Jan 28, 2012

Touch and Feel Baby Animals

by D.K. Publishing

This book gets a lot of wear at our house. It is short and sweet, simply showing different animals on each page and inviting the child to feel the different textures. Soft rabbit fur, fuzzy ducklings, smooth calf hide. The page of baby elephants is charming, with a different, bumpy skin texture- although the pieces to feel are kinda small, on their ears. The last page has a baby gorilla and invites tickling- its "fur" has longer hair than the rabbit. My baby always likes to tug on the long black fibers. I like to turn the end of the book into a tickling game!

rating: 3/5 ........ 12 pages, 1999

Jan 27, 2012

Bring Me a Unicorn

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Letters and diary entries by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, spanning her college years up to the time she met and became engaged to Charles Lindbergh. It's been a while since I read any diaries, but Danielle has been discussing reading diaries lately, so I thought of this one when looking for my next TBR read. I was curious about it because in college I read quite a few books about Charles Lindbergh (I had to paint a portrait of him) it was quite interesting. Also I've recently read her inspirational book Gift of the Sea. So I was looking forward to this.

Bring Me a Unicorn didn't quite wow me, though. I suppose it's to be expected that her early diary entries will be unfocused, self-depreciatory, and lack the insights I hoped for. Most of the time I had no idea what people she was talking about, even when little footnotes informed me of their identity it really added nothing for me. Events passed in a blur. Lots of stuff is just alluded to, while she talks mostly about her emotional reactions to them (again, probably typical of a diary but not the best for reading, in my opinion). When she gets to the college years I did enjoy it more, hearing about the difficulties of classes and thrills of reading (her family was big on books). And when Lindbergh himself came into the picture, it was even more interesting to see how her family perceived him, how they came to be on friendly terms, how she experienced the repercussions of his fame, how she fell in love with flying (aviation in its early form seemed pretty frightening, to me!) etc. I liked seeing how her closeness to him developed as a friendship and feeling of being at ease, that's how I felt when I met my husband. I kept waiting to come across a passage describing a proposal, but instead she just at one point says Apparently I am going to marry Charles Lindbergh as if there was just no questioning it any longer. It made me laugh because that's how it was with me and my husband- we were very very good friends, completely comfortable with each other immediately, and just felt like we belonged together. Don't get me wrong, there was romance- and Anne Morrow certainly did plenty of mooning over him- but it wasn't mostly romance, it was mostly a strong friendship....

Aside from the relationship and seeing the figure of Lindbergh through her eyes, I also really like her descriptive passages. When she talks about visiting Mexico, travelling through the countryside, simple things like trees in a fog, birds flying over the sea, flowers in a garden, etc. it was so vivid I could see it. Her thrill and depictions of flying and viewing the landscape from up high- such a novel experience in her day- are sharp with excitement and joy.

Anyway, it turns out this is not a book I'm going to keep. I don't love it that much. But I am quite glad I read it. And I do want to read more of her diaries and other writings now.

rating: 3/5 ........ 259 pages, 1971

more opinions at:
Escaping Infinities
Gotta Have Vintage Books
anyone else?

Jan 26, 2012

Sounds

by Liesbet Slegers

A short board book for little ones, Sounds is about some everyday noises. Each page starts with the sound, asks What's that sound? identifies it, and then gives a little information. The ambulance drives very fast, the vacuum cleaner sucks up dirt, the airplane flies in the sky, etc. Other sounds are a ticking clock, ringing telephone and chirping bird. The pictures are simple and colorful, showing a toddler either looking at or holding the object making the sound. On the last page, the airplane noise is represented with a Rrroarrr! Unfortunately, my airplane roar sounds pretty much like my lion roar so the baby always turns around and looks at me with surprise. Older daughter was listening to us read this book and she suggested a plane sounds more like a big whooosh! or rumble. But I always forget and do the roar anyways. It's funny to see the baby look astonished as if she's thinking: what are you doing mommy? that's the lion noise.

