Saturday, April 23, 2011

Harlan, Beautiful Harlan

I know I have a few friends who watch Justified (and I'm starting to but I have a lot of catching up to do). Most people have heard of "Harlan Bloody Harlan" or the Harlan County War or all kinds of negative things about the area. There is a lot of bad in Eastern Kentucky. But I wanted to share a few pictures of one of my favorite spots. These were taken at Camp Blanton, an old Boy Scout camp where I do Girl Scout trainings, and on the trail to knobby rock through Blanton Forest. This is probably one of the things you won't see on Justified.

Cabin at Blanton

Dam next to a little lake

Creek that runs through Blanton

Old hemlock tree

Knobby rock (its massive & impressive)

View from Knobby Rock. (My camera does not do it justice)

(This is nothing negative about Justified which is a very entertaining and good show. Just another side of Harlan)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teen Melodrama avoided: Please Ignore Vera Dietz

4.5 Stars of Brilliance

This book could've gone so wrong.

Let's look at the teen melodrama checklist:

  • Alcoholic father - Check
  • Absentee mother - Check
  • Dead friend - Check
  • Unpopularity - Check
  • Drinking Problem - Check
  • Wife beating neighbor - Check

Doesn't that sound a little bit like a Lifetime original movie? Or an ABC family TV show (only nobody is pregnant)? But this book is smart. Really really smart. It's not an "issue" book, but a story of a girl who happens to have some issues. That's a huge difference.

Vera Dietz is in high school, has a full time job (due to her father's messed up views about responsibility), her father is a recovering alcoholic, her mom left when she was 12, and her best friend Charlie just died.

Only she kind of hates Charlie. Not just for dying, but for treating her like complete crap leading up to his death. Add on top of that everybody thinks he did something really really bad and only Vera knows that he didn't. Talk about a complication emotional mess.

The book tells the story from four POV. It's mostly Vera, but we get interruptions from Vera's Dad (with lots of funny flowcharts and a honest parental perspective that isn't preachy or obnoxious), the dead kid (Charlie) and the Pagoda--a building near Vera's house where people hike and teens act stupid.

These four perspective really add the layers to this story. If we only heard Vera's perspective we might never understand Charlie and understanding him is essential to understanding the story. This book is both funny and heartbreaking. It's poignant without preaching, and completely right where it could've gone wrong.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

You Grow Girl (Gardening book!)

At first I thought "You Grow Girl" was going to be a disappointment. The introduction seemed to be very specific towards urban gardening. I'd read the summary and the reviews online and while it talked a lot about "small space" gardening it never suggested the book was solely for the urbanites. There's even one point during the introduction that suburbanites seem to be all wealthy white women with too much time and money.

That's not me. I live in my parents garage because I can't afford a place where both me and my dog can live (and living without my dog is not an option. When you make a commitment to an animal its for life. End of story).

But the problem with the book seems to lie solely in the introduction (which FYI editors & writers you don't want to exclude a whole population with your introduction if your book isn't quite so slanted).

I've been wanting to review the book for a few months. The problem is everybody wanted to borrow it. Everyone who has looked at the book likes different things about it. Different projects have jumped out at them. The easy projects are one of the best parts about this book. They're practical, inexpensive and well explained.

Another thing I like about this book is that organic is not a huge scary word. I don't feel like I have to make a political commitment or life commitment to "organic." In fact my garden is not going to be 100% organic BUT I feel like I can go mostly organic and that's A-okay. I'm trying to cut out the miracle grow (manure here I come!) and I'm going to try some non-chemical pesticide options. But the soil I buy is not Certified Organic (it's Hyponex Topsoil which I've used for years and trust) and I just buy whatever seeds/plants suit my fancy. The book did not evangelize organic--at least not in an off-putting way--it just gave me my options.

Probably the best thing about this book is that it's made me willing to try new things. I've

started seeds indoor this year (we'll see how that goes). I bought *gasp* organic seed starter rather than miracle grow. I used manure in my garden for the first time. My tomato plants are going to be heirloom because now I know what heirloom is. Overall t

he book has just broadened my gardening horizons without being fussy or pretentious.

It's got nice crafty projects without becoming a craft book. The pictures and illustrations are superb. It's a good gardening book for the beginner or dabbler.

Some of my adventures in gardening this year!

My little herb garden

The garden I've terraced into a clay hillside (with makeshift gate)

My indoor seedling babies

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Book Questionnaire

Somebody posted this book questionnaire thats going around the internet on Goodreads. While I was hyped up I filled it out last night. Enjoy!

1 - The best book you read last year: On the Jellicoe Road

2 - A book you've read more than 3 times:
Alanna  The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1) quartet. It's my happy place series.

