Friday, May 31, 2019

Injustice vs Masters of the Universe

I saw this at work and had to read it.  I love the Masters of the Universe, and the thought of He-Man vs Superman was just too good to pass up!  And wow, Injustice vs Masters of the Universe was quite the wild ride! 

It starts with He-Man vanquishing a robot named Faker, who had taken control of Eternos, Capital City of Eternia.  But the civilians berate He-Man for liberating them, because under Faker, they felt safer.  He-Man tells them that he fights for their freedom; Faker was a dictator who tortures people and strips the civilians of their voice.  Zatanna and Swamp Thing overhear this, and decide that He-Man is the perfect man to recruit in their war against Superman back home.  After the Joker tricked Superman into killing Lois and their unborn child, Superman established a totalitarian regime to stop such tragedy from happening again.  Unfortunately, many suffered under his tyranny.  He was overthrown once, but after Brainiac attacked, he was released.  Afterwards, Superman reestablished his regime.  With the Sorceress's blessing, He-Man, along with Teela and Orko, accompany the Justice League to Earth.  Swamp Thing, Starfire, and Cyborg remain on Eternia to help out in He-Man's absence.  Unfortunately, not long after He-Man leaves, Darkseid arrives with the intention of wresting the Anti-Life Equation from the spirit who resides within Castle Grayskull!

Injustice vs Masters of the Universe was such a fun romp.  I absolutely loved it and would love to read more (which the book clearly lends itself to - Hordak running Apokolips, anyone?)

Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living

Wow, so I just realized that it only took me six days to read Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living by Madi Carlson.  I honestly felt like I had been reading it for weeks!  The problem is that it's a reference book, not meant to be read cover to cover (much like You Grow Girl, it's a reference book).  I was actually surprised to finish it earlier this afternoon, because it really felt that slow going.

Carlson covers all things bikes with the intention of getting you set up for commuting by bicycle.  She has some very in depth chapters on the parts and types of bikes, gear, and riding. I surprisingly was quite interested in the chapter on riding with kids; I really liked her break down of the different options for seats, bike trailers, etc.  I do suspect that the book is more for beginner cyclists (or beginner cycling commuters) rather than more experienced people, but I thought it was a very good reference book all the same.

My biggest complaint (besides the fact that this book should not be read cover to cover) is the lack of pictures, particularly to demonstrate bike repairs.  I had a really hard time trying to understand that chapter.  So if you're hoping for a bicycle repair manual, you'd be better off reading something else or going online - I'm sure there are good Youtube videos.

The other issue that I had is that Urban Cycling is very much American.  This is a personal thing, because I am Canadian, so many of the resources she mentioned in the text didn't apply to me because they were all centered around American cities (although there were a few organizations and events that were worldwide, or at least also in Canada).  I didn't really check the resource section at the back of the book though, so it's possible that some of the books and blogs she mentioned are Canadian as well.

So overall, Urban Cycling is a great book to get you started if you're interested in commuting to work via bicycle.  But it doesn't lend itself to reading cover to cover; flip through it and read the parts that interest you instead!

Friday, May 24, 2019

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth

When I read about You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero (and decided that I wanted to read it), I didn't really get that it was a self-help book.  I thought it was going to be more of a personal finance book like Beat the Bank or Worry Free Money.  But it really isn't.  You Are a Badass at Making Money is very much a self-help book, dedicated to giving you the tools you need to work with the Universe to attract wealth into your life. So consider yourself warned: this book has nothing to do with investing or getting out of debt.

So with that disclaimer out of the way, I found You Are a Badass at Making Money to be a rather interesting book.  It is dedicated to helping you change your attitude towards money; don't think of money as an evil entity ("money is the root of all evils"), but more as a partner.  Sincero defines money as a currency, which has its own energy; she says you have to actively work to attract it rather than risk repelling it with your preconceived attitude towards it. Of course, your attitude isn't all you need; you will also need to put in the hard work to reach your goals.  But once your attitude has changed, the Universe will work with you, sending you opportunities to help you reach your goals.  At the end of each chapter, there's some homework for you to complete, helping you work your way through your own mindset, and a mantra (that generally starts with "I love money because___").  While most of the book is squarely dedicated to helping you manifest more material wealth in your life, there are some areas that look at your life as a while (like encouraging you to meditate and just generally be a better person). 

I will admit that I wasn't a fan of Sincero's slang.  I get that it's probably her thing (I didn't read You Are a Badass but I imagine it has much the same language).  But I found it often kind of came out of nowhere in sentences and knocked me out of the reading.  I think it's also going to really date the book in the future.  But that's just my opinion.  You Are a Badass is a New York Times Bestseller, so clearly many other people do not feel the same way.