rating: 3/5 ....... 12 pages, 2011

Jan 25, 2012

Hugs and Kisses

by Rachel Hale

A beautiful little board book, Hugs and Kisses is full of  sweet, soft photos of babies snuggling up to various animal friends. Gentle pastel colors, beautiful baby eyes, wonderful little smiles and of course, the furry companions! Babies cuddle with puppies and kittens, also bunnies, ducks, a half dozen adorable chicks, and a few different kinds of birds. My favorite is of the grinning baby with a green frog on her hat: Here's how a froggy hugs! Sometimes the babies look surprised, or shocked- there's an adorable picture of a baby and kitten nose-to-nose, both very wide-eyed. Mostly they're laughing and smiling. It's really cute.  In a few places the text is rather awkward and my tongue stumbles over the repeated furry, fuzzy kissable stuff, but that's okay. I thought at first that Rachel Hale was an individual photographer; turns out it's a company. Does not diminish my enjoyment of this little book, though.

rating: 4/5 ........ 20 pages, 2012

Jan 22, 2012

Swampwalker's Journal

A Wetlands Year
by David M. Carroll

So far the Burroughs list has been hit or miss for me; out of the three books I've read specifically from the list, one was great, one was just okay and one was blah. This was another fantastic one, though! I've really been taking my time reading it, it's the kind of book you have to slow down and just carefully, methodically absorb every page. I don't think I ever read more than five or six pages in a sitting.

Swampwalker's Journal is full of the writings of a man who likes to walk through all kinds of wetlands. He makes the same rounds every year and keeps a beautiful notebook (sample pages included) recording his observations. Makes the most delicate, wonderful drawings of the plants and animals he finds. Sees how nature is playing itself out, how the habitats shift and change, how the creatures go about their lives. Things like noticing which tree species are overtaking a certain area, at what date the first salamanders emerge in spring to mate, how the water level has changed in a certain pool and what that does to the life around. His particular passion seems to be turtles; he makes notes of every one he finds and rejoices at coming across the same turtle again- usually just once every few years. Most of the book is a description of places. I had no idea what the difference was between a marsh and a swamp before, but there is a particular difference. Also fens and bogs, I though the terms were interchangeable but they're not. He also wanders the flood zones of rivers, searches for vernal pools (in many different habitats) and wades across wet meadowlands. He writes so eloquently about these places- it's almost like poetry. And such a deep concern for the wildlife. His stance, quite often repeated, is that man would do better to just leave nature alone- even the efforts of various groups to protect or restore threatened areas often do more harm than good (in his opinion).

I really enjoyed reading this book, it opened my eyes to a lot of animal life and places I hardly knew existed, much less wondered about before. It's not likely I'll ever go wading up to my hips through a swamp to find out myself, so it's wonderful to read about someone else's forays into these places, especially when its written so beautifully. Upon turning the last page I was immediately eager to find more of Carroll's works; this is just one volume of his "wet-sneaker trilogy." I'm glad to find that his Year of the Turtle is at my library, so I'll be reading that one as soon as the dare is over!

rating: 4/5 ......... 292 pages, 1999

more opinions at:
Willowhouse Chronicles
A Good Stopping Point

Jan 21, 2012

How Loud is a Lion?

by Clare Beaton

By far the outstanding thing about this little board book is the illustrations. They're made out of fabrics and stitches and little beads all put together in shapes and patterns to make pictures of animals. It's just amazing and full of wonderful textures. The story itself describes different attributes of animals in pairs: Antelopes are elegant, elephants are enormous and each phrase ends with But how loud is a lion? you turn the page and find more animals, still wondering about the lion... If you look closely there are signs of the lion among the romping chimpanzees and running gazelle: a tail here, pawprints there, eyes peeking through a bush. You're going along with a nice rhythm, meeting familiar hippos and exotic-sounding zorillas when you turn the page and suddenly ROARR!!! (all the animals flee in panic). Then on the very last page is a big happy lion, looking very pleased with himself for having scared everyone, ha ha. My kid always jumps at the roar, it's so funny. She's not old enough to look for the lion hiding on each page, but it entertains me while I'm reading for the umpteenth time.

My only little quibble is that where is says Cheetahs are spotty, the animal pictured looks like a leopard, and it's reclining in a tree! I know this is an easy mistake- my older daughter's school makes it, for example. Their mascot is a jaguar, yet the huge rubber entrance mat features a sprinting cheetah. I've also seen cheetahs on their letterhead! It annoys me a little bit, but oh well.

