“Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer

Like author Jonathan Safran Foer, I have flip-flopped for years with the idea of being vegetarian. I’ve always thought of myself as not committed enough to make the effort to look at the contents of all of my food to figure out whether I’m able to eat it. I am also really uncomfortable with making other people change their menu for me, so I usually just eat whatever is prepared. I’ve never ever thought of myself as a vegetarian, but I do go through phases where I’m disgusted with the idea of meat. When I picked up “Eating Animals” it was only because it sounded interesting, but after reading it I feel more compelled to stop eating meat than ever before.

Yes, there is much discussion of the suffering of animals in here, but Foer also talks about the environmental effects as well as the possibilities for widespread infections caused by the conditions of factory farming. These two factors are what have really compelled me to question whether eating meat is really worth the effects it is having on our world.

Foer also discusses the conscientious farmers and slaughterhouses that make eating meat seem like a viable option. Unfortunately, these “old school” farmers are being put out of business in droves by the giant factory farming operations. This alone makes this book worthwhile reading because it explains how eating locally and knowing where your food comes from can help to make informed decision about the meat we do choose to eat.

While this book gets a little tedious toward the end, I found it a good and interesting read. I was especially impressed with the first chapter of the book in which Foer explains his reasons for looking into this subject in the first place and talks about his own struggles with the decision to become a vegetarian over the years. The discussion about why we eat some animals (cows, pigs, fish, etc.) and not others (dogs, cats, etc.) was something that really stuck with me. If you’ve ever considered becoming a vegetarian, but weren’t sure why, this book may help you with that decision or push you over the edge to finally doing it.

Best,

Becca

Published in: on December 30, 2010 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Room by Emma Donoghue

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Emma Donoghue’s “Room,” released today from Little Brown. While I thought the book was on fast forward at some points, I never tired of the genuine voice of little 5-year-old Jack, the book’s narrator and main character. We hear Jack’s thoughts as he discovers the truth about his first five years of life, which have been spent locked in a room with his mother. Room and the things in it are all he has ever known.

I’d love to go on about all of the amazing details of this book, but I fear that I will give away too much if I go into the plot of the book. For me part of the joy of reading this novel was that I had no idea what it was about when I received it as my first installment from The Nervous Breakdown’s book club (sign up here). Partway through the book I started to read one of the descriptions of the book online and had to stop before finishing the first sentence because it gave away one of the things that had kept me curious through the first chapter (how and when his mother got put in Room), so I want to be careful about what I say here.

All I can say is that this was one of the best books I’ve read in a very, very long time. The author has perfectly pictured the innocence of youth and how the world of a toddler can be shattered by the realities of the outside world. Jack’s voice comes across as genuine and I was fascinated throughout by his interpretations of the world, given that I had the knowledge that the games he and his mother were playing (games like Scream and Keypad) were more than just games. I highly recommend reading this one.

Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Godfather by Mario Puzo

I’ve never really understood why people are so into The Godfather movies, until now. I’ve actually only seen bits and pieces of the movies, but I always found them boring and difficult to understand, but the book is nothing like that. Mario Puzo really created a wondeful tale when he put together this book. I love that the book isn’t all linear either. It’s almost like vignettes, albeit long vignettes, stringing you along until you have an aha moment and know what’s going to happen next.

I really loved the character of Michael Corleone (and who doesn’t?). It was interesting to see his transformation take place throughout the book. Santino’s character is also much more sympathetic in the book than he was in the movies, although the movie (what I’ve seen so far) really follows the book very closely.

One thing I really liked about this book was that it wasn’t nearly as violent as I had expected. The scenes gruesome scenes are actually pretty much glossed over, mentioned only as a side note in most cases. I think it was done as a way to show that, even though the bloody parts of the mafia are what get the press, murder and revenge aren’t what the mob is really all about. Puzo does a great job of explaining the legitimate businesses of the mob, along with explaining their involvement in gambling rings and other more seedy business operations. In addition, he really helps the reader to understand the inner workings of the mob and the society they have created for themselves. I found it a very interesting and informative read and I couldn’t put it down.

