Sep 30, 2013

the dim and far away future

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your personal book collection when you die?

Not that I expect this to occur any time soon, but sometimes I think about it. I picture myself decades from now, an old lady in a little house or nursing home all alone yet not too lonely as I am content to be surrounded by my books and have ample time to reread them all!

And then I wonder where they will go after me... I would of course leave them to my daughter, who's becoming an avid bookworm in her own right, but she's not really interested in the animal books so she might not really want them all. I wonder if a library might take the collection but I know the actual fate of most books donated to libraries: they end up in the annual library sale and if not purchased, get recycled. Very rarely do they get into circulation for library patrons. (All you librarians out there correct me if I'm wrong!)

Sometimes I fantasize a dreadful future where the wildlife has all gone extinct, but my odd collection of animal reference books will be valued for its subject matter. But of course, any public library has a more extensive collection than mine about the same, so why would my books be special? ha ha

I just hope wherever they do go someday, they would continue to be appreciated!

Sep 29, 2013

Bunny Cakes

by Rosemary Wells

This Max and Ruby book is one of my favorites. Max and his big sister Ruby are each preparing a cake for their grandmother's birthday: Max is making a mud-pie cake with earthworms in it outside, and Ruby is methodically baking a cake in the kitchen. Max wants to help her, but keeps accidentally knocking things off the table. Each time Ruby sends Max with a written note to the grocery store to replace the item. Max wants a special ingredient to top off his earthworm cake, but he can't quite communicate that to the grocer. Finally he is inspired by one of Ruby's own notes to himself, and finds a way to get his treat.

I love so many things about this book. First, it's so darn cute. The bunnies determined to make something special for their grandma. Each doing something on their own: Ruby's lopsided pink-frosted cake has a close contender in Max's mud-and-earthworm cake. Grandma appropriately looks thrilled with both, and when I ask my toddler at the end which cake she would like to eat she always says "the brown one!" She doesn't quite get the yucky factor in that yet, but it does make my older daughter giggle. The story has a very realistic dynamic between siblings: the bossy older sister, younger one trying to help but messing things up, doing his best to make up for his mistakes and determined to get what he wants as well. Of course my favorite element is the role drawing takes as a communication vector. Wonderful story!

Rating: 5/5 ....... 32 pages, 1977

more opinions:
Brenna's Books
Kindergarten Reads
The Toy Bag

Sep 28, 2013

The Eye of the Heron

by Ursula K. Le Guin

This novel is set on a fantasy world named Victoria, which was founded as a prison colony for Earth. When the story takes place, Earth has essentially abandoned their contact with the planet and the civilization there has evolved into two separate groups: peaceful people who farm and support a more violent faction that lives inside the city. The pacifists grow tired of supporting the city and decide to splinter off and form their own colony elsewhere, free of oppression. Daughter of a powerful man in the city decides to join them as a rebel. The rest of the book is about the struggles that ensue. I don't know why it was so forgettable for me, when I recall the storyline and characters of other books of hers so vividly (such as Earthsea) even though I read them just as long ago (ten years running, at this point). It must have not been as captivating for me. Out of curiosity I would like to revisit this one someday, as well.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 208 pages, 1978

Sep 27, 2013

Good-Night, Owl!

by Pat Hutchins

When I came across this book on the library shelf I immediately recognized the illustrations in the same style as Rosie's Walk. This book is just as fun and engaging. It features an owl trying to sleep in the daytime, but bees are buzzing nearby and keep him awake. Then a squirrel comes to sit on a branch and crack nuts, crows caw, a woodpecker taps on the trunk and so on. Each page adds a new animal to the tree making its particular noise: robin, blue jays, doves, cuckoo, sparrows and starlings. They make such a racket altogether when the tree is full the owl looks frazzled with wide open eyes. At last night falls and all the animals sleep. Then the owl wakes them up again with a loud screech! The last page always makes me laugh. My two-year-old doesn't quite get the humor of the owl "getting back at" the other animals, but she enjoys the lovely textured illustrations and the litany of animal noises and bird sounds. The book has a distinctive foreign flair (to my eyes) because I recognize that the squirrel as a red fox squirrel and the robin a diminutive european robin, different from the ones we have locally.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 32 pages, 1972

