Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack - who has already killed Bod's family...

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (7 discs/7.5 hours).

This was simply lovely! Not least of all because the author read the book himself, which makes any performance infinitely better. Also, the intro music sounded distinctly like the opening theme music from Jonathan Creek which made it just that much cooler!

I'm rather surprised that this was a children's book. I guess it's for older kids, who knows. In any case, it was very good and completely different than anything else I've ever read. Well, heck, every Gaiman is! :) It was dark and light at the same time. And very sad at the end.

I just loved Silas! And I loved how what Silas was sort of dribbled out until at the end you were perfectly sure that what you thought he was and what he really was were the same thing. Perfect!

I wasn't sure whether to give this one seven or eight stars (it'd be a seven and a half if that were an option), as it was good but not great, but not underwhelming either. Very difficult to decide. I'm going to go with eight stars since the author/reader's performance was spectacular.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen

Rachel Carson famously predicted a silent spring, when the ill effects of chemical pesticides would permanently silence many of the world's songbirds. She also warned of a fruitless fall, a time when "there was no pollination and there would be no fruit." Last year this nearly became a reality when commercial beekeepers found that one third of the world's bee population - thirty billion bees - had mysteriously died.

The deaths have continued. Fruitless Fall uses the mystery of colony collapse disorder (CCD) to tell the bigger story of how essential bees are to our daily lives. With their disappearance, we won't just be losing honey; industrial agriculture depends on bees to pollinate most fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Yet this system is falling apart. The number of these professional pollinators has be come so inadequate that they are now trucked across the country and flown around the world, pushing their colonies ever closer to collapse.

In a style that is vivid and engaging, Rowan Jacobsen reports from the almond fields of California's Central Valley to the Ocala National Forest, one of Florida's beekeeping capitals. He explores the causes of CCD, debunking the myths along the way; lays out a long history of missteps that may have led to the current crisis; and offers the first tentative steps toward a solution. Yet he never loses sight of the miracle of flowering plants and their pollinating partners, and urges readers not to take for granted the Edenic garden Homo sapiens has played in since birth. Our world could have been utterly different - and may be still.

The author has a great style, reminiscent of Michael Pollan, which made reading about what could have been as dry as an economics textbook incredibly pleasurable. Plus, the author's pretty hot! :)

The author explored the history of CCD and the potential causes and laid out everything like Poirot in the climax scene of an Agatha Christie. He made everything easy to understand, and explained exactly what could be done to correct the problem - if people care enough. He made me want to try my hand at beekeeping even more!

This one gets a firm eight stars. It was packed with information and had a great flow to it. I definitely can't wait to read more from this author!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Monday, December 22, 2008

How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long

Have you ever wished you could...
... quit your boring job?
... take a year off to travel the world?
... own your own home?
... move to the country?
... retire early?
... have more joy and contentment in your everyday life?

Stop wishing and start reading How to Survive Without a Salary. Since its first publication over twenty years ago, this book has helped many make their dreams come true through the "Conserver Lifestyle".

Author Charles Long shows that by changing from consumers to conservers, we can regain control over the way we live. Conservers don't worry about losing their jobs or not having enough for their retirement. They do work that they love instead of settling for whatever pays the rent. They have discovered that it is possible to survive, and even thrive, without a regular salary.

How to Survive Without a Salary shows you how you can create your own practical plan for leaving the world of wages by

*avoiding consumer traps *earning casual income *budgeting effectively
*finding alternatives to high retail prices *saving on taxes and insurance

If you want to leave the rat race behind, have been forced to leave it behind, or simply want to get away from it all for a while, How to Survive Without a Salary
offers a valuable combination of inspiration and practical advice that will show you how you can survive economically without compromising your values or your happiness.

This was a nice, solid book, filled to the brim with useful information. While not every tidbit applies to everyone, there were at least a few new thoughts that made reading the book worthwhile.

