Apr 29, 2010

bookmarks giveaway

I've been sketching foxes lately. And dug through my pile of bookmarks (made from magazine scrap) to find all the foxy ones. Here's a trio:
front
and back

Would anyone like to have these fox bookmarks? Leave your name in the comments! I'll pick a winner next thursday, May 6. Open to anyone, anywhere. All you need is a postal address.

Apr 28, 2010

Out of Harm's Way

by Terri Crisp

You know me, I always love stories about animals. Here's one I read several years ago. Out of Harm's Way is about the experiences of Terri Crisp, who rescues animals from disaster sites: floods, fires, hurricanes, oil spills, earthquakes, etc. The stories in her book are both heartbreaking and inspiring. It was never an easy thing to reach frightened, often injured animals and get them to safety- the work took a lot of patience, courage and ingenuity. It's very sad to see the animals suffering- they have no idea what happened, are bewildered by the the sudden, traumatic change in their lives and often don't realize the rescuers are there to help them. Some were even purposefully abandoned by their owners. Most of the incidents involve cats and dogs, of course, but there are birds, horses and other livestock too. Besides stories about animal rescues, the book also contains information on how to prepare for an emergency with your pets in mind, and how to help animals you might find in trouble.

I wrote this little bit because I remember enjoying this book when I read it, and admiring the work done by Crisp and her colleagues in its pages. I was unaware, until I began looking for other reviews to link to (and failed to find them- anyone?) that the author was fired from the animal rescue organization she worked for when she wrote it, supposedly for misuse of funds meant to help animals in Hurricane Katrina. I can't comment on that, as I just found out about it, and the information has not really colored my opinion of her book. I still think it's a good read!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 394 pages, 1996

More book info at Powell's and Amazon I am an Associate. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I receive a small commission.

Apr 27, 2010

Saturday, the Twelfth of October

by Norma Fox Mazer

I read this book first as a preteen. I think it was the first book I ever read depicting what life might have been like among prehistoric peoples, and it fired my imagination. Not only was it about prehistoric humans, but a girl from modern times is inexplicably catapulted back through the centuries to live among them. Following a harrowing incident, Alexandra ("Zan") hides herself behind a boulder in the park, feels a whirlwind around her and wakes up in a wild world of immense, vivid plants, strange creatures, and shy people who speak an unknown language and seem to melt into the forest, where they exist in harmony with nature. Bruised, terrified and confused, Zan tries desperately to follow them, finding herself clumsy and inarticulate at best. After overcoming her shock (which takes several days), she slowly manages to find acceptance in the tribe, but some of the people always see her as a foreign outsider, a threat. Zan herself comes to enjoy her life among them, while at the same time struggling to hold onto memories and knowledge from her true home. What begins as a peaceful coexistence starts to escalate into conflict until Zan begins to wonder what her future will really be like. Will she be stuck in this primeval world forever?

Saturday, the Twelfth of October is a really cool book. Highly imaginative, fluidly written. Not just an adventure story or look at life in the ancient, ancient past but also a coming-of-age story, about a girl painfully seeking her way through the ups and downs of puberty and adolescence.

I first read this time and time again at the library, but have since found my own used copy. I think it's out of print now. Has anyone else read it? Can you recommend any other books by Norma Fox Mazer? This is the only one I've ever read by her.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 247 pages, 1975

Anyone else posted about this book? I'll add your link here!

More book info at Amazon I am an Associate. If you make a purchase via the link, I receive a small commission.

Apr 26, 2010

The Hidden Life of Deer

Lessons from the Natural World
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

In a personal look at wildlife behavior, the author spent a year closely observing deer and other animals on her wooded New Hampshire property, telling us what she learned in The Hidden Life of Deer. It started when the fall acorn crop failed, and Thomas started putting out corn for the deer, watching from her window as they fed in her back field. She sorted out their family groups and social hierarchy, learned where they rested during the day, how they communicated, etc. As she didn't radio-collar the deer or follow them through the forest, a lot of her information was gathered slowly over time, or via secondhand signs. I was surprised at how much time (over two chapters it felt like) was spent debating whether she should even feed the deer, examining each reason the Fish and Game Department gives not to do so. Although Thomas loved the deer, lived tolerantly even with the mice in her house and hated seeing wildlife injured by careless hunters or vehicles on the road, she also tried to be practical about the fact that not all of them would survive, and minus their natural predators man has taken up the role of thinning their numbers. In one interesting chapter she describes taking a course on hunting and accompanying a friend on his annual deer hunt, in another she admits her error in trying to poison rats and then watching predators suffer in a chain-reaction.  Not all of the book is about deer; there are also turkeys, bears, caterpillars and others.  I liked reading her stories about animals, her thoughts on how all living things share the same basic needs: to be safe, acquire food, be with their families, though which similarities we can understand them by comparing them to ourselves.

