Posts Tagged: Read My Own Damn Books

2016: The Year that Was

December 29, 2016 Meta 8

WE ARE ALMOST DONE WITH THIS HELL-SPAWNED YEAR, Y’ALL.

Ehem. Sorry about the all caps, it’s just that… well, 2016 has been super weird and not in a cool way, right?

That’s not what this post is about. There are plenty of thinkpieces out there on this topic that are probably more eloquent than I can hope to be on this subject. But really, I’m just happy about finally being able to tell 2016 to get the eff outta here.


This is actually a wrap-up post for 3 different challenges:

Foodies Read

I ended up reading 8 books for Foodies Read this year:

Introductory Post

  1. The Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury — Reviewed 18 June 2016
  2. Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson — Reviewed 27 Feburary 2016
  3. The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt — Reviewed 31 January 2016
  4. Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm — From Scratch by Lucie Amundsen — Reviewed 9 May 2016
  5. Wine Folly by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack – Reviewed 4 September 2016
  6. Community Cookbooks of West Texas – Special Feature, 19 November 2016

My favorite of these was probably Locally Laid by Lucy Amundsen, but Wine Folly and The Food Lab both tie for a close second — and, of course, the community cookbooks have a special place in my heart.

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks

I didn’t do as well with this project as I’d intended, but I honestly don’t feel TOO bad about this. After all, 10 books is better than 0 books.

Introductory Post

  1. Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury — Reviewed 18 June 2016
  2. Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson — Reviewed 27 February 2016
  3. The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt — Reviewed 31 January 2016
  4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov — Reviewed 29 January 2016
  5. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall — Reviewed 26 March 2016
  6. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle — Reviewed 22 December 2016
  7. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum — Reviewed 23 December 2016
  8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Reviewed 6 March 2016
  9. Wildlife of the Concho Valley by Terry Maxwell — Reviewed 16 December 2016
  10. Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind — Reviewed 13 Feburary 2016

The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt was definitely my favorite of these. Wizard’s First Rule was by far the WORST book I read this year and it makes me mad every time I see it on my bookshelf. (Still debating whether I ought to take it to the used bookshop for credit or just trash it like the true piece of garbage it is.)

Women’s Classic Literature Event

Again, I wish I’d read more books that counted for this project — but again, something is better than nothing, right?

Introductory Post

  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – Reviewed 9 July 2016
  2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin – Reviewed 2 July 2016
  3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell — Reviewed 19 June 2016
  4. In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall — Reviewed 26 March 2016
  5. Middlemarch by George Eliot — Abandoned!
  6. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys — Reviewed 17 September 2016
  7. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman — Reviewed 6 February 2016

It’s really hard to pick a favorite of these. All of the fiction books were wonderful in their own ways, so I’m going to take the easy way out and say that Jane Goodall’s science nonfiction book In the Shadow of Man might be my favorite.


A few other things also happened this year…

I gots me some capital-P Plans for the coming year, too — more on that tomorrow.


The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
by L. Frank Baum

December 23, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 4

★ ★ ★ ★

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum | 1902 | Bowen Merrill | Paperback $10

A magical Christmas story by the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus answers the enigmatic Christmas questions: Why does Santa travel via Reindeer? How does he fit through the chimney, and how does he deliver all those toys in one wintry night?

First published in 1902, the tale begins as a wood nymph discovers a baby abandoned in a forest. Raised among mythical forest creatures, the child learns to outwit evil as he grows towards adulthood and must discover how to re-enter the human world, which leaves him determined to share gifts and spread love to his fellow man.

If that summary sounds vaguely familiar, you may remember the rather weird Rankin-Bass stop motion animation TV movie by the same name — you know, Rankin-Bass, the same folks who did the more popular stop motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town Christmas specials you see on repeat around this time of year?

This is a simple story, if somewhat more… hm, pagan than typical Christmas stories, featuring plenty in the way of wood nymphs and fairies and such (not sure “pagan” is quite the word I’m looking for, but it’s close enough). I suppose it could be read as something of a religious allegory à la Narnia — the kind man who devotes his life to making the world a better place for children is blessed with supernatural assistance and a happy, everlasting life — but I’m honestly not sure whether younger readers would pick up on that.