I'm going to give this one seven stars. It's well written (if not well proofread) and easy to read. The author has walked his talk and it shows.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton

From the creator of the popular Hamish Macbeth mysteries comes a new series, starring Agatha Raisin. A public relations executive in London until her recent retirement to the Cotswolds, Agatha is ready for some romance and excitement in her life. However, she gets more than she bargained for when the charming yet sinister new veterinarian in town dies of an injection meant for the horse he was about to operate on. Agatha is sure it was murder and turns to her distinguished neighbor, the retired military man, James Lacey, for aid. Together, the odd couple begin to investigate Dr. Bladen's death and the curious lack of sorrow shown by his divorced wife. But will they succeed in unmasking a killer before suffering an "accident" of their own?

This was the unabridged audiobook on cassette edition (4 cassettes/6 hours).

I still don't particularly like Agatha. Actually, for that matter, I don't particularly like James either. The vicar's wife, however, is perfect! She seems to be in the vein of Miss Marple.

It's cute that Agatha now has two cats! Too perfect! And Bill is lovely, as always, although his parents are unfortunate hosts.

Donada Peters was wonderful, as always, as the reader. The story was good, a nice quick listen. My favorite quote was Bill saying "Take one man who feels he's too ugly to get a woman, and one virgin, and that's an explosive mixture!". Ah, only Bill! You just have to love him!

This one gets seven stars. Quite enjoyable and it makes me definitely want to read more.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The adventure begins when a strange Icelander parchment is uncovered in an old bookstore and reaches a fevered pitch that never lets up as Professor Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel and their guide Hans journey to the center of the earth. From the moment they reach the extinct volcano of the mountain of Sneffels and make their treacherous descent, their chances of reaching the surface alive again become very slim; along the way as they encounter boiling seas, serpent-like monsters, prehistoric apes and an eerie otherworld from which no man has ever escaped. This book embodies the combination of believable science and wonderment that made Jules Verne the father of modern science fiction.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (8 discs/approx. 9 hours).

This was boring beyond belief!!! The book was bad enough, but the reader's performance made it infinitely worse!

Harry was such a whiny brat! Really, he may as well have been 12 years old! And what was up with his cousin being his fiance?

The "adventures" in the book were boring and massively overwritten. The characters were really more caricatures than people. They were certainly not even remotely likable.

While the book is certainly a product of its time the reader's performance made it virtually intolerable. Every minute was excruciating!

This one gets five stars. I would never have even finished it if I had not been busy with holiday baking while listening!

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Death of a Prankster by M.C. Beaton

When it comes to murder, Constable Hamish Macbeth can't see the joke.

Admittedly, there's a touch of black humor in the case. Rich, old practical joker Andrew Trent summons his kin to remote Arrat House in the dead of winter for a deathbed farewell. They arrive to find him in perfect health and eager to torment them with a whole new bag of unfunny jokes.

But this time the body that falls out of the closet is Andrew Trent's. And nobody's laughing.

Especially not Hamish Macbeth, who is hard put to glean any information from Trent's unappealing nearest and dearest. And when the lanky constable's former flame, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, inserts her beautiful self into the case, Hamish must muster all his native guile to carry him through. Fortunately, he has a few clever tricks up his own sleeve, which enable this most endearing of crime fighters to get the best, and last, laugh.

Andrew Trent was certainly not a nice person. His "jokes" were really quite cruel and the sick bastard deserved exactly what he got! Really, he must have either been unbalanced or a sociopath, because he was a sick, sick person. Frankly, I'm leaning towards sociopath.

In any case, having Priscilla cook for you must be rather odd. Like having Martha Stewart cook for you. She's never mussed or has flour streaks of her. It's very disconcerting and rather unnatural.. Although, she is becoming more natural in Hamish's life. More comfortable. There seems to be less of a gulf between them.

I certainly didn't see the identity of the culprit coming! The whole situation felt very Agatha Christie to me. In a good way, of course. And yea for Hamish getting his central heating. How lovely the way he accomplished that! Pure Hamish.

