I am super-excited to get to offer up my first giveaway of 2014 here at Opinions of a Wolf. Lots of the indie authors whose books I accepted for review in 2014 also were interested in me hosting a giveaway at the time of my review, so there will be plenty more coming up in the future too.
What You’ll Win: One ebook copy of The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David C. Meredith.
How to Enter: Leave a comment on this post stating your favorite part of the original Snow White fairy tale. Your comment must also contain your EMAIL ADDRESS so you can receive your ebook.
Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL
Contest Ends: February 13th. Two weeks from today!
Disclaimer: The winners will have their ebooks sent to them by the author. The blogger is not responsible for sending the books.
Snow White lived decades of her happy-ever-after, but when Charming dies she is sent reeling into a depression. Not even their daughter, Raven’s, upcoming marriage can snap Snow White out of it. When wandering the halls of the castle, desperately seeking to be alone, she re-enters her old step-mother’s quarters. Now covered in dust, she discovers her stepmother’s magic mirror, which she never knew about before. The discovery will have far-reaching consequences.
This is my first read of the 12 indie books I accepted for review here in 2014 (see the whole list). I surprised myself a bit, reaching first for the fantasy, but I was in the perfect mood for a slightly pensive retelling of a fairy tale. The book takes an interesting angle for retelling the story, jumping ahead to Snow White’s elderly years, but it unfortunately doesn’t reimagine Snow White herself quite enough.
The narrative choice of having an elderly Snow White discover her stepmother’s magic mirror that then forces her into introspection on herself and her life is a great idea that works well. We already all know the end of the fairy tale, so flipping it on its head to start at the end addresses that fact head-on. Now the question isn’t, will this fairy tale end the way all the other retellings do. Instead, it looks on a psychological level at the impact of Snow White’s early years on her later ones. It also is an interesting way to address end of life issues. Snow White is elderly and stuck in a bit of a rut. She’s uncertain how to go on without her husband of so many years. These are relevant issues that don’t get addressed often enough in literature, and re-using the Snow White fairy tale to look at them works wonderfully. It thus is a familiar story and setting with a different focus, which is a great tact to take for a fairy tale retelling.
Snow White herself, however, hasn’t been tweaked enough to make for an interesting heroine. I admit, I was hoping for someone who either had found or would find her own strength. The Snow White we see in Disney and other retellings really is a bit of a shrinking violet. This Snow White stays that way. Over and over she is the helpless girl who must be rescued by others. She doesn’t flee the castle, someone else tells her, practically forces her to. She is then saved first by the dwarves and then by Charming. Later in her life, after leaving the official fairy tale, we find that she is a simpering clueless virgin on her wedding night who must be guided by Charming. Then even later she is heinously assaulted by some ladies of her court, and she again must be saved by someone else. Even in the end of her life, she doesn’t pick herself up and continue on. A magic mirror knocks some sense into her. Because fairy tales often remove so much agency from the “good” women in them (only evil women are allowed agency), I prefer to see retellings give the women more agency. Snow White could still have the character flaw of being a bit timid and eventually learn how to save herself. It’s not an all-or-nothing scenario. The way Snow White and her story is presented here reads a bit too traditionally medieval. I want a retelling to take me new places with the character, not extend the same ones.
This issue alone would have led me to give the book 4 stars, but, unfortunately, the book is riddled with spelling and grammar errors. I only marked the most egregious ones, and I still had 12 on my list. Issues such as saying someone laid down in the floor, instead of on the floor (loc 2302), putting the apostrophe in the wrong place (“princes’ tongue” instead of “prince’s tongue” (loc 1315) ), and just flat-out using the wrong word (“followed suite” instead of “followed suit” (loc 1084) ) sorely damaged my enjoyment of the novel. I don’t expect perfection from authors or editors, we are all human, but more than a few errors is something that truly negatively impacts the reading of the novel.
Overall, this retelling of Snow White takes the interesting angle of focusing on the end of her life. This allows the author to explore issues relevant to the elderly, such as losing long-term loved ones and coming to terms with the path your life has taken. Although this plot gives the fairy tale a new focus and extended plot, Snow White herself has not been updated at all. She is still the simpering violet who must be saved by all around her. Some readers may be bothered by the number of errors in the spelling and grammar in the book. Recommended to fans of traditional fairy tales with only a slight twist who won’t be bothered by a lack of editing for spelling and grammar.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I have started accepting review copy submissions for the upcoming year in November and December. Then, out of the books submitted to me for review, I select 12 to review in the upcoming year.