Rating: 3/5 ......... 239 pages, 2009

More opinions at:
Bibliophile by the Sea
FT's Books
curled up with a good book
The Rabid Reader
5 Minutes for Books

More book info at Powell's and Amazon I am an Associate. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I receive a small commission.

Apr 25, 2010

photo

Ever find something cool in a used book you've bought? I found this photo tucked between the pages of a forgotten title. It looks like it was removed from another book, probably a memoir. I just thought I'd share it with you because it's such a great image- all the children lining up for their reading material. It says "Charleston County Free Library" on the side of the antique vehicle. Anyone know the source? I'd love to give it proper credit.

Apr 24, 2010

The Girl Who Married a Lion

and other tales from Africa
by Alexander McCall Smith

This little book is a collection of African folktales from Botswana and Zimbabwe. It caught my eye on a display shelf at the library so I brought it home to read. The tales have a similar style and flavor to Aesop's fables, one also reminded me closely of a B'rer Rabbit story. There are stories of families and friendships, of keeping promises and secrets, of disobedience and greed, treating others fairly, appreciating kindness, and of course, clever tricksters. Animals mingle with humans: sometimes they are hunted, other times they are helpers, often they speak to people, or change their shapes, or even live together. Some stories explain characteristics of wildlife, others illustrate human follies. They all have a lesson, though it wasn't always what I expected to find when I reached the end! I loved the setting, the animals, and the imaginative quality of them. My favorite was the one about the wax child who longed so much to see the world he got himself into danger and melted, but then found freedom in another form, thanks to his family who let him go. And I was really curious about two stories that featured a "strange animal" which was never quite described, and kept wrapped in mystery. I wonder what the animal was- one the storytellers saw, but were unfamiliar with? did its identity change with each re-telling, or was it always an enigma? Well, the book is fun, and the stories very interesting and educational, though I must warn they're not always pretty - a lion gets his tail nailed to the floor, people get eaten by animals or beaten by others for their wrongdoings, many suffer from hunger and thirst. The stories of The Girl Who Married a Lion reflect the world, but throw light back on it so we see ourselves, and perhaps our relationship with nature, more clearly.

Rating: 3/5 ......... 189 pages, 1989

A few more opinions at:
Things Mean a Lot
Sequestered Nooks
Canon Fodder

More book info at Powell's and Amazon I am an Associate. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I receive a small commission.

Apr 23, 2010

No One Thinks of Greenland

by John Griesemer

In the 1950's a young corporal in the army named Rudy gets mistakenly sent to Greenland, where a secret military hospital houses severely wounded soldiers from the Korean war. They are kept there until they die, then reported suddenly found to their families (who assumed them missing-in-action) with no details disclosed...

Rudy finds himself assigned to create a newspaper for the hospital base, and with it gets special clearance to enter "the Wing" where the wounded are tended. Feeling a journalistic spirit, he starts to unfold stories about the hospital, the soldiers and wounded there, but as he digs for information and begins to uncover secrets, things start to unravel around him... Not to mention that he finds his superior's aide/girlfriend irresistibly attractive, and the Colonel is a dangerous man to cross. The setting has an unreal, foreboding quality- wide flat vistas, towering icy walls of glaciers, flaming color in the sky, light stretching into night and then reversing so that darkness reaches into every hour. The violence at the end was shocking, but did not surprise me too much; after all, they called the time of winter "The Stark Raving Dark." Descriptions of No One Thinks of Greenland might come across as just some conspiracy thriller, but the book is much more than that. The characters have considerable depth. Rudy in particular wrestles with his conscience, occasionally does inexplicably crazy things, is awed by the landscape, confused by his own presence there. In this strange and remote place, he begins to find himself in ways he never did back home where everything was easier, and safer.

This book has been on my TBR long enough that I don't recall how it got there. (Thus I read it for the TBR challenge). I think I picked up my copy at a thrift store, but am no longer sure.

In an aside from the story, a few times in the novel the abandoned Viking settlement of Greenland was mentioned, a place forgotten by civilization when the Black Plague struck Europe. When it was rediscovered, one of the characters states, "there were only a few stunted, inbred people left, practicing some weird kind of Christianity. A real lost civilization." I've never heard of this Viking settlement before. I'd like to read more about it- does anyone know some good historical fiction on the subject?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 310 pages, 2001

More opinions at: fun. Anyone else?

More book info at Powell's and Amazon I am an Associate. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I receive a small commission.