This was a nice, quick read. A solid story with lots of twists and turns and typical Blair/Hamish relations. I'm going to give it seven stars.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Enigmatic Englishman Phileas Fogg wagers his fortune, shocking his stodgy colleagues at the exclusive Reform Club, by undertaking an extraordinary and daring enterprise: to circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. With his French valet Passepartout in tow, Verne's hero traverses the far reaches of the earth - all the while tracked by intrepid Detective fix, a bounty hunter who is certain he is on the trail of a notorious bank robber. Verne's adventure comes vividly alive in this brilliant recording, reflecting on time, space, and one man's struggle to reach beyond the bounds of both science and society.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (7 discs/8 hours).

This was actually quite good! Having just seen Journey to the Center of the Earth on DVD I decided to try reading a Jules Verne. I actually did read the children's version of Around the World in 80 Days as a child, but this was the full version.

I was quite impressed with the entire thing. The reader, Jim Dale, was amazing! He also, incidentally, read the Harry Potter books and does the narration on Pushing Daisies. He made what could have been a rather boring book fascinating and kept a great pace throughout.

The story itself is obviously a product of its time, although not quite as dated feeling as I would have expected, despite references to "coolies" and such.

The conclusion was rather obvious. But, I guess this is because we're rather more educated in scientific matters these days. It was, however, a nice twist.

And Fix. Well, I have nothing good to say about him. I suppose every book needs an antagonist, but perhaps not such an annoying one? I hope Fix got fired upon his return to London.

I'm going to give this one seven stars. It was a good read, but I would never choose to read it again. I suppose if someone is into reading the classics it is a good choice, but otherwise it's a bit on the boring side.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Monday, December 15, 2008

December Book Giveaway!

I am a big fan of Kathy Freston's books and decided to give away a copy of her book Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness just in time for the new year.

Contest runs from December 15, 2008 to 11:59 PM EST January 14, 2009. Winner will be announced January 15, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to three entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
Good luck!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan

When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. Now Pollan turns his sharp insight to the craft of a building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property - a place in which he hoped to read, write, and daydream, built with his own two unhandy hands.

Invoking the titans of architecture, literature, and philosophy, from Vitruvius to Thoreau, from the Chinese masters of feng shui to the revolutionary Frank Lloyd Wright, Pollan brilliantly chronicles a realm of blueprints, joints, and trusses as he peers into the ephemeral nature of "houseness" itself. From the spark of an idea to the search for a perfect site to the raising of a ridgepole, Pollan revels in the infinitely detailed, complex process of creating a finished structure. At once superbly written, informative, and enormously entertaining, A Place of My Own is for anyone who has ever wondered how the walls around us take shape - and how we might shape them ourselves.

I'd forgotten how reading a Pollan was more of a spring Sunday afternoon stroll type of read, rather than a brisk walk in the crisp autumn air. But, it was quite an enjoyable stroll, if rather dense on architectural and literary references. I have to admit that, at times, I felt like it would take me just as long to read the book as it took him to build the building!

Throughout reading the book I felt that it is one of those books that really needs to be read out loud - preferably by the author - to get the full richness of it. It's just so much more substantial read aloud.

The book also really made me begin to dislike architects. They're more artists than actual creators of "homes". They don't really seem to have a clue about how people really live in their homes. Like the residents are ruining their creations by living in them, which is so bizarre and arrogant! Sort of like those people who create delicate chairs that were obviously never meant to actually be sat on!

One thing that bothered me about the little house's foundation was that it is simply posts in the corners set on stones. That means that there is an air space under there! I can only imagine what sorts of creepy crawlies gather under there! Ick!

Also, the author tended to refer to the little house as his "hut", while the architect called it the "Writer's Place". It's lovely to have a name like that.

Here are my favorite passages from the book:

"I remember as a teenager reading that Marshall McLuhan had likened opening the Sunday paper to settling into a warm bath. The metaphor delivered a tiny jolt of recognition, because I too found reading - reading almost anything - to be a vaguely sensual, slightly indulgent pleasure, and one that had very little to do with the acquisition of information. Rather than a means to an end, the deep piles of words on the page comprised for me a kind of soothing environment, a plush cushion into which sometimes I could barely wait to sink me head. More often than not, I could remember almost nothing the moment I lifted myself out of the newspaper or magazine or paperback in which I'd been immersed. Not that I usually bothered to try. Mostly I just let the print wash over me, as if it were indeed warm water, destined to swirl down the drain of my forgetfulness."

