review.
There was little discussion of the details of the data collection and analysis that's at the heart of this project. Instead, fifty years of data from more than ten thousand participants were boiled down to the same pithy phrases we've all heard many times over: dietary fat is bad. Exercise is good. Stop smoking. The reader is told over and over again that it was the data collected in Framingham that provided the foundation for these conclusions, but that's as far as it goes: we're told, not shown.
The controversies surrounding this sort of (now-standard) medical advice is addressed with equal superficiality: they're touched upon, but ultimately dismissed. Dr. Levy mentions many times over that despite the information gleaned from Farmingham, the health of the average American hasn't improved in terms of blood pressure (when not regulated by medication), weight, or diet. But instead of discussing the limitations of this advice, he just seems vaguely perplexed and frustrated, as if it's merely laziness and gluttony that's keeping heart disease prevalent in America. There's a brief mention of how the medical establishment's message to fear all fat led to an increase in the amount of carbohydrates and sugar in the average American's diet -- and thus an increase in obesity. But this failure is, for the most part glossed over; instead, Levy finishes the book by praising the abundance of fat-free dairy products (high in sweeteners!) and out-of-season produce (imported thousands of miles, burning fuel and lacking flavor) available in modern supermarkets.
There's doubtless a fascinating book to be written on the Framingham Heart Study, but this isn't it.(less)
Using Nestle, bottler of Poland Spring, and the town of Fryeburg, Maine as an axis, Royte explores the history of bottled water and its rise in ubiqui...moreUsing Nestle, bottler of Poland Spring, and the town of Fryeburg, Maine as an axis, Royte explores the history of bottled water and its rise in ubiquity throughout the 90's and early 00's. Royte doesn't hesitate to make clear her instinctive opposition to the hundreds of millions of bottles Nestle, Coke, and Pepsi churn out each year -- that's no surprise to anyone who's read her Garbage Land -- but she's neither extreme nor greener-than-thou. She's equally interested in exploring the state of tap water, water treatment, and water conservation in general.
Most interesting is Fryeburg, Maine's example of the hellaciously lopsided struggle between corporate and municipal America. Though not an economist, Royte asks the same question I've seen crop up elsewhere: when did negative corporate behavior, no matter how unethical, become acceptable in this country so long as it's not explicitly illegal? Sure, it's legal under Maine law to pump as much water as you can from an aquifer -- but no one would say this is ethical. When did "sustainability" become a radical concept only used by militant environmentalists? When did this quarter's corporate profits become the sole justification for corporate activities, and a stable business model become irrelevant?
Royte hasn't got the answers, either: just a lot of very good food for thought.(less)
Ostensibly the story of a library cat, this is more a story of a woman, her family, and her small town in Iowa, all of whom have seen their fair share...moreOstensibly the story of a library cat, this is more a story of a woman, her family, and her small town in Iowa, all of whom have seen their fair share of hardship.
While I appreciated the narrator's main point: that a cat is more than a cat when he brings people together, touching all the lives around him -- I didn't care for her tone. There was something falsely self-depreciating in it -- something that screamed "look at me!" even as she repeatedly said what a humble Midwesterner she was. How much of this is attributable to the narrator and how much to the ghostwriter is difficult to judge; I suspect this would've been a better tale had Myron gone ahead and told it in her own voice, instead of being sucked into the publisher's hyper-promotional machine.
And yet I teared up during the final chapters, no matter that I knew exactly where this was going to end up. My own cat trotted over and curled up in my lap for the last third of the book. He's an ordinary orange alley cat, like Dewey himself, but all the same, he's the best antidote for sadness or loneliness you could ask for. Like Spencer, Iowa and like Myron herself, we'd all do better with a Dewey in our lives.(less)
Oh, the U.S. music industry: you made us hate you. You really, really did. Don't be angry because we learned to hate you too well.
This was an excellen...moreOh, the U.S. music industry: you made us hate you. You really, really did. Don't be angry because we learned to hate you too well.
This was an excellent look at the battle between major music labels and their heels-dug-in resistance to changing technology, opinions, and taste over the past several decades. With a host of employees as colorful as the artists they represent, it's no wonder life at a major label has resembled a ride on a roller coaster. Seeing the details and history behind the industry's less-than-stellar decisions is fascinating.(less)
A down-to-earth, excellently researched look at your local supermarket, aisle by aisle, without any of the preaching you've come to expect from nutrit...moreA down-to-earth, excellently researched look at your local supermarket, aisle by aisle, without any of the preaching you've come to expect from nutritionists. Sure, Nestle's got opinions, but they're the opinions of your grandmother who lives in New York and who wants you to eat, to enjoy what's on your plate to to give everything a taste before you turn up your nose.