All in all, I found that Sincero's book really made me reflect on my own life, which I think is a really good thing.  If you're okay with the slang, I definitely recommend giving it a read.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a delightful read.  Delilah Dirk is a globe-trotting, sword-swinging adventure woman.  The Turkish Lieutenant of the title is Selim, a tea-loving man who gets caught up in her wake and becomes her traveling companion.  After adventuring and fleeing from an angry pirate, they come across a little village and Selim decides to stay because an adventuring life isn't for him.  But in the end he finds that maybe a quiet little life isn't what he actually wants.

I loved how Dirk is ridiculously confident while Selim is her exact opposite, which makes for a very fun romp.  I quite enjoyed Tony Cliff's first graphic novel and am looking forward to the second. :)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Spinning Silver

When I heard Naomi Novik had another fairy tale coming out, I was super excited to read it. But I decided I would wait until Spinning Silver hit trade paperback because that's the format that Uprooted is in (and I wanted them to sit together on my shelf). I actually saved part of a Chapter's gift card from my birthday last year specifically for Spinning Silver, which finally arrived earlier this week! I got it on Friday and immediately started reading it (although I only got a few pages in at the time because friends came over that night). I read it as much as I could all weekend and just finished now.

Spinning Silver is loosely based off of the fairy tale Rumplestiltskin. The main character, Miryem, is the daugter and granddaughter of moneylenders. Her father isn't very good at the job, which leaves her immediate family in poverty (because he never collects any of the debts he is owed). After her mother falls ill, Miryem has had enough: she hardens her heart and begins collecting the debts on her own. 

Miryem is quite good at the job. A little too good - she boasts that she can turn silver into gold, and a faerie (Staryk) king takes her up on her boast - if she can successfully turn his silver into gold three times, she will become his queen. Miryem doesn't want to become his queen, but if she fails to change the silver into gold she will die. So she finds herself whisked away into his winter lands against her will.

Unlike Uprooted, the narrative of Spinning Silver is a bit all over the place. The point of view follows Miryem, Wanda (the girl Miryem hires to help her parents out and help her collect her father's debts), Irina (a plain-looking daughter of the duke's first wife who becomes tsarina with the help of the Staryk silver Miryem was given), Stepon (Wanda's little brother), Magreta (Irina's nurse/maid/housekeeper), and even a random chapter from the tsar's perspective (his body houses a demon). While the characters are all rather interesting, I found it often hard to tell the three girls' apart (Miryem, Wanda, and Irina) until you got more context from them because they didn't have distinct voices. The narrative also felt a bit all over the place as a result, too, especially in the middle of the book (which was where you started getting Stepon, Magreta, and the tsar's narratives on top of the three girls).

Despite this though, the story really came together in the end. I didn't like it as much as Uprooted, but I still really, really enjoyed it. And now that it's over, I find myself once again looking forward to more fairy tales like this from Novik in the future.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet

After getting through The Great Transition, I wasn't exactly eager to read more nonfiction.  But thankfully, Kristin Ohlson's The Soil Will Save Us is far less of a slog than The Great Transition was!

The Soil Will Save Us looks at how various people (namely farmers, scientists, and foodies, as per the subtitle) are working on healing the soil.  Healthy soil is more productive, so it's in everyone's best interest (more productive = more food for the billions of people on the planet).  But healthy soil also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.  So it's quite possible that healing the soil can save us from global warming, too.

The soil has released a lot of carbon that used to be previously safely sequestered in it.  Prior to the industrial revolution, this carbon was released thanks to agriculture; the soil did not evolve with anything plowing it and disturbing the microbes and fungi that reside underneath.  The microbes and fungi work together with plants in a vast trading network, trading carbon from plants for the other nutrients that the plants need.  When the soil is disturbed, the carbon that was sequestered in it is released into the air (it binds with oxygen), leaving the microbes to starve. 

The methods for building soil carbon aren't glamorous, which is why politically people tend to ignore them.  They also don't need vast amounts of money (or chemical fertilizers), so the big companies who rely on selling farmers and gardeners fertilizers and other things also want nothing to do with them (these methods cut into their profits).  They're also very hard to look at scientifically: the soil is a vastly interconnected ecosystem, and often parts can't successfully be removed to be studied on their own.  And many studies find funding for three years, while it can take 5 or more to see a difference in soil.

But despite these hurdles, there are many people around the world who are conducting their own experiments on their farms.  And they're seeing some amazing things: like how their soil retains water in droughts compared to their neighbours' soil, or just how much food their healthy soil produces.  This book filled me with hope for the future, that maybe we can feed everyone and save the climate in such a low-impact way. :)