Apr 22, 2010

Conversations with Amber

by Gladys Taber

Once there was a woman who lived on Cape Cod, a writer. She had a beautiful little abyssinian cat, whom you might think spoiled- this kitty dines fresh steaks, lamb or flounder fillets, interrupts the bed-making with her naps- which must go undisturbed, takes supervised strolls around the property on a leash, nibbles on asparagus tips and is constantly provided with fresh drinking water in a glass, served with ice. Some life for a kitty! But Amber, as she is called, also has a very distinctive personality, and a determined will of her own as well. She is a well-loved companion, and listens patiently to all Mrs. Taber's musings. Conversations with Amber is a gentle book about the deep companionship they share. Not only is it about life with a cat, all their interesting feline habits and traits, but also a compilation of the author's thoughts on many different subjects- from world hunger, the women's liberation movement and ageing to subjects closer to home, like the responsibility we have to those we love, how sensitive pets can be to the emotional tension in a home, or methods for relieving a worried mind- all in the format of discussions she has with her cat. Amber answers in kind, her direct (or averted) gaze, lifted whiskers, swiveling ears, moving tail or gently prodding paw speaking just as loud as words. A lovely book, indeed.

I read this one for the Random challenge, although I'm not quite sure it counts. I read it several times long ago when found at my public library in childhood, but hadn't seen it since and when I picked it up at a discard sale a few months ago, wasn't sure of the contents (I knew it was about a cat, and that I'd enjoyed it, but no more than that). So it was shelved among my TBR books, as I wanted to be reintroduced to it with another reading.

The author, Gladys Taber, was apparently a prolific writer (LibraryThing lists 46 books to her name) and popular in her time. I've never seen another book of hers, but I do want to read the other one she's written about her kitty, titled Amber, a Very Personal Cat. It was kind of sad to me (but happy too, because this is why the library discarded it and the book came into my hands!) to see on the old borrower's card inside the pocket that my copy of Conversations with Amber was checked out only six times in the year it was published, then seven times in 1979, once in 1980, twice in '81, three times in '86 and never again for the next twenty-some years. Of course, I can't tell when its library of origin switched over to computers as opposed to stamping cards, but I do know this book has been under-appreciated! Give it a read, if you come across a copy. It's worth it.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 176 pages, 1978

I am an Associate with Amazon and Powell's. If you click on one of the links and purchase a book, I receive a small commission.

Apr 21, 2010

from the 500 list

In celebration of her 500th post, Jessica put up a list of her 500 favorite books at Both Eyes Book Blog. I've read and loved many of the same, and she wanted to know which ones! So here's a little list of my own. Out of Jessica's 500, I've read 90.

Eighty-two I liked, or loved:

1984 – George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Aesop’s Fables
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten – Robert Fulghum
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
Antigone – Sophocles
Autobiography of a Face - Lucy Grealy
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Beowulf
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Black Like Me - John Howard Griffin
The Bone People – Keri Hulme
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Call It Sleep – Henry Roth
The Castle - Franz Kafka
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
The Color of Water – James McBride
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Crucible – Arthur Miller
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Equus – Peter Shaffer
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Griffin and Sabine – Nick Bantock
Guns, Germs, and Steel - Jared Diamond
The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
Heidi – Johanna Spyri
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Maus – Art Spiegelman
Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Once and Future King – T.H. White
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Out of Africa – Isaac Dinesen
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seven Gothic Tales – Isak Dinesen
Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
Silas Marner – George Eliot
Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
The Tempest – William Shakespeare
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Through the Looking-Glass – Lewis Carroll
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Tragedy of Puddin’head Wilson – Mark Twain
Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt
The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
Wicked – Gregory Maguire
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A. Milne
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Persig

Seven I didn't care for as much:

Franny and Zooey – J. D. Salinger
Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Emma - Jane Austen
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
The Gunslinger – Stephen King
The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan

Thirteen I tried, and did not finish:

As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Primary Colors – Anonymous
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley
Henderson the Rain King – Saul Bellow
Dune – Frank Herbert
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris

These I've been meaning to read:

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby
Downtown Owl – Chuck Klosterman
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
My Antonia – Willa Cather
The Monkey Wrench Gang – Edward Abbey
Out Stealing Horses – Per Petterson
Pigs in Heaven - Barbara Kingsolver
Stiff – Mary Roach
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
Walden - Henry David Thoreau

And these I added to my TBR because Jessica introduced me to them:

Animal Liberation – Peter Singer
The Coming Plague – Laurie Garrett
The Female Man – Joanna Russ
The Roaches Have No King – Daniel Evan Weiss
The World Without Us - Alan Weisman

Also, my husband has read half of Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter, which I never would have heard of otherwise.

