BOOK REVIEW: Eating Animals – by Jonathan Safran Foer

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Title: Eating Animals
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Non Fiction, Philosophy, Health, Food
First published: 2009
Finished reading: December 4th 2014
Pages: 341
Rating 4,5

“Isn’t it strange how upset people get about a few dozen baseball players taking growth hormones, when we’re doing what were doing to our food animals and feeding them to our children?”

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This is not a book about vegetarianism like the title Eating Animals might suggest. Nor am I are vegetarian or will I ever be; I enjoy eating meat too much to give it up all together. But this non fiction book by Jonathan Safran Foer sure left me thinking about my choices when buying and eating meat. In Eating Animals, he tells us about his three year investigation of what is REALLY going on in the meat industry. Safran Foer decided to investigate after his son was born; he wanted to make sure he was making the right choices for his kid. And after what he found out, he became a vegetarian. Says enough about the results, right? Safran Foer mixes facts with parts of his memoir focused on food, and is able to show us perfectly why he decided to stop eating meat all together. I respect his decision and I will definitely be more careful when buying meat. Eating Animals is what you call a ‘heavy’ read with a strong message, but definitely worth reading! The investigation is focused on the US meat industry, but without doubt the results apply to other countries as well.

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Safran Foer starts his story by explaining to us why he wanted to start his investigation in the first place. Food has always been important in his family. He already had some vegetarian experiences during college, but when his son was born he started to ask himself more and more why we do eat animals. We associate food with certain memories, and while he has some precious memories involving meat, he wanted to make sure including meat in the memories of his child would be the right thing.

The meat industry isn’t the same as a hundred years ago. Before, animals were raised and cared for at family farms, and in general had a relatively good life at those farms. But with the population and the meat demand increasing over the years, things changed. The so-called factory farms were born, and animals were treated more and more like mere objects. Torture, genetical manipulation, cruelty…The chickens, pigs, cows and other animals of today in general don’t have a happy life at all. Deprived of all basic humane living standards, those poor creatures in general suffer ever single day of their short life at factory farms. And the situation at slaughterhouses is not much better. Unnecessary cruelty during slaughter is a thing so common that even family farms that don’t want their animals to suffer have a hard time finding ‘proper’ slaughterhouses. Animals at factory farms are injected with hormones and are genetically manipulated so they grow faster while eating less. Hormones we later ingest when we eat their meat… And that is only the start of possible health risks and consequences of the current meat industry.

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Eating Animals is without doubt an interesting read that really makes you think about where your food really comes from. It is not a light read and people with a weak stomach might not enjoy it. Otherwise it is definitely recommendable to both vegetarians and those who enjoy their meat like me, but want to know how to make better choices when buying and eating animal products.

BOOK REVIEW: Halloween Kentucky Style – by Charles Suddeth

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Title: Halloween Kentucky Style
Author: Charles Suddeth
Genre: Children, Suspense, Fiction
First published: October 15th 2010
Finished reading: November 29th 2014
Pages: 64
Rating 2,5

“Danny’s latest vocal production came to a screeching halt as he gazed upon something that was certainly not in the plans. A huge, horrible figure loomed over him, reminding him of King Kong.”

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I came across this short children story when I was looking for something Halloween themed for the Bookish Bingo. I thought a short read would be perfect, mostly because Halloween has already passed and I didn’t want to waste too much time on a book theme I should have read a month ago. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really impressed by this story written by Charles Suddeth.  I don’t know if Halloween Kentucky Style was ment to be scary, because it definitely wasn’t. The characters were on the verge of boring and the end wasn’t satisfying at all. Two and a half stars for the effort, but I won’t be reading this to my future children…

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Mike and Timmy are trying to scare their cousins Alice and Rose on Halloween. They enter an old deserted house and think it is perfect for a prank… They invent a story about ghosts in the mansion and ask another kid to play the ghost when they take their cousins on a tour. First they go to the cementry, where they have their first scare… The girls are not pleased and tell Mike and Timmy there won’t be treats if they play any more tricks.

