HEARTH OF DANKNESS:Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race the for the Cannabis Cup

MARK HASKELL SMITH

I’m not a smoker, nor a toker, nor a midnight joker but I still enjoyed this book on pot. Dankness refers to pot that will give you the ultimate high. We learn that there are two strains of pot sativa and indica. Sativa is a clear headed high, energetic “like a cup of espresso,” and slightly hallucinogenic. Smith described being in a hail storm high on a sativa like “being in a shower of diamonds.” Indica is a high that Smith avoids since he tends to get paranoid and sleepy and needs to take a nap.

Smith takes the reader around the world  from Amsterdam’s coffee shops to a California plantation hidden in a sequoia forest.  Ironically, America’s crackdown on weed has driven farmers to move their crop inside, leading to “a boost in potency and a boom in demand for high-quality genetics.” With a vast cottage industry of high-tech grow ops, a plant “that thrives in almost any climate, in any country in the world, now mostly grows indoors.”

“One of the Dutch government’s aims is to “separate the markets for hard drugs and cannabis.” The government wants to protect casual cannabis users from “exposure to more harmful drugs.” In other words, when I go to my local drug dealer to buy some weed she usually has cocaine, LSD, mushrooms, and other substances for sale, but if I go to a coffeeshop, it’s just cannabis and soft drinks. You can’t even get a beer — the ultimate gateway drug — in a coffeeshop.”

Smith is an excellent writer. Dankness is a good read.

SECOND YOU SIN

SCOTT SHERMAN

Second is promoted as a gay mystery but it is more concerned about gay relationships, lifestyles and friendships. The mystery is a small part of this novel. Kevin is a male prostitute who loves his job. He only has to work 5 or 6 hours a week to make an excellent living. When he notices that other hustlers are dying he wants to get know what is going on for his own protection and the protection of others. His semi-boyfriend a hot NYC cop wants Kevin to find a new job but refuses any kind of true commitment.

Second is quite funny at times. Kevin’s mother is a comedic treasure who speaks her mind and gets her point across any way she can. Her interview with a bitch TV star is hilarious.

If what you want is a mystery Second is not the book for you. If your interested in a funny book about perfect (all the men are hot and gorgeous) gay lives then Second You Sin is a good read.

NORMAL MIGUEL

ERIK ORRANTIA

Miguel is a first year teacher from Mexico City who has gone to a small town rural hills of Puebla for his first teaching job. The story is written mainly from the perspective of Miguel and his narrative voice is one that is gentle and thoughtful. There is fluidity to the writing that allows Miguel to seamlessly take the reader from present to past and back again throughout the novel without interrupting the overall rhythm of the story. The author captures Miguel’s nervousness as to whether he will be a good teacher and be accepted by his students and the community, as well as his fear at their reactions should they discover that he is gay. Throughout his year at the Internado (boarding school), Miguel both teaches and learns. His relationship with Ruben, the owner of a candy store, and his experiences with his students and the people of the community prove invaluable life lessons that all contribute to his growth and maturity, and ultimately to his self-acceptance.

The writing can be quite poetic at times:

“In the dark of the evening, while the water from the heavens saturated the hills and the soil and the roots of every tree, the mountainside exploded. The gigantic rock which was the hillside above the cave opening came down in one piece, shattering against the earth into boulder bigger than burros that rolled down to places where they wedges between mighty trees and larger stones left there from the mountain’s previous madness. Water spewed out as if escaping from a cage. The groaning dies down as if the mountain was finally relieved, but the water continued to gush steadily with less pressure but greater quantity.

“Normal” refers to being a new teachers. Many years ago teacher training schools were called “Normal Schools.”

It’s a good read.

THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY

SERE PRINCE HALVERSON

AKA: Anything That Could Go Wrong Will Go Wrong

Ella Beene by accident fell into a relationship by accident where for “three year, [she] did back flips in the deep end of happiness.” All this because while she was fleeing from a damaged relationship, she stopped at a small town in northern California for a sandwich. Joe’s young daughter ran to Ella for a hug and Ella was drawn in to a ready made family: father, daughter, son and she became the Mommy.

But when Joe turns his back to the ocean, something Joe has warned people about over and over again, he is hit by a rogue wave, washed out to sea and drowned. While dealing with the grief of the death of her husband she realizes that the store that supports the family is in serious financial problems. And then Joe’s ex-wife and birth mother of the children turns up at the funeral. Could things get worse?

The author tackle several issues from secrets to the treatment of American-Italians during the second world war and does them well.

!00% chick lit. My spouse loved this book. It is a good read.

THE BEGINNER’S GOODBYE

ANNE TYLER

“The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.” is a wonderful first sentence. But the book is not so much about the supernatural but about the relationship between Aaron, a publisher whose firm specializes in the series The Beginner’s Guides, and Dorothy, a radiologist. When Dorothy dies unexpectedly, Aaron is less haunted by his dead wife than by his own memories of their courtship and their lives together. Through his musings of their life together Aaron discovers how to be a better man and a better husband.

Tyler is such a wonderful author that this subject that would be maudlin in the hands of a less skilled author is infused with warmth and heart. A great read.