This year, 34 review requests were submitted. This means I accepted only 35% of the submitted books. Of those 34 book submissions, 2 didn’t follow my review request guidelines, so were automatically eliminated. Of the authors submitting, 74% were male and 26% female. The most popular genre submitted to me was thriller with 10 submissions. The least submitted genre (that wasn’t a genre I don’t accept) was a tie between romance, horror, urban fantasy, and fantasy, with 2 each. I ultimately accepted: 4 scifi, 2 fantasy, 2 horror, 2 thriller, 1 urban fantasy, and 1 historic fiction.
The accepted review copies are listed below, alphabetically. Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon, since I have yet to read them myself and so cannot write my own. These books will be read and reviewed here in 2014, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.
Bad Elephant Far Stream
By: Samuel Hawley
Genre: Historic Fiction
Bad Elephant Far Stream is an elephant’s life story, told from her own perspective, through her own eyes.
Inspired by the life of a real elephant known as Topsy, it follows Far Stream from her birth and capture in the wild in Ceylon in the late 1860s, through her transportation to America and thirty years with the circus, which ultimately led to her being labeled as “bad.” It’s an unusual and uncompromising novel that explores the questions: What is it like to be an elephant trained for human amusement? What does such a creature think? What does it feel? What does it yearn for?
Bad Elephant Far Stream takes the reader on a voyage of discovery to find out
By: Michael J. Kolinski
Jake Wood receives an e-mail message from his cousin Jana whom he hasn’t seen in over a decade. Jana has learned of Jake’s tragedy: The seven people dead and the downward spiral of depression and survivor’s guilt his life has become. She invites him to leave a bitter cold Iowa winter to visit her in sunny Los Angeles.
Jake accepts Jana’s invitation but when he arrives, she is nowhere to be found. All Jake knows for certain is that Jana was working for renowned primatologist Dr. Gregory Mirek, a scientist with a towering reputation and a wide circle of wealthy and influential friends.
With the assistance of Jana’s best friend Laurie Summers, Jake travels across California and into Las Vegas in search of Jana. It’s a path that leads to a desperate real estate developer, a seedy casino owner, and the discovery that Dr. Mirek has ghastly secrets that he will do anything to protect.
The City of Time & Memory
By: Justin Childress
The City rises up from the silent gray clouds that surround it, structures like tombstones, built with recollections of bad days gone by, populated by fading screams and stale sobs. Unnameable nightmares stalk the streets, the alleys, the stairs, hungry for those unfortunate to find themselves lost in the City of Time & Memory.
Zak awakens to find himself in his room, but not in his house. His doorways no longer connect to the rest of his home, but to silent hallways and endless gray voids. He must find a way out of the labyrinth of alien rooms and endless stairwells, before something finds him.
By: Nick Milligan
Jack is the most famous rockstar in the world… he’s just not from this planet.
Before joining NASA’s space program, Jack had dreams of a career as a professional musician. When a deep space mission goes awry, he crashes on an alien planet. Jack discovers that his new world is inhabited by a race of humans that have evolved in parallel to those on Earth. He picks up a guitar and performs the most wondrous rock songs of his home planet. Neil Young. Leonard Cohen. Bob Dylan. Superstardom beckons as audiences around the globe revere Jack and his apparent songwriting abilities. He basks in the boundless glow of a hedonistic dream world. But Jack soon learns that his lie will have sinister consequences.
The House of Azareal
By: Erik Dreistadt
Christopher Porter lives a peaceful life with his wife and twin children in the mountains of Tennessee. Christopher’s life is about to be turned upside down as he and his family are drawn to a mysterious, old house deep in the woods near their home. After entering the house, he struggles to keep his family safe and try to escape the mysterious creatures living inside.
I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
By: E. A. Aymar
Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world. And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.
One Death at a Time
By: Thomas M. Hewlett
Genre: Urban Fantasy
“People think Alcoholics Anonymous is for drunks. It’s not. It’s for us, the real drinkers. The blood drinkers. All the rest of those meetings are just for show.”
Los Angeles, 1948. Detective Jack Strayhorn is killed while chasing down a suspect in the Black Dahlia murders all by himself.
