Today’s award goes to the Serpent and Dove trilogy. There wasn’t a single major plot twist that stands out … But, the books were filled of lots of turns and undulations, which made the material feel fresh and fun.
My second lil’ climate book – though, not as lil’ as No One Is Too Small – was The Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin.
The book is structured as a conversation / Q-and-A between Chomsky and Pollin. It follows a four-part structure, looking at (1) the science of climate change, (2) capitalism and the climate crisis, (3) the Green New Deal, and (4) political mobilization.
The Climate Crisis is more academic and economic compared to the other climate books that I’ve read. Arguments like this have a place in the evolving global discussion. (Let’s face it: Money talks.) But … it made for pretty boring reading.
My main irk was that the solutions proposed didn’t seem – well – very revolutionary. Chomsky/Pollin’s calls to create a “politico-ideological vision to mobilize people in the struggle to create a green future” doesn’t compare with Thunberg’s calls to stop emissions. I know that transitioning to a green economy is not as simple as flipping a switch … But, if we’re still waiting to develop a vision, then there’s little hope for us. We need people who will stop talking, and start acting.
Over the last couple of decades, the challenge of climate change has emerged as perhaps the most serious existential crisis facing humanity but, at the time time, as the most difficult public health issue for governments worldwide. Noam, given what we know so far about the science of climate change, how would you summarize the climate change crisis vis-à-vis other crises that humanity has faced in the past?
Check it out:
The book: The Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet
Today’s award goes to An Ember in the Ashes– which was entirely epic. The characters and world building were outstanding, and the magic system spot-on. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.
Vespertine– I was tempted to select Vespertine as today’s winner … but, as the first in a trilogy, it felt a bit premature. (Check back in two years! In the meantime, definitely read this book.)
From Blood and Ash – After a rather lousy experience with that gargoyle book, I didn’t go into Blood and Ash with high hopes … and, was pleasantly impressed. The story moves along at a pretty good clip, and is epic in scope.
His Majesty’sDragon – Jane Austen sensibilities, the Napoleonic Wars, and dragons? All the yes.
What Big Teeth – An interesting concept, but sorely lacking in execution.
Kingdom of the Cursed – Oof. An interesting concept, but sorely lacking in execution. (But, hey! At least there’s Wrath!)
Storm and Fury – That garyole book. A horrible concept, and sorely lacking in execution.
Michael Pollan completely bungled the opportunity to temporarily change is name to Michael Pollen.
Because, y’know, this book is about plants.
I’ll see myself out.
This Is Your Mind On Plants is a micro-exploration into plant-based psychoactive substances. It’s broadly interested in what constitutes a drug; the history of substance use; and the politics around criminalization; and the economics of production. Sprinkled in is some natural history, evolutionary theory, and botany.
The book is framed around three plant case studies:
In Part One, Pollan discusses his experiment with growing poppies (P. omniferum, opium) in his home garden. He discusses the history of opium as a medicinal plant, and recent efforts in the States to ban its sale and production … Which, ironically, coincided with the rise of mass-prescribed pharmaceutical opioids.
Part Two describes Pollan’s efforts to quit coffee (C. arabica et al, caffeine) cold turkey. He talks about how and why caffeine evolved, and explores the global coffee trade.
Lastly, Part Three … Peyote (L. williamsii, mescaline). Most of this chapter is dedicated to Pollan’s two drug trips, the role of peyote in First Nations culture, and conservation efforts.
Of all the many things humans rely on plants for—sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, ﬂavor, ﬁber—surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, to ﬁddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: I hadn’t heard of peyote before this book. And, suddenly, cactus juice makes sense.
Honestly, I’m a little mind blown. How the heck did the writers sneak cactus juice into a children’s TV show?!
📚 OK. Books. We’re here to talk books.
Truthfully, I don’t have a ton to say about This Is Your Mind On Plants. It was a pretty solid three-star read. Concepts were explained clearly, the stories and tangents were entertaining, and it raised some interesting thought points on how we conceptualize substance use.
That said … I have two irks:
🧠 It’s not actually about the mind/brain. Shocker, I know.