more opinions:
Momma Reads

Sep 26, 2013

Zebra and Other Stories

by Chaim Potok

One of my very favorite authors is Chaim Potok. Astonishing that I haven't really written about any of his books yet. And this has got to be the only one that I'm not really crazy about. Short stories about teenagers. Each one rather unique. There is a boy with an injured hand learning to use it again in art class, a pair of young girls who become sisters when their widowed parents marry, a teen dealing with the death of her baby brother, a girl who must confront a bullying drug-dealer, and a girl dealing with the turmoil caused by an airplane collision over her school. Potok is the master of understatment, and usually I enjoy reading his stories and getting immersed in the characters, reading between the lines. But here it didn't quite work as well. Still good, but something just missing in it for me.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 160 pages, 1998

Sep 25, 2013

The Invisible Ring

by Anne Bishop

So. Curiosity will lead me to sometimes read things outside of my norm, and this was one of those instances. It didn't sit well, let's say. The Invisible Ring is in a fantasy world where the social system is turned on its head. People are born with magic powers, women are controlling, men are pretty much slaves to their instinct to protect and serve women. In fact, if I remember rightly, a backbone to the premise was the idea that women were not 'ahem' available all the time, but only receptive to men at certain times, and when that came around, the men would battle to the death for the privilege. Like animals. And as you might guess, most of the people in this book treat each other besitally. Everyone's been done wrong to or tormented and they all suffer from mental problems or past traumas, and act strangely. At least, I couldn't make sense of it. The main character, Jared, was sex slave to an evil queen until he killed her and got sent to an auction. He is bought by the Grey Lady and taken along on a journey. Of course he moves from being her slave to her paramour, with lots of fights in between. It was predictable. Characters alternated between being dull and confusing. The book is a prequel to the Black Jewels trilogy, which I haven't read- I don't know if it would have been better or worse for me if I had. This book made me never want to read another thing written by Anne Bishop. Sorry, but it was that bad. So forgettable I'm not sure now if I even finished it.

Rating: 1/5 ......... 416 pages, 2000

more opinions:
A Novel Read
Romance Book Wyrm
the Bookwyrm's Lair
books in review

Sep 24, 2013

bookmarks giveaway!

Here's a free pair of donkeys.
Actually, a quartet, there's one on each side of each bookmark. Stylishly presented, on a backdrop of green plant texture and caterpillar bristles (yes, that's right- caterpillar hair, even though it looks like the fringe of a rug or cactus spines at first glance, or so I thought). These burros would like to save your spot, in whatever book you're reading!

For a chance to win this laminated bookmark pair, simply leave a comment on this post. I'll draw a winner's name at random on tuesday, Oct 1st. Open to anyone with a mailing address in the US or Canada. Please be sure I can easily find your email address to contact you if you win!

Sep 23, 2013

A Kiss for Little Bear

by Else Holmelund Minarik

This is one of those picture books I think of as classic. I know my mother used to read Little Bear books to me as a child, and I have a few in the collection for my own kids now, as well. I absolutely love Maurice Sendak's illustrations, I think of them immediately in context with these stories. They have a definite realism with beautiful, meticulously inked detail (the bear's fur, hen's feathers, leaves on the trees, every blade of grass or bit of tree bark delicately rendered) yet at the same time retain a lovely charm and timeless appeal. The brief stories center around a little bear, his mother and father, sometimes his grandparents make an appearance too. His friends are an owl, cat, hen and duck, simply called by their animal names.