Los Angeles, 2010. Jack Strayhorn is back in L.A. as a private investigator with a simple mission: catch the bad guys and try not to kill any innocent people along the way.
To him and his kind, human blood is the strongest drug in the world. Fortunately for Jack, he found the secret group within AA dedicated to helping Vampires survive the madness and destruction of their disease.
When a city councilmember with ties to a drug-dealing Fae clan is found dead in his home and the woman lying next to him is Jack’s current missing person’s case, tracking down the ghostlike hitman will test him like nothing before.
But this time, Jack won’t be alone. With the help of his unique powers of investigation, his magically talented friends, and a Medical Examiner with a few secrets of her own, Jack will face down a gang of outlaw biker werewolves, spell-casting Fae high on pixie dust, and an underground order of Vampires intent on ruling the world.
As Jack learned long ago, the only way to get through eternity is one death a time.
The Reflections of Queen Snow White
By: David C. Meredith
What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.
The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.
It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?
Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White
The Running Game
By: L. E. Fitzpatrick
Her father called it the running game. Count the exits, calculate the routes. Always be ready to run because they’ll always be coming for you. Whatever happens, they’ll always be coming for you.
Rachel had let her guard down and they had found her. She could run now, leave the city and try her luck beyond the borders, but with no money and a dark secret to hide her chances of survival are slim.
But then she meets two brothers with a dangerous past and secrets of their own. Can they help her turn the game around?
The Second Lives of Honest Men
By: John Cameron
Genre: Scifi, Historic Fiction
On the evening of April 14th, 1865, a flawless duplicate replaced the 16th President an instant prior to his assassination. Two centuries later, Honest Abe opened his eyes to a world in desperate need of guidance.
By: Paul Bussard
Stinger Stars is the story of mankind’s first contact with another intelligent species—a man-made species that can enable humans to regenerate lost or damaged body parts. Tragically, the intelligent creatures must be repeatedly maimed in order for them to produce the regenerative agent that makes them so useful. Set in a world of rival genetic research companies, ruthless alpha males, unauthorized experiments, and industrial espionage, Stinger Stars follows Maria de la Cruz, a lowly biology student with a stunted arm, as she struggles with the very personal moral and ethical issues—whether to protect the intelligent animals from cruel exploitation or benefit from their suffering to regain the use of her arm.
The Underworld King
By: Ranjit More
60,000 miles below the surface of the earth thrives a kingdom inhabited by daityas – giant, fanged beings of the night who sometimes travel to the surface above and eat humans in the hearts of grim forests. Their four-armed king, Drumila, faces a new peril, and this time it is advancing upon him not from the heavens, where his eternal enemies reside; but from the darkest depths of creation. The naagas -giant, flame-breathing serpents- are traveling towards the capital of daityas, intent upon reducing them to ashes, and Drumila must do something about it. For no matter how strongly he detests his subjects’ lifestyle and nature, it is his duty to protect them as king.
Moved by Drumila’s plight, the powerful sage, Shukracharya, swims down into the underworld upon the back of his giant crocodile and convinces his disciple-king to migrate to the surface of the earth.
What follows is an epic exodus to the world above and a strange encounter with a beautiful girl thereupon. Nandini seems to be human, but all signs point towards her having descended from the heavens, the least of which are a delicate waist and long eyes extending up to her ears. But is this a trick of the gods? Drumila will find out soon enough, when the battle begins.
Hello my lovely readers!
Just a quick post to let you know that my dark fantasy short story “Freedom Freerunner” published today in Dark Fire Fiction. They’re a rolling publication, so there’s no issue or volume numbers. My story will be on the front page for at least a month.
Here’s the blurb:
The Dark Ones have taken over the city. Come along as a band of freerunners battle them with parkour skills and swords.
Also be sure to click through to Dark Fire Fiction‘s homepage to see the illustration they gave my short story!
To anyone wondering due to the Dark Ones mention, yes this is Lovecraftverse and yes there are tentacles.
I’ve added the links and information to my Publications page, so you can easily find it again later.
I do hope you all will check it out!
Dindi is about to undergo her people’s initiation test and ceremony that not only welcomes her to adulthood but also will determine whether or not she is a member of the Tavaedi. The Tavaedi are a mix of religious leader, healer, and warrior who cast magic spells by dancing. Since Dindi can see the pixies and other fae, she thinks she has a chance. But no one in her clan has ever successfully become a Tavaedi. Meanwhile, an exiled warrior, Kavio, is attempting to shed his old life and the haunting of his father’s wars and his mother’s powers. But he slowly discovers a deadly plot that brings him directly to Dindi’s initiation ceremony.
