Title: The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World Author: Michael Pollan Source: library Rating: Fun Fact: A tulip grown from seed doesn’t flower for 7 years! Review Summary: This was one of the most fun non-fiction books I’ve read, because of both the content and the author’s enthusiasm.
The author’s starting premise in The Botany of Desire has two fascinating parts. First, that plants benefit greatly from domestication, so our relationship with them could just as easily be viewed as them domesticating us. And second, that domesticated plants have evolved to meet some basic human desire, making plants of the past a great way to learn about what previous civilizations valued. The bulk of the book is devoted to stories of particular plants that illustrate this point. Although I expected more of a history of the plants in question (the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato), I very much enjoyed the collection of anecdotes presented instead.
Title: And Then She Fell Author: Stephanie Laurens Source: from publisher for review Rating: Review Summary: The unique premise and appealing heroine made this both a great romance and an exciting mystery.
Henrietta Cynster doesn’t believe she’s meant to fall in love. Instead she’s devoted her time to helping other young women determine if their suitors are truly motivated by love. However, when she breaks up a match that was motivated by good intentions (but not love) she feels honor-bound to help James find another bride. This being a romance, Henrietta and James are immediately attracted to one another, but their own stubbornness and some societal constraints have to be overcome before they realize it. Once they do, the book becomes largely a mystery, although one intended mainly to highlight the depths of their feeling for each other.
Title: An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England Author: Venetia Murray Source: library Rating: Fun Fact: In Regency England it was considered a great honor to be invited to watch the fashion icon Beau Brummel get dressed. Review Summary: The tone is straightforward and factual, but the information included is fascinating and engaging all on its own.
Regency England was a time period that technically lasted from 1811-1820 and which you might recognize as the setting of the genre known as “regency romances”. An Elegant Madness is an impressively thorough discussion of the time period, with chapters on everything from clothes to dinners, to society and scandalous sex lives. Although the author’s tone is fairly scholarly and dry, the topics and first hand accounts make for some fascinating reading.
Title: 1Q84 Author: Haruki Murakami Source: library Rating: Review Summary: Although the book was long and the ending was abrupt, I loved the writing and can’t wait to read more books by Murakami.
This book was so long and so strange that I’m not even sure where to start telling you what it was about, but I’ll do my best. The story involves two main characters and we alternate between their view points. Aomame is an assassin and Tengo is a writer. As the story progresses, they get pulled closer and closer together by events that initially seemed unrelated but which turn out to have a deep connection. The book involves questions of destiny and pre-determination, parallel worlds and some surprising magical elements.
Title: Salt: A World History Author: Mark Kurlansky Source: library Rating: Fun Fact: When mummies (preserved with salt) were moved into Cairo in the 1800’s, they were taxed as salted fish. Review Summary: Mostly an engagingly written overview of history organized around salt, but with a few too many details of specific recipes and cod fishing.
Writing a world history organized by the way everything connects back to salt was a surprisingly brilliant idea. Because salt was a strategic concern in the organization of many countries and their wars, it’s possible to touch on many of the most interesting periods in history by talking about salt. This could very easily have led to a disorganized book, but each chapter focused on a specific country and the book generally moves forward in time. Together, that was enough to give the book a cohesive feel.
Title: Starship Troopers Author: Robert Heinlein Source: library Rating: Review Summary: It does what it does well, which is just to be a book with some dry humor and a very military feel, but I prefer at least a little world building in my sci-fi.
The plot of Starship Troopers is pretty short and sweet, following the military career of a young man some time in the distant future. In this futuristic society, only those who join the military are allowed to vote. This decision is justified by the belief that those people willing to sacrifice them selves for the good of society are those who deserve to have the vote. However, our protagonist mostly joins up because all his friends are doing it and a big part of the book is how is abilities and interest in the military evolve.
Title: I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats Author: Francesco Marciuliano Source: library Rating: Fun Fact: Like comics, books of poetry are actually categorized as non-fiction! Review Summary: Short and very sweet, these poems made me laugh but also made me stop and appreciate how much fun it is to have a cat.
You can probably tell this already from the title, but this book was both adorable and hilarious. Read more at Doing Dewey …
Title: The Elementals Author: Troy Jackson Source: from publisher for review Rating: Review Summary: Creative and original idea, with an unusual setting and an engaging, complex plot.
Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China, could have been a hero for bringing peace to his country. Instead he chose to enslave many of his people to create grandiose projects, such as The Great Wall, pandering to his own ego. Fortunately, his force for evil is opposed by a group called The Dragon’s Spite, a group intent on seeing him overthrown. In order to face each other, each side must gather those with the power of the elements to fight on their side. The Dragon’s Spite’s best hope is three young women who might use their supernatural powers to fight for good – but only if the emperor doesn’t get to them first.
Title: The Betterphoto Guide to Digital Nature Photography Author: Jim Miotke Source: library Rating: Review Summary: A great practical guide to taking better pictures, very well organized and with useful tips for any photographer.
There were so many things to love about this book, I’m almost not sure where to start. I suppose what jumped out at me the most was how practical the advice was. There are checklists of the most important things to remember from each section; little boxes with advice on practical concerns such as bringing camera gear out into the elements; and “assignment” sections that suggest ways to practice new techniques right away. I was most excited about the assignments so I was especially pleased that these were all included in the index, making them easy to refer back to.
Title: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back Author: Sariah Wilson Source: from publisher for review Rating: Review Summary: Fun, cute, with an awesome heroine and characters with unique personalities, although definitely on the younger end of YA books.
Life’s not always fun and games when you’re the ugly stepsister. Mattie Lowe is sick of her perfect, beautiful, and (worst of all) genuinely nice stepsister. Not only is she more popular than Mattie; she’s also dating the boy Mattie’s had a crush on since she was nine years old. Fortunately, Mattie’s not the sort of girl to take things lying down and when she finally talks to her stepsister, it might turn out they have more in common than she thinks.