There you go, Jessica!

Apr 19, 2010

the Meme-y Meme

I borrowed this meme from C.B. James. I'm sure most of you know what triggered it. I tend to steer clear of controversies around the blogosphere, so just a very few remarks here.

When I first started book blogging, I actually wanted my blog to be just about books. I wanted it to look austere and focused. I didn't plan on including anything personal. I thought some other blogs were way too cluttered-looking and felt that challenges would make my reading feel constricted. I even looked for other blogs that fit my idea of being strictly books. They were hard to find! Now I'm not so stuffy. I've come to enjoy the sense of community that all these other activities (memes, giveaways, interviews, contests, etc) bring into book blogging. So over the past nearly-three years I've really changed my mind a lot. More about that below!

Do you participate in memes?
Occasionally. I do Booking Through Thursday when I find the questions interesting, and sometimes pick up memes (like this one) from other bloggers. I like doing memes that have something to do with books or reading, since that's what this blog is all about, or that let readers know a little more about me. Sometimes I do more random ones just for fun!

Do you participate in Book Tours?  What about ARCS?
Never done a book tour. Don't plan to. I was thrilled to get my first ARCs, until I realized I wasn't falling in love with any of the books sent me, and then felt uncomfortable writing negatively about them (wanting to be honest). It's very rare now that I accept them. I just have way too many books already on my shelf waiting to be read, and don't like the sense of obligation they put upon me.

Do you encourage followers?  Do you follow?
No. Following seems redundant to me, when I already have all I can handle in my google reader. Can someone convince me otherwise? I just don't see the point, yet.

What do you think of giveaways and other contests?
They're fun! I like doing giveaways, just because it makes me happy to send people stuff, especially books to other readers who will appreciate them. I do giveaways of books (off my shelf) or handmade bookmarks a few times a month. I've entered some, too. Contests more complicated than a simple giveaway are too much trouble for me to pay attention to.

Do you read and/or conduct author interviews?
Nope.

Do you enjoy challenges?
I'm beginning to! Last year I participated in a few for the first time. Surprised how much I liked crossing titles off a list, and seeing what other bloggers were reading for the same challenge. This year I've signed up for more, probably too many to finish. So far I've been doing challenges that just help me focus on paring down my TBR, but next year I think I'll do some that stretch my reading boundaries and get me out of my comfort zone. Isn't that why it's called a challenge, after all?

I've also tried hosting my own challenge, but that hasn't been very successful. Maybe I made it too complicated? Due to lack of interest, I'm probably not doing to do it again next year. But I don't mind. I'm still going to have fun in other people's challenges!

Do you like giving/getting awards?
I was tickled pink when I got my first blog award. They're a nice way to show recognition to other bloggers. Lately though, I have trouble deciding who to pass them on to. There are so many blogs I love reading, how can I possibly choose between them all? I think I might start adopting the policy of just thanking who gave it to me and saying: you all deserve this award!

What is your opinion of cat videos?

Some are dull. Some make me cry, I laugh so hard. I don't mind if people have them on their blog, as long as it's not overwhelming and becoming the-blog-about-what-my-cat-ate-for-breakfast (instead of the about book I couldn't put down!) If I'm too busy I just skip it and read the bookish stuff. Same goes for photos of your flowers, birds in your yard, pics of your vacation, whatever. It's lovely to have a bit of that!

In summary- I do some of these things, not all. If a blog is becoming too full of "extras" I might gradually loose interest just because I don't find enough about books, and that's what I originally came for. But it's all a matter of personal taste. There's many different kinds of readers, and thus many different kinds of blogs. Serious ones, tongue-in-cheek ones, everything in between. Some have very lengthy analysis of the books, others just an emotional response. Everything from heavy literature to picture books! I've even seen bloggers share their kid's opinion on books they read together (or in C.B.'s case, how Dakota thought they tasted!) and that's fun, too. That's what I love about book blogging. There's so much variety out there, you're bound to find something you like.

Happy reading, everyone!

Apr 18, 2010

The Year of the Greylag Goose

by Konrad Lorenz

I knew of Konrad Lorenz as being the author of King Solomon's Ring, an excellent book a college friend once gave to me when she discovered I loved reading about animals. I knew he was a pioneering scientist in the study of animal behavior, particularly ethology, and being among the first to demonstrate that some infant animals, especially geese, would imprint upon and accept as their parents human beings (or whatever moving creature they first saw).