It takes something special for me to pick up either a YA or a fantasy book, and this one is both. But Jessica’s review over on The Bookworm Chronicles had me intrigued. A fantasy series based on Polynesian tales and traditions is unique in fantasy. Plus the idea of magic from dancing really appealed to the dancer in me (years of tap and jazz, also many lessons in ballroom, zumba, etc…). When I found out the first book in the series is free on the Kindle, I had to try it out, and I’m glad I did! I really enjoyed the book, and its presence highlights many of the strengths of indie publishing.
The world is richly imagined and well described. The tribes and clans have clearly defined and described cultures that vary from stable farming to warrior to cannibal. The structure of the societies make sense and are rich without being overly detailed. I particularly appreciated that this is a tribal culture fantasy without ever claiming to be the real or imagined history of any known to exist (or to have existed) tribe. It is inspired by Polynesian culture but it is still a fantasy, similar to how medieval fantasy is inspired by the real Middle Ages but never claims to be what happened. This lends itself to rich world building without ever venturing off into ridiculous “historical” fiction.
The plot slowly builds Dindi’s story and Kavio’s story, gradually bringing them together. This is good since Dindi is still young enough that she doesn’t see much of the intrigue going on around her. Dindi’s perspective shows us the day-to-day existence of people in this world, whereas Kavio shows us the higher-ranking intrigue. It didn’t bother me that Dindi starts out a bit innocent because it is clear she will grow in knowledge with time. Meanwhile, bringing in Kavio’s perspective helps establish the world for the reader. There were also enough smaller clashes and twists that I never felt that I knew precisely what was going to happen next.
Although the characters at first seem two-dimensional, they truly are not. Everyone is more than what immediately meets the eye, and I liked that this lesson occurs repeatedly. It’s a good thing to see in YA lit. Dindi is strong, kind, and talented, but she still has her flaws. She is good but she’s not perfect, which makes her a good main character. I also appreciate that what will clearly be a romance eventually between Kavio and Dindi starts out so slowly with longing glances from afar. It’s nice that Dindi and Kavio get a chance to be established as individuals prior to meeting each other, plus the slowly building romance is a nice change of pace for YA lit.
Sometimes the chapter transitions were a bit abrupt or left me a bit lost. With changing perspectives like this, it would be helpful if the chapter titles were a bit less artistic and gave a bit more setting. It’s nice that when perspective changes the cue of the character’s name is given, no matter where it happens, but a bit more than that would be nice at the chapter beginnings. Similarly in scene changes, the break is three pound signs. I think using a bunch of centered tildes or even a customized drawing, such as of pixies, would be nicer. At first when I saw these I thought there was some coding error in the ebook. There also are a few editing mistakes that should not have made it through the final edit, such as saying “suffercate” for suffocate (page 144). As an indie author myself, I know it is incredibly difficult to edit your own book, so I give a pass to minor typos and things like that. However, the entirely wrong word for what the author is trying to say should be fixed. There were few enough that I still enjoyed the book, but I hope that there are less in the future installments of the series.
Overall, this is a unique piece of YA fantasy set in a tribal world inspired by Polynesia. The romance is light and slow-building, and the focus is primarily on growing up and becoming an adult. A few minor formatting and editing issues detract from it being a perfect escape read, but it is still highly enjoyable. I intend to read more of the series, and I recommend it to fantasy and YA fans alike.
4 out of 5 stars
Note: the Kindle edition is free
Will Henry states that this is a story that Dr. Warthrop did not want told…and proceeds to tell it anyway. When a British man shows up with a package being delivered under duress, Dr. Warthrop is ecstatic to realize it is the nest of the Magnificum–the holy grail of monstrumology. Dr. Warthrop decides to leave Will Henry in New York while he pursues this beast. But when his monstrumologist companion returns claiming that Warthrop is dead, Will Henry and two fellow monstrumologists travel to Europe to track him–or his body–down.
Not as engaging or thought-provoking as the first two books in the series, I can only hope that this third entry is suffering from the common penultimate book malady where the book which must set everything up for the finale of the series can sometimes drag.