I took a fair number of classes on neurphysiology and psycho-pharmacology during my undergrad. It’s been years since I touched this material and I was really hoping for a comprehensive overview of plants and the nervous system. I mean, just look at that title: YOUR MIND on PLANTS. I expect no less than 200 pages on ooey gooey brain talk.
While segments of the book cover the brain and/or the psychoactive states … These are relatively minor points of discussion. Instead, Your Mind is much more interested in historical facts, cultural practices, social movements, (American) politics, economics, and – to a lesser extent – biology.
I get it. The title sounds snappy. But, it’s a clear case of false advertising.
🌼 Second: Why only three plants? There are so many amazing and fascinating plants out there that Pollan could have chosen to highlight. This book could have been 20 chapters of fascinating facts on cannabis, coca, tobacco, tea, sugar, nutmeg (yes, really!), kava, morning glory, norbaeocystin (OK, technically not a plant), hallucinogenic fish (also technically not a plant, but fascinating nonetheless) …
Instead, we get three overly-drawn-out chapters on opium, coffee, and cactus juice.
Naomi Novik. I’m bending the rules here a little bit, because I have read Novik before: Uprooted, back in 2019. But, I didn’t like it. This year, I read both Spinning Silver and His Majesty’s Dragon … and, might be a convert.
Felicity Heaton, author of the Guardians of Hades series. One of those it’s-so-bad-it’s-good series … So, this award is delivered in the most good-natured way.
Scarlett St. Clair, author of the A Touch of Darkness series. For books that were so hyped up, they were so lacking. In the it’s-so-bad-it’s-bad sense.
Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Buried Giant. I’ve tried to keep today’s award focused on new-to-me-authors who I’ve read two or more books. (Because, if you just read one, there’s no knowing if it’s a one-hit wonder of a true pattern.) Well, I’m breaking that rule with Ishiguro. The Buried Giant was *such* a bore — in the most literary and pretentious way.
TBR Thursday is a weekly meme where I randomly select (then chat about) a book on my TBR shelf. This week, my book is …
Book #359 – Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Tuesday Mooney is a loner. She keeps to herself, begrudgingly socializes, and spends much of her time watching old Twin Peaks and X-Files DVDs. But when Vincent Pryce, Boston’s most eccentric billionaire, dies—leaving behind an epic treasure hunt through the city, with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allan Poe—Tuesday’s adventure finally begins.
Puzzle-loving Tuesday searches for clue after clue, joined by a ragtag crew: a wisecracking friend, an adoring teen neighbor, and a handsome, cagey young heir. The hunt tests their mettle, and with other teams from around the city also vying for the promised prize—a share of Pryce’s immense wealth—they must move quickly. Pryce’s clues can’t be cracked with sharp wit alone; the searchers must summon the courage to face painful ghosts from their pasts (some more vivid than others) and discover their most guarded desires and dreams.
Why did I TBR it?
Spotted at the bookstore, and I just couldn’t say “no” to adding it to my shelf. It looks like an oddly fun mash-up between Rat Race, City of Ghosts, and a cozy mystery.
… Plus, look at that cover. It’s so cool.
Believe it or not, I resisted the urge to purchase a copy for my shelf. But, I see it all the time at my local independent bookstore … The way the shelves work, “Racculia” falls at the end of the shelf, just as I turn toward the fantasy/sci-fi sction. I always make a mental note to check it out from the library.
… Well, thank you random number generator for reminding me. I’ve officially placed a library request.
Today’s award goes to Vespertine, which reps on a number of fronts! The author – the very talented Margaret Rogerson – identifies on the aro/ace spectrum. In a Tumbler post, she confirmed that Artemisia is also aro/ace. Lastly, the revenant is asexual and agendered.
Empyrea– This WebToon has one of the gosh darn cutest LGBQT+ romances I’ve ever encountered. On top of it, the comic is beautifully drawn.
Suitor Armour – Another WebToon pick! LGBQT+ representation is interwoven throughout, and the story itself brings up issues of diversity and inclusion.
Blood and Honey– This trilogy features a number of LGBQT+ characters, in a magical world where nobody really cares who you do.
I’m not really sure what a razzie would look like for LBGQT+ … But, I’m glad to report that none immediately leap to mind. (Phew!)
