Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory--More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-Wizards Alike

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory--More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-Wizards Alike The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory--More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-Wizards Alike by Dinah Bucholz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this a few Christmases ago from my sister in law, who also loves Harry Potter.

This is a great book, that's filled with very interesting, mainly English recipes. Some of them are a bit unusual, to someone like me, who's not used to eating them.

There are a well balanced mix of complex dishes as well as really basic ones. This book is good for novice and expert cooks alike. It would be an interesting book to use with a kids cooking class, to help them engage with learning recipes, and possibly trying new foods.

I also love the headers of the uses of food throughout the Harry Potter books. It's also got some great tidbits of history, and how food was introduced and used in the past.

What's one food from the Harry Potter series that you would love to try?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Playing the Bully:

Playing the Bully: Playing the Bully: by Esther Sokolov Fine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*Please note, I won a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways.*

Melissa's Musings:

This book is very straightforward and the messages are clear:

"Bullying isn't nice."
"People don't like bullies"
"Families are all different."

The messages are good for children to learn, but I do feel that they could have been explored just a bit more. The writing felt too young for the ages of the characters. They are between 7 and 9, and the writing feels as though it's meant for kindergartners.

I was bullied and teased as a kid, because having a disability made me different from the other kids, and they didn't know how to handle it. In this case, Penny just seems mean and spiteful for no real reason, but I got the impression that the author was trying to have some of Penny's behavior and attitude mimic her dad's to show that behaviors are learned,.

There are good displays of problem solving, talking things out etc.

But, at the end of the story Penny is still a bully. Her behaviors haven't changed, and the lessons haven't sunken in. This also ends really abruptly, with no real resolution.

Were you ever bullied? How did you handle it?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: Mad Blood Stirring: The Inner Lives of Violent Men

Mad Blood Stirring: The Inner Lives of Violent Men Mad Blood Stirring: The Inner Lives of Violent Men by Daemon Fairless
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melissa's Musings:

*I won a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways*

This packs a pretty hefty punch. It's well thought out, and very well researched. It gives multiple perspectives on the reasons for male violence, told through a series of anecdotes, obtained by the author via interviews with a variety of men.

The writing style is one of the things I enjoyed most about reading this. Given the subject matter, there was the expectation that it would be dry, and difficult to get through. I was pleasantly surprised that it was quite the opposite. The tone and style of writing are realistic, which makes it much more digestible. I have an Associates Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's in Sociology, so none of the concepts are foreign to me, but I liked the fact that the author didn't try to dumb things down, so to speak. I find that when authors try to make the subject matter more palatable by breaking it down it makes a book difficult to engage with.

Fairless wrote with the assumption that the reader would already be aware of the concepts. And even for people who have no experience with these concepts, it's written in such a way that they can still appreciate the points of view.

I fall into the same camp as the author, being that I believe that neither nature, nor nurture is solely responsible for human behavior, that it falls somewhere in the middle. Human behavior is way too complex to be that black and white. His own upbringing was a juxtaposition of peace and chaos.

It was interesting to read how the author was so unsettled within himself, always looking, always searching for something. I've had that feeling, though not in the same manifestation. And certainly not with the degree of blood lust (mine is zero) that the author has. I'm actually quite surprised Fairless never got into more trouble with some of the stunts he pulled. It seems he had a bit of a hero complex. I got the feeling that he softened up a bit after the birth of his daughter, but even then there were a few questionable scenarios.

The variety of backgrounds of the different men he interviewed covered a wide range of behaviors, and tendencies.

As much research, and studying as I've done, some of these scenarios that these men talked about were just too much at times, and I did have to put the book down now and again.

There is violence everywhere in our culture. Some people experience it firsthand, with abuse. Others learn certain aspects of it via social conditioning. "Be a man, toughen up, etc." Girls are taught that teasing, and hitting are signs that a boy likes them. Sexual violence, and volatile behaviors are normalized in mainstream media.

But, just because these things are prevalent in our culture doesn't mean that all men are violent. For some men, violent tendencies are hardwired. And I would imagine that some aspects of their upbringing probably contribute to their behaviors as adults. But, just because someone grows up in an abusive home doesn't mean that they will become abusive. Just because they watch violence in movies or on TV doesn't mean that they will be violent. And besides, some people with seemingly normal, sweet demeanor can be capable of behavior we wouldn't even begin to fathom they'd be capable of.

So, it's all a mixture. A blend of environment and biology. I learned some interesting facts that humans are not the only species who rape, though motivation for forced sex within the animal kingdom is slightly different in some ways. Rape in human culture is usually about power and dominance. And this is the same in the animal kingdom, but for many animals it's about the further propagation of the species as well.

Another interesting exploration was the outlets for male violence. The author used physical training, weights, martial arts, running. He even considered becoming a police officer at one point. (which for me furthered the idea of the hero complex.)

Some of the men he interviewed were UFC fighters. Others had been violent in the past, and were now trying to redeem themselves by helping kids in the neighborhoods they came from. He discussed the research on violence after sporting events, and the mob mentality those events can bring about. As well as the demographic aspects of war, and how particularly violent periods in certain countries history may be a result of the natural control of the youth bulge.

I could continue on, but I won't. I will say that this book would make excellent reading for a college course on men, masculinity and society, or the sociology of gender.

Have you read this book? Do you think it's something you might consider reading about?