The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

So, I had heard this book mentioned several times and was just beginning to think “Hmm, maybe I should read that,” When… BAM! My book club goes and chooses it so I got to read it! 🙂 Love it when that happens!

This book…was awesome. It’s got a little bit of everything, and I was just totally taken away with it. I just love that feeling when you’re reading a book and it creates this separate world that you can picture, even though it’s so foreign to you. I was transported, and really had a hard time doing other things while I was in the middle of this book! And that experience – not being able to put a book down and feeling totally drawn into the story – that’s why I read, people! It was part thriller, part mystery, part social commentary, part romance… there were just so many threads in this novel, it was always interesting.

So, the premise is Mikael Blomkvist is a shamed journalist who was just convicted of libel and he takes on this “side project” with a rich dude who wants him to solve a cold case, in which his niece disappears without a trace. The characters were really fully developed, to the point where you might not necessarily agree with them or their motivations, but they seemed real. I’m telling you… I stayed up one night reading ALL NIGHT. And, by all night, I mean until 11:30. I haven’t seen 11:30 in at least 6.5 months.

Okay, enough blogging about it, I’m off to buy The Girl Who Played With Fire on my Kindle! (Which I also love, but that’s another entry for another day).


It’s Fun to have Fun

One of my favorite things to do with Margo now is read to her! She only seems interested in books that rhyme and are sing-songy at this point which pretty much leaves me with Dr. Seuss. I’d say I read through our entire collection daily, which sounds more impressive than it probably is in actuality. We read One Fish Two Fish, The Cat in the Hat and TCITH Comes Back, Green Eggs and Ham, and Hop on Pop and I should be getting the ABC Book from paperbackswap any day now. Also LOVE Polkabats and Octopus Slacks. Turns out it does not take much to amuse her besides my voice and maybe a high contrast drawing here and there. The upshot of Polkabats and Dr. Seuss is it’s pretty amusing to me. Plus I have to get used to the phrasing so I’m considering this practice for when she actually can understand words and stuff. Some of it is super tongue twister-y.

I’ve also memorized random sections of the books and keep saying them when I’m talking to Margo, just randomly. So, family, if say we’re at Easter and someone says “I do not like red beet eggs.” Don’t be alarmed if I chime in with “Try them, try them and you may! Try them and you may, I say.” Or if someone says “I’m bored.” I might say “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.” You just never know when I’ll suggest a game that I know called Up, Up, Up with a Fish! 🙂

And in case you haven’t yet viewed my dramatic reading of The Cat in the Hat: Behold.

In Defense of Food

I was really, really excited to read this book after The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael Pollan’s first book was eye opening and interesting, and after this one, I feel empowered and motivated. 🙂 I think it’s a necessary follow up to TOD, as it gives a lot more practical information and strategies for how to live within the (sometimes) seemingly impossible standards Pollan outlines.

I liked that this still is not a “diet book.” It’s funny, it feels kind of radical in some ways, but it’s not. It’s a total back to basics approach… back to before experimenting and marketing ruined the way we eat and shop for food.

He basically starts out with the following advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Eat food sounds simple, but he outlines how most of the stuff we eat is more like “food-like substance” rather than food… how nutrition science has mastered the art of processing and refining and then enriching so much so that the things we snack on end up being something “food-like” rather than what they originally were. (The Fiber One bar is a good example.) This is problematic because our bodies know how to digest food, but these new products, we don’t innately know how to digest them, which can lead us to be fat, have health problems and just generally poor nutrition.

The “Not too much” part of the advice is interesting. I enjoy this book and philosophy because I feel it makes sense… eating more natural foods and even spending more money on those foods just seems obvious (though I DID need someone to tell me to do it!) And sometimes, those foods have higher fat or calorie content, but they’re also higher quality. And eating smaller portions than we’re accustomed to is an important caveat!

The last bit of advice, “Mostly plants,” is going to be our newest little project (especially since I’ll be hanging w/ a newborn, providing nutritious milk). A friend of mind recommended this delivery service in our area – Papa Spud’s – that brings you a weekly box of locally grown fresh veggies! I’m REALLY excited about it. I wish this baby would hurry up and get here so we can start it! Scott and I also ventured out to Earthfare nearby and had some delicious chicken and salmon. We’d been going to Whole Foods, but Scott gets annoyed w/ all the weirdos (no offense if any readers shop there). Earthfare was much less crowded and overrun w/ aging hippies!

“Food no longer seems like the smartest place to economize,” Pollan says… and I totally agree. It’s back to the point that struck me from The Omnivore’s Dilemma – you get what you pay for. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m so enamored with the idea of spending more time seeking out more pricey (and healthier!) foods, foods that need preparation and foods that go bad. But, taking some of the additives and preservatives out of our diet is also really exciting. Like I said, I feel empowered. And hopefully the little newborn furthers that determination rather than sucks it out of me… to be determined 🙂

If you want to hear more about Michael Pollan, check out his appearance recently on The Daily Show, where he was promoting his new book. I might need a break before picking that one up, but it does seem pretty cool!

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

I’d like to start by saying I’m not going to be a vegetarian. I was afraid this book would taint my view of too many foods I eat too much of and actually be the final convincing factor toward no more meat, BUT, it actually did the opposite. It made me see how vital a omnivorous diet is to us humans. We need lots of different types of food. And I hope this post isn’t too out-there-hippyish. I was so in the dark about all this, it seems like sharing some of my most interesting factoids might interest others as well 🙂

Where to begin… Though it made my jaw drop several times, I am SO GLAD I read it. I think it was ultimately a positive thing for me. I mean, I’d rather know than live in oblivion as I have for the past 28 years. I felt like this book spoke to me… as a society I think many of us find ourselves kind of lost in the supermarket. It seems like every other year there’s a new thing we HAVE to eat or MUST NOT eat but then in a few months it’s okay again, and all of this uncertainty has lead us to just kind of feel clueless. We don’t have a strong food history in the US, like perhaps France. France is often used as the posterchild for “why aren’t they fat like us?” – they have fatty foods but healthy habits about those foods. We aren’t blessed in the same ways. And I often feel utterly clueless about what to eat…

In this book, Michael Pollan seeks to eat 4 meals and trace the history of those meals. The first one is a McDonald’s meal with his family, and I’d say that’s the most interesting as far as tracing the origins of the ingredients goes. Very eye opening…

The moral of the story, to me, was all food is not created equal. This book convinced me to seek out organic and grass-fed meat. It all starts with the corn industry. It’s so messed up – propped up by the government and over-produced, fed to cattle (though, biologically, it makes no sense to feed corn to cattle…they like grass!) to fatten them up quickly and they then pass on the incorrect nutritional balance to us, consumers of burgers. Corn is also not great for us… but I don’t have the energy to get into all the HFCS crap.

It actually makes quite a lot of sense that the “bad” stuff about red meat is actually thought to be from the the feed they’re given in industrial farms, and not something inherently unhealthy about red meat itself. So, our embargo on steaks might be over… if we can find some grass-fed strips! It’s quite sad, it takes a grass-fed cow 5 years to get to be big enough to slaughter, while it only takes them 14-18 months to fatten a cow in an industrial farm. BUT, they have to feed them so many antibiotics and keep them so sedentary, they wouldn’t live to be 2 years old anyway under the conditions. It’s *that* unhealthy of a diet. With the way the industrial food system is set up, it’s hard to compete. You can easily see how grass-fed beef is more expensive and rarer (har har – meat joke).

But I think that’s one of the really interesting things about this book – each of us makes a choice when we decide what to eat and buy. And honestly, I thought my choice was to eat meat or not, or to eat chicken or fish. And yes, I’m okay with paying more for meat that might be less corrupted. It is not all the same, as much as it seems like it is. An interesting point the author made a few times was about how as meat-eaters, we should understand what it is we’re doing. Not to the extent he did (where he slaughtered chickens on a farm and hunted wild pigs as part of his research), but just to contemplate. I’ve heard this before in a different form – like if you’re in favor of the death penalty you should be made to witness an execution – but this is a little less over the top. Marketers have taken away pretty much any semblance of packaged meat looking like its origin. (ie: Chicken Nuggets) This makes us forget what we’re eating, in a way. So no, eating meat isn’t wrong, but we should at least give pause and think about what we’re doing. And I think if people knew what went on in these industrial meat facilities, more folks might be more conscious about their meat choices.

The author toured many types of farms in this book, and it was so interesting to learn the natural ins and outs of a pasture farm… which is probably the most pure version of farming. And also one of the hardest to operate within the system that exists.

One of my favorite things about this book was the writing. Michael Pollan is a journalist, so it’s written from a non-scientist point of view. I could relate, as he shared a lot of his preconceived notions and questions. I found it to be remarkably fair and balanced. I think this is kind of a loaded issue for many people and he managed to tackle it as a broad, multi-dimensional issue to which there doesn’t really exist a right or wrong answer. Plus, it’s kind of a mini branch of Tech Writing – making complex science accessible to the general population. Woohoo Tech Comm!

So yeah – two thumbs way up, 5 stars and I’m going right into his next book, In Defense of Food. I’m also hoping to transition to more organic and grass-fed meat and locally grown produce for our at-home eating. I don’t think I’m ready to do it all the time – I can’t envision a life without a take out pizza – but in moderation. We’ll start with that and see what blossoms…

Oh, and it looks like he has just released a third book.

A good book and a bad book.

This week, I decided to step out of my typical genre and try some recommended books, both of which are kind of action/adventure/non-realistic. The first was Dan Brown’s newest book, The Lost Symbol. I’m kind of so-so on Dan in general. I like the overarching themes of his books, that they get me thinking about stuff and I like that they’re quick and snappy reads that keep the pages turning, but usually walk away thinking it was just okay, not like a life-altering experience. It is sort of funny though that some (er…most) chapters are like 2 pages long. So I can read 50 pages and be like, “OMG, I just read 30 chapters!” Like a 3rd grader.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this book was my favorite of the 3 Robert Langdon Dan Brown books. I really enjoyed the fact that it talked about American history and the Masons and took place in Washington. It was interesting, and honestly, made me appreciate the Masons a little more. I thought I’d come away thinking they were a weird secret society, but I feel like it was a pro-Masonic point of view. I mean, still a little odd, but you know, not like sacrificing virgins creepy or anything like that. Observation: the bad guy in this was WAAAY worse and WAAAY more creepy than the bad guy in the other books. Of course, like w/ all the Dan Brown books I’ve read it was very plot driven which is annoying at times, and the characters say the cheeeesiest lines sometimes, but it got the job done. 2 days, flew by. 🙂

The next book I picked up was One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. I give this one a thumbs down with a farting sound. I mean, I *guess* I can see how some ppl get sucked in to the series (there are a bunch of them now), but I just wasn’t drawn in at all by the characters or writing. The writing was very mediocre, it felt like I could have done this (not saying I’m “that good” but saying the writing was “that not good”). And Stephanie Plum, the “heroine” was a giant moron who I had no positive feelings about. So, I finished it today and shrugged, oh well. In the process, I realized that Scott knows a song that uses the line One for the Money and I do not. This might be the first time that has ever happened… Weird.

And next I have a new book (well, new from paperbackswap) called The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. I hope I don’t become a vegetarian after this…that would be inconvenient.

And I’ve now switched to, instead of shelfari, for my online book reviewing and cataloging needs. It’s an important decision every nerd mus make for herself, but I find this site to be way more kickass than shelfari. 🙂

Her Fearful Symmetry

The new Audrey Niffeneger book! It was so exciting, I totally love Time Traveler’s Wife and was understandably excited to read here newest. And she took for-ever to write it so my hopes were a little on the high side

So, how would I describe it? I think I’ll go w/ my sister’s words on this… It was “effed up”. It just WAS though. Not meaning it was necessarily awful or too weird, but it was just very different. And I’d say maybe a step further to the science fiction world than TTW was. But I still gave it 4 stars on Shelfari. I’m generous w/ stars though.

The plot follows these weird twins who are “mirror twins”, meaning their insides and appearances were not identical but like reversed from each other. Apparently that’s a real thing (though very rare.) They’re kind of creepy. And their mom is a twin as well, and the beginning of the book is the mother’s twin dying. Then the mother’s twin, Elspeth, offers the younger twins, Julia and Valentina, her flat in London to come live for a year. Cool, free apartment, right? Except, oh yeah, she’s haunting it. But apparently the creepy twins are cool with it.

There’s way too much to overview much else … and I know I’m making it sound lame. But it really was interesting and different from a normal genre I’d read. I love her writing, however weird the plot was. The characters were fully realized and the story moved along pretty well. I’d recommend it for sure, with the caveat that it’s “effed up.”

Can I still do book reviews on this thing?


Ahem. So, I just finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It was a very up and down book – it started out AWESOME, and I was getting all ahead of myself, with “this is my favorite book” type thoughts. Then there was this long drawn out mid-section that just kept putting me to sleep (well, that or the baby… it’s a toss up) and the ending was very good though!

Though, I have to say, a large part of my enjoyment of this book was the fact that it was drawn from the story of Hamlet, which I knew going into it. I haven’t read Hamlet in a good 10 years (yikes, really? Senior year was 10 years ago?) so I could not have told you the story prior to reading this. But random themes and events did come back to me and with the help of wikipedia I recalled ;). You know, madness, ghosts, poison. And it was kind of a good distance to have from it. I’m not a Shakespeare enthusiast, but I do enjoy those plays more than most. I could easily see that Claude was Claudius, and Trudy was Gertrude. Wow, I’m like a brainiac. Sign me up for mensa.

So, the summary would be this: The Sawtelles have this dog breeding business where they aim to breed dogs that aren’t purebred or anything, but good companion dogs. I think that’s kind of neat… and that part of the story was really interesting. The dogs were so central to the story (in fact, I’m pretty sure Almondine was Ophelia?), and were almost given a voice. The Sawtelles had one son, Edgar, who was mute, though he could still hear. That was another interesting angle. Edgar’s dad, Gar, dies inexplicably and Gar’s ghost appears to Edgar saying it was Claude (Gar’s brother) who did it. Is your HS Shakespeare reading coming back to you at all? Drama and tragedy ensue.

The writing was awesome, the characters were really interesting. I liked that in this book we get some explanation into Trudy’s thought process. I remember in Hamlet being totally let down by how lame the female characters were… all 2 of them.

I recommend it… I kind of wished I’d been holed up somewhere during that middle portion with nothing else to do so I could have just motored through. So if you find yourself holed up somewhere for a few days (snowstorm? IDK) this would be a good time!