Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: Making Waves by Tawna Fenske

I've had a bit of a struggle this summer to do any "escape" reading, so Making Waves by Tawna Fenske did a great job of helping me wrap up my summer vacation!  Granted, I now would like to hop a boat to some remote, tropical island with crystal blue waters, but it was a nice get away.

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "When Alex Bradshaw's unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world's largest shipping company, he sets out to reclaim his dignity and his pension. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept an illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on quirky blond stowaway Juli Flynn, who has a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex..."

Review:  Sometimes there's nothing better than a fun, thriller to take your mind off of things.  Making Waves had all the components of a fun get away, complete with crime, mystery, romance, and plenty of humor.  Honestly, there's nothing that serious in the story that you can't sit back and enjoy the ride.  Alex is the hot protagonist in the story who needs to get even with a crooked boss.  He's thrown caution to the wind and has partnered up with all of his closest coworkers/friends to get the job done.  In walks quirky, mysterious Juli Flynn, who says she's just there to scatter the ashes of her recently deceased uncle.  But who in the world is this girl and how did she end up mixed up with Alex's plans?

The chemistry between Alex and Juli is there from the beginning, but in some funny PG-13ish sort of moments that have you laughing.  Juli is just so quirky that it's no wonder poor Alex has been sidetracked from his mission into trying to figure her out!  If you've ever seen the movie Romancing the Stone, I couldn't help but feel like I was reading a novel version of that type of a story.

I really enjoyed Making Waves.  Yes, it's a romance and has some pretty racy scenes, but the context of the story around it is funny and unpredictable in many ways, so you keep reading.  Personally, I found the writing to be engaging and well done.  You knew everything would work out, but not how things would come together.  I sometimes felt lost with all the other minor characters in the beginning, but it always circled back around to Alex and Juli's relationship amidst all the chaos and undisclosed information.  In the end, I just wish I could sit on a boat in a gorgeous, tropical location to read this book!  Now that would be a perfect combination!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based off an Advanced Review Copy provided by Sourcebooks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Blatherings: Back to School

What a great week!  Seriously.  The school I teach at started back up on Tuesday and I think I had one of the all-time best weeks ever.  All week my classes worked together like clockwork and we had a good time together.  It was so great!  I know that issues will pop up, because they always do, but this is going to be a good year.  I'm really excited to be back in the classroom, and that feels great.

Before I get too far into my post today, I wanted to take just a second to say something about education.  This is my 11th year of teaching.  When I started back in 2000, teaching and teachers were really respected. The tide has changed a bit and it makes me sad.  I understand that it's in reaction to falling test scores and achievement, but an article I ran into on Yahoo News  this past week had me frustrated, "7 Ways to Get Your Kid's Teacher to Like You."  Really? I get that they were trying to be an advocate and suggest respectful ways to interact with teachers, but the assumption from that title is that we DON'T like you or your child before we like them.  That's just silly!  I just wish that the media would think about the way they write their articles or report on things so that they can be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Trust me when I say that we're geared up to work hard this year.

Okay.  That's just a bit about school and that whole side of things.  As everyone knows, work and other things that dominate your life impact what and how much you're reading. Now that I'm getting back into a normal routine again, I can see that the reading slump is about over.  Yay!  My friend Heidenkind, over at Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books pointed out to me one day that my reading slump was probably just because it's something I use for escape.  Now that school is back in session, I'd much rather shut off the television and extra noise and escape into a book.  Finally. 

Here's what I'm just finishing:

And here's what I'll be reading more of this week:

What are you reading this week?

In conclusion, I wanted to send all my best wishes to those who were impacted by Hurricane Irene.  All my best to everyone!  Have a great week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fiction, to Film, to Fantastic Music Friday: Anne of Green Gables

 You know that line from While You Were Sleeping when Meg Ryan's character is watching the classic old movie An Affair to Remember and her friend Becky says, "That's your problem.  You don't want to be in love.  You want to be in love in a movie."  I remember thinking how true that was.  Who wouldn't want to be in love in a movie?  Maybe it's because we don't see them doing the laundry and paying bills (you know--real life things), but they definitely seem like some ideal. That had me thinking about the movies, and even books, that shaped the way I look at love.