 What they don’t know, is that the mansion wasn’t deserted after all. A homeless man who doesn’t like any company spends some nights at the grounds and doesn’t want any kids nosing around. He is determined to give the kids a scare they won’t soon forget… And when they go to an old mill afterwards, the Halloween tricks are not over yet.

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I guess the good part of the story was that it was short. I didn’t like the writing style and the characters were not exactly likable. I know it is a children story and short stories in general don’t allow for characters with some dept, but still… I don’t think I would recommend reading this to children; there are way better children books out there.

BOOK REVIEW: The Body Farm – by Patricia Cornwell

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Title: The Body Farm
(Kay Scarpetta Series #5)
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller
First published: 1994
Finished reading: November 29th 2014
Pages: 400
Rating 3

“Sometimes I saw his eyes in my sleep, saw them bright like blue glass staring through a barely opened door leading into a strange, dark room filled with a putrid smell.”

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I didn’t read the previous four books of this series, but I can say now it is not really necessary because you can understand the general story without them. I could have read the first book, Postmortem, first, but since I only own it in Spanish I decided to skip straight to The Body Farm instead. It’s not the first time I read something of Patricia Cornwell and the second time was not much better than my first experience. I did like this novel better than her non fiction work Portrait Of A Killer, but I found The Body Farm rather predictable and I couldn’t really connect to the characters. It’s an ok read and similar to all those CSI series out there, but it lacked the dept, character development and plot twists I would need for it to stand out from the rest. Still, I guess this series would work perfectly for an afternoon or night of easy reading…

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This time forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta is send to a small town in North Carolina as her help is needed in a case were an eleven-year-old girl is brutally murdered. The FBI suspect a serial killer named Temple Gault is on the loose and might have killed the little Emily. It is up to Kay and the other agents to find out who really did this to her. She is soon forced to use all the forensic investigation tecniques out there, and she asks for the help of a research facility known as The Body Farm to investigate a dubious mark on the body…

Scarpetta’s niece Lucy, FBI intern, is in trouble as she is accused of entering a highly secured area and possibly stealing data of a confidencial new computer database named CAIN. Scarpetta suspects something is wrong and soon has to protect her niece as well as finidng out who killed poor little Emily. And one of the detectives Marino is getting really involved with the victim’s mother and asking for trouble… Will everything work out in the end?

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The Body Farm was an easy read for sure, but like I said before, it lacked the ingredients to become a really good crime novel. I just wish I couldn’t have guessed ‘whodunit’ before I was halfway down the book, and some of the other ‘twists’ and characters were pretty predictable as well. It is still good enough to entertain you for an afternoon or night, as long as you don’t expect a literary masterpiece. That said, I probably won’t read the first book for a looooong time…

BOOK REVIEW: Innocence – by Dean Koontz

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Title: Innocence
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery
First published: 2013
Finished reading: November 27th 2014
Pages: 338
Rating 4

“Each book is a mind alive, a life revealed, a world awaiting exploration, but living people are all those things, as well—and more, because their stories haven’t yet been completely told.”

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Innocence is one of those books you need to be in the right mood for in order to actually appreciate it. This novel by Dean Koontz is not an easy read and you really need to sit down to enjoy the beautiful prose and philosophical messages hidden in plain sight. With that said, except for the last part of the novel, I highly enjoyed reading Innocence. The first two parts build up a kind of mystery and tension around Addison and Gwynneth, the main characters, that makes you just want to keep on reading. Unfortunately the last and final part ends in a sort of anti-climax and I sincerly wish the story would have ended differently. Still, Innocence deserves its four stars and it is definitely recommendable to those who enjoy reading beautifully written prose and don’t mind philosophical and religious messages incorporated into the story. Warning: part of the story is actually quite dark!

