The Seasons On Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman

The Seasons on Henry's Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable FarmFrom the author's websiteThrough closely observed natural phenomena and engagingly told stories, The Seasons on Henry’s Farm takes readers deep inside the world of a small-scale farmer, and in so doing, opens a window into what sustainable farming really entails and why it is vital and relevant to everyone who eats.

Every year, when Christmas comes around, I panic and buy my husband a book or three as stocking-stuffers.  The last several years have seen a few fantasies and one or two non-fiction books about cooking and restaurants.  After doing some gardening with him this year, I decided to get him a book about something we're both interested in -- the local farm scene.  I had initially wanted to get him My Empire of Dirt, but I always hesitate before giving a book I haven't read which has received lukewarm reviews.  Luckily, the Amazon page for that book recommended the much more popular The Seasons on Henry's Farm.

After my husband opened the book, I couldn't help myself and I started to nibble away at the book.  It's conveniently set up to have a new chapter for each week through one year of farming.  A week here, a week there.  The next thing I knew, my husband was a few weeks in and I was done it. 

My favorite parts of this book were definitely the chapters in which she goes into detail about either what gardening needs to be done for the season and how hard it is and who does what task or the sections in which she talks about the CSA her brother runs.  These feel both informative and entertaining.  For instance, one of the beginning chapters which is all about the hardships of planting garlic makes me want to go buy some farm stand garlic and it also makes me want to try growing garlic!  Another chapter which easily sticks out in my mind is the one in which she discusses her brother's attempts to stop using plastic bags at his farm stand and the response of people who are resistant to this change.

While some of the chapters that only barely touch on farming, focusing instead on her family or the state of gardening today, drag or feel overly preachy, it's worth reading through them to glean the bits about gardening that sit within.

Overall, I really liked this book and I'm happy that I got it for my husband.

Verdict: 7.  Definitely had enough enjoyable bits to easily outweigh the sections I found dull.

Thoughts:  It's been a while since I last read non-fiction, but this makes me want to find other books about sustainable farming.  I think it might be time to start ratcheting up how much non-fiction I read since the last several books I've enjoyed the most have all been non-fiction.


Just The Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James

Just the Sexiest Man AliveFrom the author's website: "Nothing fazes Taylor Donovan.  In the courtroom she never lets the opposition see her sweat.  In her personal life, she never lets any man rattle her–not even her cheating ex-fiancĂ©.  So when she’s assigned to coach People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” for his role in his next big legal thriller, she refuses to fall for the Hollywood heartthrob’s charms.  Even if he is the Jason Andrews.

Jason Andrews is used to having women fall at his feet.  When Taylor Donovan gives him the cold shoulder, he’s thrown for a loop.  She’s unlike any other woman he’s ever met: uninterested in the limelight, seemingly immune to his advances, and shockingly capable of saying no to him.  She’s the perfect challenge.  And the more she rejects him, the more he begins to realize that she may just be his perfect match. . ."

Just the Sexiest Man Alive came so close to getting a spectacular grade from me.  I enjoyed its fast pace, it's 'witty' banter, and the main two characters (mostly).  Ugh, notice how I'm already hedging on a positive review by putting the witty in quotes and the mostly in parenthesis there?  That's not fair to this book, which is a good one.  In fact, I'm half afraid that my low score comes from the fact that I think it could have been so much better with a few changes.

Taylor is a good protagonist.  She's got a career, ambition, friends, and family.  She loves what she does.  She knows who she is.  There is much to love about Taylor, but the book doesn't focus as much on the things to love as it does on who she loves.  Taylor's life appears to fail the Bechdel Test.  Perhaps this is because I was reading a romance, but all her conversations with her closest friends revolve around guys and how she should get over her ex-fiance and how Jason is the total cutest boy ever.  Her friends giggle and shriek over Jason and other actors. 

It's tiring, but possibly a true representation of life.  If my closest friend started to date Brad Pitt or Ryan Reynolds, perhaps I'd shriek and giggle too.  On the other hand, her friends are nothing like me.  They immediately look at Jason as a possible serious relationship even though Taylor has yet to even date him at a point in the book.

Jason comes off better in the book.  He's arrogant and conceited and silly in the beginning, but it allows for him to show more growth and of a more serious kind, as well.  Plus, when things happen to Jason that humiliate him, it both makes him sympathetic while also giving this reader a bit of a thrill to see it happen.  Jason's friend, Jeremy, does better duty as a friend than Taylor's do.  He has a legitimate reason for jumping immediately to the idea that Jason might be serious about Taylor.

The first several meetings between Jason and Taylor are delightful, though I was quickly over the idea that even they seemed to believe their patter was witty. I think one or more less witty conversations might have helped me believe a little more that they knew each other in some way when they started to think so seriously of each other.  However, the story still progressed easily and nicely.  Perhaps too much so.

At this point, the author introduces the OTHER MAN and he is EVIL.  In fact, she realizes this, and throws a mocking jab at it.  I almost wondered if she had been forced to put him in there by an editor or by people who originally read her book.  The other actor is so blatantly and obviously evil that sections containing him ring untrue.  If he had been competitive with Jason, but a good guy, or a decent but dumb man, then it all might have read better, but it doesn't.  He is there only to be a rival to Jason and to suck.

Once the story gets past this section, it picks up once again, going back to Taylor's career and how it does not quite mesh with Jason's career and their feelings for each other and why they each have issues they need to work past.  While I was not happy about the resolution of the story, at least it was cohesive and fast-paced.

Verdict: 6.  So close to true greatness, but not quite there.  (Started with an 8.  Deducted a point for Scott being a tool of a character.  Literally.  And another point for Taylor's resolution to her career storyline.)

Thoughts: I think this book will date itself fairly quickly with some of its pop culture references, which is a terrible shame because I enjoyed the book!