Growing up, I had a set of hardback books that contained Aesop's Fables, Little Women, Jane Eyre, and Anne of Green Gables to name a few.  They were such a pretty matching set of colorful books, with pretty color art folios inside the books.  I still remember picking up Anne of Green Gables and falling in love with Anne, Diana, Marilla, Matthew, and of course Gilbert.  We only had that first book, so that's where it stopped.  Regardless, I loved the story of Anne, who loved to read and learn with an absolute passion.

Several years down the road, a friend invited a group of us from high school over for a sleep over to watch all of the Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea films.  Well, that did it.  We sighed and fell in love with Gilbert and Prince Edward Island along with everyone else who has ever watched those movies.  That put me back on the road to reading the rest of the series.  Although they're completely different from the movies, they are delightful; the books, the education, the letters, the lifestyle, and the language all pull together to make a quaint and wonderful read.  Oh, and have you ever noticed how much these people just walk or "ramble" for fun?  Even exercise looked philosophical and romantic!  Between the movies and the books, what wasn't to love?  It all just seemed like such a romanticized time period and story. 

So, for this Friday, I thought I'd share a little reminiscing love of mine with the Anne of Green Gables series and movies.  The books, films, and soundtrack for the films are all a great memory and feel timeless.  Besides, who doesn't love a character who is so passionate about books and poetry that they'll reenact Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" with her friends?  Awesome.

What movies or books shape your view of love?

Fiction, to Film, to Fantastic Music Friday is my own little weekly post. The premise is just to share my favorite books made into film, with amazing soundtracks to boot.  There might even be times where it's just a great film and soundtrack, or great book and film.  Either way, join in if you would like! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In No Going Back, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties."

Review:  In this teen novel, we find Paul Flitkin trying to be honest about who he is and what he believes.  Having grown up LDS (Mormon), he knew that coming out and trying to deal with his sexual identity was going to be hard enough without adding the conflict he felt from his religion.  All he ever really wanted to do was attend BYU and have a family, but it suddenly all seemed to conflict.  

I really thought that this novel dealt with a lot of issues that I hadn't seen tackled in a story before.  Not only did he have to face the obvious changes that happened in his friendship with his best friend Chad Mortenson (who's dad was also the bishop), but he also had to face the kids in his GSA club who felt that his desire to be LDS conflicted with who he really was.  I really felt for Chad, as he was tossed back and forth in the story between his church/beliefs and his same-sex attraction.

There were many layers of conflict built into this story, which I think does a nice job of touching on some of the realities that must surround a teen who wants to admit that they are gay.  Honestly, Paul was such a straight-laced character that he almost felt unreal.  His strength of character made him a truly sympathetic character, which then highlighted all the different prejudices he and those he loved encountered.  Paul had to worry about the reactions of his mother, his best friend (Chad), his bishop, his friends at school, the people at church, and the other kids in the GSA. It was an enlightening inside view of this character's experiences.

I don't want to simplify this book or its hot button issues in any way, but there is so much to consider.  One thing that I thought was unique was the reverse tension that came from Paul's new gay friends who were angry at his allegiance to his religion.  It's all completely understandable and feels very real in adding to Paul's confusion and isolation.  I would think that regardless of religion, that this book highlights what a teen that is coming out in a strong religious community might encounter.  There aren't any easy or pat answers given in the book, which is probably for the best, but this story tries to tackle them head on.  For starting a dialogue and giving voice to teens also coming out, this book does a really nice job.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a copy provided by the publisher. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Utah Book Bloggers Summer Social 2011

It's that time again for anyone in our area to get together for our Book Blogger Summer Bash!  Natasha at Maw Books Blog, Suey at It's All About Books , Emily at Emily's Reading Room, and myself are hoping to gather as many of our blogging and writer friends together as possible. 

