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review 2017-12-16 19:03
The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson
The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History - Thor Hanson

TITLE:  The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History

 

AUTHOR:  Thor Hanson

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2015

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-465-09740-1

 

_______________________________

 

In this book, Thor Hanson explores "how grains, nuts, kernels, pulses, and pips conquered the plant kingdom and shaped human history".  Topics include the evolution and co-evolution of a variety of plant species seeds, how they function, seed banks, dispersal, spices, and historical tidbits (including assassinations, world empires and voyages of discovery). 

 

Seeds are a fascinating subject that the author covers in an informal but informative style without overwhelming the reader with science jargon, but also not wasting ink on irrelevant social observations.  The author's enthusiasm for seeds in contagious!  There are also numerous illustrations throughout the book. 

 

My only quibble is that I wish there was more of the book and more specific details, but that sort of thing would probably require an encyclopedia on the subject.

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER BOOKS

 

 

Food in History by Reay Tannahill

 

Napoleon's Buttons by Penny Le Conteur & Jay Burreson

 

The Untold History of the Potato by John Reader

 

Banana:  The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

 

Papyrus by John Gaudet

 

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

 

Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon (3rd edition)

 

The Emerald Planet:  How Plants Changed Earth's History by David Beerling

 

Feathers:  The Evolution of a Natural Miracle by Thor Hanson

 

 

 

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review 2017-12-15 13:05
'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

Nearly 40 pages into my used copy of The Things They Carried I found a large post-it note with the words "Start here" scribbled in small print at the very top. It's the point where the novel, which till then seems to stick to the premise of viewing the Vietnam War by examining the things U.S. soldiers carried. The writing comes back to these items again and again, grounding the story in pictures and mementos, weapons, ammo, clothing, and small comforts like a bible, a knife, pantyhose, what have you. Some are practical, some are remembrances, but they provide some insight into the men of Alpha Company, but going into the fourth chapter it starts to lose its ground.

 

Except, after page 38, the story drifts away from these items, and from the perspective Lieutenant Jimmy Cross who was central through these early pages, and from the kind of straight war story that we know well. The story gets messy. Tim O'Brien then writes in snapshots and in framed stories that, even when the subject is usual, have a touch of the surreal. Whole chapters veer off as in "The Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong" in which one character tells the impossible-seeming story of a man bringing his girlfriend to visit him at his station in Vietnam and her getting lost in the world of special forces -- first asking questions, then tagging along, then participating in missions, and eventually dropping off the grid altogether. But as the subject matter gets more outlandish, the narrator "Tim O'Brien" won't give us neat answers on what is true. Some very believable scenes he reveals to be fiction, others he insists are true, others are true but didn't happen to that person, or the person had a different name.

 

"A true war story is never moral," we are told on page 68. Then on the next page, "You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you." Then on page 71, "In any war story, but especially a true one, it's difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen," then "In many cases a true war story cannot be believed," and still later down the page, "In other cases a true war story cannot be believed." Reality becomes a non-Newtonian fluid, appearing clear before us, but slipping away whenever we try to hold it too tightly.

 

From a literary studies angle, it may be interesting to model what is supposed to have actually happened to "Tim" and what has not, but following that post-modern rabbit-hole down to try to tell what happened to O'Brien is a fools errand and lead you far astray from the important lessons of the novel [and that realization may lead you to one of the important take-aways from this story]. 

 

I often thought back to Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut while reading The Things They Carried. Something in the tone and the way reality seems to shift under your feet while reading it. But where Vonnegut let that distortion play out in fantastical ways, with aliens, time travel and other science fiction elements, Tim O'Brien keeps our eyes on the war the whole time. Truth, time, beauty, and reality are distorted but in a way that is much more familiar in the way we understand memory and especially traumatic memories. "Tim" isn't taken away to a far away planet with a beautiful movie star. He is Vietnam, even when there is a discordant, impossible, beautiful image like that of Curt Lemon stepping back so that the sun catches his face and flying into the vines and white blossoms, blown by the explosion of the landmine he stepped on.

