May 28, 2013

An Irish Country Doctor

by Patrick Taylor

This novel is about a young doctor who works in an Irish country practice under the direction of a gruff older physician, well-respected (even feared) in the community but whose practices make Barry Laverty raise his eyebrows. At first I enjoyed reading about the interesting characters and run-ins the young doctor has with his patients, the older man's questionable ways of getting around their ignorance and stubbornness. There's also the intriguing details about medical practice in the sixties, and a little bit of romance. But in the end I found myself bored and loosing interest quickly. I skimmed a lot, barely finishing enough to avoid tagging this one as abandoned. It's an easy read but there's just not enough meat there for me. I found the little glossary in the back curious reading though, and not because it explained all the quaint local expressions used in the novel (soft hand under a duck = very gentle or good at something; not as green as you're cabbage looking = you're more clever than you seem). But also because there were a lot of expressions defined in there that were so familiar to me I'd think they would not need to be included. Such as bigger fish to fry, bit my head off, hold your horses, no spring chicken, you're on, among others. Did the author really think these were phrases particular to Ulster dialect?

Rating: 1/5 ......... 351 pages, 2004

May 17, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

vol. 4
by Konami Kanata

Chi's family has thankfully found a new home in an apartment that allows pets, so for them it is a big relief to move. For the little kitten, moving is an upsetting and confusing event and we get to see the cat's viewpoint as she timidly explores the new apartment, finds new smells, marks stuff as hers, and meets neighbors. One of these happens to be a dog, which is frightening for Chi until she discovers that she can be smart and safe from "the Barker" too. In the course of this volume Chi learns how scary and fun a flight of stairs can be, meets a snooty next-door-neighbor cat, is indignant at having her nails clipped (failed attempt) and plays ridiculously cute games of hide-and-seek with her little boy. She also realizes how much she misses the big Blackie from her old neighborhood, in a moment of nostalgia. Sweet and fun.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 146 pages, 2006

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May 15, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

vol. 3
by Konami Kanata


In volume three, the too-cute Chi is starting to mimic grown cat behavior, due to her following the older, larger "Bear Cat" around the apartment complex more and more. They start to get into some serious trouble, and eventually the Bear Cat's family is forced to move out, pitching Chi's family into a panic about their own situation. They decide they must give Chi up, which grieves the little boy. Chi herself seems pretty unmoved by all the turmoil, delighted to romp with the older cat, play with her human "sibling" and generally cause mischief. It's hilarious when she gets her claws stuck in a curtain and unintentionally climbs almost all the way to the ceiling! There's also a very cute episode where a toddler visits from the country, who finds Chi irresistibly cute, but is more used to playing with dogs and upsets the kitten. I love the way this series is illustrated, it's simple and adorable, but the expressions of cats and their attitudes are so accurate it makes me laugh.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 144 pages, 2005

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May 14, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

Vol. 2   
by Konami Kanata 


In this second volume of Chi's Sweet Home, the adorable little kitty continues to romp around her adopted family's apartment. Their efforts to keep her presence a secret from the management becomes more complicated when a large black cat starts causing trouble in the neighborhood. Now everyone's on the lookout for cats, and then Chi meets "The Bear Cat" herself. First she tries to chase him away from her territory, then she gives in to curiosity and starts following him around. Gruff in appearance, he becomes something of a kitty mentor to her. The kitten's memories of her mother and siblings are fading, but brought back dimly sometimes by snuggles and the taste of milk. I like the scenes centered in the home, as the kitten plays alongside the little boy and continues to learn how to fit in with her human family. Finding a comfy spot to sleep, wanting to share in the delicious-smelling food the family eats, playing with things on daddy's desk. Surely anyone who shares a home with a cat can relate! My favorite was the scene where Chi found the little boy taking a bath. She was terrified of the water, but so intrigued by the floating bath toys. You can guess the result!

Rating: 4/5 ........ 154 pages, 2004

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May 13, 2013

Work Women Want

by Jennifer Forest

This book is a basic overview of some options available for women who want to earn a decent amount of income but still have time with their kids. It was offered to me by the publicist, and for once I accepted a review copy (usually not my policy) because the subject is so applicable to my current situation.