And like your sensible grandmother, Nestle's concludes that real, minimally processed foods are better for you than most of what's out there. She disdains marketing tricks and corporate bullying of the USDA; she doesn't care for anything that pretends to be healthy when it's really just a dessert in disguise (see her take on the super-sweet yogurts heavily marketed towards dieters and children). Nestle would much rather see you put a dollop of butter on your food than hem and haw on which faker-than-fake low-no-less-than-before option awaits you in the dairy isle this week.
Though a nutritionist by training Nestle has the soul of an investigative journalist, using her scientific background to read through the conflicting (and often corporately-funded) research that's out there. When she comes to the conclusion that the organic vegetables in the freezer section are better tasting (and better for you) than the so-called "fresh" conventional veggies in the produce section, it's only after she's taken you through her analysis of the literature. Nor is she shy about busting the prolific and questionable health claims on food packaging: there is, for example, no reason to claim your vegetable oil is cholesterol free (of course it is: all vegetable products are cholesterol free) or the chickens who laid your eggs weren't treated with hormones (no chickens are treated with hormones -- cattle may be, but not chickens).
Though a good deal of this information may not be new to a reader who's attentive to food and nutrition, this is still an excellent resource for deciphering the gray areas and learning more about the USDA and FDA's role (or lack thereof) in determining what makes it to the supermarket shelves and what claims can be emblazoned across the packaging.(less)
This is a fantasy book, yes, with all the kingdoms, intrigue, magic, and invincible swords one expects from a fantasy. What makes Jhereg more than typ...moreThis is a fantasy book, yes, with all the kingdoms, intrigue, magic, and invincible swords one expects from a fantasy. What makes Jhereg more than typical fantasy, however, is Vlad, the first-person narrator, who reads like an escapee from a contemporary mystery novel who just happens to be living in a world where humans are an inconsequential minority. Vlad's got a modern sensibility -- hey, he's just a guy trying to make his way in a world -- that makes this such an incredibly entertaining read.
Though Jhereg's the first novel to be published in this universe, it's clear Brust had a larger storyline sketched out from the beginning. Characters often make off-handed references to events or concepts in such a way that I thought I'd missed something critical, and would page back to see if I'd accidentally skipped a few pages. My girlfriend, however, assures me this is just one of Brust's stylistic quirks -- he has several -- and that I hadn't zoned out mid-chapter.
Pick up the omnibus edition, if possible, so you won't have to pause between finishing Jhereg and starting Yendi.(less)
So. Started this one back in November and just picked it back up four months later. This should not, in any way, be held against Podkayne. I'm just sp...moreSo. Started this one back in November and just picked it back up four months later. This should not, in any way, be held against Podkayne. I'm just spacey and disorganized, is all.
Podkayne is the antithesis of disorganized. She's a girl with a plan, with what was commonly referred to as "spunk" at the time this book was published (back in 1963) and what I'd call verve and attitude today. She holds up extremely well as an engaging heroine all these years later.
To avoid spoilers, I won't go into details, but I will say that I prefer Heinlein's original ending to the revisions demanded by his publisher.(less)
The prequel to Jhereg, though the second written in the Vlad Taltos series, Yendi details Vlad's rise from street thug to a major player in the Mafia...moreThe prequel to Jhereg, though the second written in the Vlad Taltos series, Yendi details Vlad's rise from street thug to a major player in the Mafia-with-magic world in which he lives. Simpler in structure than Jhereg, Yendi is a quicker read, and a welcome chance for the reader to catch her breath before the heavy moral questions to come in book three.(less)
The Consumerist blog (one of my daily must-reads), featured so many snippets from this book I had to reserve it from the library.
With financial advice...moreThe Consumerist blog (one of my daily must-reads), featured so many snippets from this book I had to reserve it from the library.
With financial advice from a consumer advocate fed up with mysteriously multiplying fees, this is a useful little book. Each chapter is devoted to a different industry (e.g. credit cards, banking, real estate, telecommunications), which is convenient for the reader who has a particular nemesis -- mine's the phone company -- and wants to better understand their sneaky tricks for upping your bill. There's also good advice here on how to contact customer service departments by phone or by email, regardless of the industry, to protest the errors or to bargain down your rates and fees.