Here is the basic information:

  • WHEN:  Saturday, September 10th at 6pm
  • WHERE:  Vivian Park in Provo Canyon at the small pavilion  (Take 800 North in Orem to Provo Canyon, 5.8 miles up the canyon, park is on the right, pavilion is on the right after turning into the park.)
  • WHO:  Book bloggers, authors, booksellers, etc.
  • WHAT:  Families are invited.  We will be having pulled-pork sandwiches and ask that you bring a potluck item to the bash.
  •  HOW:  Really, there is no how here!  Come with a paperback book, ready to swap, chat, and have a great time. 
***Please RSVP to utahbookbloggers(at)gmail(dot)com so that we know who can make it that night.  Also, please don't hesitate to get in touch of any one of us for more information.  Other than our blogs, we can also be reached on Twitter at:  @mjmbecky, @SueySays, @mawbooks, & @emsreadingroom.

We hope you can come and look forward to chatting and socializing again!  It's always great fun to see the wizard behind the curtains, meaning that we're happy to get to meet the amazing writers of blogs and books alike.

Sunday Blatherings: Deep End of the Pool

It's such a beautiful day here and I'm fretting about the week ahead.  Last week we started meetings to head back to school on Tuesday. Ready or not, here it comes!  I never feel 100% ready, but I'm as close as I'll probably ever get.  When I was in London, I bought a couple of really cool posters, and I love how they look in my classroom.  I especially think the "Stay Calm and Carry On," WWII era poster sends the appropriate message!  What do you think?

This last week I thought I'd have a little time to read and relax before the craziness began, but as you can see from my blog, that didn't completely happen.  My grandfather got sick earlier this year, and although he was doing better, he fell not too long ago and hasn't been doing well ever since.  I'd be lying if I said that hasn't had me on edge, especially since he lives across the country from me.  My mom flew out to see him and to be with family, but I really couldn't break away from work.  I've always worried about the "what ifs" with my family, knowing that if something happens during the school year, that I may not break away.  It's the same thing that most normal adults have to consider.  Right?

To switch gears a little, I do have a number of reviews to post soon.  I'm hoping that with a new school year and schedule, that I'll be back in my normal routine.  Here's what I have on the horizon or hope to get to soon!


And here's what I should be reading soon.  I can't wait!

Well, there we go for my little corner of the world.  What are you up to?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Harry in My Own Way

Last month I posted a quick "Denial. Thank You." post for the final installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt. 2.  It took me awhile to figure out why I was so opposite to the crowd; why I ignored it all and refused to even think about heading to that final film.  Well, it finally felt right to go see it, and I finally understood why I reacted the way I did.

For just about every book and film, I've either stood in line or pre-ordered the newest installment.  When other people wanted to talk about it or cram themselves into a crowded place to have access to the newest release, I was right there with them.  That's what it was like for a decade, right?  This time, I wanted nothing to do with any of it.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

If I'd remembered back to when book seven was released, I responded pretty similarly.  Although I got the book on the day it came out, I didn't rush through it.  I took a week to read it, cherishing a couple of chapters at a time, in the hopes that I could extend that final book as long as possible.

So, this last week I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows again and finally crept into the theater, with only about ten other people there, and settled in to say goodbye my way.  What can I say that others have not, except to say that I thought it was amazing.  Sure there were things that I wondered about or knew were missing (ie. Harry offering Voldemort a chance to change and repairing his wand), but it really was a great finish. 

Like many fans, I shed a tear or two.  The first was when McGonagall stepped in to protect Harry against Snape.  In fact, that scene brought more to the story for me than it did in the book.  Played by Maggie Smith, she really brought so much to that character, and I loved her for being the force for good that she was! 