Have you read this book or seen the animated movie version? What did you think of it?

If you’re a fan of L. Frank Baum, don’t forget that I’m hosting a read-along of his Oz series starting in January!


Links:


Publication information: Baum, L. Frank. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Indianapolis, IN: Bowen Merrill, 1902. Print.
Source: Used bookshop.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
by Howard Pyle

December 22, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 6

★ ★ ★ ★

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle | 1883, this ed. 1985 | Signet Classics | Paperback $3.99

The beloved adventures of Robin Hood come vividly to life in this wonderfully illustrated version by Howard Pyle. Deep in Sherwood Forest, the legendary Robin Hood – the brave, good-humored outlaw the whole world loves – proves himself the best in England with his bow.

This is probably Pyle’s most well-known work outside of his legacy that is the Brandywine School of illustration. Actually, this book includes nearly 50 examples of Pyle’s illustration style, either as full-page woodcut (or woodcut style) scenes or ornaments and frames. When I was first learning to draw I just loved copying the art out of this book.

Sure, the book was written in the 19th century and with an exaggerated approximation of 12th century language (lots of “whither hath that knave gone” and “take thou what thou wilt have” and that sort of thing), but it’s actually not a difficult read. The stories are engaging and mostly, well… merry!

This edition also includes an informative Afterward by Michael Patrick Hearn, which was well worth the extra pages for its explanations of the repeated anti-Catholic sentiments (Pyle was a Quaker) and distinct erasure of Robin’s romances in the older versions of his stories (Pyle thought his assumed audience, little boys, wouldn’t be interested).

This book is certainly a keeper, and one I’ll probably end up re-reading again in the future at least a couple more times.


Links:


Publication information: Pyle, Howard. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. New York: Signet Classics, 1985. Print.
Source: Owned.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Wildlife of the Concho Valley
by Terry Maxwell

December 16, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 2

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Wildlife of the Concho Valley by Terry C. Maxwell | January 2013 | Texas A&M University Press | Hardcover $30

The Concho Valley, named from the abundant mussel shells found in its principal river by seventeenth-century Spanish explorers, occupies a transitional position between the Chihuahuan Desert to the west and the Balcones Canyonlands to the east. As veteran field biologist and educator Terry C. Maxwell notes, the region has experienced wide-ranging changes in the makeup of its vertebrate populations, especially in the decades since farming and ranching began here in earnest, in the mid- to late 1800s.

This is a rather niche subject and I would otherwise not review such an interest-specific book here, but I started reading this one for Nonfiction November and I just want credit for that, dangit.

Full disclosure: I am acquainted with the author of this book. To be specific, he was one of my professors in college (one of the better ones for sure)… and my mother taught at that same school when I was growing up, so actually we’ve been acquainted since I was a little kid. This book wasn’t a freebie, though — we bought it, proudly and enthusiastically, and it was well worth the money.

Dr. Maxwell’s classes were certainly interesting. He was a good lecturer and an even better field trip guide, and his depth of knowledge combined with his talent for teaching shines through in this book. What’s more, several of the chalkboards in the biology department were decorated with his detailed, lifelike drawings of native animals — and, again, his talent for this particular art is evident in this book as well.

I hesitate to recommend Wildlife of the Concho Valley to just anyone… it is, after all, focused on a very local and subject-specific topic. But I do think that if you have any interest at all in the animal life of Central/West Texas, you’ll find it engaging, informative, and generally a pleasure to read.


Links:


Publication information: Maxwell, Terry Wildlife of the Concho Valley. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2013. Print.
Source: Owned.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Chocolate Wars
by Deborah Cadbury

June 18, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 4

Cadbury_ChocolateWars

★ ★ ★

Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury | January 2010 | PublicAffairs | Paperback $16.99

In the early nineteenth century the major English chocolate firms — Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury — were all Quaker family enterprises that aimed to do well by doing good. The English chocolatiers introduced the world’s first chocolate bar and ever fancier chocolate temptations — while also writing groundbreaking papers on poverty, publishing authoritative studies of the Bible, and campaigning against human rights abuses. Chocolate was always a global business, and in the global competitors, especially the Swiss and the Americans, the English capitalists met their match. The ensuing chocolate wars would culminate in a multi-billion-dollar showdown pitting Quaker tradition against the cutthroat tactics of a corporate behemoth.

