Friday, May 30, 2014

Book 10: How To Be a Woman

TITLE: How to Be a Woman
AUTHOR: Caitlin Moran
STARTED: April 26, 2014
FINISHED: May 26, 2014
PAGES: 306
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Here I am, on my 13th birthday. 

SUMMARY: [From Barnes and Noble]  Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?
Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself.

THOUGHTS: Between Isla Vista, #yesallwomen, and reading this book, I was in a feminist bubble all week. It was a good thing. Mentally and emotionally draining, but good.

I love this book. I love it for these reasons:
  • Moran shares her story. This book creates narrative as a series of revelations. Each of Moran's feminist points is introduced with a personal story that showcases how her world view came to be. 
  • Moran does not pull punches. She states her opinions and clearly is ready to take on those who will vehemently disagree.
  • Moran is crass and in your face. Her choice of language is sassy and punchy. This is no thoughtful treatise. It is full frontal feminism. 
  • Moran does not apologize. Instead of couching her thoughts with "I'm sorry but..." she just states her points.
  • Moran does not sugar coat. This includes the highs and lows of her own live. She puts everything (including the "dirty laundry") on the table and expects the reader to form their own opinion.
  • Moran is descriptive. Her writing style is visual and high energy. This kept the book lively and entertaining, while also setting the perfect scene for her feminist development. She includes many details but stays away from info-dumping. It's masterful.
  • Moran makes me uncomfortable. This is not a bad thing. The pages about her first childbirth story left me writhing in imaginary pain. Her abortion story did the same. This is a good thing. It means I was forced to think about hard personal decisions.
  • Moran doesn't care. These are her opinions. You can take them or leave them. She hopes you change your world view, but if you don't, I highly doubt it would affect her.
This book is phenomenal. 

RATING: 10/10 [Best. Book. Ever.]

The Friday Find: Rainbow

In lieu of a "physical" find this week, I am going to direct your attention to this Kickstarter. Levar Burton is on a mission to bring back Reading Rainbow. A most excellent idea.

Simply hearing the theme song reminds me of my childhood. I was a lucky kid who had access to books and parents who encourage reading. Reading Rainbow was a bonus, but I still appreciate the power it has to introduce kids to books.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Variations on a Theme: Oops

Earlier this week, I realized that I have not done a Variations on a Theme post in MONTHS! Turns out I turned off my calendar reminder. Whoops! I'm going with making lemonade from lemons on this - this post's theme is all about Oops. These are the accidents of history that had good or interesting outcomes

Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them
Donovan Hohn

When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn's accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive arena of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories. Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable.

Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution
Kevin Brown

Penicillin has affected the lives of everyone, and has exerted a powerful hold on the popular imagination since its first use in 1941. The story of its development from a chance observation in 1928 by Alexander Fleming to a life-saving drug is compelling and exciting. It revolutionized healthcare and turned the modest, self-effacing Fleming into a world hero. This book tells the story of the man and his discovery set against a background of the transformation of medical research from nineteenth-century individualism through to teamwork and modern-day international big business (pharmaceutical companies like Fisors, Distillers, or Beecham (Smith Kline)). Now, sixty years after the antibiotic revolution, when there are fears that the days of antibiotics are numbered it has never been more timely to look at the beginnings.

A Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear's Race to Unlock the Greatest Secret of the Nineteenth Century
Charles Sack

Noble Obsession follows the life of Charles Goodyear, a single-minded genius who risked his own life and that of his family in a quest to unlock the secrets of rubber. In rich, historical detail, it chronicles the personal price Goodyear paid in pursuit of his dream and his bitter rivalry with Thomas Hancock, the scholarly English inventor who ultimately robbed Goodyear of fame and fortune. From the jungles of Brazil to the laboratories of Europe to the courtrooms of America, Noble Obsession tells one of the strangest and most affecting sagas in the history of human discovery.

For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It
Mark Pendergast

For God, Country and Coca-Cola is the unauthorized history of the great American soft drink and the company that makes it. From its origins as a patent medicine in Reconstruction Atlanta through its rise as the dominant consumer beverage of the American century, the story of Coke is as unique, tasty, and effervescent as the drink itself. With vivid portraits of the entrepreneurs who founded the company—and of the colorful cast of hustlers, swindlers, ad men, and con men who have made Coca-Cola the most recognized trademark in the world—this is business history at its best: in fact, “The Real Thing.” The unauthorized history of the great American soft drink and the company that makes it. Pendergrast tells the full story of why Coke--more than 99% sweetened water--is the quintessential American product and how it changed the course of American capitalism. Also reveals high jinks, family dramas, and shady deals behind the scenes. Three 8-page photo inserts. 