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Addison Goodheart is different and people hate him for that. He spends his life beneath the city hidden from sight, because if he is ever seen by another human, they will destroy him without hesitance… He lives together with a man he calls Father, someone who is different like Addison and teaches him all about how to survive in this cruel world. But Father one day is forced to leave him, as did his real mother when she sent him away when he was eight.

On one of his nightly escapades, Addison meets Gwynneth, a fragil girl who dresses as a Goth and has social phobia. Against all odds they tolerate each other and soon become friends, their bond running deeper than the tragedies both have experienced. Someone is after Gwynneth; the same man that has killed her father. They are desperately trying to escape both him and protect others from getting harmed, but things are not easy and not only because of the heavy snow. Something big is about to happen, something that will change the world forever…

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It’s hard not to reveal too much in the summary without spoiling the plot twists and surprises Koontz incorporated in this novel. What I can say is that this is definitely an interesting read and worth your time if you enjoy a good fantasy thriller with well written prose. So many great and meaningful quotes! The end does disappoint slightly though.

BOOK REVIEW: The Witches – by Roald Dahl

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Title: The Witches
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Children, Fantasy, Fiction
First published: 1983
Finished reading: November 22nd 2014
Pages: 208
Rating 4

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

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I was feeling nostalgic the other day, and decided to to a Roald Dahl reread. He is one of my favorite childhood authors, and his prose is entertaining for both young and old. Since I needed a book about witches for the Bookish Bingo challenge, I decided to pick up a copy of The Witches this time. It is not my favorite Dahl read, but still very much entertaining! I just love the way he describes the whole situation and the ‘real’ witches. Some of the descriptions and prose are actually quite hilarious! All in all it makes for an excelent and easy book to read alone or together with children.

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This story is not about the fairy-tale kind of witches… There are REAL witches out there who can disguise themselves to look like ordinary ladies. But they are as evil as their fairy-tale sisters, and if you pay attention you can recognize them. When his parents die, the boy has to live with his Norwegian grandmother. She is a retired witchhunter, and tells him all about them. Real witches wear wigs, gloves and don’t have toes. Real witches think that children actually smell like dog droppings!

When they go to the coast on a short holiday, they actually run into a full blown witch meeting! Once a year the witches of every country get together to meet the Grand High Witch, and this year the English witches chose their hotel. The boy is soon discovered by them and won’t ever be the same… And soon both he and his grandmother are looking for a way to destroy the witches. Will they succeed?

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A very entertaining and light read with a brilliant prose that is at times even hilarious. The Witches might not be his best or most famous work, but it is definitely recommendable anyway. Roald Dahl was without doubt a genius and his work is timeless!

BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire – by J.K. Rowling

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Title: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
(Harry Potter Series #4)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 10th 2000
Finished reading: November 21st 2014
Pages: 636
Rating 4,5

“I don’t know who Maxime thinks she’s kidding. If Hagrid’s half-giant, she definitely is. Big bones… the only thing that’s got bigger bones than her is a dinosaur.”

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I finally came around rereading the fourth book of the Harry Potter series! I had originally planned to reread all of them along with The Not A Book Club Club at Goodreads, but once I started with the Bookish Bingo challenge I couldn’t keep up with the pace. I’m glad I finally did reread The Goblet Of Fire though, because it has been one of my favorite books of the series. While Hermione and her S.P.E.W. promotion tends to be a bit on the annoying side, the tournament makes it a highly entertaining and addictive read. The fact that Harry’s godfather Sirius is playing a role in it is a huge bonus; I’ve always loved the Marauder characters and I wish J.K. Rowling would have incorporated them more into the books… The Goblet Of Fire is probably the first really dark book of the series, where Lord Voldemort rises again and the world is getting more dangerous. But it also shows Harry and his friends are growing up and behaving like any normal teenager… Definitely a must read in case you haven’t read it, like the rest of the series!

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WARNING: Spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the previous books yet...