There are two problems in this entry that make it fail to be as engaging or thrilling as the first two books. First, Will Henry is left behind in New York for a significant portion of the novel. We are thus left with a whiny teenager bemoaning Warthrop’s choice to be responsible for once and keep him out of danger. We also are left with very little action for far too large a portion of the book. The second issue is perhaps a bit of a spoiler but suffice to say that the monster is disappointing and its disappointment is easily predicted. If we had a lot of action with a disappointing monster, that’s still engaging. If we had less excitement with a surprising, phenomenal monster, that’s still thrilling. The combination of the two, though, prevents this thriller from being as thrilling and engaging as it should be.
Of course there are other elements that still worked, which is why I kept reading it. Yancey’s writing is, as ever, beautiful to read (or listen to) and contains much depth.
“So many times we express our fear as anger…, and now I think I wasn’t angry at all, but afraid. Terribly, terribly afraid.”
The settings are unique, and the characters are strong and leap off of the pages. Will Henry becomes more fully fleshed-out in this entry as we start to see his descent into a love affair with monstrumology. We also get to see Warthrop at what he himself perceives of as his lowest point. It’s a dark bit of characterization but it works very well for the story Yancey is telling.
Overall, I was a bit disappointed, purely because the first two entries in the series were so phenomenal. The third book is still a very good book. Fans might be a bit disappointed, depending on how attached they are to the unique thriller aspect of the series, but the characters and writing still make this well worth the time. Fans will remain in eager anticipation of the final entry in the series.
4 out of 5 stars
A lesbian retelling of Rapunzel. Gray, a witch’s daughter, visits Zelda every day. The witch switched Gray’s fate into Zelda, so now Zelda is the one entwined with the spirit of the tree that the people worship. She must live on the platform and every day lower her hair for people to tie ribbons and prayers into. Gray feels horrible guilt over their switched fates, but she’s also falling in love with Zelda.
I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, although I can be fairly picky about whether or not I like them. But Rapunzel is a tale that is not redone often enough, in my opinion, and the fact that it was a lesbian version made me jump at this novella.
It’s nice that the retelling doesn’t just change the genders of the main romantic pairing and leave it at that. In the original version, a married couple steal from a witch’s garden and in payment they must give her their unborn child who she then locks up into a tower. She would let her long hair down for her witch/mother to use as a ladder to get into the tower. A prince years later hears her singing in the tower and helps her escape. In this retelling, the people worship a tree. When the tree starts to die they tie its spirit into a person. That person lives on a platform in the tree and the people pray to him/her. When the person dies, the fate to be tied to the tree randomly chooses a baby by putting a tree pattern on their chest. This fate is supposed to be Gray’s, but her mother somehow acquires another baby, Zelda, and with magic cuts the fate out and ties it to her instead. Gray knows this and at first visits Zelda out of guilt but eventually falls in love with her. This version, surprisingly, is actually a lot more fantastical and magical. There is even a quest within an alternate dimension/dream world. I enjoyed the increase in the otherworldly feel, and I liked that it lent the twist of a parent trying to protect her child rather than a mother smothering her child.
The writing has an earthy, magical quality to it. It’s definitely language that is looking to be pretty, and it mostly succeeds. The romance between Zelda and Gray is sweet and very YA. Their passion revolves entirely around kissing and holding. I like that it gives a soul and connection to the romance without ignoring the physical aspect. It’s the perfect balance for this type of story.
While I enjoyed reading the story, I must admit it wasn’t my ideal retelling of Rapunzel. I didn’t like the religious aspect that was drawn into it, and I did feel that Zelda falling for Gray was a bit fast, particularly given the fate switching aspect of the story. I was also disappointed to see that in spite of all the other changes in the story, the Rapunzel character is still blonde. I’m not sure why no one ever seems to change this when retelling Rapunzel.
Overall, this is a fun retelling of Rapunzel, particularly if you’re looking for a non-heteronormative slant or enjoy a more magical feel. Note that this is part of a series entitled Sappho’s Fables, which consists of lesbian retellings of fairy tales. The novellas may be mixed and matched. Recommended to GLBTQ YA fans who enjoy a fairy tale.
4 out of 5 stars
Last year I decided to dedicate a separate post from my annual reading stats post to the 5 star reads of the year. I not only thoroughly enjoyed assembling that post, but I also still go back to it for reference. It’s just useful and fun simultaneously! Plus it has the added bonus of giving an extra signal boost to the five star reads of the year.
