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I read widely and in most genres but romance and westerns. Here you'll find my reviews since 2007, with a few reviews of previously read books as well.


In 2012, I completed an "authors of the world" challenge, reading a book for every country (and a few other entities) by someone who'd lived there for at least two years. I expect to tag these books by challenge and country in the near future. I'm still refining my list by adding books that better meet my challenge criteria.

Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard - Pam Penick Received from NetGalley as an ARC.When I moved into my current house, the first thing I did outside was to dig up all the grass and shift the landscaping to reflect the natural character of the yard (wet on one side, dry on the other) and to increase native plantings, including bird attractors and deer inhibitors. A decade later, it's hard to imagine that there was ever a hard-to-mow lawn with wet sinkholes and dry clay outcroppings. I was greatly helped, both in imagining possibilities and in practical matters, by gardening manuals on hard-to-plant areas, but I would have loved a well-illustrated book devoted to replacing the whole lawn.Lawn Gone! is a terrific source of ideas for non-lawn yards. It features a large number of attractive, clear photos of alternatives to basic grass surroundings for the home. Penick begins with answers to the question of why one might want a different kind of yard. These include issues such as maintenance, environmental considerations, visual texture, and the use of local plants, all of which appeal to me. In addition to many how-to sections (including very useful advice on how to negotiate with Home Owners' Associations and other covenant-generating entities), she provides numerous examples and stories. Among the major subjects covered are using different ecological lawn mixes; planting ornamentals (with attention to the problem of invasive species), ground covers, shrubs and perennials; hardscapes (and their drainage); ponds; and child-friendly features. Penick provides sufficient coverage of tasks such as solarizing, or planning bed edging, though some instructions (such as "Use a tamper or vibrating plate compactor to compact the paver base" [p. 101]) are over-technical yet would require more detail to be useful.In addition to the pros and cons of different materials, yard aesthetics, decreasing pests, and fire safety, Penick includes an entire section on the politics, health, and safety of lawn-free yards. I haven't seen this covered so well in other landscaping manuals.Penick doesn't devote a lot of space to mixing food plants into the landscape. While most of my fruits and vegetables are inside a deer-deterring fence, I do have neighbors in the non-deer parts of town who have converted their whole lawns to vegetable garden-as-landscaping, and many more who grow artichokes and other dramatic food plants as their primary landscape plants. Perhaps Penick will consider including more coverage of this alternative in subsequent editions.