I do really love this book. I know I saw another one with same style of illustrations when my first daughter was small, but now I can't recall the title or even what it was about...

rating: 4/5 ........ 24 pages, 2002

more opinions at:
My Mummy Reviews

Jan 19, 2012

NFL Big & Small

A Book of Opposites 
by DK Publishing

This is my husband's favorite board book in the house.  NFL Big and Small features football players in various poses to demonstrate opposites such as big and small, over and under, up and down. The page for happy and sad shows the painted faces of fans. Not all the spreads have famous figures; off and on features a scoreboard, empty and full a box of players' gear. Of course, hubby likes the book because his team is in here (the Niners) and I like it for the bright, bold colors and clear illustrations of the word concepts. I think my kid likes the faces, especially the one where a player is sitting on his rear laughing with his tongue sticking out! The initial big and small page is cute, too- it shows a large beefy football player standing next to a toddler in a football shirt. I can't tell you who the famous faces are in this book; I'm pretty clueless when it comes to sports, but the fan in our house loves it, and so does the child!

rating: 4/5 ........ 24 pages, 1999

Jan 16, 2012

reading moments

the baby is almost too big for her sister's lap!
here they're reading the numbers book
Sonja insists on turning the pages herself
she also likes stories on the potty
unless, the floor suddenly becomes more interesting

Jan 15, 2012

catalog

I just spent my evening quiet time (one of the few nights the kid and baby actually get to bed on time) reading a seed catalog. And I'm writing about it here because it feels more like an enjoyable reading experience than anything else, plus it's not much to note of on my garden blog since I won't be ordering seeds from this company. But I would, if I lived in the Pacific Northwest. Here's the deal.

I once bought my mother some flower seed for her garden from Uprising Seeds. I thought what better way to have varieties that will do well in your climate, than to buy from a company that grows the very seed right there in your home state? Not only that, but their plants are old heirloom varieties, many that are in danger of going extinct. I was happy to get my mom some of their seed, but when their catalog arrived at my door this winter thought meh: I love them, but they probably won't grow for me over here, in a different climate zone. But I started thumbing through the catalog anyway, just curious.

And found it was such fun to read. It was heartening to read the little intro page about the local farms that produce the seed and all the integrity these people put into their work. You can tell by reading the words that they love plants. And the descriptions next to the variety names not only all sound very enticing, but also quite honest: some of them just say crop failed next to it. Others mention that the crop is small, or that it was so lovely they couldn't help eating the produce in the field instead letting it mature into seed (I'm hoping that's a joke, mostly)! Most tell something about the history of the plant, or extol its virtues, but all in a way that's utterly charming, engaging, and sometimes downright funny. There's a tomato with soft, fuzzy leaves, a lettuce variety that dates back to 1799. Have you ever read a produce description before that said oh-my-god-these-are-so-cute? And listen to this about the pumpkins: There are some people in the house who believe pumpkin pie is not reserved for special occasions. The occasion is the pie and every day is open for celebration. If this describes you or who you'd like to be or be around, you will thank yourself for growing this pie pumpkin.... there will be enough to share. Sharing is good. Eat. More. Pie. 

So I just kept reading, because it was fun. Usually I linger over all the pictures in seed catalogs but this one doesn't need them, the writing is so good. It made me long for some of their plants, and feel sad that I didn't live in the vicinity of Uprising Seeds anymore. I need to find me a seed company like this in Virginia. Anybody know of one?

Jan 12, 2012

First Numbers

by Paradise Press

There are so many first-number books out there for babies, I couldn't even find ours online so had to scan my own for the picture. As you can see, it's well-worn from already surviving one daughter's infancy!  First the book goes through numbers one to ten, each page showing the numeral, with its number spelled out and naming the objects in the picture: 3 three blocks, 5 five cuddly teddy bears, etc. When it gets to 7 seven soft kittens, the pictures cover the entire two-page spread. After the number ten, we get twenty shiny beetles, fifty friendly dogs, and one hundred pretty butterflies. I've counted the beetles and the dogs, but never all the butterflies. I'm sure there's a hundred on that page! My older daughter and I used to pause on the beetle and butterfly pages to pick out our favorites- there really are so many pretty ones. The last few pages invite young readers to count different sets of objects mixed together, and the last page shows groups of objects from one to ten on a single spread. It's a nice solid little book with lots of counting opportunities. The pictures are all bold, bright and adorable (although the teddy bears look kind of anemic to me). My baby doesn't count yet but she likes to look at the images and I'm sure she's absorbing something about the numbers as well. The only oddity is that on the back cover a clown is pictured, and there are no clowns inside the book. Maybe it's supposed to match the jack-in-the-box on the first page, but their faces are so different.