Through the book Forest looks at a range of ways women can work from home or negotiate part-time hours in a manner that will still generate a reasonable amount of income. She examines the possibilities of multi-level marketing, making crafts or selling products (online or at local fairs), providing professional services (bookkeeping and the like), pro blogging, trading shares, running a home daycare, and a few other things. In every instance the author either attempted the job herself, or interviewed women who had made a success of it. To no surprise, she quickly found that things like online surveys are mostly a scam and freelancing job sites can be difficult to get started at. My own experience validates what she says for the most part, as I have either looked into some of these things myself during the past five years, or know other women who have. 

Namely, it is not easy or simple to make a good sustainable income working from home. It takes a lot of effort, focus, and time to get established. I appreciated that with each case, Forest explains not only what it takes to get the business going, the amount of upfront capital you might need and the expected time before you can expect a good return, but also what kind of skills and personality are needed for each type of work. Working from home is not the right solution for everyone. She includes lists of questions to ask yourself, as well as templates to help you form a basic plan. If you're trying to go back to an established office job but negotiate for part-time hours, she has advice and strategies for how to make that successful, as well. She also briefly discusses the merits of returning to school and pursuing a degree.

I am glad that I've finally found work that I can be productive at, while remaining home with my children (I'm currently working part-time from home as content editor and graphic design assistant for a website development company. I've found it very satisfactory but the hours can be long- the best times for me to work are usually late, after the kids are in bed). This book did not teach me much, to be honest. If you are newly in the position of looking for work-at-home opportunities I do think this book would be a good beginning resource to figure out which options might be valid. It's a great starting point and has lists of further resources. I did find some of the content repetitive, and the author is not in the American job market (she's from Australia), so some of her observations or terminology were a bit foreign to me but for the most part it was solid information. There's lots of inspirational quotes scattered throughout the book as well.

Rating: 3/5 ......... 223 pages, 2013

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May 9, 2013

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

The Young King and the Remarkable Rocket
by Oscar Wilde
illustrated by P. Craig Russell

This one was a bit better, for me. Wilde's fairy tales continue to sit a bit ill, but are nevertheless some compelling reading. Of course, the awesome illustrations draw me in as well. This volume (no. 2) contains two stories. "The Young King"  is about a boy king enthralled with beauty- jewels, rich cloth, all sorts of lovely and costly objects. I thought it was going to be a story about greed but instead it turned a different corner. The boy king begins to learn how poor people have suffered and things been destroyed in order to make such riches available to him, and he then cannot bear to wear the robes or jewels. So he goes to his coronation dressed in sheepskin, holding a wooden stick for a scepter, with a crown made of thorns on his head. The court and common people alike are all shocked to see their king dressed so lowly- some in fact don't recognize him- and they mock him but he is surrounded by glory. This story again had a very obvious reference to Jesus but I didn't mind this time. Probably because it was introduced early in the story and built up gradually, instead of being thrown in suddenly at the end, like I felt with the earlier one.

"The Remarkable Rocket" is about a bunch of fireworks being prepared for the celebration of a royal wedding. The rockets are talking amongst themselves and the biggest one of all is haughty and full of himself. He thinks the fanfare is all about him, and he sounds very ridiculous in his bragging and melodrama but in the end no one pays him any attention at all, he doesn't even become part of the intended display. I rather liked this one, too. It was amusing and had a very good point. So maybe I will find more of this series, after all...

Rating: 3/5 ........ 48 pages, 1994

May 8, 2013

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

The Devoted Friend and The Nightingale and the Rose
by Oscar Wilde
illustrated by P.Craig Russell

This is volume four of the Wilde fairy tales illustrated by P. Craig Russell (I'm not reading them in order). I was familiar with one of the stories, the Nightingale, but not the other. "The Nightingale and the Rose" is about a young man pining after a beautiful girl he's in love with, who will dance with him only if he gives her a red rose. He can't find a red rose but a nightingale overhears his grieving and sacrifices herself to true love: she pierces herself on the thorn of the rosebush, and her life's blood paints the rose red. The young man is ecstatic to find the red rose and immediately takes it to the young woman but she scorns his gift and he goes home to bury his nose in books.