If you’ve ever wondered why they say “go to the mattresses,” pick up this book. It will all make sense by the time you’re through.

Other reviews of this book can be found here:
Books I done read

Published in: on July 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

I’ve never really understood why people are so into The Godfather movies, until now. I’ve actually only seen bits an pieces of the movies, but I always found them boring and difficult to understand, but the book is nothing like that. Mario Puzo really created a wondeful tale when he put together this book. I love that the book isn’t all linear either. It’s almost like vignettes, albeit long vignettes, stringing you along until you have an aha moment and know what’s going to happen next.

I really loved the character of Michael Corleone (and who doesn’t?). It was interesting to see his transformation take place throughout the book. Santino’s character is also much more sympathetic in the book than he was in the movies, although the movie (what I’ve seen so far) really follows the book very closely.

One thing I really liked about this book was that it wasn’t nearly as violent as I had expected. The scenes gruesome scenes are actually pretty much glossed over, mentioned only as a side note in most cases. I think it was done as a way to show that, even though the bloody parts of the mafia are what get the press, murder and revenge aren’t what the mob is really all about. Puzo does a great job of explaining the legitimate businesses of the mob, along with explaining their involvement in gambling rings and other more seedy business operations. In addition, he really helps the reader to understand the inner workings of the mob and the society they have created for themselves. I found it a very interesting and informative read and I couldn’t put it down.

If you’ve ever wondered why they say “go to the mattresses,” pick up this book. It will all make sense by the time you’re through.

Other reviews of this book can be found here:
Books I done read

Published in: on July 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm  Comments (2)  

Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald

I have so many things to say about Pop Salvation that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start by saying how much I loved it. Based on the back cover, I wasn’t sure how interesting this book would be, so it really took me aback once I really got into it. The first few pages start off a little bit slow, but within about 15 pages, you can’t help but fall in love with little Caleb Watson and then you won’t be able to put the book down until it’s finished.

Pop Salvation is a book about the self-discovery of Caleb Watson, who moves to a new town at age 11 and is never really accepted by the other children in his school. Throughout the book he struggles to find an identity that fits him, discovering the wonders of art, Andy Warhol and The Rocky Horror Picture Show along the way. The book is set in the early 80’s at the height of Warhol’s popularity and his work in The Factory. Caleb adopts Warhol’s philosophy into his own life and even begins dressing like the famed artist.

But the most exciting parts of the book are the times Caleb spends with his friends, creating their own art and interacting in a world where everyone is accepted. Caleb and his few friends are all part of a group of outcasts who struggle throughout the book to come to terms with their sexual identity, having been labeled as “different” from very early on. I’m assuming the marketers who put together the blurb on the back of the book left out this part of the story in order to draw in a larger audience, as I’m sure there are people who would be put off by a book about teenagers struggling with whether they are gay or straight, but I found this to be the most extraordinary and wonderful part of the book.

The first half of the book reads almost like a love letter from Caleb to his friends, Aaron and Sonia. The tenderness he has for them radiates off the page in a way that makes you want to stop time and let it last forever. At a certain point I knew things were going to take a turn for the worst and I almost put the book down so I wouldn’t have to break out of the lovely dreamworld I’d been living in, but, of course, I couldn’t stop myself from seeing where author Lance Reynald would lead me. I don’t want to give away too much of the book so I’ll just say that I found this book to be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. You’ll definitely cry, so bring some tissues with you when you read it.

For anyone in Portland or Northern California, Lance Reynald will be doing readings next week. From the events’ websites:

Monday, July 06, 2009 07:30 PM
Hailed as “marvelously endearing and insightful” by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Lance Reynald’s debut novel Pop Salvation (Harper Perennial) spins together pop art and burgeoning sexuality in a fresh story about learning to trust yourself and the people you love.

