Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 73-78

73) The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber

At first I wasn't sure whether I wanted to read yet another book about sustainable agriculture, getting back to our culinary roots, etc., but I'm glad I did. I found this book both illuminating and moving, and it strengthened my commitment to eating mindfully, being a patron of my local farmer's market, and generally supporting organic and/or sustainable agriculture whenever I can.

74) Enemies at Home by Lindsey Davis

The second book in the Flavia Albia series about Marcus Didius Falco's adopted daughter still doesn't have the wit and energy of the original series...but I still enjoy Albia as a character and visiting Davis's Rome, even this darker version under the Emperor Domitian. (The Falco books are set during Vespasian's reign.)

75) War! What is it Good For? by Ian Morris

An interesting and often thought-provoking "big picture" history whose basic thesis is that there's such a thing as "productive war" that despite its violence and atrocities leads to the formation of large, stable states and empires in which subjects/citizens are less likely to die violent deaths than they were in the tribal or small-state societies that preceded them. I'm not sure I agree with everything he says, but I'm glad to have his ideas added to my own big picture view of the world.

76) Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

A "10 years later" sequel to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants YA series. At 29, the girls are still figuring out how to be adults--and while in some ways this made them feel unrealistically immature, hell, I'm...a fair bit older than 29, even if a really kind waitress at 74th Street Ale House did card me last month, and some days I feel like I'm still sorting it out. Anyway, it was good to drop in on these characters and see how they're doing with their lives, though I can't say much more than that without venturing into spoiler territory. And as for spoilers, I'll just say that while it has what we romance writers call an emotionally optimistic ending, it has enough sadness in it that the best the ending can do is be bittersweet.

77) The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

There are so many urban fantasy and/or paranormal romance series out there these days wherein a human discovers a varied community of paranormal beings that it takes some doing to make such a series fresh and interesting, but this one about a human travel writer who goes to work for a vampire publisher to produce travel guides for the paranormal community pulls it off.

78) Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee.

This is one of the best historical romances I've read in quite awhile. Set against the backdrop of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, it's a poignant, gritty and gripping tale of star-crossed lovers.

I just wish the cover and title gave any hint of that. If I hadn't known the author (Laurel also writes as Amanda McCabe, and we both blog at Risky Regencies), I never would've picked up this book because nothing about the branding and packaging says Ireland, poignant, or strongly grounded in real history. Which I feel does the book a disservice, because it's not finding readers like me, while it maybe would draw readers who enjoy the lighter, frothier historical romances, who'd then be disappointed to get something so gritty and angsty.

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