On the flip side, Mrs. Weasley's famous showdown with Bellatrix was way more serious than I read it.  In the book, I laughed and cheered when she called Bellatrix a "Bitch" because she really was!  It was so out of character for her that I read it as the ultimate "step off" moment.  In the movie, it was just way more serious than I expected.

Of course, I got choked up when we finally got to see Snape's back story.  Who didn't fall in love with this character, for his complex set of traits and strength of character?  What kind of person can stay dedicated to their love for another in such a way that they become so self-sacrificing?  It kind of made all those Potter-torturing days endearing.

Finally, Harry's showdown with Voldemort was the obvious moment we'd all been waiting to see.  It was everything about magic that I loved.  The obvious message of good over evil, love over hate, is all over these films and this final scene.  Harry's own faith in this truth is what carried him to this moment and allowed him the courage to face Voldemort.  What more can be said?

Okay, so why couldn't I get all that with a crowd full of people, with friends or family by my side?  After I left the theater it dawned on me that it was my way of saying goodbye.  As an only child, books were my companion when no one else was around. I had read the books by myself, and experienced everything with Harry by myself, so I had to end it by myself.  It was perfect.  I let go of the denial, closed the book, and knew that I'd return to it again.

For those who find connecting to books and characters is weird, I suppose you'll think my stubborn streak was also weird.  For the rest of you who have ever loved a book or character so much that you were angry or sad when the story came to an end, I know you'll understand and have a story all your own.  This is just my story and my final tribute to a much loved series that I know I'll read again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Blatherings & Fresh Fruit Tarts

Not much is up today, and that's a good thing.  After what felt like the shortest week in history, I got to spend a little time with my mom, who drove down to spend the weekend with me.  We had a really great time visiting the local farmer's market and doing some shopping until we were thoroughly exhausted.  I also had a last minute visit from my cousin's wife and month old baby, who needed a place to stay while she was in town for a doctor's appointment.  This is why I'm so thankful for the home that I bought.  Not only do I have a nice place to call home, but I can offer a nice spot to crash for all the people I love! 

Honestly, every day these past two weeks has just blended into the next.  I've mainly worked from home, but have managed to map out a few things for this coming year.  You never really seem to finish all that you had hoped, but I think that I can head back to work feeling like I did what I could.  On the flip side, I know my reading has been crap this summer!  I really don't know what caused this major slump, but I'm not worrying about it.  During most summer breaks I can get through 20 to 30 books, but I probably only got through half that much.  Oh well. 

So, let me share a little something naughty I've been messing with this summer--fruit tarts.  Yes, fruit tarts.  I've had this silly tart pan for over four years and never once made a tart.  Well, after seeing some really pretty tarts in Paris back in June, I knew I had to get it out and give it a go.

After searching out a bunch of different recipes, I finally settled on Paula Dean's "Fresh Fruit Tart" recipe, that I had to really tweak to get the way I liked it.  The crust was perfect, but the filling and glaze needed some work, in my humble opinion.  I followed her recipe exactly for a weekend barbecue here at my house.  My family was really nice about it, and it did taste yummy, but there were things I'd definitely change.
*The crust--perfection.  It's a bit thick, and I wanted it cooked more than she directed.  I ended up cooking it almost twice the time she had listed.  My advice, just keep your eye on it until it's as brown as you like it.

*The filling seemed too flat.  Since it's a chilled cream cheese filling, we like it to have a little more zing, so we replaced the vanilla with lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Trust me.  It was so much better!

*The glaze needed a lot of work.  First of all, you waste a lot of it.  She even says in the recipe that you won't use all of the lime glaze.  That's an understatement.  Most of it goes to waste.  Also, it's a bit too tart for my taste.  No wonder she suggests whipped cream on top!  You have to add something to cut through that mouth-puckering sour taste to get to the rest of the tart.  After a bit of research, I found a nice glaze that is basically 1/2 Cup of Orange Marmalade, heated gently in a pan with a couple tablespoons of water over medium heat until it melts.  You then use that to glaze the fruit.  That was exactly right.