In this story, Little Bear has drawn a picture of a monster which "makes me happy" and asks Hen to take it to his grandmother. Grandmother is delighted and asks Hen to take a kiss back to Little Bear in thanks. On the way back, Hen stops to talk to friends and gives the kiss to a Frog to take to Little Bear, who gives it to Cat, who gives it in turn to a Skunk. But the Skunk meets a girl skunk and gives the kiss to her instead, until Hen comes along, finds the skunks still exchanging kisses and sets things straight. It's really cute, especially when the skunks have a little wedding at the end, and Little Bear presents them with another drawing.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 32 pages, 1968

Sep 22, 2013

Dogland

by Will Shetterly

A family sets up an attraction of a display of various dog breeds as a tourist attraction in the middle of nowhere. Well, it was in Florida, but sounded like a remote location. It was a strange idea, to my mind. The family built their little enterprise around having the dogs on display like a zoo, running a roadside cafe and selling stuff in a gift shop. Their story is told through the eyes of one of the youngest siblings. I had hoped (of course) on opening the book that it would be about the dogs, but it's mostly about the family, the string of curious visitors to their roadside setup, and how their attempt at running a tourist stop gets them involved in the community. It's set in the sixties and they hire some black people which upsets the locals. They got mixed up in some kind of trouble with the police, I think, and there were other events that caused family turmoil. Also, there were some elements of magical realism, which just confused me. Especially as I thought this was a memoir; there is a website about it here. Bottom line is, this book was unfortunately mostly forgettable for me. I don't recall any of the characters or events very well. Have any of you read it? What did you think? Other readers (see below) seemed to like it better than I.

Rating: 2/5 ......... 402 pages, 1997

more opinions:
EyeWrite
Liz Andra Shaw

Sep 21, 2013

Rosie's Walk

by Pat Hutchins

I have been enjoying reading to my kids books that my own mother read to me as a child. And I'm visiting many of them a second time around, as my youngest is now old enough to appreciate regular picture books. One of those on our shelf is Rosie's Walk, an old favorite. It's a simple picture book about a hen taking a walk through a farmyard. She's followed unawares by a sneaky fox. Every time the fox tries to pounce on the hen, he gets thwarted by one mishap or another: falls into the pond, trips on a rake, gets tangled in a rope, stumbles into a wagon, and so on. There are very few words (a nice emphasis on position or directionals: over, under, around, through, etc.) but the pictures are rich with texture and the chain of events is easy for young readers to follow. Will Rosie get home safe from the fox? Of course!

My daughter's favorite page is when the beehives fall over and the fox gets chased away by the bees. I always add a buzzing noise and sometimes a circling finger into a little giggly tummy.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 32 pages, 1968

more opinions:
Story Snug
goodnight moon, goodnight blog

Sep 20, 2013

Anna's Book

by Fynn

I don't know why I keep getting ahead of myself with these past-reviews, but here's another one. Anna was a little girl found abandoned on the streets of London and taken in by a fellow who calls himself Fynn, and his mother. The first two Anna books (on my shelf, easily accessible so I'll write about them later, probably after an enjoyable re-read) are collections of incidents revolving around Anna and the funny, curious and insightful things she would say. I loved those two books, and couldn't believe it when I found this one as well. Apparently Fynn kept a box full of Anna's own drawings and writings, and he later complied them into this book (she died young). If you ever wanted a look directly into the mind of a child, this is a delightful one. Anna's words (which charmingly, but also sometimes confusingly, include her prolific misspellings) describe her thoughts and feelings on various emotions (love and tears I remember in particular), God, kindness, her vague memories of her mother, and her own self. Some are endearingly silly stories she made up herself. They have the quaint, yet sometimes surprisingly wise perspective of a child. Anna's simple little stories and insights make me pause and think again.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 75 pages, 1986

Sep 19, 2013

World of the Fox

by Rebecca Grambo

I've always been very fond of foxes, and this book is one of the best ones I've read about the beautiful animals. Although aimed at a younger audience, it's very well-written and excellently illustrated. It describes the biology and daily lives of foxes, their various skills and acute senses, their family habits, and how they have been alternately persecuted and revered by man. The book is full of fascinating information, especially in how the stereotypes foxes have for cunning and slyness have a rational, physical explanation. It focuses on five species in particular: the familiar red fox, the gray fox (which can climb trees), arctic fox, swift fox and kit fox. Oh, and did I mention the awesome photographs? If you like foxes, or want to learn more about them, this book is a must read!

