Extra Books – June 13 to 19

  • Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
    • Published: July 2005
    • Genre: Magical fantasy
    • Why I picked it up: Rereading the series
    • Rating: 3.5 stars
    • Challenges: Harry Potter 2011 | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • Spoiler alert!! Snape kills Dumbledore – what a fantastic, dramatic, shocking twist. So good. I was never sad about the whole thing, and I had it spoiled for me the day the book was released, but it’s still a great climax which is not the word I want to use but I can’t think of the right one. 
      • The scene with Harry and Dumbledore in the cave…I dunno, that scene never felt very real to me, but it’s kind of terrifying if you can properly believe it. I just have a hard time imagining Dumbledore acting like that, which I suppose is kind of the point (to show how serious and dramatic, etc. the whole situation is) but it just didn’t work for me. Probably because I would be too freaked out if I properly believed it. 😛 

    Michael Pollan – The Omnivore’s Dilemma

    Author: Michael Pollan
    Title: The Omnivore’s Dilemma
    Published: 2006
    Publisher: Penguin Press
    Length: 408 pages
    Genre: Non-fiction (investigative)
    Why I picked it up: Interest in these sort of ‘food books’
    Rating: 3.5 stars
    Challenges: 100+ | Foodie’s 
    Buy: Barnes and Noble | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

    I was in the midst of writing this post and then I found out that I am to get a third roommate. This is the worst news in the entire world, for a variety of reasons I don’t need to go into here, but now I am too distraught to work on this and I need to go for a walk. XP So, look! Here are the notes I make. Can you understand any of them? I will refine them later when I stop panicking…

    Fun fact tidbits such as ‘Originally, “corn” was a generic English word for any kind of grain, even a grain of salt – hence “corned beef”‘ – I always wondered about that

    ‘And I wondered if Billy gave much thought, in those late-night hours rolling up the miles on Interstate 80, to how he got to this point, and about who he was really working for now. The bank? John Deere? Monsanto? Pioneer? Cargill? Two hundred and twenty bushels of corn is an astounding accomplishment, yet it didn’t do Billy nearly as much as good as it did those companies.’ Talk about corn subsidies.

    But a solution is considered wildly impractical by the cattle industry and therefore the USDA. (re: germs and such in slaughterhouses). THERE, AUGH, THIS IS STUPID!

    ‘Each weed strip is as smooth and flat as a tabletop, levelled with a laser so that the custom-built harvester can snip each leaf at precisely the same point.’

    ‘He reminded me taht his meat would be considerably cheaper than it is if not for government regulations and the resulting high cost of processing – at least a dollar cheaper per pound. “If we could just level the playing field – take away the regulations, the subsidies, and factor in the health care and environmental cleanup costs of cheap food – we could compete on price with anyone.”” so sad 🙁

    Andrew Weill, the Marriage of the Sun and the Moon
    Big, sprawling, vast, covers a lot, explore meat more in depth, ethically wise, lots of good references that sound interesting

    William Cronon’s nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

     Sidenote – miffed about ‘young reader’s edition,’ ‘”Originally written for adults and now adapted for teens,’ what the hell, we’re not stupid, we dont’ need a seprate edition.

    Ursula Le Guin – A Wizard of Earthsea

      Author: Ursula Le Guin

    Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
    Published: 1968
    Publisher: Parnassus Press
    Length: 183 pages
    Genre: Fantasy
    Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
    Rating: 3.5 stars
    Challenges: 2011 TBR Pile | 100+
    Buy: Barnes and Noble | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

    [Apologies for this rushed review, busy this week. It’s tough to blog properly without regular internet access :/]

    This is the first ‘traditional fantasy’ book I have read in quite awhile. I got frustrated with the genre a few years ago and kind of gave up on it, but I’ve heard so much about this book I added it to my 2011 TBR Pile. I was not pleasantly pleased with it, but at least pleasantly not disappointed.

    What I liked best about this book was that it was just about Ged, and the problem he created. It wasn’t the whole world at stake, nobody was depending on him. There was a hinted at risk if Ged wasn’t able to beat his demon, but that wasn’t the point. The purpose of the story was that Ged had to save himself. In that way, it was a nice, simple, small story, not a sprawling epic. A fun read, a good bed time story. I wouldn’t say it rivals LotR, but perhaps more so Narnia. It’ll be interesting to see what the next two books in the trilogy will be about.

    Random notes I made while reading: The words dark/darkness were used awkwardly. Sentences like ‘Since the darkness of that night he had only experienced darkness’ should not be allowed to exist. Also, what’s up with women only being common witches, who can’t do much? And the only ‘powerful’ female is cunning and evil. There’s no commentary on that, it’s just how things are. I hope that comes up in later books. The place names and the maps were kind of ridiculous. I didn’t really pay attention to them, and that didn’t really matter. Too many, too many. I like the compact cast of characters. They all seemed solid and believable and pretty likeable or ‘enjoyable to read’ (I don’t know what I’m saying…). I’m sure we’ll Jasper again…I liked most of the dialogue, though there were some strangely awkward bits. There were also passages of description I liked, but nothing too spectacular.

    Overall, a solid story, a fun and light read, but it didn’t impress me as much as the hype lead me to expect.

    Extra Books – to May 28

    (I didn’t read these all in the past week, they’re from the past who knows how long [as well as this week], but I’m finally noting them down now.)