I asked for this book for Christmas because one of my favorite nonfiction foodie books is The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn Brenner, and I thought it might be interesting to read about the history of the chocolate business from the perspective of the Brits. The Emperors of Chocolate is still my preferred title in this chocolatey genre, but I’d say that if you’re really interested in the history of the world’s favorite food you ought to try to get your hands on BOTH of these books.

And yes, the author is from THAT Cadbury family. Curiosity about her own family history is what prompted her to begin investigating/writing this book, actually. But I think she does a fair job of representing the stories of other English (& European, & American) chocolate-making families/firms. The history of chocolate as a foodstuff in general is fascinating, and made even more so when you get to “know” the people who made it into a global gazillion-dollar business.

The last third or so of the book wasn’t quite as entertaining as the first parts. I enjoyed reading about the Quaker families who took chocolate from a luxury (and sometimes highly adulterated) drink to the kind of household confection we’re familiar with today. But the latter part of the story is all about the modern corporate food world, and it turns a bit dry and even a bit more depressing. The subject is no longer chocolate and plucky industrialists; it’s globalization and out-of-control-capitalism. I found myself wishing that the book had ended just a few chapters earlier.

Still, it’s a pretty good foodie history story. I enjoyed Cadbury’s writing enough that I’ll be on the lookout for her other history nonfiction titles — she’s written some quite interesting-looking books!


Links:


Publication information: Cadbury, Deborah. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers. New York: Public Affairs, 2010. Print.
Source: Gift.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


In the Shadow of Man
by Jane Goodall

March 26, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

Goodall_IntheShadowofMan

★★★★★

In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall | This edition April 2010, originally published January 1971 | Mariner Books | Paperback $15.95

World-renowned primatologist, conservationist, and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall’s account of her life among the wild chimpanzees of Gombe is one of the most enthralling stories of animal behavior ever written. Her adventure began when the famous anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey suggested that a long-term study of chimpanzees in the wild might shed light on the behavior of our closest living relatives. As she came to know the chimps as individuals, she began to understand their complicated social hierarchy and observed many extraordinary behaviors, which have forever changed our understanding of the profound connection between humans and chimpanzees.

In the Shadow of Man is a classic in the realm of science non-fiction for good reason. Jane Goodall and her fellow researchers spent years — well, decades actually — studying the chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream area near Kigoma, Tanzania. She not only observed an astounding range of wild chimp behaviors, but she brought the plight of these chimps (whose forest home and own bodies were/are endangered by humans) into the spotlight for the rest of the world.

This book was originally published in the early 1970’s, well before the author observed some of the more violent chimp behaviors like “war” and infant cannibalism. However, it was revolutionary at the time because it sort of humanized chimps and debunked some misconceptions about the nature of their primitive tool use or their typical diets.

(One thing to keep in mind if you decide to read this as well — it’s fairly apparent in a few instances that this was written in the 1970’s, when the general attitude of Westerners towards the native peoples of Africa was still slightly colonialist, or at least more openly superior than is generally accepted nowadays.)

Goodall and her team gradually came to know the apes as individuals, with particular personality traits as well as physical features. She was particularly fond of a few of them, which made it all that much more difficult to deal with leaving them to go back to Europe, or watching them suffer or die. The section on the polio epidemic was particularly brutal, as by that point in the book I was also beginning to feel as though I “knew” the chimps and care about their fates. However, even that section was incredibly interesting, because I had no idea that a disease like polio could cross the species boundary. It makes sense now that I think about it, though, because after all we are so closely related genetically to these particular apes.

Jane Goodall has written several follow-up books about the chimps, as well as several other books on topics like spirituality and environmentalism. I read her book Reason for Hope, about how her spiritual beliefs have developed with her experiences and scientific studies, last year. She has a way of writing that makes you feel as though you’re have a thoughtful but laid-back conversation with a good friend. You know that feeling you got when you watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a little kid, as though this intelligent but kind man was speaking to you personally about something that really mattered? It’s a bit like that, but for grown-ups and involving chimpanzees.