"I am petrified by chain saws, a phobia I don't regard as irrational or neurotic in the least. It is in fact scientific, being grounded in the laws of probability and the empirical fact of my innate clumsiness and haste in dealing with the physical world. The way I see it, there is only a fixed number of times - unknowable, but certainly not large - that I can expect to use a chain saw before I become the victim of a blood-spurting and possibly life-threatening accident."

This one is a definite seven stars. Another book this month that I liked, but didn't love. It was like a Lake Champlain chocolate, significantly better than Hershey's, but not a Godiva truffle.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman's phenomenal number-one bestseller The World Is Flat has helped millions of readers to see the world in a new way. In his brilliant, essential new book, Friedman takes a fresh and provocative look at two of the biggest challenges we face today: America's surprising loss of focus and national purpose since 9/11; and the global environmental crisis, which is affecting everything from food to fuel to forests. In this groundbreaking account of where we stand now, he shows us how the solutions to these two big problems are linked - how we can restore the world and revive America at the same time.

In vivid, entertaining chapters, Friedman makes it clear that the green revolution we need is like no revolution the world has seen. It will be be the biggest innovation project in American history; it will be hard, not easy; and it will change everything from what you put into your car to what you see on your electric bill. But the payoff for America will be more than just cleaner air. It will inspire Americans to something we haven't seen in a long time - nation-building in America - by summoning the intelligence, creativity, boldness, and concern for the common good that are our nation's greatest natural resources.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded is classic Thomas L. Friedman: fearless, incisive, forward- looking, and rich in surprisingly common sense about the challenge - and the promise - of the future.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (17 discs/20.75 hours).

This was the longest 21 hours of my life! It seemed like four times that to listen to this boring, boring book. I thought it would never end! I think I eventually went into a sort of trance whenever I listened to it after the first hour or so.

This was obviously a book for upper middle class business owners. It had no information whatsoever for the average citizen on changes he or she could make to help. It was all about business and government and massive changes in India and China.

The WASPy author is so out of touch with the average middle to lower class citizen's life and lifestyle in the US. And, he seems to want to change the US's habits in order to help the poor of other countries. He doesn't seem particularly concerned with the poor people here. Unless, of course, they're the poor black people most affected by Katrina. If you're poor and white you just don't matter to the author. Typical.

He kept blathering about raising the price of gasoline to the "true price" with a Patriot Tax to keep down consumption, but all that would really do would be to punish the poor people the most. The rich don't care how high gasoline prices go, they'll pay any price. Also, he suggested that the $1 per gallon Patriot Tax on gasoline should have been put in place on September 12th. Hello! Yeah, one day after 9/11 with the nation in turmoil you're going to slap a tax on gasoline? What an idiot!

I really don't know how to even rate this one. It was boring beyond belief and the author was so clueless about how normal people live. He seriously suggested that everyone should purchase energy efficient appliances. Hello! Everyone would if they could afford them! And why waste money replacing a perfectly good appliance? Totally clueless. In any case, I'm going to give this one five stars. I guess it would be a good book for someone, but that someone is certainly not me! I personally find the author to be a political prick and will never read crap from him again.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Death of a Snob by M.C. Beaton

Hamish Macbeth is miserable. It's Christmas, and he is alone with a terrible head cold. So when the beautiful Jane Weatherby asks him to spend the holiday at her Scottish island retreat, Hamish is glad to accept. But something is very wrong at this colorful resort - something that will soon claim the life of one of the guests. Now it's up to Hamish to find out who did it.

Jane seemed very Angelina Jolie to me - beautiful, but not a friend to other women. She seems to have a lovely, but exceedingly uncomfortable wardrobe! I simply cannot imagine hiking in some of her getups!

Ah, poor Hamish. I'm sad things didn't work out with Harriet (who was cute for most of the book), but I think I knew it wouldn't. And how very, very silly of Harriet to not explain her situation. It's was too bad that Priscilla had to find the letter though. It seemed as if she were actually growing closer to Hamish.