Albert Hoffman

Albert Hofmann, who died in 2008 aged 102, first synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 1938, but the results of animal tests were so unremarkable that the chemical was abandoned. Driven by intuition, he synthesized it again in 1943, and serendipitously noticed its profound effects on himself. Although his work produced other important drugs, including methergine, hydergine and dihydroergotamine, it was LSD that shaped his career. After his discovery of LSD's properties, Hofmann spent years researching sacred plants. He succeeded in isolating and synthesizing the active compounds in the Psilocybe mexicana mushroom, which he named psilocybin and psilocin. During the 60s, Hofmann struck up friendships with personalities such as Aldous Huxley, Gordon Wasson, and Timothy Leary. He continued to work at Sandoz until 1971 when he retired as Director of Research for the Department of Natural Products. He subsequently served as a member of the Nobel Prize Committee, and was nominated by Time magazine as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.

The Making of the Pacemaker: Celebrating a Life Saving Invention
Wilson Greatbach

Intrigued by electronics from the time he was a boy, Greatbatch earned a degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University. It was during his time at Cornell that he first became interested in the medical applications of electronic devices. He learned about the problem of heart blocking at Cornell and knew it was fixable in principle, but at the time the vacuum-tube technology was impractical for medical use.
Greatbatch quit his job and for the next two years devoted full-time in his wood-heated barn workshop to building one pacemaker after another. During this time he built fifty pacemakers, forty of which went into animal experiments. By 1960 he and a team of surgeons and engineers had gained enough knowledge from the trial and error of the animal experiments to feel ready to begin implanting the remaining ten devices in people. The first trials went well and Greatbatch's device extended the lives of many of these seriously ill patients by decades. What followed were years of hard work refining the battery and electrode technology, marketing the pacemaker to an initially skeptical medical community, and keeping the company that manufactured the device profitable. Reminiscent of Edison's many dogged attempts to find the right solution in pursuit of an ingenious idea, The Making of the Pacemaker is a human-interest story at its best and also an important firsthand account for the medical archives of an invention that today saves millions of lives.

Other Oops Titles
The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans - Lawrence M. Powell
Accidental Inventions: The Chance Discoveries that Changed Our Lives - Birgit Krols
Alfred Nobel: Dynamite King, Architect of Peace - Herta E. Pauli
How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspirations That Shape What We Eat and Drink - Josh Cheteynd
Lucky Science: Accidental Discoveries From Gravity to Velcro, With Experiments - Royston M. Roberts and Jeanie Roberts
Microwave Man: Percy Spencer and His Sizzling Invention - Sara L. Latta
Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science - Royston M. Roberts
We Have Conquered Pain: The Discovery of Anesthesia - Dennis Brindell Fradin

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why I Love... Dinner Reading

As of late, about once a week (at least during rec sports season), I get the chance to eat dinner by myself. I usually find myself at a Panera or other fast casual restaurant, where dinner is easy and people leave you alone. I like it. Once a week, I get a chance to read and munch without interruption for about an hour.

I used to hate eating out by myself. It felt awkward and lonely. Then I started to bring reading material with me. It's amazing what an addition of a magazine or book can do. Dinner alone turns into a calming oasis between the stress or busyness of work and whatever event the night holds. On these nights, I get to sink into whatever I'm reading and ignore everything else. I find the background noise to be remarkably calming.

I've started to look forward to these dates with myself. Nights like these are both public and private, it's a nice way to just "be."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book 9: Budget Bytes

TITLE: Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half
AUTHOR: Beth Moncel
STARTED: April 26, 2014
FINISHED: April 26, 2014
PAGES: 248
GENRE: Cookbook

FIRST SENTENCE: I'm not cheap.

SUMMARY: [From BN] As a college grad during the recent great recession, Beth Moncel found herself, like so many others, broke. Unwilling to sacrifice eating healthy and well—and armed with a degree in nutritional science—Beth began tracking her costs with obsessive precision, and soon cut her grocery bill in half. Eager to share her tips and recipes, she launched her blog, Budget Bytes. Soon the blog received millions of readers clamoring for more. Beth's eagerly awaited cookbook proves cutting back on cost does not mean cutting back on taste. Budget Bytes has more than 100 simple, healthy, and delicious recipes, including Greek Steak Tacos, Coconut Chicken Curry, Chorizo Sweet Potato Enchilada, and Teriyaki Salmon with Sriracha Mayonnaise, to name a few. It also contains expert principles for saving in the kitchen—including how to combine inexpensive ingredients with expensive to ensure that you can still have that steak you’re craving, and information to help anyone get acquainted with his or her kitchen and get maximum use out of the freezer. Whether you’re urban or rural, vegan or paleo, Budget Bytes is guaranteed to delight both the palate and the pocketbook.