Rating: 3/5 ....... 109 pages, 1995

Sep 18, 2013

Dinosaur Tracks

Curious George
adapted by Julie Tibbott

This is one of those "modern" Curious George books based on the tv series. I suspect the pictures are stills straight from the computer-generated animation; they have that too-smooth style that doesn't really appeal to me. But my kid loves Curious George and the stories are always fun and educational, so I overlook my nitpickiness on aesthetics here once again, and just enjoy it.

George, the ever-curious monkey, is going about with a camera taking pictures of animals. His friend Bill helps him look for a fawn to photograph, and George learns how to find and identify animal tracks. He finds some tracks that puzzle him, tries to guess what they are from, and decides it was a dinosaur. George is frightened at the idea of a dinosaur walking around, but he follows the tracks and finds out who really made them; quite a surprise! In addition to having a fun story that teaches some things about wildlife and basics of logical thinking (making a guess and testing a theory), the book also has a few pages in the back that give kids activities to match animals to their tracks, and how to make a casting of tracks you find yourself. I might just try that with my older daughter; we often find deer tracks in the nature park nearby, and once I thought I saw the footprints of a raccoon.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 24 pages, 2011

Sep 15, 2013

Buster Bear's Twins

by Thornton W. Burgess

Another charming animal story by Thornton Burgess. This one is about a pair of young bear cubs and their early education. Their mother leads them through the forest, teaches them to be safe and stay where she puts them, and corrects them when they disobey. Mostly she allows the natural consequences of their own misbehavior stand in as sufficient punishment. I like that this book illustrates a lot of emotions and behavior young children will feel themselves. Desire to do their own thing, pride at small accomplishments, feeling unjustly treated when corrected for wrongdoing, pouting and wanting others to feel sorry for them. The little bear who does wrong even runs away from home and soon learns that he can't at all get along in the world by himself yet. He gets teased by Peter Rabbit, the blue jay, an owl and then has worse encounters with innocent folk who nonetheless teach him painful lessons when he is rude and overbearing: a porcupine and a skunk. You can guess what happens to the poor little bear cub who is relieved to at last find his mother, feeling sorely chastened by experience. He has yet one more lesson to learn from his family, though. As ever, I found the story a simple yet very entertaining read. It teaches a lot about wildlife and good behavior hand in hand.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 79 pages, 1921

Sep 14, 2013

Never Use White Type on a Black Background

and 50 other Ridiculous Design Rules
edited by Anneloes van Gaalen

This has been my "bathroom book" for a while now. It's one that's easy to dip into, read a few pages, come back to the next day. It's a compilation of design rules- both those unspoken and those rigorously taught in schools (at least to my experience) alongside numerous quotes by various photographers, architects, typographers, fashion designers and other artists either agreeing with, expostulating on or simply further exploring said rules. There's often a source as well: who first made up the rule, or a famous quote it was derived from. Sometimes the rule has evolved a long way from its origins! I got a kick out of some of these; one of my favorite Golden Age illustrators, Norman Rockwell, gets a serious nod here. Nearly all the rules I have either heard in art school (although some phrased differently) or just known intrinsically, but there were a few I had never encountered before (if you don't know what to do- just make it big and red took me by surprise). The ones related directly to fashion weren't as applicable to what I do, but felt familiar regardless. And if you read between the lines you get a sense of the paradoxical relationship that often exists between designers, their clients or directors, the intended audience and so forth. It's all about the rules of good design, how to apply them and know when to bend or break them. (And the title rule? I happen to agree with that one, especially when applied to web pages! White text on black ground makes my eyes swim and I get a headache. I usually never revisit a website that has a black ground.)