It was, however, very cute that Priscilla spent Christmas with Hamish's family. I can only imagine how she must have stuck out like a sore thumb amongst them all!

I had no idea about the identity of the culprit. It was actually quite surprising really. I had no idea it was going that way, and it was quite creative.

I also didn't remember that this was a Christmas book. It was a nice surprise once I realized that it was.

Also, Jordy and his truck antics were just too funny!

All in all, it was quite enjoyable. Not quite as happy as one would like a Christmas book to be, but typical Hamish Macbeth series. :) This one gets seven stars.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Death of a Hussy by M.C. Beaton

Wealthy Maggie Baird is neither nice nor kind nor generous.

About the best that can be said for her is that inside her middle-aged body, there still beats the heart of a beautiful tart.

So when her car catches on fire, with Maggie in it, there are five likely perpetrators right on the premises, houseguests in her luxurious Highlands cottage: Maggie's timid niece and four former lovers, one whom Maggie had intended to pick for a husband.

All five are equally impecunious, and all had ample opportunity to monkey with Maggie's car. So finding out who did it requires all Police Constable Hamish Macbeth's extraordinary common sense and insight into human nature. And - lazy lout though he may be, a thorn in the side of his superiors, and an exasperation to his neighbors - when it comes to solving a murder, Hamish lets no grass grow under his feet. Not even when the killer appears to be the wrong person entirely.

This was the unabridged audiobook on cassette edition (4 cassettes/5 hours).

I really must stop reading the Hamish MacBeth books at the same time I'm watching the DVD series, as it is rather confusing to keep everything straight on what's going on in each and the timelines and such.

I actually rather liked Donati, but his charm faded slightly by the end of the book. Allison was super annoying, but I guess she's meant to be. Seriously though, with all the crying and plaintive whining she needs a good smack! I think she got exactly what she deserved at the end. I have a feeling that the author really meant us to understand that her fate was not as rosy as she thought. Especially after she revealed herself to be such a money loving superior snob.

In any case, this was a nice, fast listen. Donada Peters did a lovely job as usual. I didn't love the book, but it was very solidly good so I'm giving it seven stars.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

The pretty Cotswold village of Carsely, where 20-year residents are called "incomers", is the retirement choice of fiftysomething PR career woman Agatha Raisin, fulfilling a lifelong thatched-cottage dream. Gruff, tough, but not stupid, Agatha begins to soften her image - to the extent of entering a spinach quiche in Carsely's annal "best quiche" competition, buying one in Londo to pass off as her own. It doesn't win - but is taken home by Mr. Cummings Browne, the judge and a noted philanderer. He eats it and dies, to be found next morning by his snobbish wife, Vera. The police pinpoint cowbane as the poison and call it an accident. But, Agatha is sure there's murder afoot and nearly loses her own life before she proves it.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (6 discs/6 hours).

I don't particularly like Agatha Raisin. She's certainly no Miss Marple as she's a rather inept investigator, but she's adequate. Bill Wong is a nice, friendly addition that I hope will continue through future books. Roy, however, I'm not loving. He's too ... something. Perhaps too true to life!

In any case, I'm going to give this one seven stars. It seems to be a nice, solid beginning to the series and I look forward to reading the others.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney

When a marriage proposal appears imminent for the beautiful - if rebellious - Lady Rose Summer, her father wants to know if her suitor's intentions are honorable. He calls on Captain Harry Cathcart, the impoverished younger son of a baron, to do some intelligence work on the would-be fiance, Sir Geoffrey Blandon. But when Harry is caught between his client's desire for discretion and his suspicion that murder may have been committed, he enlists the help of Superintendent Kerridge of the Scotland Yard and Lady Rose herself.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (6 discs/6.5 hours).

Rose was actually more likable than I thought she'd be. Of course, I expect great things from any character named Rose after Doctor Who! I also quite enjoyed Colonel Cathcart. He seems quite yummy! Daisy and Barrett are perfect additions! I can't wait to find out what they'll be up to in their next adventure.

Davina Porter was a lovely reader as always. The book was rather slow in the beginning but once it found itself it was quite good. But, seriously, what is up with the Syph/virgins thing? How ignorant are people? Especially as the same thing is happening now with people infected with HIV. People just never change!