What I didn't know before was that Lorenz made his life work the study of behavior in greylag geese (and jackdaws). The Year of the Greylag Goose is a photo essay describing his work with the geese, some of the behavior he's observed and details of their life cycle, all accompanied by striking photographs. (Most animal books I read from this era have rather poor photos, but the ones in this book are really good quality in comparison). Lorenz chose to study geese in particular because he felt that their family grouping was similar to humans: young male geese try to impress the ladies, and a pair will go through a courtship period before settling down to raise a family. They usually stay together for life, but if one of the pair dies, the remaining goose seeks a new partner, after going through a period of mourning. Sometimes a pair will "get divorced", or a goose already in a partnership finds another more attractive, and fights ensue among the males. Occasionally two male geese will form a pair bond, which results in some odd behavior when they try to mate with each other (physically impossible) or when a lone female finds one of a male pair attractive!

Some other really interesting things I learned were that geese have a horny spur on the shoulder of their wings, which they use to hit each other with in serious fights (you can see a wing spur in these photos). Goslings are waterproofed by rubbing against the mother's feathers when brooded (it took a while for Lorenz to figure out how to properly waterproof the goslings raised by hand). Each year adult geese go through a period of moulting, when they loose and then regrow their flight feathers. The young geese become ready to fly just when the adult's feathers have begun to regrow. Because their flight feathers are still rather short, the parents fly cautiously at first, avoiding fancy maneuvers and at the same time making it easier for the young geese to follow their lead while they learn to handle themselves in the air. Isn't nature wonderful?

 I found this book at a library sale.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 199 pages, 1978

Apr 17, 2010

Dragonsbane

by Barbara Hambly

One of my favorite fantasy series begins with Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane. Here's the basic plot: John Aversin is the only man who's ever slain a dragon. He lives in the remote Winterlands, leader of a people struggling on the outskirts of the kingdom. Gareth shows up unexpectedly, a young prince from the king's court, seeking help against a dragon that has seized part of the city. It's not an easy task for Gareth to convince John -and his wife Jenny, a half-trained witch- to return with him, and when they do get there, things quickly get complicated. The court is riddled with perfidy and corruption. The Gnomes- a separate race of oppressed people, owners of the area now held by the dragon- are in the middle of a revolt. It seems that John and Jenny will never even get near the dragon, but when they finally do, that encounter is nothing like they'd expected, either.

Hambly is one of those amazing storytellers I never tire of reading again and again. I love how realistic everything in this novel feels, even though it's fantasy. The characters all struggle with personal issues. I love the fact that John is something of a self-taught philosopher, always dabbling in old books, searching for archaic knowledge, curious about inventions and how things work. Jenny wrestles with trying to pursue her art of witchcraft, a dedication which usually takes up a person's life entirely, while at the same time raising a family. Even Gareth turns out to be a sympathetic character, though at first he comes off as just a spoiled brat. Another really intriguing thing about the story is all its unexpected turns. Gareth didn't expect to find his hero standing in a pigpen of mud when he arrived in the Winterlands, and it really throws him for a while. John is dismayed to find the court full of conniving elite who don't really care about the dragon- but I love how he handles it! Jenny didn't foresee being able to communicate with the dragon, much less that it would make her a tempting offer, in bargain for its life, one of the most fascinating parts of the story... Well, all I can say is that if you like fantasy, particularly dragon books, I highly recommend this one!

Rating: 5/5 ........ 274 pages, 1985

More opinions at:
Cold Iron and Rowan-Wood
Paper Tiger
anyone else?

Apr 16, 2010

The Wild Mare

by Glenn Balch

A cream-colored filly is born to a wild mare in the Idaho scrub, and on her very first day of life, looses her mother. Luckily Jim, a young ranch hand comes along and rescues her, raising her on cattle milk at the ranch station. When the filly is only five months old, an accident separates her from the only man she knows and trusts, and she ends up running off with the wild horses. The next time she meets mankind, they're strangers who see her as just another beautiful wild horse, one to be caught and broken in for profit. "Flax" spends several years evading cowboys and mingling with other wild horses, until finally she crosses paths with Jim once more. He recognizes her immediately, but she's only learned to fear men in the meantime. Can Jim win her trust again?

This book was first published with the title The Flaxy Mare. I got it from Book Mooch, because I was curious to read more stories by Glenn Balch. But this one didn't hold my interest as well. For that I had to give it just a 2; simply because I didn't enjoy it much, and often found my mind wandering. It's a nice enough story, though.

Rating: 2/5........ 153 pages, 1967

anyone else posted about this book? I'll add your link here.

Apr 15, 2010

giveaway winner!