Thursday, July 09, 2009
Location: Books Inc. in the Castro, 2275 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: 415-864-6777

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 4:23 pm  Comments (1)  

Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald

I have so many things to say about Pop Salvation that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start by saying how much I loved it. Based on the back cover, I wasn’t sure how interesting this book would be, so it really took me aback once I really got into it. The first few pages start off a little bit slow, but within about 15 pages, you can’t help but fall in love with little Caleb Watson and then you won’t be able to put the book down until it’s finished.

Pop Salvation is a book about the self-discovery of Caleb Watson, who moves to a new town at age 11 and is never really accepted by the other children in his school. Throughout the book he struggles to find an identity that fits him, discovering the wonders of art, Andy Warhol and The Rocky Horror Picture Show along the way. The book is set in the early 80’s at the height of Warhol’s popularity and his work in The Factory. Caleb adopts Warhol’s philosophy into his own life and even begins dressing like the famed artist.

But the most exciting parts of the book are the times Caleb spends with his friends, creating their own art and interacting in a world where everyone is accepted. Caleb and his few friends are all part of a group of outcasts who struggle throughout the book to come to terms with their sexual identity, having been labeled as “different” from very early on. I’m assuming the marketers who put together the blurb on the back of the book left out this part of the story in order to draw in a larger audience, as I’m sure there are people who would be put off by a book about teenagers struggling with whether they are gay or straight, but I found this to be the most extraordinary and wonderful part of the book.

The first half of the book reads almost like a love letter from Caleb to his friends, Aaron and Sonia. The tenderness he has for them radiates off the page in a way that makes you want to stop time and let it last forever. At a certain point I knew things were going to take a turn for the worst and I almost put the book down so I wouldn’t have to break out of the lovely dreamworld I’d been living in, but, of course, I couldn’t stop myself from seeing where author Lance Reynald would lead me. I don’t want to give away too much of the book so I’ll just say that I found this book to be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. You’ll definitely cry, so bring some tissues with you when you read it.

For anyone in Portland or Northern California, Lance Reynald will be doing readings next week. From the events’ websites:

Monday, July 06, 2009 07:30 PM
Hailed as “marvelously endearing and insightful” by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Lance Reynald’s debut novel Pop Salvation (Harper Perennial) spins together pop art and burgeoning sexuality in a fresh story about learning to trust yourself and the people you love.

Thursday, July 09, 2009
Location: Books Inc. in the Castro, 2275 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: 415-864-6777

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 4:23 pm  Comments (1)  

Lush Life by Richard Price

I picked up Lush Life by Richard Price last week because it was the monthly selection for my public library’s book club. It was the first time I had ever heard of Price, who is famous for writing Clockers, the screenplay The Color of Money, and for his work on the TV show The Wire.

This books is about the robbery and shooting in the Lower Eastside of New York City. We follow two detectives as they pursue one wrong lead that leaves them without any suspects for a couple of weeks. We see how it affects the police officers, the family of the victim, and the shooter.

It’s not really a mystery novel because we know from the beginning who all of the players are, and you can pretty much guess who the shooter is from the background information Price gives us in the opening chapters of the book. The story is more about the characters and how cops work an investigation than about trying to figure out who did it. I’m a cop show junky though, so I really enjoyed this book. It was actually the first real “crime” novel I’ve ever read. I’ve read a lot of John Grisham’s books, but I think of those as being more about lawyers than about cops. Does that make sense? Anyway, if you like Law & Order, I think you’d like this book. It was like reading the script of one of my favorite cops shows. Price does a wonderful job of creating the scene and making you understand where his characters are coming from.

There were mixed reviews at the book club meeting, with people being pretty divided over either loving it or hating it. I was obviously one of those who liked reading it. I felt like Price really knew his subject and did a wonderful job of creating memorable dialogue between his characters. I’m looking forward to reading Clockers next. The woman who runs the book club said she like it even better than Lush Life.

Also, on a side note, I know some of you worry about profanity in books. I didn’t really notice it so much, but some of the women at the book club were really put off by the swearing in the book. I thought it helped to build credibility of the story. We’re supposed to believe these are criminals talking, so I just don’t think it would have been believable if they were replacing swear words with stand-ins like “freakin'” and what-not. Just thought I’d give you the heads up.