Please note that if the 5 star went to a book in a graphic novel series, I am just listing the whole series. If it’s a non-graphic series, then the individual book is listed with a note about what series it is in. With no further ado, presenting Opinions of a Wolf’s 5 Star Reads for 2012!
Acacia: The War with the Mein (Acacia, #1)
By: David Anthony Durham
Publication Date: 2007
Themes: the complexities of good and evil
The Akarans have ruled the Known World for twenty-two generations, but the wrongfully exiled Meins have a bit of a problem with that. They enact a take-over plot whose first action is assassinating the king. Suddenly his four children are flung to different parts of the Known World in exile where they will need to come to terms with who they are, who the Mein are, and the wrongs past generations of Akarans committed in order to help the Known World make a change for the better.
I have to catch myself whenever I start to say I don’t like high fantasy now, because I do like it. I like it when done right. When it questions patriarchy and race and tradition in the context of a fantastical world. I definitely feel like this book has cross-over potential, so I recommend it to anyone with an interest in multi-generational epics.
Dark Life (Dark Life, #1)
By: Kat Falls
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: YA, Post-Apocalyptic, Scifi
Themes: ocean exploration, pioneering
Ty was the first person born subsea. His family are settlers on the bottom of the ocean, a new venture after global warming caused the Rising of the seas. Ty loves his life subsea and hates Topside. One day while adventuring around in the dark level of subsea, he stumbles upon a submarine and a Topside girl looking for her long-lost older brother. Helping her challenges everything Ty believes in.
I still sometimes think back to the delightfully creative underwater world that Falls presents in this book. This is a YA book that manages to avoid the painful tropes that a lot of them fall into, plus it has a great setting. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.
Diet for a New America
By: John Robbins
Publication Date: 1987
Publisher: Stillpoint Publishing
Genre: Nonfiction–Diet, Nonfiction–Environmentalism, Nonfiction–Science
Themes: health, responsible choices
John Robbins was born into one of the most powerful corporations in America–Baskin-Robbins. A company based entirely on selling animal products. Yet he took it upon himself to investigate the reality of animals products and their impact on Americans, American land, and the world overall. This book summarizes his extensive research, including personal visits to factory farms.
Although I already knew a lot of this information before reading this book, I believe that Robbins does an excellent job both of writing it out clearly and backing it up with respected, academic citations. It’s my go-to book to hand to people who want to know why I’m so against factory farming and what the scientific arguments in favor of vegetarianism are.
A Dog Named Slugger
By: Leigh Brill
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Themes: animal/human relationships, disability studies
Leigh Brill recounts in her memoir her life before, during, and after her first service dog, Slugger, a golden retriever with a heart just as golden. Leigh had no idea her cerebral palsy could even possibly qualify her for a service dog until a similarly disabled fellow graduate student gave her some information. Her touching memoir tracks her journey, as well as the life of Slugger.
My love for animals means that any book about relationships with them tends to top my list. This one stands out for its focus on issues for the disabled, and I believe that Brill’s love for her dog, both for his personality and how he helps her, really shine through. I’d recommend this to any animal lover or to those curious about life with a service animal.
The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change
By: Roger Thurow
Publication Date: 2012
Genre: Nonfiction–Social Justice
Themes: hunger, farming, global warming, putting a face onto the issues
Smallholder farmers make up the majority of Kenya’s food production and yet they face multiple challenges from inefficient planting techniques to bad seed markets that lead to an annual wanjala–hunger season. One Acre Fund, an ngo, saw the gap and came in with a vision. Sell farmers high quality seeds and fertilizers on credit, delivered to their villages, on the condition they attend local farming classes. Roger Thurow follows four families as they try out becoming One Acre farmers.
I credit this book with giving me perspective in the worldwide hunger and GMO debate, and of course with giving me that ever-useful reminder that in some ways I have been very lucky. What I tell people in order to get them to read this book is one of two things. Either read this book because it will show you the true face of hunger or read this book to understand why some GMOs are necessary. Most of all, I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the worldwide food debate.