You don't have to do it my way, but I have to say that the second tart turned out much better.  Now maybe I can try a more traditional French tart?  I'll aim for that in another Weekend Cooking!  I suppose that I'm also going to have to do a bit more exercise to offset the tart baking?  Have a great weekend! 

For more weekend cooking, go to Beth Fish Reads.  You'll find all sorts of great food-related posts and recipes!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fiction, to Film, to Fantastic Music Friday: Last of the Mohicans

Because I really love both fiction and film, I have been batting around the idea of starting my own weekly topic called "Fiction, to Film, to Fantastic Music Friday".  The premise is just to share my favorite books made into film, with amazing soundtracks to boot.  There might even be times where it's just a great film and soundtrack.  Either way, join in if you would like!

 To kick things off, I wanted to share one of my favorites in this category, The Last of the Mohicans.  I recently watched this movie again and wanted to go dig out the music (or pull it up on my iTunes list--much easier).

Admittedly, I've never read James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same name, but from what I understand, the two daughters had almost the opposite story lines from the movie, as did Uncas and Hawkeye.  Honestly, there is so much that can be said about what the film version was trying to accomplish by playing out the strong, romantic storyline between Cora and Hawkeye, but I'll leave that for another day!  What we're really left with is this seemingly panoramic view of colonial America.  Somehow through its gruesome fight scenes, we see a romanticized ideal of man and woman surviving in the beautiful, uncolonized America.

Okay, so beyond all the intellectual things this film is fraught with, I really do love it. Besides, I will admit that I have a weakness for Daniel Day Lewis (ie. The Age of Innocence, The Crucible, The Boxer, and There Will Be Blood, among many others), who just never seems to tire of running in this movie! Yes, the violence in the film is pretty intense and I find myself flinching or looking away during many scenes; however, this fight for existence is everything the film is about.

The thing that adds even more to the movie is the amazing score tied to it.  If you've ever heard this soundtrack, it has probably stuck with you.  Everything from the Main Theme, to Clannad's "I Will Find You", to the amazing "Promontory" are every bit as moving on their own as in the film.  This is definitely one of my all-time favorite soundtracks.  If you haven't heard it, check it out.

Here is a clip of "Promontory":

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones

I think I can safely get near my computer to actually spend some time posting something today!  For whatever reason, I've had a headache turned migraine that has been taunting me for days now.  The idea of getting near the computer made me shudder with horror.  After a nice handful of ibuprofen and nursing a big glass of water, I'm doing a lot better and really wanted to get back to reviewing.  Now I can post my review of My Jane Austen Summer before the summer is actually over!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "A down on her luck woman goes on an Austen-inspired journey of self-discovery in Jones's middling debut. After Lily Berry loses her mother, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and is fired, she finds in her passion for all things Jane Austen (Jane, indeed, is Lily's imaginary friend) an escape route: she travels to England to participate in a Jane Austen re-enacting festival. Full of enthusiasm—but not acting talent—Lily is not embraced by many of the Janeites, but this doesn't prevent her from meeting a charismatic actor, contending with an impossible roommate, and struggling with dark family secrets, all while trying to find the courage to be the protagonist of her own story. While Jones does a credible job of creating a heroine in transition, Lily's process of self-realization isn't nearly as involving as the subplots, which is quite unfortunate, considering how much time is devoted to sussing out her issues."

Review:  My Jane Austen Summer started out like a great, yummy read.  Lily Berry has just broken up with her boyfriend, is feeling completely out of sorts, and turns to an opportunity to travel to England to participate in a Jane Austen festival to save her from her mess of a life.  What's not to love about that kind of premise?  I know I'd love to run off to England to find myself and to revel in Jane Austen a bit more!  Although I thought she was kind of a weepy, pathetic mess at the beginning, I could see that it was a good set up for us to watch the evolution of a character from nauseating sap to a confident woman.  Somehow, I can't really say that happened.  Even now, I'm not sure that Lily Berry is a changed woman, with more confidence.  In fact, once she left the U.S. and we establish the core group of people she is around in England and get to know their stories, it all started to run in way too many directions without resolutions that I was looking for.