Oh, two last things: First, Richard Price will be here in Sacramento on March 12 at the Crest Theatre. I will definitely be there to author stalk him if anyone wants to join me. Secondly, I wanted to link you to The New York Times article about Lush Life from last year, in case you’d like a more in-depth look at the book.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 6:09 am  Comments (7)  

Lush Life by Richard Price

I picked up Lush Life by Richard Price last week because it was the monthly selection for my public library’s book club. It was the first time I had ever heard of Price, who is famous for writing Clockers, the screenplay The Color of Money, and for his work on the TV show The Wire.

This books is about the robbery and shooting in the Lower Eastside of New York City. We follow two detectives as they pursue one wrong lead that leaves them without any suspects for a couple of weeks. We see how it effects the police officers, the family of the victim, and the shooter.

It’s not really a mystery novel because we know from the beginning who all of the players are, and you can pretty much guess who the shooter is from the background information Price gives us in the opening chapters of the book. The story is more about the characters and how cops work an investigation than about trying to figure out who did it. I’m a cop show junky though, so I really enjoyed this book. It was actually the first real “crime” novel I’ve ever read. I’ve read a lot of John Grisham’s books, but I think of those as being more about lawyers than about cops. Does that make sense? Anyway, if you like Law & Order, I think you’d like this book. It was like reading the script of one of my favorite cops shows. Price does a wonderful job of creating the scene and making you understand where his characters are coming from.

There were mixed reviews at the book club meeting, with people being pretty divided over either loving it or hating it. I was obviously one of those who liked reading it. I felt like Price really knew his subject and did a wonderful job of creating memorable dialogue between his characters. I’m looking forward to reading Clockers next. The woman who runs the book club said she like it even better than Lush Life.

Also, on a side note, I know some of you worry about profanity in books. I didn’t really notice it so much, but some of the women at the book club were really put off by the swearing in the book. I thought it helped to build credibility of the story. We’re supposed to believe these are criminals talking, so I just don’t think it would have been believable if they were replacing swear words with stand-ins like “freakin'” and what-not. Just thought I’d give you the heads up.

Oh, two last things: First, Richard Price will be here in Sacramento on March 12 at the Crest Theatre. I will definitely be there to author stalk him if anyone wants to join me. Secondly, I wanted to link you to The New York Times article about Lush Life from last year, in case you’d like a more in-depth look at the book.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 6:09 am  Comments (7)  

Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Although it has taken me forever to get through The Audacity of Hope, I really did enjoy it. Obama’s perspective on the future of the United States is very optimistic in this book, especially in comparison to his first book, Dreams of my Father. Obama approaches a number of issues, including health care, race relations, and the Supreme Court. If you’re at all interested in politics, I’d suggest reading this book, but be warned that much of it was discussed throughout the campaign. I think the reason it took me so long to get through this book was because I read it after the campaign and had already heard much of what Obama has to say. Still, it was nice to have a longer version of his goals and some clarification on what we can expect from our new president.

Also, for those of you who have a hard time reading nonfiction or political books, a friend of mine told me that the audio version of this book is actually read by Barack Obama and is wonderful. I think if I were to do it again, I’d probably get the audio version myself.

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 8:50 pm  Comments (5)  

Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Although it has taken me forever to get through The Audacity of Hope, I really did enjoy it. Obama’s perspective on the future of the United States is very optimistic in this book, especially in comparison to his first book, Dreams of my Father. Obama approaches a number of issues, including health care, race relations, and the Supreme Court. If you’re at all interested in politics, I’d suggest reading this book, but be warned that much of it was discussed throughout the campaign. I think the reason it took me so long to get through this book was because I read it after the campaign and had already heard much of what Obama has to say. Still, it was nice to have a longer version of his goals and some clarification on what we can expect from our new president.

Also, for those of you who have a hard time reading nonfiction or political books, a friend of mine told me that the audio version of this book is actually read by Barack Obama and is wonderful. I think if I were to do it again, I’d probably get the audio version myself.

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 8:50 pm  Comments (5)