In the other story, a poor but good-hearted gardener is taken advantage of by a rich miller who takes liberties with his ideas of friendship until he has literally driven the gardener to his death. With hard work for favors never really returned in kind. I found both these stories rather bitter, and unsettling.

What was Wilde trying to say? The young woman was so petty, the heartsick young man seemed to make assumptions about her that weren't true at all, the nightingale died for an idea that wasn't a reality. And I rather liked the poor gardener but he wouldn't stand up for himself and the disgusting miller didn't even seem to care that he'd caused the man he erroneously called "friend" to die.

It seems a terrible observation on human nature. I do love the artwork but I'm not sure if I want to read more of Oscar Wilde's stories!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 32 pages, 2004

May 6, 2013

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

The Selfish Giant and The Star Child
by Oscar Wilde
illustrated by P. Craig Russell

**  Warning- there are spoilers here! **

Another graphic novel I picked up attracted by the pictures. I knew I would already like it as I've seen this artist before and he's amazing. And I was right. I loved looking at the pictures. The stories, well, I'm not so sure about that. I knew Oscar Wilde wrote short stories, and I've read a collection of them before, but I don't recall these two. I didn't realize he could be so- religious and blatant with the moralizing. "The Selfish Giant" is about a giant with a beautiful garden who doesn't like neighborhood kids playing there. He puts up a wall to keep them out and then his garden is always winter until a small child solicits his sympathy. The giant lets them back in, the garden grows in spring and summer, everyone is happy again. But did the child have to be an incarnation of Jesus? I was rather enjoying the story and that made it just annoying.

The second story, "The Star Child" is about a beautiful child found in the woods and taken in by a woodcutter's family. He grows up into an insolent, mean and spiteful child. When his poor, beggarwoman mother finds him, he rejects  her and gets turned into an ugly creature. Then he wanders around miserably suffering the same insults and bad treatment he had meted out to others, until a cruel magician and a little rabbit teach him lessons of kindness. Then of course he gets his original beauty back and finds out that his beggarwoman mother is actually a queen. This pat ending didn't bother me so much as the last page, where we see the beautiful boy ruling as king, the land all peaceful and happy, and then he dies suddenly and the last line says And he who came after him rulled evilly. What? Now I'm expecting more! It just seemed an odd way to end the story. I wonder if there actually is more I'm missing, as the original was adapted by Russell for this book...

I've several more volumes of P. Craig Russell-illustrated Wilde fairy tales borrowed from the library, will be reading those soon too.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 111 pages, 1992

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May 5, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

Vol. 1
by Konami Kanata

This is one of the cutest books I've ever seen! It's about a little kitten who gets lost and adopted by a family that isn't allowed to keep pets in their apartment. There's the adjustment of the family to caring for a cat, the toddler's antics, the kitten constantly remembering her family and wanting to search for them, then starting to feel at home where she is. It's hilarious how the kitten gets her name- correct me if I'm wrong someone, but does "chi" really translate into something like "pee pee"? I guess it would be like calling your kitten Tinkle, ha ha. There's all kinds of amusement relating to how cats actually behave- not interested in the toys you purchase but delighted with an empty box or winkled paper, alternately startled by and curious about every new thing in the house, indignant at the liberties taken by the vet and then holding a grudge against the person who took her there! I enjoyed it all so much.

I even spotted a little tribute to What's Michael?, another graphic novel series about cats. If you look closely at the pictures showing the vet's office, What's Michael? books are in the background! Love those little details. I'm eager to read more (so is my eight-year-old, who gobbled this book up) so I've already requested the next few volumes from the library. Looks like they have at least ten, so we're looking forward to reading more about this adorable kitty!