    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
      • Published: July 2008
      • Genre: Magical fantasy
      • Why I picked it up: Rereading the series
      • Rating: 3 stars
      • Challenges: Harry Potter 2011 | 100+
      • My Thoughts: 
        • Ehm. I read this a month or two ago and didn’t make any notes…not my favourite Potter book. I didn’t really care for the ‘romance’ bits, but as usual I liked the interaction between Hermione and Ron. That’s all I can say. ^^;
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
      • Published: June 2003
      • Genre: Magical fantasy
      • Why I picked it up: Rereading the series
      • Rating: 3.5 stars
      • Challenges: Harry Potter 2011 | 100+
      • My Thoughts: 
        • What I like most about this series is probably the cast of characters. So many! All diverse, with distinct personalities and names, even if some of them are stereotypical. I like the balance between children/kids/teens and adults. I love stories where each age group is engaged with one another and well matched.
        • It’s in this book that a lot of the characters mature; there is definitely a lot of teenage angst on Harry’s part (but who can blame him?). Another thing I enjoy about the series, following the cast of schoolmates and watching them grow and change and mature. 
        • I like the bit with Aunt Petunia near the beginning – what a great hook! I know she has a pretty important role later on, but I can’t recall it, so I am looking forward to that.
        • I remembered while reading this book that the HP series was where I learned the term ‘sacked.’ By the way. I also remember that this was the first HP that I waited for (as in, by the time I started paying attention to the series, the first four books were out). I can’t remember how I felt at Sirius’ death, though. Probably pissed off.  
        • I loved the scene where Harry is raging in Dumbledore’s office. I think that was brilliantly done.
    • A Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
      • Published: 1890
      • Genre: Mystery
      • Why I picked it up: Reading through the Holmes stories

      Walter Mosley – The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

       Author: Walter Mosley

      Title: The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
      Published: November 2010
      Publisher: Riverhead
      Length: 277pages
      Genre: Fiction
      Why I picked it up: Liked the title
      Rating: 3.5 stars
      Challenges: 100+  
      Buy: Barnes and Noble | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

      Over the past year or so, I’ve found myself appreciating novels such as this one more than I ever have before. I used to find these books dry and uncreative and dull, dull, dull but now I am enjoying them (oh, growing up. I never could have predicted what an impact maturity would have on my reading habits! ;P).  By ‘these books’, I am referring to stories centred on complex family dramas and problems of the common person (hah). I think I like reading about people nowadays because it helps me to observe and/or understand people in the real world; the kind of people who I would normally never interact with, such as the main characters of this novel: a 91 year old black man who has experiences I could never imagine and a tough teenage black girl who gets nervous around white people who form a unique relationship. I learn about other people, experience situations I will never encounter in real life and get to peak into stranger’s lives, getting some sort of understanding of why. Even though the characters aren’t real, I know that people like them do exist somewhere and that’s what draws me into the story. I also just like reading about old people, to be blunt. I think it’s interesting to peer so far ahead into the future, thinking that one day, hopefully, I will be an old person just like that, living out the last of my days.

      Now, onto the contents of the book! The story focuses on the very elderly Ptolemy Grey and his efforts to regain his failing memory in the last days of his life (hence the title…I really liked the title, it’s the sort of thing I fall for). This leads to, obviously, many snapshots of memories throughout the novel. These memories are what I liked most about this story. I love the idea of an old Ptolemy reflecting on his life and what events and people were important to him, what had an impact on him. I loved reading about this character experiencing these memories he had tried to recall for so long, and then finally be able to reflect and realize them. A lot of the memories are bittersweet, poignant, melancholic, stirring, thoughtful, all of those lonely words. I ate those up, those bits of memories. Short stories within a story.

      I preferred the character of Ptolemy over Robyn (sweet old man character over tough teenager any day, thanks, haha), but I did like what she added to the story (I mean, aside from her obvious main role as one of the characters who creates the story). I was interested to see how she acted in front of an old man vs. how she would act with her boyfriend vs. how she acts in the street (I just used three tenses there, huh). This sort of thing intrigues me because I generally act the same in front of all sorts of people. It still shocks me when I see how people behave when I working with them and how they behave outside of work. I’m trying to understand that better. Gangsta Robyn vs. sweet Robyn vs. hurt teenage girl Robyn…the layers, I’m trying to understand the layers, I suppose.

      Three more minor notes. There was lots and lots of slang and dialects. Every character pretty much spoke in one. Usually this sort of thing drives me crazy, but I barely noticed it in Mosley’s writing. Everything felt very natural. Another interesting style bit was that mostly every black character had a different skin tone description; they were never just ‘black’.  If it was white people being described differently each time (olive, peach, snow white, etc.) I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. I guess that says a lot more about me than the writing, though I’m not quite sure what…Final note: I had never heard of the author before, but since his name was bigger than the title I figured he must be somewhat well-known. I looked him up, and apparently he’s best known for his mystery series! Fun tidbit for you there. I never would’ve guessed it.

      I did like this book; I enjoyed it greatly while I was reading it (clearly it gave me lots to think about!) and I was planning on giving it four stars (plan to buy) but by the end of it…I’m not sure. The story seemed to lose whatever it was that I loved about it. It just didn’t grab me in a way that most books I plan to buy do. What a vague conclusion. Still, I recommend this book, I suppose, but don’t hold out for a fabulous ending! (I think it was the ending that killed it. I can’t stand a bad ending; they ruin all the good feelings I had about what came before.)