I’m so glad I chose to read this because I feel like I learned quite a bit + it made me hungry for more information about chimpanzees and east African wildlife in particular. I’ll have to see if I can pick up any of Goodall’s follow-up books at the library sometime soon.


Links:

This book also counts for my Classics Club challenge and Women in Science History Challenges.


Publication information: Goodall, Jane. In the Shadow of Man. New York: Mariner Books. Print.
Source: Barnes & Noble
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

March 6, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

Cline_ReadyPlayerOne

★★★★

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline | November 2011 | Broadway Books | Paperback $16

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win — and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

I didn’t actually intend to review this particular book here on the blog — about 1/3 to 1/2 of the books I read will just get a few stars and maybe a quick paragraph or two on Goodreads, especially backlist stuff that I’m not reading for a particular challenge/event.

But I’ve been in a little bit of a reading slump lately. Not that I’m not reading, because I am, but I’ve been taking it pretty slow, plus I just don’t have much to say about what I’m reading. So maybe it’s more like a reviewing slump. So when I felt like blathering on just a little bit about Ready Player One, I figured I’d better seize that feeling and run with it!

– – –

My husband received this book a few months ago in his Loot Crate, a monthly subscription box that delivers themed “loot” for geeks — he’s gotten all kinds of things, from a Fallout Vault Boy bobblehead to a World of Warcraft hearthstone stress ball thing. Now our dog gets a monthly box (Loot Pets), too, and they get matching t-shirts. It’s adorable.

Anyhow, mi esposo really enjoyed Ready Player One, and even though our taste in books doesn’t always match up he was pretty sure that I’d like it, too.

Plus, get this: Spielberg is working on a movie based on this book, due out in 2018!

– – –

But… I almost DNF’d this book before I even got through the first couple chapters. It starts off like just another YA dystopia, all doom and gloom and “energy crisis” this and “giant evil tech corporations” that. Which, y’know, I get it. The human species is slowly suiciding and taking this little planet with it, yes, OK, but after a while the dystopia fatigue starts to set in. And the beginning of Ready Player One seemed to me like just another teenager bemoaning the predictably broken state of the world… which I was frankly just not in the mood to pay attention to.

Anyway, I’m glad I continued on with it. Once the plot picks up, the pacing and tension and character development help keep it moving and make the book pretty hard to put down. There are a lot (A LOT) of fun references to 1980’s pop culture — not just video/arcade games, like you’d expect with a title like Ready Player One, but also tabletop games, movies and TV, music (lots and lots and lots of music), and technology.

– – –

My only real complaint is the unnecessary amount of exposition, especially at the beginning of the story. And listen, I’m normally one of those readers who loves exposition. I can’t resist a carefully built, detailed world, and I don’t do well with stories are so plot-centric that they have barely a sketch of a setting/history. So, you know the exposition must be pretty excessive if even Louise is getting tired of it. The first quarter or so of the book is like 90% infodumping!

I’m also not sure how to categorize this book for my review index. I think it is being marketed mainly as an adult SFF because the whole focus on 1980’s pop culture probably appeals mainly to grown-ups who lived through that time period. But the age of the characters, some of the experiences they go through, and the kind of “stick it to The Man” mentality are all very YA-ish. Anyway, Ready Player One did get an Alex Award for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults” from the American Library Association’s YALSA group, so I guess it really does have some serious crossover appeal.


Links:

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Publication information: Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. New York: Broadway Books, 2011. Print.
Source: Loot Crate
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Consider the Fork
by Bee Wilson

February 27, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

Wilson_ConsidertheFork

★ ★ ★

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson | January 2012 | Basic Books | Hardcover $26.99

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely ever give much thought to the basic technologies that facilitate (or complicate) my cooking and dining experiences. I mean, whoever actually does consider the fork? Bee Wilson, apparently.

This book includes some fascinating insights, like the details of the mid-century kitchens on display at the exhibition where Nixon and Khrushchev had their Kitchen Debate discussions over the merits of communism vs. capitalism in the context of model American homes. And there was quite a lot of detail included about each featured technology, from the long evolution of the “simple” table knife to the quite literally life-saving advent of refrigeration.

