Eating Animals (Book Review)

Title: Eating Animals

Author: Jonathan Safran Foer

Published: September 1, 2010

Genre: Nonfiction

Length: 368 pages

Eating Animals is a nonfiction book written in a journalistic style that discusses the morality and practicality behind eating meat. Jonathan Safran Foer takes aim at the factory-farming and fishing industries and exposes the many dark truths about the meat that our society consumes in record numbers. Family farms are not given a free pass, however. Eating Animals is a full investigation of meat-eating from every angle.

Before I go any further, let me state that I am a vegetarian. My wife and I became vegetarians this past July and we have not strayed from that path ever since. While my wife decided to become a vegetarian at the beginning of the month, I held off for another couple of weeks. Eating Animals is what finally pushed me over the edge. It is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

Jonathan Safran Foer claims, rather disingenuously in my opinion, that Eating Animals is not meant to turn the reader into a vegetarian. While this might technically be true, as he never directly tells the reader what to do, all of his evidence points in favor of abandoning meat-eating. Interestingly enough, the book begins with the author’s personal journey regarding vegetarianism. He lays the emotional groundwork early on regarding how meat-eating was once very important to him and to his family, largely due to his grandmother’s cooking. I can empathize with this situation a great deal, as I imagine many readers can. However, Foer’s feelings shift as he ages and he eventually can no longer rationalize meat-eating, especially to his children.

Some of the most interesting and heart-breaking chapters involve Foer’s personal visits to factory farms. He does not spare gruesome details when it comes to his descriptions of what exactly happens at factory-farms and slaughterhouses. Some of these sections were extremely difficult for me to read, so be warned on that count. Unfortunately, I think that brutal honesty is necessary for this topic. Many people avoid thinking about the meat that they are eating and what was done to produce and acquire it. It is only when the reader starts to see the horrific conditions of the factory-farm that the truth about meat production really hits home. At the most exciting point in the narrative he even breaks into a farm with an animal rights activist.

There is a dictionary of terms toward the beginning that explains many important concepts, such as the fact that “free-range” is a relatively useless term because there are so many workarounds. The same can be said about “organic” products because the definition is so vague. Overall, I found the dictionary to be very informative and it has helped me in my decisions going forward as I read food labels with a wiser eye.

The author gives a little more slack to family farms, but when he meets and interviews family farm owners he often runs into the same problem: morality. The underlying message behind Eating Animals is that factory-farming is cruel to animals, punishing to the environment, and dangerous for humans. However, the morality of killing and eating other animals is really at the heart of it all. Even family farms often have to use slaughterhouses that do not use entirely “humane” methods. Foer stops short of condemning all family farms, but he is not entirely comfortable with them, either.

Foer’s tone can be a bit smug at times, and he is writing with a fairly obvious agenda. It just so happens that I completely agree with his agenda. The statistics are a bit old since the book was published in 2010, but from my own fact-checking I can say that he certainly did his research. Vegetarianism is very important to me, although I do not proselytize it unless someone specifically asks me about it. After all, I ate meat for all of those years, too. However, I think that Eating Animals is required reading for anyone who is thinking about becoming a vegetarian (or vegan) or who wants to learn more about the truth behind the factory-farm industry. If people want to eat factory-farmed meat, then they should not be able to ignore the suffering of other animals along the way. After all, humans are animals, too.

Rating: 4/5

 

Pocket Full of Tinder: Book Review

Title: Pocket Full of Tinder: A Noon Onyx Novel

Author: Jill Archer

Published: December 15, 2016

Genre: Fantasy & Romance with touches of other genres

Length: 293 pages

Pocket Full of Tinder is the fourth book in Jill Archer’s Noon Onyx series. I am reviewing Pocket Full of Tinder from an advance review copy that I read in eBook format. To set the tone, I am delighted to write that this may be the best book in the Noon Onyx series to date.

If you are new to the Noon Onyx series, then I highly suggest that you read the three previous books as soon as possible. The genre-bending nature of Jill Archer’s novels is inventive and refreshing, and world-building is one of her greatest strengths. The heroine, Noon Onyx, is a magic-slinging Maegester-in-Training with a drop of demon blood coursing through her veins. Noon lives in Halja, a post-apocalyptic version of our world in which the demons rule while angels and humans are forced to find ways to coexist with their demonic overlords.

Pocket Full of Tinder picks up in the aftermath of a shocking reveal at the end of the third novel, White Heart of Justice, regarding Noon’s former lover, Ari Carmine. I loved that the story picked up where it left off and immediately continued the previous plot while also weaving in new story threads. Noon is quickly tasked with traveling to Rockthorn Gorge, a rugged demon outpost, in order to stop a mysterious bomber known as Displodo from interfering with the construction of a new viaduct.

Adding to the drama is the fact that the patron demon of Rockthorn Gorge is Noon’s ex-lover and that she will be working under him as his consigliere. Jill Archer skillfully ratchets up the tension between Noon and Ari as they struggle to repair their tattered relationship while Displodo looms in the background. Between Ari’s advances, Noon’s need to prove herself to the other demons at Rockthorn Gorge, and her mission to stop Displodo, danger looms at every turn.

Fans of the series will thoroughly enjoy the new characters and creatures in Rockthorn Gorge that further solidify the world’s mythology. Jill Archer shows a penchant for Latin phrases and often draws inspiration from the ancient world. These references to the pre-apocalypse add a wonderful sense of history and depth to the world of Halja. Also, I am constantly amazed by the descriptive, vivid language in Pocket Full of Tinder. Every sentence is crafted with exquisite care and attention to detail.

The plot is punctuated by many exciting battles full of spell-casting and spell-slinging, but one moment in particular stands out to me. I never saw it coming, and I do not think that other readers will either. Suffice it to say that Jill Archer throws fans a wild curve-ball that will permanently shake up the series. I am actually still in shock as I write this review.

Any fans of the Noon Onyx series will be well pleased with Pocket Full of Tinder. Those who are new to the series should read all of the previous books first to get the full impact of this one, but Jill Archer gives enough backstory that it is possible for a new reader to jump in. Pocket Full of Tinder leaves me wanting more, so please show your support by pre-ordering and purchasing the novel at the links below.

Rating: 5/5

Click here to pre-order or purchase Pocket Full of Tinder.

Click here to visit Jill Archer’s blog and to see other purchasing options.

Click these links to see my reviews of the previous books in the series:

Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1)

Fiery Edge of Steel (Noon Onyx #2)

White Heart of Justice (Noon Onyx #3)

Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: Book Review

Title: Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Author: Orson Scott Card, Phillip Athans, Jay Lake

Published: 2013

Genre: Writing, Fantasy/Science Fiction

Pages: 406 (paperback)

Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card, Phillip Athans, and Jay Lake is a writing guide that is designed for genre fiction. If you are interested in writing a novel, or even if you are curious about the process, then Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction will answer a lot of your questions. The reader will probably even find the answers to questions that they did not even know they had to begin with.

There are four major parts to the book: How to Write, The State of the Genre, The World of Steampunk, & The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference. Within each of these sections are subcategories, although the Steampunk section is relatively brief. World Creation, Story Construction, and general writing tips are provided in How to Write.  I found the Writing Well portion, which is a mere 15 pages, to be one of the most useful. The writing tips are generally intended to help the prospective author to produce writing that is organic and engaging. There are so many specific concepts, like how to use particular diction for different characters, that stuck with me long after I first read the book.

The State of the Genre focuses on recent trends (at least as of 2013) that apply to fantasy and science fiction writing. The emergence of young adult literature, urban fantasy, and a discussion of independent E-book authors are all addressed in this section. There are too many specific trends to mention here, but the reader will learn about all of the major changes happening in the industry. True, the information is dated by a few years at this point in time, but many of these trends that the book identifies have only intensified since 2013.

The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference, which makes up over half the length of the book, includes descriptions and definitions for all sorts of essential fantasy and science fiction concepts. Some of these include Magic, Fantasy Races, Dress and Costume, and Anatomy of a Castle. The reference sections are thorough and provide very clear definitions for every term. These small dictionaries are extremely useful for any writer, especially for anyone who is creating a world that is drawing from medieval times. Research can be extremely frustrating without a handy reference.

There are innumerable books that are about writing and I have read quite a few of them. I wanted to review Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction because it is the best that I have come across. The reference section alone justifies the purchase, but all of the expert writing advice really sets this book apart.

Rating: 4.5/5

Purchase Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

National Novel Writing Month: 50,000 Words and Beyond

I have some very exciting news to share! I have officially passed the 50,000 word goal for National Novel Writing Month with one extra day to spare, no less! I can hardly believe it. The writing process has been exhilarating, frustrating, and deeply meaningful. Most importantly, the novel is not anywhere near finished. My fantasy novel looks like it will probably require somewhere in the ballpark of 80,000-90,000 words as I envision it now, not to mention the editing process to follow. I really hope that it will turn out to be entertaining and skillfully written enough to publish. For now, I am just looking forward to the process of writing the rest of it and the personal satisfaction of completing my best possible work.

In other news, you can expect a new book review very soon, possibly tomorrow. After that, I will be writing my Pocket Full of Tinder review as I near the end of my advance review copy. Jill Archer is really outdoing herself with this one. To see my Pocket Full of Tinder preview, simply click here.

I hope the rest of you have been successful in your personal NaNoWriMo goals. Keep writing!

Word Count: 50,044

National Novel Writing Month: Ever Onward

Hello, everyone! I hope that the rest of you are having a productive, although admittedly cray, NaNoWriMo like I am. Right now, I am over halfway through the intimidating 50,000 word goal. I still need to make my 1,667 words for today, but I plan on getting back to writing as soon as I am done with making this post. This is the first time that I have really committed to NaNoWriMo and the results are really amazing. That is not to say that the book that I am writing is a masterpiece. What I am finding, though, is that writing in itself is an accomplishment.

I always read that the most important part of writing is simply to sit down and force yourself to write. From what I can see, that strategy is the way to go. There have been many times in the process where I did not see where the story was going, only to have the answer suddenly jump out at me organically through the writing process. As I mentioned before, I will be light on the story details since those details could easily change and because I do not want to give anything away yet. Suffice to say that my fantasy world is starting to come to life, along with all of the fascinating characters and creatures therein.

Here’s to the second half!

Please let me know about your own progress in the comments!

Current word count: 27, 259

Buffering: Book Review

Title: Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded

Author: Hannah Hart

Published: 2016

Genre: Autobiography, YouTuber

Pages: 256 (hardback)

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded is an autobiographical work by the YouTube sensation Hannah Hart. If you do not know about Hannah Hart or her hit show My Drunk Kitchen, then please do yourself a favor by checking out her YouTube channel hereBuffering is deeply personal and oftentimes serious in tone. There a moments of comedy sprinkled throughout, but readers should expect a genuine, emotional journey through Hannah Hart’s most formative struggles and successes.

First of all, I just want to say that I love the cover, the color scheme, and the general layout of the book. The pictures of artifacts from Hannah’s life and helpful footnotes of additional commentary from Hannah really personalize the experience.

Hannah Hart knows how to connect with her audience. She finds creative ways to express very trying situations to her readers while maintaining an overall sense of optimism. The core struggle in the book is centered around her early life growing up in a home where her mother suffered from schizophrenia. Her childhood traumas reverberate throughout the book and ultimately lead to a confrontation with her mother’s illness in the final chapters. Hannah’s inner strength really shines through in these moments and should inspire her fans or new readers alike.

Acceptance of one’s self, specifically sexual orientation, is another overarching theme in Buffering. Hannah is extremely honest about the process of accepting her sexual orienation, as well as her struggles against the self-loathing and self-harm that haunted her through her life. I really appreciated that Hannah took the time to speak directly to those who might be reading her story and going through the same difficulties. She gives real advice for real people.

Readers should know that while Buffering is funny at times and that Hannah definitely manages to sneak in more than a few puns, the overall tone of the book is fairly serious. Some chapters are lighter than others but no one part of the book is exclusively played for comedy. I think this was a great choice because the book reads like real life in that the good and bad times often intermingle. Whether she is dealing with PTSD, going to college and experimenting with her first girlfriend, learning to design live shows with Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart, or simply trying to fly home, Hannah keeps it completely real at all times.

I recommend Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded to anyone who wants to learn more about Hannah in a more deeply, personal way. If you are interested in a breezy, light read, then this book might not be for you. I went into Buffering expecting more comedy, but ultimately found a deeply personal journey that deserves to be told.

Check out my review of her first book, My Drunk Kitchen

Rating: 4/5

Purchase Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded

Pocket Full of Tinder: Preview

Jill Archer, author of the compelling Noon Onyx fantasy series, graciously sent me a preview booklet for Nouiomo Onyx’s fourth adventure titled Pocket Full of Tinder. Isn’t that title awesome?

I am happy to report that the 30 preview pages of Pocket Full of Tinder are highly promising and immediately engaging.

If you have never heard of the Noon Onyx series, then you are in for a treat. Jill Archer’s creation is truly genre-bending fantasy that follows the adventures of a powerful, magic-slinging heroine in a world inhabited by demons and angels. Noon’s love life, however, might be more dangerous than many of the other threats combined! There is something for every reader here.

Pocket Full of Tinder picks up in the aftermath of a shocking reveal at the end of the third novel, White Heart of Justice, regarding Noon’s lover, Ari Carmine. The reader is immediately drawn back into the action while the story quickly moves forward. Jill Archer’s ability to describe New Babylon and bring it to life with her words, as well as the details of every setting that her characters inhabit, is fascinating to me. Her characters are just as quick-witted and their conversations are just as snappy as ever.

I am only disappointed that I do not have the full book to read! Thankfully, our wait will be over soon. Look for my review in the relatively near future!

Pocket Full of Tinder will release on December 15, 2016 and the book is already available for pre-order. Please visit Jill Archer’s website for further information.

I have greatly enjoyed her previous three novels, and you can see my reviews of them by following these links:

Dark Light of Day (Book 1)

Fiery Edge of Steel (Book 2)

White Heart of Justice (Book 3)

National Novel Writing Month

Hey, guys! I wanted to update everyone on my participation in National Novel Writing Month. I did write a novel once before, a few years ago. When it was completed I felt that I had learned a great deal but probably had not written the next great novel. I am taking another try at novel writing this month and, if you have never heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) then please visit the website here. I am not signed up officially on the website, but rest assured that I am typing away!

The particular novel I am working on is a work of fantasy literature, although it does initially take place in the “real” world. I will be rather brief on the details here because anything could change at this point in the process. The goal for the month is 50,000 words, although if I am to actually have a rough copy finished then I imagine I will need to go above and beyond that goal. I did start about three days late, so I am playing catch-up at the moment.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, please leave a comment and let me know what you are working on and what your current word count is! I would appreciate any tips as well. Also, if you could like and share this post (or any of my posts) I would be very grateful.

Current word count: 5,169

My Bookshelf – November 2016

Hey, guys! This is a new type of post that I hope to make a regular part of the website. It is essentially a list of the books that I am currently reading/hoping to read in the near future. I have a terrible habit of splitting my attention between several books at one time. Am I the only one who does this?

As an avid reader, it is easy to collect many more books than I have time for at any one point in time (I guess the most books that can be read at one point in time is exactly that: one). I think that many of you will understand the feeling as well. You are perusing the shelves at your favorite bookstore and an intriguing, new cover captures your eye. You are faced with the sudden desire, nay, inexorable reality that you are going to buy that book. No matter that there is a stack at home already calling your name!

Right now, I am reading the following books:

fiftyyearmissionfirst25

 

1. & 2. The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years and The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years by Mark A. Altman & Edward Gross:

This is a two-volume work that chronicles the history behind my favorite TV franchise of all time: Star Trek. It is told through numerous quotes from those involved in Star Trek with informational sections acting as bridges to the quotes. It is fascinating and also extremely long.

 

 

 

 

northanger-abbey

 

3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers of all-time. Her subtle humor and wit makes any subject fascinating. One major reason that I am enjoying Northanger Abbey is because it is a parody of Gothic novels, and I have an English master’s degree with a specialization in Gothic Studies.

 

 

 

 

buffering

 

4. Buffering by Hannah Hart

I am hoping to finish this book first and have a review up in the near future. If you have never heard of Hannah Hart, go ahead and check out her YouTube channel. Hannah Hart’s most recent book is much more personal than My Drunk Kitchen and is a fascinating read so far.

 

 

 

 

What are you guys reading right now? There are just so many good books that it’s impossible to choose! Keep in mind, these are only the books that I am currently reading. There are so many more on my list!

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass: Book Review

Title: The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Author: Jim Butcher

Published: 2015

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 768 (paperback)

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first entry in Jim Butcher’s fantasy series The Cinder Spires. Jim Butcher’s foray into the Steampunk fantasy subgenre quickly hurls the reader into nonstop, relentless action as the inhabitants of the Spires struggle for survival against their ruthless enemies. Fans of The Dresden Files or Jim Butcher’s highly underrated Codex Alera series will find a touch of the familiar along with a whole new world to explore.

Jim Butcher’s worldbuilding is impeccable, as always. He creates a unique fantasy setting that borrows a great deal from Victorian mannerisms and the trappings of European noble houses. The Spires, which our characters call home, are held aloft miles above the ground and the most lucrative trade is the production of powerful crystals that can power airships. Due to the air-borne nature of the setting, the airships are a primary focus of the story and are the centerpieces of many adventures. The grizzled, veteran Captain Grimm and his crew are clearly inspired by Star Trek, and Jim Butcher uses Trek-like terminology and tactics when he describes the vessel, the organization of its crew, and the inevitable airship clashes. He even includes a grumpy, miracle-working engineer character who is essentially a reincarnation of Scotty from Star Trek: The Original Series.

The primary young protagonist, the young and fiery Lady Gwendolyn, quickly finds herself embroiled in competition with the other trainees who have enrolled to join the Guard of the Spires. Gwendolyn’s interactions with her family, her rival from another noble house, and her talking cat (Rowl) are all approached with Jim Butcher’s characteristic wit and humor. The talking cats even form an entire civilization complete with a king and rather unique insights into the human race. One can only hope that his next book in the series will include talking dogs! Bridget, another Guard trainee, has grown up as a commoner and is sure to connect with the reader as a favorite in this world of haughty aristocrats.

A sudden attack on Spire Albion throws all of the Spire’s normalcy out the window in an instant and hurls our heroes into life and death situations at every turn. Events build organically and Lady Gwendolyn’s storyline neatly interwines with that of Captain Grimm. There are many complex secondary characters, such as the Etherialist Efferus Effrenus Ferus, who is stunningly wise and insane simultaneously. The plot is fast-paced (as Jim Butcher’s fans will have come to expect) and the climax of the book lasts for roughly the last two hundred pages as the stakes continue to rise.

I must confess that it took me longer to buy into The Aeronaut’s Windlass than The Dresden Files or Codex Alera. Steampunk is not one of my favorite types of fantasy, and at times it seemed like the influence from Star Trek was a bit too obvious (and I state this as an avid Trekker). If Steampunk is one of your favorite genres, then I imagine that you will instantly fall in love with The Cinder Spires, but enjoying Dresden does not automatically equal love of The Aeronaut’s Windlass. Overall, however, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a unique and satisfying adventure in itself that still manages to leave room for the sequel.

Rating: 4/5

Purchase The Aeronaut’s Windlass