THOUGHTS: I love the blog. The book is exactly the same (admittedly with fewer pictures). Just buy this book. You won't regret it.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What I Read This Week: May 25, 2014

Hello long weekend! I am so glad you are here... letting me sleep in. A lot. Goodness did I miss sleep.

I also enjoy that it now feels like summer. The weather is allowing me to wear dresses and flouncy skirts, I feel the need to read dramatic books, and I want to have the Fiance grill all the things. I am very much looking forward to the coming months. Bring on the long days and outdoor events!
  • Magazines
    • Cooking Light, June 2014 - While I only pulled one recipe from this issue, everything looked delicious. I particularly enjoyed the farmer's market cookbook and summer pasta recipes. I also recommend reading the article on essential cooking techniques. I learned a thing or two.
  • Books
    • I read about three chapters in How To Be A Woman. Roller coaster of emotions... mainly over the childbirth story. Shudder. I should finish this book soon. Tis good!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book 8: Parasite

TITLE: Parasite
AUTHOR: Mira Grant
STARTED: April 26, 2014
FINISHED: April 26, 2014
PAGES: 504
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The recording is crisp enough to look like a Hollywood film, too polished to be real.

SUMMARY: [From BN] A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite -- a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the Intestinal Bodyguard worm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system -- even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.
But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives . . . and will do anything to get them.

THOUGHTS: This is such a Grant book that I almost though it was a part of her previous zombie series. I can't really review this book too deeply because the book itself is not that deep. It is, however, incredibly entertaining. You can see the "big reveal" at the end of the book coming a mile away, but that did not lessen my enjoyment of the book. It's well paced. The plot and characters are what you would expect from a summery beach read. If you enjoyed Grant's previous books, you will enjoy this one.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

The Friday Find: Wine

Do you enjoy reading? Do you enjoy wine? Then I think these classic book wine charms would be the perfect edition to your next book club or party.

There are many types of wine charms to chose from, but I am crushing on this particular set.

You can find these (and many more like them) on Etsy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Links and Stuff: May 22, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What I Read This Week: May 18, 2014

The weekend has been cuh-razy. My first dress fitting (just to make sure they sent the right dress/size), wedding dress shopping for my mom, bridal shower (composed of a trip to The Drybar and brunch), and my brother was in town. Earlier in the week, the Fiance and I met with the final florist on your list of options... and now we need to pick one.

Can I take a nap?
  • Magazines
    • Bridal Guide, March/April 2014 - I pick-up Bridal guide for the pretty pictures, but this issue has some great budget saver and "food bar" ideas.
    • Bridal Guide, May/June 2014 - This issue had some interesting DIY ideas. I found the ceremony guide to be pretty helpful. The Fiance and I are creating our own ceremony, so this might be helpful. I also pulled a small image as hair inspiration - I wish the picture was bigger.
    • National Geographic, May 2014 - I love this magazine because it always teaches me something new. This issue has an article on shipbreaking that I found fascinating because it was an entirely new subject to me. In addition to that piece, also enjoyed the article on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Seine in Paris (let me go back!).
  • Books
    • This week's schedule didn't leave me much time for book reading, but I managed a few pages of How to Be a Woman. I enjoy this book and hope I can devout a bit more time to it in the coming days.
  • Other

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Friday Find: Plates

I was stuck for what to post this week when this image popped up in my blog.

Book plates! How cool is that. I love how sleek and modern these look. If I owned a bookstore that had a cafe, these would the plates I buy. They're just snazzy.

If you love them enough to purchase, they are available at Gone Reading. Added bonus: They're not too expensive.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Links and Stuff: May 15, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why I Love... Following Librarians on Twitter

Librarians are awesome people. (I might be biased.)

I've been on Twitter for a few years now, and I've slowly been adding librarians to the list of people I follow. That decision was a good one. These librarians share a wonderful mix of stories from their personal and professional lives. The professional snippets are what I love best.

What librarian hasn't encountered an "interesting" reference conversation with a patron. We all find weird things in the books that are returned. Meetings and outdated policies? Perfect fodder for some snark. I love reading about what other librarians go through on a daily basis. When your job puts you in contact with the public on a daily basis, it can't help but generate some interesting stories.

Following my fellow, Tweeting librarians has given me a greater sense of community. We librarians are from all over the place and our libraries each has their own little quirks. Sometimes, it's nice to know you're not alone.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What I Read This Week: May 11, 2014

Words, by way of an introduction, would go here... if my brain was working. A scratchy throat I had on Thursday night has turned into a full blown cold. Blech.
  • Magazines
    • The Atlantic, May 2014 - The covers story on the "Confidence Gap" has made an appearance across many of the blogs I read. I'm not sure where I fall on the argument spectrum, but I found the piece well-written and intriguing. There were two other articles in the issue that I found interesting. The first was the pope in the attic - it offered a pretty in-depth insight into how the Vatican is handling the reality of two living popes. Finally, the piece on how segregation in schools exists now was downright sad. 
  • Books
    • I managed to read two chapters in How To Be a Woman. I enjoy the book quite a bit, but I need to stop falling asleep so early.