rating: 4/5 ........ 28 pages, 2004

Jan 11, 2012

Curious George's ABCs

by H.A. Rey

Another one of the ABC books in our house. This one is actually based on a previous book called Curious George Learns the Alphabet, which I'm pretty certain was read to me as a child, as it sounds very familiar. In this short version, each page introduces a letter with a little phrase that uses several words beginning with the same letter. The alliteration makes reading it fun, and the pictures are quite charming- each letter is transformed into the animal, person or object that it stands for. The A forms the open mouth of the alligator (as seen on the cover), C is the curved shell of the crab, D is the belly of the dinosaur, and so on. This is one of the first books my baby actually seemed to enjoy; when she was very small she would squirm if I tried to sit and read her any baby book, but with this one she would sit quietly and pat the pages. When she's older I'll probably look for the original book to read to her, but for now this one is just right.

rating: 3/5 ......... 24 pages, 1998

Jan 10, 2012

Happy Baby Colors

by Roger Priddy, et al

I've returned all the baby books to the library, to help enforce my participation in the TBR challenge by avoiding that building! So we're stuck with our own board books now, most of which used to belong to my older daughter. Right now this fat one is the babe's favorite. Each spread of  Happy Baby Colors features a color, showing four objects with that color and on the facing page a baby dressed in the color holding an object of the same color (green: peas, frog, leaf, pear, baby in a green sweater holding a green block). The photos are all very clear and bright, the babies are all cute, and my little one loves looking at them. It's nice to see a variety of familiar objects in slightly different shades of each color, too. After going through the rainbow white, black and grey are featured, then some rainbow-colored things (beach ball, macaw) and black and white (zebra, dalmation, penguin). The final page has four squares of color opposite four objects and invites baby to match the colors to objects. For a book of its type that is just about teaching little ones some basic vocabulary and recognition, it's really an attractive book. A little heavy and definitely too large for baby to handle on her own, but she loves it so much.

rating: 4/5 ....... 28 pages, 2001

Jan 9, 2012

Those of the Forest

by Wallace Byron Grange

I got this book thru Paperback Swap because it won the Burroughs medal for nature writing in 1955. It tells of the life in a northern forest, describing all the activities and habits of the creatures that live there. Opens with a snowshoe rabbit taking shelter during a snowstorm, and follows the rabbit throughout a year. Other animals are observed as the rabbit sees them or crosses their paths. Had a lot of potential, but sad to say, the book was boring. The lengthy descriptions of plant life were unsuccessful at painting a picture in my mind, the passages telling what animals did were just that- telling, without any extra flair or feeling. And then there were statements of things like how the air that touched a rabbit's eye had traveled so many billions of miles from the sun, or how far the wind had gone, or how everything is connected via the molecules that move from one living thing to the next when they're consumed by each other... all very well to point out but I've heard it before and it got tedious again and again. Plus the rhetorical questions sprinkled throughout the text started to annoy me as well. I just wasn't enjoying it, so put the book down at about page 50. Had barely begun to hit spring. Disappointed.