I would've preferred a bit more financial advice in place of Sullivan's longer, more repetitive rants. Yes, the corporations are out to get as much money from the consumer as possible. We know this; that why we're reading this book. Let's get back to more of the helpful, solid advice on how the average person can fight the system that makes up the backbone of this book.(less)
This is a wonderful look at the modern state of the marketing industry in light of the decline in importance of the thirty-second spot.
As Walker point...moreThis is a wonderful look at the modern state of the marketing industry in light of the decline in importance of the thirty-second spot.
As Walker points out, via several choice quotes from articles from the 20's and 30's, the advertising industry has been mourning the appearance of the "savvy young consumer" who "sees though advertising" since before television sets made their way into American homes. But there's a vast difference between seeing through advertising and being impervious to its blandishments, as evidenced by our robust consumerism.
Through numerous case studies, Walker highlights how marketers have adjusted their campaigns to compensate for a no-longer-captive audience -- and how those same marketers are taken aback when subcultures adopt brands not intended for their consumption (hello, Timbs; hello, PBR). In a world where branding is more important than content, and where every demi-celebrity establishes her own product line, advertising is as relevant as ever. Since you can't stop buying things, it's nice to know how you're being played.(less)
I happened to see this one at the library while picking up another book I had on hold. An entertaining (if slightly dated) collection of columns from...moreI happened to see this one at the library while picking up another book I had on hold. An entertaining (if slightly dated) collection of columns from Steingarten's stint as food critic for Vogue, I was alternately giggling out loud and reading excerpts to my girlfriend for the first half of this book. Steingarten's joie de vivre and his serial obsession with the perfect bread, the perfect paella, the perfect whatever-Vogue's-editors-assigned-him-this-month is infectious. Don't read this on an empty stomach.
Unfortunately, things seemed to peter out over the last third of the collection, perhaps as Steingarten scraped the bottom of the barrel to make his word count. Fortunately, each essay stands on its own, so this didn't have a significantly negative impact on the remainder of the book.(less)
An amusing tale of Life as a Public Librarian, but it suffers from a heavy dose of self-indulgence -- a common enough flaw in memoirs, particularly wh...moreAn amusing tale of Life as a Public Librarian, but it suffers from a heavy dose of self-indulgence -- a common enough flaw in memoirs, particularly when the memoirist is not yet thirty years old. While I enjoyed Douglas's anecdotes and perspective on public service, this would've been a stronger book had his predilection for proclaiming his shortcomings in footnotes been reigned in by his editor. It was amusing the first time, but disingenuous by the fifth.(less)
I'm with A. on this one: Free for All was more enjoyable and better written than Quiet, Please. Who knew that there was more than one memoir out there...moreI'm with A. on this one: Free for All was more enjoyable and better written than Quiet, Please. Who knew that there was more than one memoir out there from a public librarian in the greater-L.A. area?
Borchert has the bemused attitude you'd expect from a long-time civil servant. His enjoyment of his accidental career is readily apparent, even on days when flipping burgers seems a preferable alternative.(less)
Oh, Polgara: you annoy me as much at 29 as you did at thirteen. You're lucky that half of me wants to be like you, or I'd heave you and your sanctimon...moreOh, Polgara: you annoy me as much at 29 as you did at thirteen. You're lucky that half of me wants to be like you, or I'd heave you and your sanctimoniousness right across the room.
Not that I'd treat a book in such a manner. Not a book with Belgarath in it, at least.(less)
Having thoroughly enjoyed Garlic and Sapphires, I was thrilled to find this first of Reichl's memoirs on the 2-for-3 table at Barnes & Noble.
In th...moreHaving thoroughly enjoyed Garlic and Sapphires, I was thrilled to find this first of Reichl's memoirs on the 2-for-3 table at Barnes & Noble.
In the preface, Reichl admits to modifying certain stories for dramatic effect. But unless she's made entire years out of whole cloth, she's lived one hell of an interesting life. Throughout it all, the power of a meal -- sometimes spectacular, sometimes spectacularly bad -- has been a constant.
And to be honest, I don't care if the tale's been embroidered, and I don't really care about Reichl's ultimate success as a critic. Growing up in Greenwich Village in the fifties with her loving, but distracted father, her manic-depressive mother, and her not-blood-but-close-enough grandmothers; her wanderings around the Bowery on the edges of the early seventies art scene; her accidental creation of a commune in Berkeley -- it's an entertaining, slow-unfolding story, accentuated by the recipes she encounters along the way.(less)
I'm glad to have this one on my shelf of crafting books, particularly for the introductory section, which provides a wealth of information on non-anim...moreI'm glad to have this one on my shelf of crafting books, particularly for the introductory section, which provides a wealth of information on non-animal fiber yarns. I'm not particularly crazy about wool, given that I live in a temperate place and find it mildly itchy, so it's a pleasure to find patterns designed with the drape/stretch properties of non-animal fibers in mind.
