Nature · Non-Fiction · Science · Ying L

The Dancing Bees | by Tania Munz

Dancing Bees: Karl Von Frisch and the Discovery of the Honeybee Language

The Dancing Bees: Karl von Frisch and the Discovery of the Honeybee Language
by Tania Munz
(The University of Chicago Press, 2016, 278)

Nobel Laureate: bee behavior pioneer

5/5 stars

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Fiction · Food! · Julia P · Nature

All Over Creation | by Ruth Ozeki

All Over Creation

All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki
(Penguin, 2004, 432 pages)

Ruth Ozeki’s newest book, A Tale for the Time Being, has been everywhere lately. I was intrigued but thought I’d pick up one of her older titles first. All Over Creation sounded interesting, especially given my love for all types of food-related reading.

Yumi Fuller grew up in Liberty Falls, Idaho and ran away as a young teenager. Her father, Lloyd, was an All-American potato farmer who met and married her mother, Momoko, after serving overseas. Momoko took it upon herself to tend a small garden of various fruits and vegetables and that (specifically harvesting and disseminating the seeds) became the Fullers’ primary focus later on in life. After Lloyd’s health took a turn for the worse Cass, Yumi’s former childhood best friend who has become the Fullers’ pseudo-caretaker, reaches out to her and suggests she come home to say her last goodbyes. When Yumi returns home with three kids in tow, all from different fathers, it turns out that while her father’s health is deteriorating he has an incredible will to live.

There’s inevitable tension between Yumi and Lloyd since they haven’t spoken in decades. As this family “reunion” is underway a group of activists known as the Seeds of Resistance find their way to the Fuller farm thanks to the newsletters Lloyd sends out regarding the Fuller seeds he and Momoko sell. The Seeds are against Agribusiness and are doing what they can to keep the earth from slowly dying thanks to pesticides and bioengineering. The Fuller’s allow the Seeds to stay on their land and help catalogue their seeds while also helping care for Lloyd. Cass and Yumi work at rekindling their friendship while Yumi tries to understand what her life has become.

This was a really enjoyable read. I really like Ozeki’s writing style and will certainly be checking out more of her work. The description on the back of the book didn’t wow me initially but I’m so glad I picked it up anyway. The characters are well fleshed out and you’re drawn into the story pretty quickly.

Fiction · In the Library · Nature · Theresa F

Flight Behavior | by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
(Harper, 2012, 436 pages)

I enjoyed Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, but I don’t know if I would characterize this novel as suspenseful (see below). I’ve read a few other novels by Kingsolver and would consider her a favorite, but while this book was good it wouldn’t be at the top of my list of her books (Poisonwood Bible). As with most of her work the natural world is a major character and in this story climate change takes center stage.

Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver’s riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world.” –Amazon.com

Award Winner · Food! · In the Library · Julia P · Nature · Non-Fiction · Page-Turner · Science

The Omnivore’s Dilemma | by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
(Penguin, 2007, 450 pages)

I’d been wanting to read this book for ages and I’m so glad I finally picked it up! This was such an informative and engaging read – I’ll definitely read more of Pollan in the future. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma Pollan follows three different routes for food to make it to the table for dinner. The routes are: industrial, pastoral, and personal. These can otherwise be read as: factory farming, organic food, and hunting/gathering. The depth in which Pollan addresses the way we go about acquiring the food we eat is pretty impressive. It’s amazing to think of the lengths we go not to think about where our food comes from…

I think my favorite section was the pastoral/organic one – it resonated with me the most. I appreciated that Pollan didn’t spend too much time looking at the dark side of factory farms – the goal wasn’t to horrify, but rather inform the reader on what’s going on from a natural/scientific perspective. I think about food in a different light now and while I haven’t made any drastic changes yet (some are a little pricey) I have made a few small ones that I feel good about.

If you’re interested in food, quality nonfiction writing, and/or are interested in learning more about how your food gets to your plate I highly recommend this book. It was the winner of the James Beard Award and was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of their ten best books of the year.

Fiction · Julia P · Nature · Young Adult

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate | by Jacqueline Kelly

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
(Henry Holt and Co., 2009, 352 pages)

The year is 1899 and we’re introduced to eleven-year-old Calpurnia Virginia Tate (also known as Callie Vee), the only girl in a family with 6 boys. Along with her brothers, she lives with her parents and her grandfather on her father’s side. Calpurnia’s grandfather isn’t of the “warm and fuzzy” variety. In fact, most of his grandchildren are a little scared of him. Then Callie comes to her grandfather with a “nature” question and a unique relationship blossoms between the two.

Callie gains a deep appreciation for the natural world thanks to her grandfather. She loves all things science and has no desire to participate in any “womanly” duties, like knitting and cooking. Unfortunately, her preferences aren’t quite in line with what’s expected of young women at the turn of the century…

This was an enjoyable read. I can see why it was a Newbery Honor Book.

Fiction · In the Library · Julia P · Nature · Quick Read!

The Language of Flowers | by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
(Ballantine Books, 2011, 322 pages)

Victoria has lived something of a rough life.  She’s grown up in and out of foster care and group homes after she was abandoned by her mother as an infant.  Now 18, she has been emancipated from the system and must find a way to survive on her own.  There is one brief spark of light when Victoria reflects back on her life, and that was when she was taken in as a foster child by a woman named Elizabeth.  Elizabeth lived on a vineyard and one of the things she taught Victoria while they lived together was that there is a language of flowers.  Each flower means something and can be used to convey that feeling/emotion when the flowers are bestowed upon another.  Victoria held on to this language – in spite of the transitory nature of her life, this knowledge and appreciation of flowers is something she has always been able to cling to.

Forced to live on the street after her emancipation, Victoria is eventually taken under the wing of a local florist.  This relationship surprisingly leads her to a connection to her past and the life she shared with Elizabeth.  The novel moves back and forth from the present day to the past when Victoria experienced the closest thing to a family with Elizabeth.  Mistakes were made and her life was changed because of it…  Now Victoria has to figure out if she can try to move forward, or if she will continue to be haunted by the past that caused her to lose any real chance at having a family.

I really enjoyed reading this novel.  The story was engaging and it really got me interested in learning the language of flowers.  The only “issue” I had with the book is that I felt the protagonist should have been a little older.  The way she reacted to certain situations and handled herself seemed beyond her 18 years.  Granted, that would have changed the story’s outline, but I think it would have been truer to the character if she’d started out around 21 or so.  Anyway, great read – I definitely recommend it!