Abandoned ....... 314 pages, 1953

Jan 8, 2012

Driftwood Valley

by Theodora Stanwell-Fletcher

 Based on journal entries, this is the story of a husband and wife who lived in a cabin (built themselves) in a remote mountain valley in Northern Canada. So far north that winter lasts six or seven months out of the year, twenty-foot snowfalls are common, nobody lives for miles and miles around except the Indians and of course the wildlife. They traveled there to study the plants and animals, to take samples for a museum. A few times the author mentions the work of skinning and stuffing birds, pressing plants, or how they came to be fond of the creatures around them and regretting shooting one or two of every species they came across in order to send back pelts and skulls to the museum. But mostly, that work is hardly mentioned. The book is full of details about how they lived, surviving the elements, hunting their own food (gardening was impossible), trying to get along with their Indian neighbors, reveling in the beauty of the wilderness and the northern lights. They had no radio, no running water, chopped wood for their heat, etc. It was a life of hard work, but they loved it. They even came to resent visitors who dropped in without notice because they felt their lifestyle became cramped! Personally, I can't imagine living in such conditions. Not the remoteness, but the cold and the weather (down to sixty or seventy below). The misery of mosquitoes in summer, being trapped by floods of mud in spring, the awful bitter cold of winter. Driftwood Valley is a book with a big heart, full of love for the wilderness. There's lots of adventures as every time they traveled to meet a plane or explore a new area they had to pack all their gear and food on their backs, and walk all the way on snowshoes. Eventually they acquired a few dogs and two horses, which made their lives incredibly easier- the animals could help carry packs so they could travel further, the dogs snuggled against them at night kept them warm, and their presence at the cabin protected the couple's privacy (as the Indians were afraid of them).

There were a lot of interesting things happening besides wilderness adventures. The book was written by the wife, and she talked quite a bit about how most people thought women were too weak to live in such a remote area. Once she camped out at night all by herself just to prove she could do it- the main goal being to survive! She examines the Indian's culture and in particular is upset by how poorly they treat their pack dogs- the Indians in return are astonished at how well she treats her own. I would dearly love to read her husband's take on the whole adventure; she mentioned once that reading his journal showed the opposite side of everything- he wrote in detail about things that didn't interest her at all, and vice versa. But I don't think he published anything about this trip (it lasted about a year and a half).

I also would have liked to read more details about the wildlife- a lot of animals are mentioned in passing, and that is all. Many of the creatures they only ever saw footprints- especially of marten, wolverine, etc. It was not until the very end of their trip that they ever saw a wolf- and that encounter sounds breathtaking.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 384 pages, 1946

more opinions at:
My Reading Diary
anyone else?

Jan 6, 2012

more and more

books that have caught my eye, from the blogs noted:
The Sun's Heartbeat by Bob Berman - At Home with Books
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin- A Striped Armchair
Delusions of Gender by Cordeila Fine- Nymeth
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson -  At Home with Books
Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs- Edge of the Page
Quiet by Susan Cain - Caroline Bookbinder
The Town that Food Saved by Ben Hewitt - Ardent Reader
Kraken- China Mieville- Nymeth
Wonderstruck! by Brian Selznick- You've GOTTA Read This!
Emory's Gift by Bruce Cameron- Bookfool
Enchanted Hunters by Maria Tatar- A Striped Armchair
Intern by Sandeep Jauhar- Caroline Bookbinder
Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi - At Home with Books
The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard- A Striped Armchair
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi- A Striped Armchair
Temeraire series by Namoi Novik- Nymeth
Yotsuba! series by Kiyohiko Azuma - Puss Reboots
Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan M Bergman- Book Lady's Blog
Curiosity by Joan Thomas- Books Under Skin
My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerly- Ready When You Are, CB
Love Times Three by the Dargers- books i done read 
Millions Like Us by Virginia Nicholson- Nymeth
True to my goal, I've looked these all up to see what's available at the library. The first block of the list I can get my hands on to read, the second shorter part I can't. So that's cheering. I was thrilled to find almost the entire collection of Yotsuba! at my library, after reading about it on Puss Reboots. But for some reason volume 2 isn't there, which is the very one that caught my eye first. Annoying already, even though I've been assured they're not really chronological so it doesn't matter.

Jan 5, 2012

Touch and Feel Kitten

by DK Publishing

I like this series of touch-and-feel board books. We have a few at home, but not the kitten one so we keep borrowing it from the library. Each spread shows a few large, clear photos of kitties with various textures installed on the page, and invites the child to explore with her fingers. I like that book uses a variety of words to invite interaction: stroke, touch, feel, etc. There is a patch of soft kitten fur, hard plastic food dish, shiny smooth reflective tags. My favorite is the sandpaper-rough pink kitty tongue (although that texture patch is rather small). My daughter's favorite is the last one, with a kitten in a woven basket. The basket texture is relatively large- almost half the page, and certainly very interesting with its ins and outs and alternating colors. A cute little book that does well at engaging little hands.

rating: 3/5 ...... 12 pages, 1999

Jan 4, 2012

a look back

I've been thinking more about the reading experience that was 2011. It was hard for me to pick a "best book" and so I finally gave up trying. There just weren't a lot I read that really wowed me this year. I think that's because I read so much non-fiction. A lot of those books were great. They were interestting, satisfied my curiosity, even entertained me sometimes- but I didn't fall in love with many of them, or feel very passionate about recommending them to people.