I’m please to report that this year – for the first time, like, ever – I can award this to a proper romance book. American Royals and Majesty were both a ton of fun, and the romance felt grounded and realistic. I remain forever peeved that there is no Book #3 to this series. (Come onnnnnnnn Katharine!)
Lore Olympus, Volume 1 – The only reason this isn’t my #1 is the fact that – in Volume 1 – we’re still in the early days of Hades and Persephone’s relationship. Hold tight, folks.
A Court of Silver Flame – We’ve got spice. But, more importantly, we have a healing journey between Nesta and Cassian.
The Talon Saga – I fully admit that this book series is very silly … but, the romance between Ember and Garret is so wholesome.
I settled into a mostly-normal routine this month: work, home, cooking, reading, and evening lab work. I’ve also *gulp* ventured into the world of online dating. It’s an amazingly frustrating and demoralizing experience. (If Mr. Right could just ask for directions, that would be much appreciated.)
My region has been heavily impacted by floods, and we are currently cut-off — at least by road — from the rest of Canada. It’s been a really wild few weeks, and more heavy rain is in the forecast. Thankfully, there have only been a handful of human deaths: massively tragic, but it could have been so so so much worse.
My daily NaNoWriMo posts weren’t as … er … daily as I had hoped. But, I do have good news: I reached my goal, and have plotted out a book.
It was a surprisingly intensive process. I started things out with a general sense of where I wanted things to go; what my main character was like; and a few crystal-clear scenes floating around my head. Turning this all into a logical, internally-consistent story — and one where the scenes actually link together — was amazingly difficult. I’m so proud of myself for finishing.
Yeesh. I guess it tells you what sort of reading month I had when I select Kingdom of the Cursed – which I gave a whopping ⭐⭐ – as my favourite book of November. But, here we are.
My mood pointed toward a lot of heavier, climate-focused books this month. While I enjoyed reading them – in the “yeah, this is a big issue and I should really read more” sense – … I didn’t really enjoy reading them. Cursed came closest to being an actual leisure book.
With all that said – and, despite the two-start rating – I did enjoy Cursed. It’s a rather brainless YA (note: definitely not YA) with a fun combination of magic, attractive men, decadence, and twists. It was a good book for a very rainy November.
What else did I read?
Starting off with my trio of climate books … We have A Good War (⭐⭐⭐⭐), The Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal (⭐⭐⭐), and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference (⭐⭐⭐). I’m relieved that climate authors are starting to shift from convincing people that – hey – climate change is an actual phenomenon; to discussing solutions for the problem we’ve gotten ourselves into.
Next up, a trio of illustrated books. (I swear, I didn’t plan things this way.) The very witty Little Trashmaid (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐), Lore Olympus, Volume 1(⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐), and There’s a Ghost in this House (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐).
And, lastly, a miscellaneous trio. This is Your Mind on Plants (⭐⭐⭐), When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (⭐⭐⭐), and Calistos (⭐⭐⭐). I was actually pleasantly surprised with Calistos: the story arc is coming together, and the structure worked really well. I’m rather peeved that my library isn’t currently offering Books #6-8.
What’s on the horizon?
No more climate books … At least, for a little while. I think I’m climated-out.
My mood reading compass is on the fritz right now: pointing me in a bunch of different directions, but not really feeling satisfied with anything I pick up. I have no idea where it’s going to land. But, hopefully it’s on one of these …
What have I been listening to?
It seems like most of my month was split between four albums … O Wonder’s 22 Break; Taylor Swift’s Folklore; Said the Whale’s Dandylion; and — my most recent find — the Broadway recording of Hadestown.If you haven’t listened to it yet, Hadestown has some absolutely gorgeous songs. Like this one:
… the tour really, really needs to come to Canada. Please and thank you.
It took a little bit of convincing 😉 But, I am so excited that Sophie @ Beware the Reader is coordinating Blogmas again this year!
Blogmas is a month-long celebration of great reads: All your favourite books of 2021 in one place. This year, to (understandably!) lessen the load, Sophie is offering a alternative format with 16 posts. Depending on how the month goes, I might fill in the holes with prompts from previous years and/or my own ideas.
So, join in! I can’t wait to see everyone’s top picks of 2021!