Sisterhood Everlasting (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, #5)
By: Ann Brashares
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Themes: the pain of growing up and maturing, changing relationships
The Septembers are all 29 years old now and spread out all over the globe. Bee is expending her energy biking up and down the hills of San Francisco while Eric works as a lawyer. Carmen has a recurring role on a tv show filming in NYC and is engaged to Jones, an ABC producer. Lena teaches art at RISD and lives a quiet life in her studio apartment, except for the one day a week she practices Greek with an elderly woman. Tibby took off to Australia with Brian months ago, and everyone else is in limbo waiting for her to get back. They all feel a bit disconnected until Tibby sends Bee, Carmen, and Lena tickets to come to Greece for a reunion. What they find when they arrive is not what anyone expected.
It’s unfortunately rare that a series grows up with the characters, but Sisterhood has. Although a lot of women’s fiction with similar themes frustrates me, this series works because I started reading it as a teenager when the women were teenagers. I understand where they’re coming from and am more willing to give them a chance. If you ever read any of the Sisterhood books but neglected to finish the series, definitely pick them back up. It’s worth it.
To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War
By: Tera W. Hunter
Publication Date: 1997
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Themes: race, class, gender, Atlanta, domestic workers
Hunter examines the lives of southern black women, particularly southern domestic workers, by narrowing her focus in on the development of the city of Atlanta after the Civil War. Since many ex-slaves moved to Atlanta and then migrated again north during the Great Migration decades later, this makes for an excellent focal point for the topic. By examining black women’s lives in Atlanta both in and out of their employer’s homes, she is able to dissect the roles of race, class, and gender in the elite’s attempts to maintain dominance in America.
This book not only gave me the thought-provoking examination of the intersection of race, class, and gender, but it also gave me an awesome historical introduction to the city of Atlanta. I always think of this book whenever Atlanta comes up. It’s also a great example of readable, accessible nonfiction history writing.
Vegan Vittles: Recipes Inspired by the Critters of Farm Sanctuary
By: Joanne Stepaniak
Publication Date: 1996
Publisher: Book Publishing Company (TN)
Themes: down-home cruelty-free cooking
A farm sanctuary is a farm whose sole purpose is to save animals from farm factories and slaughter. The Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York was started in 1986. In this cookbook, one of the proprietors has gathered vegan recipes inspired by farm life. Think down-home cooking that is cruelty-free.
The recipes I selected out of this cookbook have solidly entered my repertoire and are repeated hits with omnis and veg*ns alike! They are simple, easy, and adaptable. They also fill that comfort food niche I had honestly been missing. Highly recommended to anyone who loves comfort food.
The Walking Dead
By: Robert Kirkman
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel–Horror
Themes: creation of a new society, living in fear, unjust wars, truthiness, self-protection, zombies, Georgia, survival
When cop Rick wakes up from a coma brought on by a gun shot wound, he discovers a post-apocalyptic mess and zombies everywhere. He sets off for Atlanta in search of his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, and soon teams up with a rag-tag group of survivors camped just outside of Atlanta.
I’m still working my way through this series, but it just progressively gets better and better. Although the beginning is cliche, it does not take Kirkman long to become unique, surprising, and thought-provoking. This now also features a spin-off, non-graphic, prequel series about the villain, The Governor. I consider these to all be the same series, in spite of different formats, and I’m finding that spin-off just as enjoyable.
Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies, #1)
By: Isaac Marion
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Themes: hope, love
R is a zombie, and he remembers nothing about his life before he was one–except that his name starts with the letter R. He and his group of the other living dead inhabit an old abandoned airport and are ruled by the bonies. They hunt the living not just for the food, but also for the memories that come from ingesting their brains. It’s like a drug. One day when he’s out on a hunt, R eats the brain of a young man who loves a young woman who is there, and R steps in to save her. It is there that an unlikely love story begins.
This book reminds me that even a post-apocalyptic story can be hopeful. I also still look back on R’s unlikely love story with a warm heart and smile. I recommend it to those looking for an off-beat love story or a different take on zombies.
The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower, #4.5)
By: Stephen King
Publication Date: 2012
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Themes: growing up, leaving aside childish things
There’s a tale we have yet to hear about the ka-tet in the time between facing the man in the green castle and the wolves of the Calla. A time when the ka-tet hunkered down and learned a special billy-bumbler talent, an old tale of Gilead, and the first task Roland faced as a young gunslinger after the events at Mejis.
The Dark Tower is just a series that is flat-out worth getting into a fan girling over. I could never ever perceive of reading and re-reading it as being a waste of time. I’ve also noticed that growing up is a recurring theme in King’s books, and apparently is one that I enjoy.