 

The Things They Carried is a meditation on war, on youth [and youth lost] and on storytelling, whether through novel, gossip, or your own memories. O'Brien's war stories, to whatever degree they are factual, feel truer than most, and closer to home. He never tries to educate on the 60s, the war, or the government, though it's hard not to walk away with some thoughts on these matters. The war for him and us readers is what the dozen men [give or take] of Alpha Company see, hear, and feel. It's death and loss and a connection unlike just about any other on Earth. 

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review 2017-12-13 20:33
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: A Novel - Bryn Greenwood

In case you haven't heard of this book or looked up the synopsis -- this is an unconventional love story. Our 'hero', Kellen, meets our 'heroine', Wavy, when he's somewhere around 21 and she's about 8. It's basically love at first sight for both of them.

 

Now let me be clear. I in NO WAY support or condone pedophilia. It's disturbing to me on many levels, and not just because I have an 11-year-old daughter. Many people believe that Kellen in this book is a pedophile and that this book is about sexualizing children.

 

I don't agree. 

 

Pedophiles prey on children. They exploit them and do emotional and physical harm. I believe pedophiles have a mental imbalance and need help. My impression is that they don't believe what they are doing is wrong, or if they do then they don't care and blame it on not being able to control themselves.

 

Now let's look at Kellen and Wavy. Oh dear, what a complex situation. Wavy's parents are drug dealers/users and couldn't care less about her. They DO abuse her -- both emotionally and physically. It's no wonder she developed a crush on the first adult who showed care for her. Kellen is not the brightest bulb in the pack and has is own issues. But for some reason, he sees Wavy and feels compelled to take care of her. A relationship develops. Not sex -- a relationship. Now, as Wavy gets older the relationship does take on a more mature turn. I won't go into more detail for the sake of spoilers.

 

What I loved about this book was the fact that it made me question everything. It made me constantly ask myself, "Am I OK with this?" It also made me wonder if I would have felt differently about certain things if Wavy had a more stable home life. 

 

My high rating of this book is not because I think it's this romantic tale that made me go all starry-eyed. In fact, the relationship made me uncomfortable most of the time. But this book is well written and shows the reader a different side to a coin that most of us just want to be black on one side and white on the other.

 

I highly recommend others to read this book, but you have to have an open mind while doing it.

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quote 2017-12-11 18:41
it's easy to get stuck.To let one big thing hold you in place . And it's such a waste .Don't fall for it . It will keep you from everything
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review 2017-11-22 15:02
Little Broken Things: A Novel - Nicole Baart

Duinn had got a text from her older sister Nora with a cryptic message of “ I have something for you”. This immediately frightens Quinn. Quinn’s family is successful and lives in a quiet neighborhood. Quinn lives near her mother and with her husband walker who is an artist. Quinn wonders where Nora has been for so long. Nora was the older sister and the wild child of the two. Nora took off right after HS graduation. Liz was Nora and Quinn’s mother and she had tried so hard to be the perfect wife and mother to Nora and Quinn that neither daughter could really connect with or trust their mother. Quinn and Nora had never been close. Quinn never in her wildest dreams thought Nora’s summons would involve Nora dropping off a six year old little girl she called Lucy but who was in fact Everlee. Everlee’s mother was Nora’s best friend- Tiffany’s daughter and Nora is determined to protect Lucy from Tiffany's nasty husband. Nora comes and drops off Lucy and tells Quinn not to tell anyone especially Liz with no explanations why. Quinn is to hide Lucy. Nora does promise to come back and get Lucy then Nora disappears. .   But it isn’t easy to hide Lucy. But everything Nora cares about is being threatened. Secrets are revealed as time goes on and tells about the damage to the family.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I loved how Quinn did step up to take care of Lucy especially since she really didn’t have much of a choice. I felt this book was filled with emotion, suspense, secrets. Hurt. family drama, tension, and so much more. I did like the different POVs shown. I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the book. But I did have problems connecting with some of the characters most of them really. It did drag for me at times. This was also fairly predictable. Also at times I had problems keeping my attention to the story and to want to finish the book. As i said I had mixed feelings but I am sure others got more from this book than I did.

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