I'm going to give this one seven stars because, while I liked it, I just wasn't feeling it. I think the second book in the series will be better as the author finds her stride with the characters. And yea for Nice! And yea again for such a prolific writer!

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz

The legend began in the obscure little town of Pico Mundo. A fry cook named Odd was rumored to have the extraordinary ability to communicate with the dead. Through tragedy and triumph, exhilaration and heartbreak, word of Odd Thomas's gifts filtered far beyond Pico Mundo, attracting unforgettable new friends - and enemies of implacable evil. With great gifts comes the responsibility to meet great challenges. But no mere human being was ever meant to face the darkness that now stalks the world - not even one as oddly special as Odd Thomas.

After grappling with the very essence of reality itself, after finding the veil separating him from his soul mate, Storm Llewellyn, tantalizingly thin yet impenetrable, Odd longed only to return to a life of quiet anonymity with is two otherworldly sidekicks - his dog Boo and a new companion, one of the few who might rival his old pal Elvis. But a true hero, however humble, must persevere. Haunted by dreams of an all-encompassing red tide, Odd is pulled inexorably to the sea, to a small California coastal town where nothing is as it seems. Now the forces arrayed against him have both official sanction and an infinitely more sinister authority ... and in this dark night of the soul, dawn will come only after the most shattering revelations of all.

This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (7 discs/9 hours).

I have to say that this was not my favorite Odd Thomas book. Don't get me wrong, it was still a great book, but it just wasn't my favorite of the series. I guess the first one is always the best.

In any case, I truly enjoyed the book, which was the usual upbeat suspense of Odd Thomas. :) I do miss the characters from Pico Mundo, but the new characters are quite good also, just not comfortable friends like the others. It was nice to have Frank and Boo around, but I miss Elvis too.

The reader was excellent for the book, and made what could have been a long 9 hours flash by in no time. Also, this edition has the tracks at 45 and 90 second intervals, which is so nice for listening to on my iPod, as I don't have to pause midway through a track and come back to it to discover that I've lost my place.

And I love, love, love that Odd was wearing a Mystery Train sweatshirt and Wyvern hat (or t-shirt?)!!! For those who don't know, they are references to Koontz's Christopher Snow series. That just made the whole book right there, that one Mystery Train sweatshirt!

While this was a solid book and entertaining, it just didn't give me the usual Koontz tingle. It was good, but not great. So, I'm going to give it seven stars.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Fottum

The Backyard Beekeeper makes the time-honored and complex tradition of beekeeping an enjoyable and accessible backyard pastime that will appeal to gardeners, crafters, and cooks everywhere.


  • What you need to get started: the new boxes available are smaller, lighter, easier to handle, and better than ever, and the few pounds of honey they produce makes a plentiful harvest for a family with some left to share
  • The best place to locate your new bee colonies for their safety and yours, and how to landscape to screen them from neighbors
  • Organic and least toxic ways to care for your bees, from providing fresh water and protection from the elements to keeping them healthy and productive
  • Delicious treats, candles, and beauty treatments you can make with honey and beeswax
If you want beekeeping done right, it won't be fast. However, beekeeping takes about the same investment in time and care as gardening, dovetails nicely with the planting and harvesting seasons, and provides bonuses for gardeners that include better pollination and larger produce yields.

First, I was rather surprised that the author was male. I was kind of looking forward to a book about bees written by a woman for women. Not that women as beekeepers are any different than males, but coming off of reading Robbing the Bees I liked the view of a woman writing about bees. I guess it just depends on the author.

In any case, this was a great primer for anyone new to bees and beekeeping. It covered everything from what you need to set up a new hive, to installing a package of bees, how and when to feed and medicate bees, how to recognize signs of disease, how to harvest honey, etc. It's like a mini encyclopedia but much more readable.

Since I got this copy from the library I'm going to order a copy of my own from Amazon to keep on my shelf. It was that good of a reference book!

I'm going to give this one eight stars because of the sheer wealth of information presented in an easy to read format.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