Y: The Last Man
By: Brian K. Vaughan
Publication Date: 2003
Genre: Graphic Novel–Scifi–Post-apocalyptic
Themes: gender, gender norms, organization of society, Boston, United States, Israel, coming of age
The world is changed overnight when all the men and boys in the world mysteriously drop dead. Factions quickly develop among the women between those who want the world to remain all female and those who would like to restore the former gender balance. One man is mysteriously left alive though–Yorick. A 20-something, underachieving magician with a girlfriend in Australia. He desperately wants to find her, but the US government and the man-hating Amazons have other ideas.
Another series that I am currently in the middle of. It is also steadily improving from the first volume. It is colorfully illustrated, consistently funny, and thought-provoking.
Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century
By: Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: Penguin Books
Themes: getting what you want out of life, debt slavery, finances
Dominguez achieved Financial Independence at the ripe old age of 30 and proceeded to provide his method to friends who encouraged him to offer it as a class. He finally wrote a book, and this edition is revised and updated for modern times by his friend and fellow achiever of Financial Independence, Vicki Robin. Offering steps and mind-set changes, not magic formulas, they promise that if you follow the steps, you can be Financially Independent in 5 to 10 years, no matter how much debt you are currently in or how much money you make.
This is definitely not a quick-fix book. It’s a realistic look at your finances and debt and ways to come out on top financially independent. Following the steps is time-consuming and, admittedly, difficult to do on a month-to-month basis, but even just reading the book and following the steps for a bit gave me more of a solid structure for my finances. I paid down a significant amount of my debt in 2012 and am hopeful to pay down even more in 2013. I’m not sure I’d have been so successful with that without this book. Plus it gives hope when you’re feeling buried in debt.
Hello my lovely readers! I know you can all tell I’ve been very busy since there hasn’t been a Friday Fun from me in….over a month. I am pleased that I managed to at least keep a few posts trickling in, but even so I have three books waiting to be reviewed. No one thing in particular has kept me busy, it’s just….life is busy! So, beyond my usual work, reading, exercising, cooking, general hanging out, what have I been up to?
First off, a friend told me all about Boston Organics, and I signed up for it! Basically you get a box of fresh produce delivered to your door either every week or every other week. You can choose organic or organic and local. I chose organic and local. So far it has been totally awesome and removed my sense of boredom I had recently acquired over choosing recipes. Getting produce chosen and sent to me challenges my cooking skills, and I’m really enjoying it! Plus knowing that my food is coming locally, organic, and fresh makes me feel good both about what I’m feeding myself (and my boyfriend), but also makes me feel good about supporting local farmers.
Of course Halloween also happened. Friends of mine are on the organizing committee for a Boston area scifi/fantasy group (I am so nerdy), and so boyfriend and I went to their costume party. We were Gem and Sam from Tron, and it was awesome. My friends did a great job organizing, and it was the nicest Halloween I’ve had in a while. We also carved pumpkins! Since my current work in progress is set in the Lovecraft universe, I decided to do Cthulhu!
Hurricane Sandy also arrived. Thankfully, it really did not affect Boston very much. Most people either didn’t have work or got sent home mid-day. The T stopped running partway through the day as well. I briefly lost power, but frankly Nstar did an amazing job maintaining power to homes in Boston during this storm. I was a bit disturbed that my building was shaking, but truly nothing adverse happened. My cat spent the morning trying to dive out the window to chase the wind-whipped leaves (her survival instinct is clearly amazing *eye-roll*) but by afternoon needed some serious snuggles. I actually had to wrap her up in her favorite fuzzy blanket to calm her poor little kitten nerves. I was saddened to see that the National Park I worked at through Americorps in New Jersey suffered severe damage. Almost every single historical building was flooded, but more importantly, the dunes that the endangered piping plovers nest on were demolished. It’s very sad, and I can only hope that Americorps will have enough funding to send larger conservation teams than usual there in the spring.
Currently, I’m revving up for Thanksgiving this week! Since neither boyfriend nor I can make it home to our respective home states to visit, we’ll be making our own vegetarian Thanksgiving. The planned menu is chili and pumpkin pie with vegan maple whipped cream. Nom!
Be expecting some book reviews to come up! I’m hoping to get caught up writing them this weekend.
Happy weekends all!