Rating: 4/5 ........ 162 pages, 2004

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May 3, 2013

I Can Do It Myself!

by Stephen Krensky
illustrated by Sara Gillingham

Another charming book we found by chance at the library. I Can Do It Myself seems to be a companion volume to Now I Am Big! In this case, a little girl is featuring showing off all the things she can now do on her own: get a snack, reach a book on a shelf, turn off a light, blow her nose, ride a tricycle and so on. The cutest picture is where she chooses her own clothes- they are all terribly mismatched but she is so proud of her outfit! It's a charming reminder on how much little accomplishments mean to small children.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 12 pages, 2012

May 2, 2013

Age of Reptiles

Omnibus Vol. 1
by Ricardo Delgado

It was simply the beautiful pictures that caught my eye on a library shelf, and good thing because that's mostly all this book consists of. The thick volume is a compilation of three comics- Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare, Age of Reptiles: The Hunt and ditto The Journey. They are all stories told entirely in pictures, and all about dinosaurs. Unfortunately I don't know the names of all the species featured- but the first two books seem to center around a few groups of predatory dinosaurs- some smaller carnivores and the bigger tyrannosaur as well. They fight over food and territory, have regular skirmishes, prey on each others' eggs and young. The second book seems to foreshadow dire times- a lot of the landscape is dry and barren, and the third book shows massive groups of dinosaurs migrating in search of new food sources.

This last part didn't have as interesting a storyline to me- it was all about the difficulties of the herbivores traveling (getting quite gaunt and worn with hunger) and the predatory species following along to pick them off. But I was intrigued by the colors- you could tell the artist really had fun giving the dinosaurs vivid patterns and colors. In The Journey I kept thinking "hey, those ones look like ostriches, and those all striped like zebras," and suspected that the artist had intended to make it seem like the migration of African animals. Sure enough, at the end there were some marvelous pages from Delgado's sketchbook including some color studies where he'd noted which antelopes, giraffe and other African beasts the colors were supposed to mimic.

I was intrigued by how much the pictures reminded, or taught me about life so long ago. How old sharks and crocodiles are- they were there, right alongside the dinosaurs. I'd see a panel with a fierce-looking dinosaur stalking a large insect and not know if the insect was huge or the predator small until another familiar dinosaur chomped on them both (a frequently repeated scene, actually- hunter becoming the hunted). There were fantastic fishes and aquatic beasts, and I loved the depictions of flying ones (pterosaurs?) as parasite-pickers or scavengers or just squabbling cliff-dwellers with their own little dramas going on. The perspective angles showing their flights and viewpoints were awesome.

The drawings are just wonderful. I missed some of the storyline because I was just staring at the artwork instead of paying attention to exactly what was happening. The so-very-lifelike anatomy. The amazing linework and texture, mostly created with ink. It's very impressive. And I loved the inclusion of essays where Delgado described other artists who had inspired him. I even looked some of them up. I had never heard of Ricardo Delgado before, nor seen his work, so I was disappointed to find that my library doesn't have any other books featuring his art, not even another volume of these dinosaur comics. But if you can find them, do take a look. Especially if you have kids crazy about dinosaurs. It's just amazing.

Oh, but there's lots of blood. Dinosaurs fighting, ripping each other up and feasting on the fallen. If it's too disturbing for you, or too violent for your children, then give this a pass. Otherwise I recommend it!

Rating: 4/5 ........ 397 pages, 2011

May 1, 2013

I am glad to know

that the world will never run out of books I want to read! haha. I will run out of time to read them first, I'm sure. I haven't even begun to dent the backlog of titles, yet I keep adding more. You are all so guilty (fellow readers, I mean you, in a good way!)
As usual, the links below will point you to the friendly book blogger who got said title on my radar.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Soloman- Farm Lane Books Blog
The Yellowstone Wolves by Gary Ferguson- Ardent Reader
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan- Things Mean a Lot
Animal Wise by Virginia Morell- Gone Bookserk
Where the Blind Horse Sings by Kathy Stevens from Opinions of a Wolf
The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles DeLint from Stuff as Dreams Are Made On
Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamot- Shelf Love
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Craft Rubin- Books on the Brain
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks- Bermudaonion's Weblog
To Dance by Siena Cherson Siegel- Puss Reboots
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson- Books on the Brain
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline- Bookfoolery
Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway- Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

This second list includes the books not available at my public library, which I will have to keep my eyes out for elsewhere.
A Good Horse Has No Color by Nancy Marie Brown- A Striped Armchair
Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany- Farm Lane Books Blog
Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt - A Striped Armchair
Natural Fashion by Hans Silvester- Stuff As Dreams Are Made On