My boyfriend brought this book back from a visit to Holland. I've been really enjoying it. Some parts make me me think, others make me laugh, others I grin in recognition and agreement. And most of all, it makes me feel inspired to create again.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 145 pages, 2009

more opinions:
Greeting Card Designer
Battlefield Man

Sep 13, 2013

A Dance with Dragons

by George R.R. Martin

Warning: there are spoilers in this post

Well, not as spoiler-y as you'll get with readers who actually finished the thing; this mostly has my general impressions and suspicions about what is to come. Yes, I've given up on the beast that is this book. I made it through just over a hundred pages and it just wasn't holding my interest any more. There is too much political scheming, talking and talking, not much action and again new characters I'm not connected to yet. I didn't quite feel frustrated, but just found it dull- which is surprising in a way, considering how richly Martin has built this world and the intricate interactions of the characters who inhabit it.

The gist of what I read is that Jon struggles to hold his command on the Wall as Stannis tries to make things go his way, Theon comes back from the (supposed) dead and has a role to play again, and Tyrion gets smuggled away to safety but then ends up a pawn. He's lost his lust for women and scheming (for the time being at least) and seems bitterly resigned, at least as far as I could tell. I did flip through all the succeeding chapters to see if any of my favorite characters made a reappearance (I miss Arya, Sansa and Brienne in particular) and also to see where the dragons come up. No qualms about reading ahead of myself, as it were. What I found of Tyrion's situation intrigued me- reduced to slave status, alongside another of his stature, which gave him a completely different worldview of things. Also I found that Denarys' chapters are mostly about her efforts to rule the city she sacked, with very little mention of dragons until in the aftermath of a firey disaster she flies away on Drogon. I did read the entire sixteen pages near the end of the book that tell of Dany living in wild isolation on an island her dragon flies to; her struggle to survive there and master control of him. It was interesting, but not quite what I had hoped.

The threat of a years-long winter cold continues to loom in the background, while most of the characters go blithely about their regular lives, concerned with all the wrong things it seems to me. I have a suspicion that this series is aiming to pitch me into reading something I usually avoid from complete disinterest: zombies. Yep. What else are the walking dead, the wights, the Others and the white walkers they run into north of the Wall? And what's the difference between all those anyways? are some different names for the same creature, or is it four distinct kinds of dread things? That was never clear to me. I don't really want to read about zombies. It was bad enough the glimpse of what Catelyn Stark had become, and the strange things these various invented religions get into. Intriguing though. Mark of a very good writer: Martin makes me want to go on reading even though I detest half the characters, get bored with the politics and don't like the hint that a zombie invasion is coming over the wall (ha ha)!

End sum: I think I will like this book better in the future. It certainly has some things I want to read about, some character developments I want to follow, but not right now. When I have to pick up and continue a series after a gap I usually like to recap by reading the immediate prior book to the one that's newly published. So I'm thinking I will wait until book six comes out, then read this one just before that.

Abandoned ........ 1016 pages, 2011

more opinions:
You're Entitled to My Opinion
In a Bookshelf
Temporary Escape
Lulu's Bookshelf

Sep 12, 2013

more TBR

books I am likely to read as they have a local presence (the library):
HHhH by Laurent Binet - Reading the End
Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer- Ardent Reader
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell- Things Mean a Lot
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson- The Lost Entwife

books I might never read, as they are sadly absent (from the library):
Song of the Dodo by David Quammen - Shelf Love
My Leaky Body by Julie Devaney - Indextrious Reader
Nature Cure by Richard Mabey- A Work in Progress
Mud Season by Carin Siegfried- Caroline Bookbinder

Sep 10, 2013

winner

The winner of my bookmarks giveaway is Susan from You Can Never Have Too Many Books! (I love her blog title. That's my sentiment, for sure). Congrats, Susan! Send me your postal address and I'll mail them to you promptly. Happy reading!