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I read An American Childhood and put up my giveaway post, and here I've only written six more posts (all current reads). Several things have been keeping me busy. Gardening has started to take up more of my time, but recently I cut my finger while slicing bread, and sprained my ankle tripping over a toy on the floor, which has slowed down both my garden work and typing speed! So the posts are going to be sporadic for another week, perhaps, while I nurse a sore finger and foot.

However, here it is the day for a drawing! I simply put all the numbers into random.org, and this is what it gave me: # 7!

Commentor 7 was Nicole C.

Hey Nicole, you've won a book! Email me your address and I'll put it in the post tomorrow. I'm not sure when the next giveaway will be up, don't have them on a schedule anymore, so just keep checking back. I aim to do at least two a month for now...

The Flight of the Snow Geese

by Des and Jen Bartlett

This is the backstory of a filming project: following the life cycle of the snow goose from eggs hatching on the northern tundra to their migration south where they winter in Texas, and back again in spring. The resulting documentary was a TV special called The Incredible Flight of the Snow Geese which I've never seen (it's pretty old, made in the late seventies). While the film crew was on site in Alaska and northern Canada specifically to observe snow geese, they also photographed myriads of other waterfowl and seabirds, and sometimes encountered other animals: foxes, lemmings, polar bears. At first the narrative is all about their experience in cold weather, difficulties moving equipment and finding ways to approach the birds close enough without scaring them off. But then they start to pick up abandoned goslings, birds that usually would succumb to predators. Soon they had ten baby geese to hand-raise, and a sandhill crane chick. These birds readily imprinted on the team and followed them everywhere; while they were thrilled to observe the birds' development up-close, it also made their project more difficult as they had to keep the geese from accompanying them to blinds where they sat in absolute stillness for hours to watch birds on nests. When the time came to follow the snow goose migration back south, the young snow geese, crane, and a rescued canada goose all came along. Eventually the birds were found homes in wildlife sanctuaries, and the geese finally joined a wild flock. While the writing was a bit bland, very straightforward, it was still interesting. I always wonder when watching wildlife documentaries what exactly the filmmakers have to go through to get such amazing shots; The Flight of the Snow Geese gives a little insight into it all, even though I'm sure some techniques have changed a lot in thirty-odd years. All the time I was reading this I kept thinking of that fantastic film Winged Migration. Have any of you seen it? It took my breath away.

I got this book free from The Book Thing.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 189 pages, 1975

Apr 14, 2010

Where the Lilies Bloom

by Vera and Bill Cleaver

This title has sounded familiar to me since childhood, and caught my eye at a library sale. I have a vague memory of my mother reading it to us sisters at one time, when we were past bedtime stories but still gathered to listen to novels in the evening. It turns out I recalled almost nothing of the story, so it was a whole new experience to read it again.

Where the Lilies Bloom is about a poor family of four children who live in the backwoods of a secluded Appalachian valley. Their mother having already died, and their father terminally ill, fourteen-year-old Mary Call takes on the responsibility to keep her siblings together. She makes a promise to her dying father never to accept charity, then stubbornly and proudly struggles to find ways to make ends meet when left without parents. Keeping their father's death a secret, the children avoid questioning neighbors, refuse help, try to finagle ownership of the house they live in and the land around it from the landlord, and finally take to "wildcrafting", gathering herbs and roots in the woods for a meager income. But when winter arrives with deep snow, the children find themselves woefully unprepared.

This was a pretty good book. The plight of the children and their determination to manage by themselves against all odds wrings your heart. The characters are pretty believable, and the ending took me by surprise. I didn't see evidence written into the story either that Devola was simple in the head, as her sister supposed, or that she was smarter than she appeared, as others came to believe. I guess that's because we see it all from Mary Call's viewpoint, and she was just accepting what her parents had told her, but I wish there'd been more about that for the reader to gather between the lines.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 213 pages, 1969

Apr 12, 2010

Flyaway

How a Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found her Wings
by Suzie Gilbert

It's entirely thanks to Bookfool that I discovered this book. A few days after reading her review and noting that I'd want to read it someday, I was at the library browsing and just happened to look it up in the catalog. It was on the shelf! So I checked it out right away, and from page one knew I'd love it: this is my kind of book!

Flyaway is about a mother of two who starts taking in wild birds that need to recuperate before being released. At least, that's her original plan. But as more people in the bird-loving and wildlife-rescue circles find out about her flight cages and willingness to help, she finds herself taking on more and more birds, including  ones with more serious problems and injuries. Among the struggles to help wounded birds take flight again (learning as she goes what kind of treatment and care the many different species need), the author reveals her struggles to balance family life with her (unpaid) work, her relationship with nearby veterinarians, her disagreements and commiserations with other rehabbers, and the chaos somethings thrown into things by her two parrots. There are exquisite illustrations drawn by artist Laura Westlake, and the descriptive writing used to describe the many different birds, their individuality and beauty is just wonderful. Of course some parts are sad, lots of birds die, there are callous people who intentionally harm them, others who don't think time and effort should be spent healing a common sparrow, etc. It just about breaks your heart to read about how the author agonized over each little feathered life she couldn't save, and tried to find the boundaries that would allow her to contine doing what she loved without burning out or neglecting her family. There were always far too many birds in need than people available to care for them.