In one regard it was a good reading year- I did read over a hundred books- but it many other ways it wasn't. I was dealing with pregnancy and then a new baby, lots of sleep loss. So even though I read alot while nursing the baby, much of the time my brain was too tired or mind wandering, to focus on the book in hand. And then I found when I sat down to write blog posts nothing seemed to come out right. I either couldn't think of much to say and wrote really brief posts, or just started rambling about the book and had a hard time organizing my thoughts. I feel in part that my visitors dropped off because my writing was suffering, but I know it's also because I failed to visit and comment on other blogs as much as I used to. I also didn't write a single past-reads post, something I've been meaning to get back into lately. So overall I feel like my blogging efforts were really lame this year. Not enough visiting around, not enough focus, poor writing on my part. I'm really hoping to do better again, now that the baby sleeps most of the night and I get a few hours to myself during her daytime naps....

Excuses, excuses. Mostly just writing this to remind myself there were good reasons I failed to blog well as last year, and that I want to and can get back into the swing of things again.

Five Little Ducks

by Justine Smith

This is a board book version of the five-little-ducks rhyme. I've become familiar with it through a few different versions I read with my older child when she was small. Momma duck has five babies who go off swimming, and each time she quacks to call them back, one is missing. At the end she quacks again and they all come back. There are a few things about this book that try to be cute and clever, but they just didn't work well for us. The number of diminishing ducklings is achieved by using cutouts on the pages. The duckies have little gold foil patches on their wings but they're so small and dull that they hardly get noticed, and certainly don't have any texture. Overall I was kinda disappointed with the illustrations- they're nice but rather bland. Not overly cute, or bright, or accurate, so I was left just thinking meh. The one thing that made me pick up this book is that when you turn the last page it makes a quacking sound. My baby was thrilled with this at first, she even laughed and wanted it to happen again. But the rest of the book never holds her attention long enough to get to the quacking. I end up having to truncate the rhymes so we get through the pages fast enough to get to the only part she really likes- the noise.

rating: 2/5 ..... 12 pages, 2007

Jan 3, 2012

Toot!

by Leo Timmers

Most of the books I pick up for the baby either feature animals or basic shapes, colors, etc. I wanted something a bit different for once, and this Toot! was just right. The pages show various types of vehicles- fire truck, police car, ice cream truck, cold-storage, semi and trolley or cable car- along with the different sounds they make, from a ting-a-ling-ting to a wailing siren or deep honk. I make up my own little jingle for the ice-cream truck page because it's more cool that way. The pictures are bright and very engaging, the different animals in the trucks look so funny. I always get to the end wanting to add one more page that will say beep! but see that there's another book of his called Vroom! that has taxis and cars, so I guess that one's got the beep in it.

rating: 3/5 ........ 14 pages, 2009

Jan 2, 2012

Head Cases

Stories of Brain Injury and its Aftermath
by Michael Paul Mason

I chose this book off a library shelf because it jolted my mind: I knew I had another book on the TBR about brain injuries. This wasn't the one on my list, but it turned out to be a very gripping read. It's very sad, and frustrating, and astonishing. It's written by a man who works as a case manager for people with traumatic brain injuries. He travels the United States to visit people who have suffered brain injuries and try to help them get the medical care they need - most often woefully inadequate or non-existent.

Head Cases is a collection of stories about these people: what they have suffered, how it has changed their lives, and those of their families as well. He describes athletic accidents, car wreck, diseases and violence, all wreaking a moment's devastating havoc on the all-so-important yet so very fragile brain. Some of these stories literally terrified me, as you read them and see how easily it could happen to yourself, or someone you love. A few of them have positive outcomes, with a person recovering and regaining a sense of self (though different from what they were before) and a meaningful life. All too often though, the patient ends up shuffled around between facilities that don't quite know what to do with them, much less how to help them. It's very sad to read of brain injury patients who could improve with the proper medical care and therapy, being drugged into a stupor in a nursing home or mental health facility where they don't really belong. Also very sad to read of families torn apart- people who no longer recognize their loved ones, or whose personalities are so altered they can't stand each other anymore. What gave the book relief was how very well it is written. There are many passages beautifully describing the experiences these people had, the things they loved to do- it takes you into another person's life so acutely. They are written with compassion, you can tell the author really cared about these people. He often participated in experiences that were a part of the patient's spiritual life- sitting in a sweat lodge or joining a meditation session. Even in the last, most painful chapter where he tells the story of a suicide survivor he brings a personal connection to the narrative, as one of his close friends had just died of suicide.