Harry is about to start his fourth year at Hogwarts, but he has another event to look forward to before: the Quidditch World Cup. The Weasleys have invited him to come watch the final, and he is truly excited. Things take a turn for the worse after the match though, and Voldemort’s supporters, the Death Eaters, manage to mark the sky with a mark that hasn’t been seen since the Dark Lord attacked Harry Potter and lost all his power… And soon panick is all around.

Harry has other things to worry about though, as the first Triwizard tournament in centuries is being held at Hogwarts his year. And although Harry wasn’t supposed to enter the competition, somehow his name ended up in the goblet of fire anyway and he was chosen as one of the champions. He now has to face the three tasks along with the other three champions, and they definitely are not easy at all… And what about the person who put his name in the goblet? And the threat that Voldemort is getting stronger? It’s going to be another difficult and dangerous year at Hogwarts for Harry…

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I have loved this series ever since the first book came out, and I can easily say these books have shaped my childhood. In The Goblet Of Fire we see Harry that slowly growing up and the events are getting darker and more serious. While I don’t care much about the romance Rowling is trying to introduce in the story, I still very much loved this book. The tournament, the different tasks, marauders… The Goblet Of Fire is filled with mystery, magic and awesomeness. A must read!

BOOK REVIEW: Interview With The Vampire – by Anne Rice

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Title: Interview With The Vampire
(The Vampire Chronicles #1)
Author: Anne Rice
Genre: Fiction, Paranormal, Fantasy
First published: 1976
Finished reading: November 19th 2014
Pages: 342
Rating 2

“In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air, I knew I was home. It was rich, almost sweet, like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard.”

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I was really tempted to DNF this novel. I’m not sure if it was because of the incredibly slow pace, if it was just a typical case of not-for-me or if Interview With The Vampire is really that bad. But what I can say is that it took me ages to finish a book this short and I cannot say that I enjoyed the ride. Sure, some of the prose is actually quite beautiful, but the pace is so slow that I kept wondering if I shouldn’t start a different novel instead. (Which I actually did at one point.) The story of the vampires Louis, Claudia and Lestat itself is quite interesting but just couldn’t connect to Anne Rice‘s writing; therefore my hours reading Interview With The Vampire became something close to torture. I can honestly say I only finished it for the Bookish Bingo challenge, and I’m not sure if I want to read more of Rice‘s work in the future. (Although Lestat has been recommended to me!)

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Louis is ready to tell the story of how he was made a vampire and what happened to him afterwards. He is being interviewed by a human, and slowly we get to know more about him and the city of New Orleans where he lived. A vampire named Lestat turned him into a vampire in search of Louis’ money and property. Louis cannot accept his new life and hates himself for having to kill humans to survive. Lestat isn’t the best vampire teacher around and cares more about living comfortably than actually explaining the fundamental things about vampire life. Just as Louis wants to leave, Lestat turns a little girl, Claudia, into a vampire. Louis hadn’t killed her when he took Claudia’s blood, and Lestat turned her so Louis was forced to stay and take care of her.

Claudia is more vampire than Louis will ever be, and soon she is becoming tired of Lestat. She wants to escape to Europe with Louis, but first they have to get rid of Lestat… Which is difficult since he is immortal. They finally go to Europe anyway in search of more vampires… And encounter quite a few on the way. One of their final stops is Paris, where Louis meets Armand and other vampires. Louis is enchanted by Armand, but Claudia doesn’t like him nor the other vampires… And because she is afraid Louis will leave her, she forces him to turn a woman into a vampire. They aren’t as safe as they thought though; a surprise is waiting for them when they visit the theatre Armand owns…

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Like I explained before, I just couldn’t enjoy this novel. The pace was so slow that I had to force myself to keep reading… Even when some of the prose is actually quite beautiful. Maybe this was just a typical case of a book that wasn’t for me, since it has actually a high rating on goodreads, but I wouldn’t recommend reading Interview With The Vampire to anyone. But hey, that’s what different opinions are for, right?