Friday, May 09, 2014

The Friday Find: New Uses

Our library, like many others, is phasing out their card catalog. What's a library to do with all those empty cabinets? Most are selling them. The buyers of said cabinets are making many wonderful looking things out of them. My favorite example is below. Who knew that a card catalog drawer was the perfect size for a wine bottle?

File this under the LOC call number for "Potent Potables."

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Book 7: Smoothies and Shakes

TITLE: Smoothies and Shakes
AUTHOR: Elsa Petersen-Schepelern
STARTED: April 26, 2014
FINISHED: April 26, 2014
GENRE: Cookbook

FIRST SENTENCE: One of the best things about smoothies is that they're so very good for you - but they taste so good they seem positively sinful.

SUMMARY: [From the book] 30 simple recipes for smoothies, icy treats, yoghurt drinks and more, using a blender.

THOUGHTS: I'm not a huge fan of either smoothies and shakes, but there are several recipes in this book I'd like to try. The images all looked very indulgent and refreshing.

RATING:5/10 [Meh]

YouTube Tuesday: Storymaking

Monday, May 05, 2014

Book 6: Flora and Ulysses

TITLE: Flora and Ulysses
AUTHOR: Kate DiCamillo
STARTED: April 26, 2014
FINISHED: April 26, 2014
PAGES: 233
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: In the Tickham kitchen, late on a summer afternoon...

SUMMARY: [From BN] It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.

THOUGHTS: DiCamillo is my favorite juvenile literature author. One day I will buy all her books and make everyone I know read them. Flora & Ulyssess, like all of DiCamillo's work, is utterly charming. Also, the squirrel illustrations in this book are an epic win.

RATING: [7/10] Very Good

Sunday, May 04, 2014

What I Read This Week: May 4, 2014

After gorging myself during read-a-thon, I turned lazy for the rest of the week. Not much other than blogs crossed these here eyeballs.

Also, May the Fourth be with you!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Book 5: Pope Joan

TITLE: Pope Joan
AUTHOR: Donna Woolfolk Cross
STARTED: March 26, 2014
FINISHED: April 22, 2014
PAGES: 432
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: It was the twenty-eighth of Wintarmanoth in the year of our lord 814, the harshest winter in living memory.

SUMMARY: [From BN] For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept. Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price...

THOUGHTS: This book has been sitting in my collection for years. It's so old I can't even tell you when I bought it. Back in March, I decided it was finally time to tackle this novel. I should have done so sooner. While the book is long, it reads quickly. The writing is well paced, the characters are fully developed, and there is enough drama to hold it all together.

Cross covers Joan's life from her birth to her death. Such a time span could get bogged down in unnecessary detail and description, but Cross chose to highlight the important developments and turning points in Joan's life. The plot flows seamlessly from each stage - Joan's character comes to her life as she matures. Her reactions and emotions feel real. It's hard not to root for her. Joan's journey is aided by a full cast of characters, all of whom feel fully imagined even if they are only in one scene.

The writing style of the book is incredibly cinematic. I can see exactly why a movie studio made a film of this. The hard work was done for them. Cross manages to set the scene in vivid details without info dumping.

My only gripe with this book is the romance. Yes, it is fully believable but I wish Cross had spent less time on it. Joan's life was so fascinating on its own that the romance felt almost unnecessary. I did root for the two leads, but I was rooting for Joan to succeed as a man much more.

You know you've read a good book when you want to track down more about the subject matter and see the movie adaptation.

RATING:8/10 [Terrific]

The Friday Find: Storybook Roses

It's all florists all the time over here. I'm thinking way more about carnations, hydrangea, and baby's breath than I ever thought I would. The Fiance has been a champ with it all. We've meet with one florist already and we've got two more on the calendar. I'm hoping that should do it. I like flowers as much as the next girl, but man do I have my limits.

All of this talk of flowers reminded me of a gorgeous DIY craft - book roses.

You can learn how to make this stunning bouquet on 100 Layer Cake. I'm contemplating making one of these as my toss bouquet.

Not in the mood to DIY, there are a ton of pre-made bouquets like this on Etsy.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Links and Stuff: May 1, 2014

  • New to graphic novels? Try these essential titles.
  • You can now subscribe to searches in Google Trends.
  • If you're a book nerd, you've probably encountered a few of these problems. (Hat tip to Lady KB for the link.)
  • In New York? You may want to visit these bookstores.
  • Huffington Post busts some library myths.