Wait, that wasn't the most painful chapter. Just as disturbing was the one where he visited a hospital overseas that treats soldiers and civilians who have been injured in Iraq. Horrifying as the head injuries are, many patients survive them. Only to get released, come home, and find their lives frustrating, painful and misunderstood. It's very dismal that medical technology can now save people who suffer the most atrocious brain injuries, but then the system fails to continue offering them proper care. So many of them find their lives a dead-end.

I could not help comparing this book to those I've read by Oliver Sacks. Mason writes in a much friendlier manner, his book is not nearly as technical as Sacks'. I found it a lot easier to read, but also a lot more emotional. Because I didn't have to sit and struggle to understand, the narrative communicating itself to me easily, it was also easier to connect to it and feel like this was something that could happen to anyone I knew. Makes you scared to get in a car or ride a bike...

rating: 4/5 ........ 310 pages, 2008

more opinions:
curled up
Open Mind, Insert Book
Krista Stevens

Jan 1, 2012

2011 Stats

I was trying to finish my last library book before the year closed, even stayed up a bit late last night and welcomed the new year with a book in my lap and eggnog in hand, ha. But I didn't make it through that one, so Head Cases will bridge the gap and be the last borrowed book I read before diving into the TBR challenge.

Here's the numbers from 2011. No, they don't quite add up. I always make an error somewhere in counting, plus some books go into more than one category, and others might not have got counted- for example, I think I counted some picture books into the total tally but then didn't list them as either fiction or non-, so that's the first glaring error. Anyways, the count is roughly thus:

Total books read- 119

Fiction- 16
Non-fiction- 91

further breakdown:

Memoirs- 20
Gardening/ Food- 25
Nature- 8
Art- 2
Pregnancy books- 12
Animals nonfic- 30
Other nonfic- 9

Fantasy- 1
YA- 1
Historical fiction- 5
Animals in fiction- 4
J Fiction- 2
Picture books- 15

Short story collections- 2
Comics/ graphic novels- 5

Male authors- 50
Female authors- 52
co-authored- 12

owned books- 52
library books- 60
borrowed from a friend- 2
review copies- 5
books from bloggers- 3

Abandoned books- 5
Re-reads- 3

Places I visited during the year's reading: Ireland, England, Egypt, Africa, France, Russia, Holland and Ecuador. Not nearly so many as last year.

The numbers are quite a bit different from last year. (Except for the number of books read- that was exactly the same.) I continued on my trend of reading more and more non-fiction. In fact, I don't think there's ever been a year where I read so much non-fiction. I miss the novels. Mean to get more into them this coming year. I was surprised to find that I read no poetry, only one YA book and one fantasy. Fantasy used to be a huge genre for me. My ratio of men-to-women authors was about equal, as was the number of books I read off my own shelves compared to borrowed.

I did something a little different this year, which was to keep a running tally of books read, and which categories they fit into. This was to avoid having to count everything up at the end of the year (usually a big headache).
It worked pretty well. I counted up a few categories just to see how accurate my tally was to my blogging. There were probably a few books I just forgot to jot down, but for the categories I checked it more or less added up the same. I did read far more picture books than noted here; I just didn't start counting them until near the end of the year, nor did I review many of them. I plan to use this system again next year, it worked well for me. This time around I'm also going to keep track of which books I read off my TBR (whether physical or listed) and which I find browsing. I'm curious about that, too.

I usually do more here with listing notable books of the year such as my favorites, the ones I found most inspiring, amusing, and so forth but I'm just too tired right now. Might make another post out of it.

If you're at all interested, here's the last few years' numbers: 2010 and 2009 (before then I didn't do end-of-year stats)

So, Happy New Year everybody! May it be a great year of reading ahead, for all of us!