I really enjoyed this book. I learned so many things about birds, and admire the author immensely for what she does for them.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 340 pages, 2009

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Raging Bibliomania
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Apr 7, 2010

The Griffin and the Minor Canon

by Frank R. Stockton

I don't usually write about children's books here, but this one is such an old favorite I sat down to read it again immediately after finally getting my own copy from Paperback Swap. And then I wanted to tell you about it!

The Griffin and the Minor Canon is a short story by Frank Stockton, and my favorite edition is the one with lovely illustrations by Maurice Sendak. The minor canon, a young clergyman whose only humble desire is to serve the poor and needy, is suddenly pushed into the center of attention when a fearsome griffin decides to visit his town. The beast wants to see a griffin statue that is on the church, and the frightened townspeople send their minor canon out to meet the monster. The griffin is pleased with the statue, and spends most of the day just admiring it. But he finds the company of the sensible clergyman even more pleasing, and starts to follow him around on his duties. This quickly becomes an unmanageable situation, and both the upset townsfolk and the encumbered clergyman try to find a way to make the griffin go back to the wilderness. Of course, it doesn't work out the way they plan. What I really love about this story, besides its interesting turns, is the characters: the conniving townspeople, driven by fear into anger; the honest and sensible canon, always quietly doing what is best; and the proud, fierce griffin, who has his own sense of justice. If you want a quick little read, or a book to read to a child that has more depth than most, you can't go wrong with this one.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 56 pages, 1885

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Apr 6, 2010

Horse of Two Colors

by Glen Balch

I traded for this book on Book Mooch because I have long loved another by the same author, Buck Wild and wanted to read more of his work. They're not easy to find, even though Balch wrote about thirty horse stories for young readers. Most are no longer in print.

Horse of Two Colors is an imaginative story about how Appaloosa horses were first introduced to Native Americans. When the book opens, two young men from different tribes are making their escape from a Spanish settlement where they've been held captive. In a bold daring move, they steal two horses to take home to their respective people, one a striking two-colored stallion, its hindquarters white with black spots. The boys have never seen a horse like him before. They don't know much about horses, as their people have just recently started to use them, and only for pack animals. Together the boys face difficulties of the long journey home: how to handle the horses, doubts about whether they can be ridden, eluding the pursuing Spaniards and finding enough food as they pass through some desolate country. More problems arise when Indians from an enemy tribe show up, fiercely determined to catch the horses for themselves. The journey is not without tragedy, and in the end one of the boys returns home to people who have almost forgotten him, feeling something of a failure. But the ending has a pleasant surprise that makes his hardships and losses worthwhile.

My rating scale isn't fine enough to differentiate, but I found this book a better read than the recent Wild Horse Running, it was more creative and the writing more enjoyable. I am even more determined now to find all the books I can written by Glenn Balch. He really is a great storyteller.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 170 pages, 1969

Apr 4, 2010

dogeared progress

I've read a few more well-worn, used books for the Dogeared reading challenge I'm hosting. The copy of Guns, Germs and Steel I borrowed from a neighbor had tons of dogeared pages, a curled and folded cover, and half the book severely yellowed by sun exposure.
Popular Flowering Plants was an old, faded book with tanned pages and very worn corners. My copy of The Owl Service had a loose spine, chipped and torn dust jacket, and scuffed edges.
 One reader sent me in her photo, of a book she read called Line on Ginger.
Leah says this book "was very mildewed  (brown spotten top),  horrible smell and I always had to take an antihistimine before I picked it up!!" Now, I've read some pretty smelly books , but if one was bad enough to make me feel ill, I'd toss it and find a new copy! I think Leah deserves some praise for putting up with such a smelly book. Was it worth the suffering to get to the end, Leah? I do hope it was a good read!

Her bird book, if anything, looks like it's in worse shape!

Who else has read some smelly or tattered books for this challenge? Tell us about it in the comments, or send in photos of your worst-looking book! Next progress post will be in June. Happy reading!