One thing that really confused me was the introduction of a Jane Austen-like ghost that often showed up when Lily was doing certain things?  It took me awhile to realize that she really was talking about a non-speaking ghost-like figure, and not just an internal, "What would Jane Austen do" sort of query.  It just felt strange, and I'm not sure that we needed a ghost Austen to propel the story in any way.  Also, there were too many odd conflicts.  Had we focused on two or three of them, the story might have felt much more driven by a compelling character story.  As it stands, having the money issues, ex-boyfriend/lacking esteem issue, crazy roommate issue, ghost Austen issue, dead mother and lousy dad issue, quiet new guy she liked issue, wanting to act issue, the festival losing money and wanting to help issue, and so on and so forth were just too many to follow.  You would just get into one of these, and the story would switch gears.  It was just a bit too much, and I genuinely wanted to see how one or two of these were resolved, but not all at once.  In fact, I don't know that any of these were resolved, but just lived through.  Let's be honest, if you introduce love interests, you generally like to see the heroine of the book either completely get over them or find someone else who is better than the first guy.  At the end of the book, I had to flip back to make sure I read things correctly, because I wasn't sure what happened.

In the end, the book seemed to be more about character development than resolution.  We're all a work in progress, but I suppose I just wanted more resolved and settled by the end.  I really loved the premise and even liked the subtlety of the writing, which reminded me a bit of Austen's tone, but with the idea of an Austen themed novel or even Mansfield Park take, I expected a stronger connection to the main character and a romantic resolution that felt satisfying.  Overall, with the Austen themes and personal issues of the main character, I wanted it to work, but it somehow lost me by the end.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a copy provided by Amazon Vine as part of their reviewer program.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Library Loot

As I'm trying to take in the summer, I took a  little time out to go on a hike with one of my awesome work friends and her kids.  Let me just say that I thought I was going to DIE along the first half of that trail.  It made me so mad that I struggled so hard with that stinking trail!  (Evidence again that I need to shed some pounds, ASAP!)  Once we all got warmed up though, we made it up to the top of the trail and the lake that is up there.  Of course, it was really pretty and so nice and temperate up that high.  It was just a really nice afternoon to spend with great friends in a beautiful place.  Why don't I take advantage of these mountains more often?

I also stopped by the library this week and just spent some time looking around.  A lot of the time I zip in and zip out, having put everything on hold through my online account.  This time, I spent some time and ended up in the cookbook section.  I love that we can check out cookbooks, especially since my own cookbook shelves are completely full and I have no more room to buy more.  Yea, I'll have to figure out a way to make more room--eventually. 

Needless to say, I've had some nice "endish" of summer outings and can feel work screaming down my neck.  I've actually worked a lot this summer and am even in the process of putting things together.  I'll never be completely ready, but ready or not, it's coming.

Here's what I picked up on my outing to the library:

As a Janeite, I had to check this one out.  It's a pretty cerebral book, with essay-like chapters about Jane Austen and her influence, so we'll see what the book has to share!

This one might be a problem.  I reserved this months ago, thinking I'd finish the first book.  Nope.  It didn't happen.  Now I better get reading so I don't have to return this!  (Knowing me, that's not going to happen.)

I've actually checked this cookbook out before.  Tana Ramsay is the famous Chef Ramsay's wife, so I was curious about what she could cook.  This cookbook ended up being really fabulous, with great recipes that feel pretty accessible.  Plus, she has a great recipe for Eton Mess, which I've been looking for after eating it in England back in June.  I checked her cookbook out again so I can decide if I should bite the bullet and buy my own copy or at least use it for my own try at Eton Mess!