– – –

So, yes, the information presented in this book is interesting and the writing certainly isn’t bad, but something about the flow of it all didn’t click for me. The book felt, at times, more like a collection of essays than a comprehensive history of food tech, and at other times it seemed to ramble and drift from whatever point or thesis the author was trying to get at. But, again, I think that’s more of a stylistic preference issue than a quality issue.

I do wish there had been more in the way of footnotes or endnotes. I suppose, given the extensive bibliography tacked on at the end of the book and the author’s professional reputation, that it must have been very well-researched. I guess I just prefer the more academic way of citing things when it comes to nonfiction like this.

– – –

The only thing that really rubbed me the wrong way was the low-level but pervasive snark towards whatever cooking techniques/attitudes the author isn’t fond of. I don’t agree with her idea that cooking isn’t really (or shouldn’t be) a science — because ignoring all the science (accidental or otherwise) that goes into producing a meal is willfully, well, ignorant.

I also really don’t care how silly she thinks the American way of using cups and other volume measures rather than metric weight is — that’s how we do it and it’s a ridiculous thing to make an issue of. Americans are happy to put our flour in measuring cups, pour gravy over our biscuits, and dump your stupid tea straight into the harbor.

– – –

I’m afraid that’s all I have to say about Consider the Fork. My brain is feeling a bit fuzzy lately (blame it on allergies, terrible sleep habits, measuring cups, or whatever) and it’s all I could do to concentrate on this book long enough to make it through a chapter or so at a time. But I’m glad I read it and get to count it towards my Foodies Read challenge this year.


Links:

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Publication information: Wilson, Bee. Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat. New York: Basic Books, 2012. Print.
Source: Purchased from public library used bookshop.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

February 13, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind Book Cover


(… yes, that is one star)

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind | January 1994 | Tor | Mass Market Paperback $7.99

In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher’s forest sanctuary seeking help … and more. His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence.

In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword — to invoke within himself something more noble. Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed … or that their time has run out.

I was — at first — pleasantly surprised by Wizard’s First Rule. I put it on my Classics Club list because (a) it consistently ends up on lists of best fantasy books/series and (b) it’s frequently compared to the Wheel of Time series, which I love. This book is one of the most recently published titles on my CC list, too (my rule being only that the books have to be at least 20 years old).

I was kind of skeptical about this one going in because I’d read several critical reviews calling it “derivative” or poking fun at the author. (I should have listened to their warnings….) Plus, I had been expecting to like the last SF book I read for CC, Foundation by Asimov, but ended up being rather disappointed. So I didn’t want to let high hopes get the better of me this time.

But even though the book clearly wasn’t perfect, it was appealing to me. The overall plot and setting are not particularly unique. Nice village boy discovers he’s The One who can save humanity, with the help of a wise old wizard and a pretty, secretly powerful lady friend? It’s been done… but I’m also a huge sucker for that type of story. And Goodkind’s political philosophy (Objectivism à la Ayn Rand) shines through in some places. It wasn’t particularly subtle and it’s not my favorite flavor of philosophy, but this issue in particular wasn’t so terribly distracting that it ruined the story for me.

My feelings about the whole thing changed in the last 1/3 of the book, where things took an abrupt turn for the worse.

Spoilers from here down.

– – –

I do not enjoy reading about rape. I understand that sometimes it is something that is going to happen in a brutal world like the one Wizard’s First Rule is set in. I understand that sometimes it can be an important part of the story, just like murder and war and other evils can be. But at some point (though I can’t really specify where), it can cross over a line between plot device and plain old gratuitous violence. It crossed that line in this book.

One of the main characters is repeatedly tortured and raped, although it is never actually called rape — he is his rapist’s “mate” (ew). Worse, his rapist explains that the reason she tortures and rapes him is because she was tortured and raped as a girl, and it’s somehow her job to do the same thing to him. He develops Stockholm syndrome and begins to feel sorry for her, as the reader is presumably meant to do as well. Was this meant to be some kind of BDSM fantasy fulfillment? If so, it missed the mark by a mile.

I felt sick while reading this. All the fun of the earlier chapters was gone. I almost quit reading at this point. The only reason I kept going is because I had enjoyed the first part of the book so much and thought there might be some redeeming qualities in the conclusion of it.

The last few chapters were boring at best, almost offensively so. The magic system that had seemed interesting and well-organized devolved into random new, just-in-time powers and spells. The derivative-yet-fun-anyway storyline sank into predictable “Power the Dark Lord knows not” and “Luke, I am your father” clichés.

I am so, so disappointed by this book. That’s why I’m rating it 1 star, a rating I have so far used only for books I flat-out hate or books that are just too stupid to exist (and a rating I have never yet used on this blog before now because why bother writing about stupid bullshit, but this is different because it’s for a reading challenge), because after finishing it I felt like the whole thing had been a tragic waste of time. 

– – –

I know this book has an average of 4+ stars on Goodreads. If you’re one of those who’s read it and liked it: What about it was appealing to you? What do you think I’m missing?


Links:

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge. (Bought before the new year.)


Publication information: Goodkind, Terry. Wizard’s First Rule. New York: Tor, 1994. Print.
Source: Amazon.com
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
by J. Kenji López-Alt

January 31, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0

LopezAlt_TheFoodLab

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Keni López-Alt | September 2015 | W. W. Norton & Co. | Hardcover $49.95

Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that’s perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac ‘n’ cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier? How to roast a succulent, moist turkey (forget about brining!)—and use a foolproof method that works every time?

As Serious Eats’s culinary nerd-in-residence, J. Kenji López-Alt has pondered all these questions and more. In The Food Lab, Kenji focuses on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules that create great food.


López-Alt is a director and columnist at Serious Eats, one of my favorite food websites. Almost every recipe or technique I’ve tried from SE has been worthwhile, so I had high expectations for this cookbook. I was not disappointed!

First, here’s something you need to know about me: I love science-based anything. If someone is going to put the time/effort into trying out different techniques or gathering data on the most efficient use of X, I am happy to read all about it. (See my review for Cooking for Geeks for another example of excellent food experimentation.)

Here’s another thing about me that affects this review in particular: I enjoy cooking (and enjoy eating good food even more), but I’ve been in a cooking slump lately. This is due to a number of factors: schedule changes, high-stress events, finally coming to terms with the fact that my spouse just does not enjoy about 80% of the stuff that I like to eat, and other stuff like that. So when I do cook these days, it’s almost always going to be something tried-n-true and not too labor/time intensive. So that’s a huge part of the appeal of this book for me — the recipes have already been thoroughly tested and a great many of them happily do not require the cook to spend hours in the kitchen (although several do, if that’s your thing).

Beyond that, though, this is also a “book-book” as well as a cookbook. In other words, it isn’t just a collection of recipes. Personal anecdotes, investigations of various methods, and informative graphs/charts abound.

As an example of exactly how thorough López-Alt gets in this book, let’s take the section on making chicken stock. He explains a bit about the history of making/using stock and the various versions of it before jumping in to the experimentation. What part of the chicken makes the tastiest stock, or the most gelatin-y stock: wings, legs, breasts, or the leftover carcass? What is the best method for clarifying the stock or removing extra fat? What is the best storage method and how long can it be stored? And then: what kind of soups make the best use of this perfect homemade chicken stock?

Of course, you can use the traditional method of throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and simmering it for a few hours, or you can just buy the dang stock from any grocery store, but that’s not the point. If you want the best possible chicken stock that makes the most efficient use of your time and kitchen resources, The Food Lab can tell you how to do that — and more importantly, WHY you should do it this way.

The thing that pushed this into 5-star territory for me, though, is the physical qualities of the book. There are a ton of full-color illustrations, the pages themselves have a nice thickness and a slight gloss to them (helpful for messier cooks like myself), and the binding is sturdy and — best of all — the book lays flat so that the pages stay open to whichever recipe you need with no struggle. These things are all signs of a cookbook constructed with real attention to detail.


Links:

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge Image

This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


Publication information: López-Alt, J. Kenji. The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2015. Print.
Source: Purchased from Barnes & Noble.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.