Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

August 2014 books

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the WorldBanana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically, bananas run the world. Who knew? I liked that the author was willing to keep things interesting even at the cost of uneven chapter lengths and sudden transitions. If a banana-related topic was veering into boring territory, he was not afraid to move on.

Good thing most banana-related topics are interesting! Also, I learned the following from this book, and I consider it to be the most mind-blowing fact I've learned from a book this year (at least):

"The Philippines also grow several close banana relatives. Manila hemp, woven from the fibers of the Abaca plant - a cousin - is the raw material for the strong, thick rope used to secure boats and ships to docks. Our most familiar application of the fiber also derives from the substance's strength: it is the key ingredient in our Manila envelopes."

I had never spared a thought to why we call Manila envelopes, well, MANILA envelopes. Wow.

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of AmericaCandyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A candy memoir! I couldn't decide where the author was at his best - childhood memories of candy, discussions of the candy trade, or describing his visits to candy factories. How about all of the above? I loved that he portrayed the people he met with (candy company presidents and factory workers) favorably. I think authors of books like this are sometimes tempted to get snarky at the expense of their interviewees.

Like my friend Amanda said, I don't think I would be friends with this guy in real life, but certainly this is someone who understands candy and therefore understands ME.

Hattie Ever After (Hattie, #2)Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars for me; probably four stars for the target audience of people 20 years younger than me.

By the way, the whole book I was so distracted that she kept spelling it "lead" instead of "lede," but it turns out that the second spelling was invented after the time period of this book so as not to be confused with other senses of the first. Huh.

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5)City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I said of one of the previous books in this series that it was effortless and smart. This one, not so much. It was mostly people agonizing about their love lives. The villain was squicky-creepy rather than straight-up evil, and the only people (in the loose sense of the word) I really care about at this point are Simon and Isabelle, not even as a couple, just as themselves.

So, yeah. It's been a year or two since I read the previous book. I picked this one up in a weak moment between library holds. I think I'll wait another year or two (for another weak moment, perhaps) before picking up book 6.

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, #3)Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a book about its own characters, and if you don't care about them, WELL. The main conflict/bad guy of the entire series is vanquished at about the 75% mark. The remainder of the book is just sitting down and having angst-ridden fireside chats with the characters, in old-timey English. It was a big ol' pile of meh for me.

A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at SeaA Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty dang riveting. I was glad I watched the movie first, since it helped me to visualize some of the more technical aspects of the ship and lifeboat (like pirate cages and the truly awful conditions in the lifeboat).

The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine, #1)The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

I really liked The Maze Runner by the same author, but I seem to recall a lot of people complaining that it was juvenile, simplistic, and poorly written. I still don't agree with that assessment of The Maze Runner, but it was certainly true for this book. I'll recommend it to the next 10-year-old boy who asks me for a book to read, but for me and my house, it's a DNF.

The Friendship DollThe Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WHAT a treasure. It's the perfect book to read to my daughters. I can't wait to start!

Reluctant mom taxi

August 29th, outsourced