I actually thought this was a slow cooker cookbook.  Yes, I know it says "pressure cooker" in large orange letters on the cover, but I didn't really register that.  All I know is that the recipes inside were really diverse and caught my attention.  Maybe I'll have to dig out my small pressure cooker and give these a try.

I really can not say enough about this little gem.  When I picked it up, I thought it was just too heavy.  It's not a great book for actually cooking from, since it's so small in size yet thick.  You couldn't possibly prop this open to cook from, but I have to say that the recipes and pictures are AMAZING.  There are variations of types of desserts, which is intriguing.  Overall though, I had to bring this one home because it was so pretty!

As you can see, I'll probably be doing a bit of cooking.  That's always good, right?

*Library Loot is a meme hosted by Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Claire from The Captive Reader.  Join us, and share what you've picked up from one of our many great libraries!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thank You Matt Damon

I know this clip has been circulating around the web and on the news like crazy, but I had to post it with a big thank you to Matt Damon.   It was so nice to hear someone stand up for teachers!  I think my previous crush on him has been rekindled.

Review: Just Food by James E. McWilliams

After being away for the weekend, I wondered how my little urban garden was doing.  It was okay.  The lavender died, but the cherry tomato plant has produced four tomatoes, my basil plant has produced enough for one batch of pesto, and my lettuce is probably a week away from a harvest of a couple of salads.  I'm not sure I'll recoup what I put into them, but it's in the trying, right?

Along the lines of that little urban garden, I recently read Just Food by James E. McWilliams, which is an interesting look at food movements and their real impact on the globe.

Synopsis:  The basic premise of Just Food is that the eat local and organic movement is not the answer to our world's problems.  Although it has been touted as the way to save the environment, it is actually going to create a problem in production, which will lead to starvation and a severe lack of goods.  McWilliams also looks at safe ways of using modern technologies and chemicals for increased production with a smaller carbon footprint.  In short, what are some options for producing safe food for consumption, that will feed the world, and not destroy the environment for the future.

Review:  Just Food is not for the faint of heart or causal reader.  James E. McWilliams has written a strong argument about the misleading ideals being spread about the "locavore" movement and how it is causing consumers to vilify methods of production that could reduce costs and still save the environment.  The book is heavy handed in its use of facts, data, and research, which gives it good backing, but makes for weighty reading. 

McWilliams really has seven key arguments that he makes in the book:
  • The "Food Miles" argument can actually hurt our local environment. 
  • Organic Agriculture  with its small farming methods will not be able sustain a global population. 
  • A judicious use of Biotechnology and Chemicals should be our goal. (To produce the most possible per acre, in a safe and effective way.)
  • Reduce tillage, which harms much needed topsoil.
  • Integrate livestock and plant crops, for a functioning ecosystem that works together.
  • Introduce more freshwater aquaculture to produce sustainable markets of fish without stripping the oceans.

Each of his arguments make real sense when backed with such strong research and evidence.  Although the reading was a bit tough for a casual reader, with some general interest as I had, it is a great book for putting the "locavore" movement into perspective.  In short, I thought that McWilliams felt like the moderate voice in the argument.  Sometimes I feel like I have to become a radical in my diet and the way I live to really make a statement, and that can just be too big of a commitment.  This book, however, explains why a more moderate approach to food and where it comes from might actually be saving us. 

In a lot of ways, I still feel pretty helpless in any sort of global change.  So here's my take away.  This book is trying to solve a pretty big problem, on a grand scale, not just what I put on my table.  Although he doesn't even really touch on health issues, what he says makes a lot of sense.  He's not trying to tell us not to eat what we like, but he does show the value of eating more vegetables, fruits, and farm-raised fish.  When we see how we used to eat, even fifty years ago, it just makes sense that we need to shift back to whole foods and less meat.  If we could just shift to a healthier way of eating, the demand on markets would also change, so I suppose that being a smarter consumer could make a difference.  That's the idea, right?

*FTC Disclosure:  This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher.