Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dead in the Family - Book Review

In the 10th installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Sookie delves deeply into supernatural politics.  Sookie knows beyond a shadow of a doubt now that she is not only drawn to "supes," but she is one herself.  Her cousin Claude who is 1/2 fairy 1/2 human comes to live with Sookie just as her good friend Amelia has to leave...throughout this book everyone is trying to clean up the messes and settle the deaths of the fae war.  Sookie is not sure whether or not she can trust Claude, but Claude has chosen to remain in the human world and must practice living more of a human life. 

Sookie's relationship with Eric and her friendship with Pam deepen in this novel.  While Sookie is dodging her seemingly insane Uncle Dermot and another fairy who is loose in her woods, she and Eric are also stunned at the arrival of Eric's maker and brother.  Eric's maker has brought his brother to Eric as a last ditch effort to save him.  Sookie comes face to face with the ugly reality of vampire life; what one's maker orders must be fulfilled.  Just as it is impossible for a vampire to enter a house without first being invited, it is impossible for a vampire to deny his/her master's wishes.  Sookie's blood tie to Eric (what he calls their "marriage") also complicates matters because Sookie realizes that since she has been made a part of Eric's bloodline, she is also a part of his maker and brother's bloodline.

Bill, who is still suffering severely from his injuries ensued in the fae war while saving Sookie's life, also experiences a life changing event when his own "sister," Judith, returns to give him blood and save his life.  Sookie is responsible for contacting Judith, and when Judith arrives filling in the gaps of her history with Bill, Sookie is emotionally confused. 

Fairy politics intertwine with vampire politics and shifter politics and can be a little confusing at times.  At times while reading it, I felt like I was reading at least 2 different story lines, specificaly  Sookie's life as a human with fae blood and Sookie's life as the girlfriend of the Vampire Sheriff of Area 5. 
I'd been waiting for this book since the day its publication date was announced, but after reading the first two pages, I was lost.  There was a lot from the previous book that I simply did not remember.  This is exactly the reason I sometimes like to read a series after it is complete rather than in the midst of it.  Also, it was a little difficult to keep all the vampire details straight after watching the Tru-Blood series and reading 17 Anita Blake books while waiting on this book to come out. 

This was a fast read...I actually read it at the beach in less than 2 days.  What I liked about this one is that Jason's character has definitely developed and finally matured.  What I don't like is Sookie's relationship with Eric; it's just weird.  Call me romantic, but I just think Sookie is supposed to be with Bill.  Bill's "sister" Judith's return, however, is a forshadowing of romantic angst to come between Sookie, Eric, Bill and Judith.  We'll see how that goes.  

I do like that Sookie is making amends with her family members who are "from the wrong side of the blanket," but Sookie's newfound need to "kill" is strange right now.  While I can see where those hard feelings would come from, they are just so not like Sookie.   There is a certain charm in Sookie remaining a somewhat innocent, complicated, hardheaded, telepathic Southern woman rather than a cold-blooded killer. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Book Review

Kingsolver's book is a month by month (an entire year) journal of her family's commitment to become self sustaining. 
That sentence sounds bland at best, but this book is anything but.  I can honestly say that I savored this book; it is not a dramatic, climactical narrative (except for the part about the turkey chicks), but I did not want it to end.  I even had the newest Sookie and James Patterson Women's Murder Club mysteries waiting on me, but I could not be pulled away from Kingsolver's family, nor could I rush my way through the book.

Kingsolver begins her story as her family is pulling away from Arizona to return to their family roots.  Kingsolver herself grew up in Kentucky, and her husband was an Iowa native.  Their desire to become self-sustaining is inspired by many things, not just one incident or political ideal.  Their greatest motivation, however, is the well being of their family.

Kingsolver takes the reader through a 12 month cycle of planting, waiting on the yield, harvest, and then the months in between before the cycle begins again.  Kingsolver combines her sarcastic wit with research and experience to take the reader through these processes almost as if you are a part of the family.  Her husband Steven, a biology professor, and her daughter Camille write separate portions for each chapter chronicling their own perspectives on the family's journey as well as the science behind their choices (Steven) and nutritious recipes and ideas on how to feed a family organized around in season produce (Camille).

Kingsolver never preaches.  Her story is her own.  It is what her family did and why they did it.  She reiterates throughout the book that each family must make its own decisions about how to live their lives.  I agree with her wholeheartedly here...if an idividual or family decides to take on any of the goals of the Kingsolver/Hopp household, the key to success, I believe, is just that...belief and an understanding of what it is that you've subscribed to as well as why you've subscribed.  Kingsolver never judges those who choose not to live her lifestyle while still somehow is able to show how many of the Kingsolver/Hopp choices are good not only for individual families, but also the rest of the world.

Kingsolver, a famous author in her own right, mentions her placement on the 100 Most Dangerous People in America list.  I was familiar with this list prior to reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and am actually frightened after finishing this book as to why she might be considered a danger.
Since when did thinking for oneself, making decisions for ones life and family and even caring enough about the environment to try and give back at every turn become a DANGER to our society??
I'm reminded of the short story The Lottery.
Many people do the things they do based on the fact that it's the way those things have always been done. 
I believe that's called blind conformity. 

After talking with some of our agricultural experts at my college during registration, I found that what Kingsolver "discovered" for her family and presents in a most non-threatening, non-judgemental way is not news to those "in the business."
The market demands more meat and produce than is actually healthy for the average human, and to meet that demand, foods are forced to grow out of season, and meat is produced at such rates that quantity has far surpassed quality.
Obviously, this is no secret.
I actually expected arguments from our ag faculty.
I got none.

One of the places where Kingsolver really got my attention was the story about her turkeys who had been artifically reproduced so long that there were not even any books or Internet sources that discussed turkey reproduction anymore when her turkeys became mature enough to begin naturally reproducing.   Kingsolver had to reintroduce her turkeys to reproduction...and her hens to motherhood.  Kingsolver had to guide her turkeys to have turkey sex , male and female, and to take care of the eggs while waiting for them to hatch.

I'm sorry.  But there is something wrong with that.

Again, none of this info was news to the ag faculty at our college.
The meat professionals even told me that whether or not "produce" can stand at the time of slaughter is not really all that important.
They were not as appalled as I was...they didn't like it...didn't think it was the way things should be...but  they accepted reality for what it is...industry driven.


What Kingsolver's book did for me was give me grounds for asking questions.
I think everyone needs to find out for himself/herself the truth about how our food is grown, harvested and sold...then, each person can decide what he/she can or can't live with and make some beginning changes with families.  Imagine what could be accomplished if each person and/or family made just a few small changes.

If you are truly interested in becoming more self sustaining and being kinder to the environment and the world with which we have been blessed, you will enjoy Kingsolver's book.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cats and Birds

Have I mentioned that I'm an animal lover?
Have I mentioned that I specifically love Uh-Oh?

Uh-Oh loves to pretend as if our backyard is his own personal jungle.
A jungle with air conditioning pretty close by.

As much as I love Uh-Oh, I also love other kinds of animals...even birds.
The day I took this photo four bluebirds and one finch were torturing Uh-Oh with their shrieks, fly-by's and little funny jigs to get Uh-Oh's attention.

I'm guessing there was a nest nearby because the birds were making so much noise that they not only attracted my attention, but Beneigt's as well.
Hey, Bro, what's all the racket?

They both became almost mesmerized by the bird shenanigans.
Huh, What'd you say?

There he goes again!

Uh-Oh was too far gone, but Beneigt began to get some of his "cool" back.
C-mon, Uh-Oh, are we really gonna let some bluebird get the best of us???

You might, but I'm not...
I'll just shut my eyes and pretend I'm not in the least bit interested.

As the birds got braver, Beneight lost all control as well.
Where'd he go??? Where'd he go??

Beneigt and Uh-Oh both watched every swoop the birds made.

  A few times they both made this funny meow/purr sound...they were so beside themselves that their jaws shook :) 

The bird Wimbledon continued for quite a while.
I'm no dummy; I know Uh-Oh and Beneigt felt just like I do when I'm standing in front of a warm chocolate fountain. 

I'm happy to report that no birds (or cats) were harmed the morning I took these photos.