There are quite a few patterns in here that I'd (a) actually make and (b) actually wear, which isn't the case with a lot of knitting books. I've just finished the Tomato short-sleeved sweater for my girlfriend and found the pattern simple and easy to follow (I've only been knitting for two years), with clear and helpful photographs. I'm looking forward to trying the Eileen tank top (a very plain front with a lacework back) next.(less)
A good, solid trilogy from The Nora, with all the too-good-to-be-true elements and witty dialog that I've come to expect from her romances. Just what...moreA good, solid trilogy from The Nora, with all the too-good-to-be-true elements and witty dialog that I've come to expect from her romances. Just what I want out of my summer lunchtime reading.
As with many of her books, this one involves a world where magic exists. Vaguely Wiccan in character, the rules and strictures of this magic weren't as fleshed out as I'd've liked, but perhaps I'm expecting too much from a romance.
The heroine of book one is Nell, a sky little mouse who comes into her own. I prefer the rough and tumble heroine of book two, but came to like Nell more than I initially expected I would.(less)
Strangely, I never quite remember how this one unfolds. Re-reading the first three in this series in preparation for the recently-published Shadows R...moreStrangely, I never quite remember how this one unfolds. Re-reading the first three in this series in preparation for the recently-published Shadows Return.(less)
I picked this up from the library on a whim. There are several helpful tips and tricks here for the intermediate-to-advanced knitter, just as one migh...moreI picked this up from the library on a whim. There are several helpful tips and tricks here for the intermediate-to-advanced knitter, just as one might expect. The retrospective look at pattern and fiber trends is also intriguing.
Bear in mind, though, that Vogue Knitting Magazine came by its reputation as a "serious" publication for "true knitters" honestly. (Yes, there's a reprint of an article where Meg Swanson defines the "true knitter" as someone who must knit every day without exception. Um, guess I'm a big ol' fake, then!) There's a certain thread of snobbery here that's a bit off-putting. The ultra-large format also makes it difficult to use as a reference guide.
Most damning, however, is the general scarcity of diagrams. Many of the techniques are difficult to follow if you're a visual or kinetic learner. Knitting terminology is challenging enough; over the past 25 years things have changed considerably. Some judicious editing and additions would've been more useful than these faithful reprints.(less)
It's true: nearly five hundred pages can be devoted entirely to the historical importance of salt. I won't take my little blue Morton's canister for g...moreIt's true: nearly five hundred pages can be devoted entirely to the historical importance of salt. I won't take my little blue Morton's canister for granted again.
Expansive in its historical scope, this book covers the economic and cultural importance of salt throughout recorded history -- and back even further by extrapolating from archaeological finds on various continents. But for all the sprawling history, the book's focus is more narrow than I expected: it's primarily concerned with the commerce, trade, and engineering behind salt production. Though not what I was expecting when I picked this book up, it was an interesting read, and a look at history from a perspective I'd never considered.
The most entertaining -- and the most humanizing -- aspect of the book were the recipes scattered throughout, selected from Roman cookbooks, advice books for young Renaissance wives, magazines published during the American Civil War: anywhere people have recorded their favorite recipes, which is just about anywhere the written word has flourished. Food is necessary for survival, but cuisine is necessary for culture.
This book could easily have gone from three stars to four, however, had a more discriminating editor combed through and eliminated some of the redundancies and meanderings. Later chapters contained multiple restatements of the book's earlier sections, as if Kurlansky expected the reader to be skimming the book out of order. Periodically, the book also devolves into a recounting of events in chronological order, as if the author were stringing together a series of essays rather than synthesizing a single, thematically-tight book.(less)
I happened to see this on the shelf at my local library when picking up something I had on hold. I've read Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and enjoyed...moreI happened to see this on the shelf at my local library when picking up something I had on hold. I've read Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and enjoyed it a great deal, but found this an even better read.
If you've seen an episode of No Reservation (which was being filmed while this book was being written), it will come as no surprise that Bourdain approaches food with unalloyed gusto. More importantly, however, that's also how he approaches life. Though outwardly about the food, this is more about the people who prepare, share, and enjoy those meals with Bourdain.(less)