3 - Your favourite series: Gosh which day are we talking? Harry Potter is the classic answer.
Harry Potter Boxed Set (Harry Potter, #1-6)

4 - A guilty pleasure book: Soulless (okay I’m not that guilty, but I blush when I read this book. It makes me feel like such a girl!)
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1)

5 - A book that made you laugh: You had me at magical donut.
Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)

6 - A book that made you cry: Harry Potter, the last 3, incessantly. (On a siden-ote Roswell the TV show made me cry today. And I am not a crier!)\
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)

7 - Most underrated book: Garth Nix Sabriel series
Sabriel (Abhorsen,  #1)Lirael  Daughter of the Clayr (Abhorsen, #2) Abhorsen (Abhorsen, #3)

8 - Most overrated book:
Twilight (Twilight, #1) Sorry to the fans. But it asked me!

9 - A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving:
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1) Thought it would be too girly.

10 - Favorite classic book:
East of Eden

11 - A book you hated: Moby Freaking Dick

12 - A book you used to love but don’t anymore: Lurlene McDaniels—All the depressing dying books What was wrong with young me??
Sixteen and Dying (One Last Wish)
13 - Your favorite author: Melina Marchetta

14 - Favorite male character: So many men. So little time. Going with an oldie but goodie. George from the Alanna seris. (Though Peeta & the yummy bread gave him a run for his money, as did Lord Maccon in a kilt)
Alanna  The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)

15 - Favorite female character: October Daye
Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1)

16 - Your biggest fictional crush: Peeta
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

17 - A good quick read: Princess for Hire (so cute)
Princess for Hire (Princess for Hire, #1)

18 - A book that disappointed you: The Replacements
The Replacement

19 - Favorite book-to-movie conversion: Later Harry Potter books

20 - Favorite romance: Soulless Alexia & Lord Maccon YUMMY
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1)

21 - Favorite book from your childhood: Snug the Bug (it was a reversible book)

22 - A book you can't wait for: Hex Hall 3 SQUEEEL
Untitled (Hex Hall, #3)

23 - A book you've been meaning to read for ages:
Clariel  The Lost Abhorsen (Abhorsen, #4) (So yes I misread this question as WAITING not meaning. I'm waiting for the next Ahborsen book from Garth Nix)

24 - A book that you wish more people would read:
Sabriel (Abhorsen,  #1)

25 - Character you are most similar to: Is there a character who has no social life, reads books, gardens and knits? Seriously I’m really dull. Can I say Sophie just because I want to kiss on Archer? Not that it would happen in real life. Maybe I’ll be Madge who does nothing interesting but be nice and then dies. Because that’s my kind of luck. Actually she may do something halfway interesting, but not interesting enough that I remember it near midnight.

26 - A book that changed your opinion about something: A Walk in the Woods by Billy Bryson (Maybe not so much change my opinions but educate me on some subjects)
A Walk in the Woods  Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

27 - Most surprising plot twist or ending: I’m saying Harry Potter or Demonglass (because honestly I suck at remembering tonight)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)Demonglass (Hex Hall, #2)

28 - Favorite book title:
Please Ignore Vera Dietz (Haven't even read this. Next on my to read pile)

29 - A book everyone hated but you liked:
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1) (someone else said this yay)

30 - Your favorite book OF ALL TIME:
Gosh not much pressure there. At the moment I would say Jellicoe Road. But let’s say Ender’s Game too for goo measure.
On the Jellicoe RoadEnder's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)

I repeated a LOT of books in there. Kinda odd really. It's late I'm not going to worry that I'm boring because I probably am.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stop acting stupid over Hunger Games Casting!!!

Dear Internet,

I'm fed up with you right now. I hate all your drama queen freak-outs over the Hunger Game casting news. Why? Because its completely idiotic and unnecessary. Do you really want to live in a world where people are given jobs based solely on physical appearance? Do you realize that's what you're asking for?

Yes the characters had physical features in the books. Katniss had dark hair and olive skin (but let's get this clear: she was still WHITE PEOPLE). Peeta had blonde hair. Gale dark hair.


Take a second and think about that. Why do their looks matter? Is there a critical plot point that hinges on Katniss hiding behind her dark locks? Is Peeta's blonde hair the reason he's selected for the Hunger Games? Well no…


Truth be told it doesn't actually matter to the story. Katniss is not oppressed for her olive skin and Peeta is not considered a god for golden-locks. The characters have appearance because people have appearances, but its not significant to the story.

Nobody will ever be book-Peeta. In fact nobody imagines the same book-Peeta. I've heard two different people say they imagined Peeta with dark hair despite the descriptions. Why? Because that's what they're attracted to. What matters about Peeta is his heart. His sweetness and innocence even in the darkest circumstances. I want someone who can act, someone who can pull off Peeta in all his cheese-ball glory (and make it authentic!).

Yes Peeta is hot. But if that's all you saw and all that matters to you then you need to re-read the book. Or don't because you're just too shallow to appreciate Hunger Games.

So internet. Please drop the melodrama. Please quit claiming "if so and so isn't cast I'm not seeing the movie." It's unnecessary and makes us all look stupid. I spend too much of my time defending YA and it's depth to other grown-ups. What YA doesn't need is ship wars and people melting down over appearance. Hunger Games isn't that shallow. We shouldn't be either.