Apr 3, 2010

An American Childhood

by Annie Dillard

I was first enthralled with Annie Dillard's writing when I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She has a wonderful way with words. Her phrases are so descriptive, so vivid you can practically feel them under your fingertips, smell and hear and sense. This book is a memoir of her youth, growing up in Pittsburgh. She brings alive so many things about being a child- finding wonder in every new discovery, exploring the neighborhood on bicycle, throwing snowballs at passing cars. Even the small, ordinary moments- sitting quietly in church, watching scenery pass by through the car window, take on significance when seen through her child's perspective. It feels like everything is here- how her family taught her to dance and appreciate good jokes, how she learned about the history of her town, the mysteries of boys in school, the private passions of collecting things.... I couldn't relate to everything she spoke of- I was always a total klutz at sports and dancing (the rules and timing still elude me) but the things I could resonated so deeply. Being enraptured by books, full of wonder at the world they opened. Her fascination with nature, collecting insects, examining rocks, wanting to see every thing up close and understand it. Her passion for words, and writing poetry (I wrote so many awful poems in high school, thinking they were the outpouring of my soul. Now they make no sense to me at all!) If you haven't read any works by Dillard, I'd encourage you to try An American Childhood. It's a bit slow to start, but soon you'll find something in the pages that brings up memories of your own childhood you'd almost forgotten. It did that for me.

I got this book from a thrift store, two copies actually, because I forgot I already had it when I picked the second one up! I read it for the 2010 TBR Challenge.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 255 pages, 1987

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book giveaway!

I have an extra copy of Annie Dillard's An American Childhood. It's a gently-used hardcover, with only a few folded corners and an inexplicable hole in near the bottom of page 112. (Missing: two words. I can easily guess what they are). If anyone would like this copy, I'll send it to you free! Just leave a comment here and in two weeks I'll pick a name at random.

Apr 2, 2010

Indoor Bonsai

by Paul Lesniewicz

Another book about bonsai. I liked this one because it focuses on plants that make good bonsai to be kept indoors, whereas they're more commonly kept outside. I always did want some for in the house, not just brought in for display. Indoor Bonsai has a photo gallery of indoor houseplants that can be trained as bonsai. There are instructions basic care, design, when to wire or prune (or both), how to cure common pests and diseases, and how to grow plants from seed or cuttings. I'm interested in trying to make bonsai out of a schefflera or jade plant (crassula), and for the first time in this book found reference (but no picture) of geraniums being grown as bonsai, so I no longer feel odd about having one! It also answered one of my long-standing questions about houseplants: the white crud that forms on the top of the soil and around inside rim of my pots? It's from the water being too hard. Soften the water by boiling first, or collect rainwater, and this should go away, the book tells me. So I'm trying that now.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 208 pages, 1985

Apr 1, 2010

The Owl Service

by Alan Garner

This is a strange story. It's based on a Welsh legend of Blodeuwedd, about a woman magically made from flowers to be one man's wife, while falling in love with another- murder results, and a curse, and she gets turned into an owl. In The Owl Service, this legend is perpetually re-enacted (in a way) by further generations. Three children get involved when one of them discovers some plates hidden in the rafters- a "dinner service" patterned with flowers. The girl sees owls in the pattern, and when she traces them, paper owls flit about, later mysteriously disappearing. She gets obsessed with obtaining more plates to trace from, while the housekeeper is just as adamant about keeping the children from getting ahold of the plates, or finding out more about them. There's a lot more going on- mysterious lights in the woods, odd noises, people acting strangely. It's all rather creepy, really.

But hard to follow. In the first place, it's nearly all told in dialogue, without any explanation of who's who, so it took a while for me to figure out how the children were related to each other- two are step-siblings, the third is the housekeeper's son, and why certain ones felt superior to, or resentful towards, the others. The same kind of interactions occur among the adults, with just as little explanation. The dialog is crafty, feels very real, but at the same time has gaps. For instance, some characters speak Welsh, others English, but there's never any indication of that until you realize one person didn't understand what someone else said- halfway through the conversation! Aside from that, even once I'd figured out the myth that was being re-lived by these kids, it still didn't make much sense, and the ending was a muddle. It does have a very vivid feel, though- I at once thought of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, and of National Velvet (not sure why) and overall it leaves the reader with a very unsettling feeling. I enjoyed reading the book while I was still trying to figure out what was going on, but then it got tiresome. I'm wondering now if Alan Garner's other books are just as eerie, and inexplicable? Anyone read more?

I got this book at a library sale, it caught my eye because I remembered seeing a review at Things Mean a Lot. The second image is what my book looks like without its dust jacket- silver pattern on the cover (of the plate). I can see the owl's face, but not how the rest of the image would fit together...

Rating: 3/5 ........ 201 pages, 1967

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