Sep 9, 2013

The Custer Wolf

Biography of an American Renegade
by Roger Caras

In the 1920's (and surrounding decades, as far as I understand) regular war was waged between ranchers and wolves, to the point where wolves in North America were pretty much exterminated. Poison, baits, traps, dogs, shooting- whatever it took. People were eager and passionate about killing off these intelligent predators. Quite a number of individual wolves gained notoriety with the public as being regular killers of livestock- not just for sustenance but large numbers of animals being found dead and just left there. Whether the wolves were actually responsible for wanton killing of cattle and other livestock remains a question in my mind, but this animal certainly got blamed for a lot of it.

The Custer Wolf, also called Lobo, became legendary for how much livestock he supposedly killed and for his ability to escape all attempts by man to kill him. The first part of this book describes the wolf's early life, patterned after wolf behavior the author observed first-hand when he spent time with a captive pack and also viewed films made of young wolves being born and raised by their parents. This part was enjoyable reading and reminded me a lot of how White Fang commences, with the unfolding of the young wolf's awareness, its learning through instinct guided by the parents, its experiences encountering other wildlife and exploring the world. The white wolf soon meets with mankind and witnesses the death of both its littermates and parents until it remains a solitary animal and eventually becomes known as a killer of livestock and hunted down.

The firsthand accounts of people actually witnessing this wolf destroying livestock were nil, a few people glimpsed the animal briefly, and stories of its size and ferocity were greatly exaggerated. It mostly gained fame from being able to avoid traps that took hundreds of wolves and other wild animals in the vicinity. When the Custer Wolf was at last shot, men were surprised at its relatively small size. The author was careful in his account to point out which stories were probably fabricated and which had shreds of the truth. He also includes a lot of native american folklore that praises the wolf, as well as recounting ancient cultural fear and loathing of wolves that people brought with them from Europe when they came to America.

It was interesting reading for me, and reminded me of why I enjoy reading these kinds of books.

Rating: 3/5 ......... 175 pages, 1966

more opinions:
John Vernon's Reviews
Society and Natural Resources
wanderingref

Sep 8, 2013

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books!

by Lucille Colandro

I read this book to my kid last night. Do you know the rhyme There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly? and each successive creature she swallows is after the one before it? This is another version of that, but with the old lady swallowing school supplies- a pen to write in the books, a pencil case the hold the pen, plus a ruler, folder and chalk until she finally swallows a bag, cheers for the school bus coming around the corner, and coughs up a backpack with all the stuff in it ready for school. I remember the tune that goes with the original rhyme, but when I tried to read this book in that singsong, it didn't quite fit. A lot of the lines have uneven rhythm, and the refrain I don't know why she swallowed the books / but she didn't get any looks feels particularly awkward to me. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be read to the tune, but when I tried to just read it straight, it didn't go any smoother. So for that, I didn't really enjoy sharing this book with my daughter. Plus she seemed really puzzled as to why an old lady was consuming all these non-food objects! She didn't get the humor. So... I didn't enjoy reading this one, mostly because the words came out awkwardly.

I do like the illustrations by Jared Lee. They're done with ink lines in a scribbly style, with some color medium. Really fun. There's a dog on every page frolicking with the old lady, but whenever kids appear in the picture they're standing there looking uncertainly at the old lady, with shocked expressions. I see that there are numerous other old lady swallowed books by the same author/illustrator where she starts out by ingesting leaves, snow, a baby chick, a sea shell, a rose... I'm a bit curious about those, and my library has quite a few, but I think I'll wait until my kid is older and will giggle at it instead of frown.

Note: some kids might find the premise alarming. Especially if they read the original my mother had, where the old lady swallows a fly, spider, bird, cat, dog, pig, cow, horse and the last page ends with I don't know why she swallowed a horse / she died of course!

Rating: 2/5 ......... 32 pages, 2012

Sep 4, 2013

A Feast for Crows

by George R.R. Martin

It's a bad sign when you're reading less and less eagerly, and start wondering when is this going to be over? This book was just too long, and it had too few of my favorite characters, and too many new ones to keep track of. Of course many many more people die, and in very unpleasant ways as well. That's something I haven't really mentioned before about these books: they are very brutal. Thankfully Martin doesn't go into a ton of detail, whether he's describing someone getting their arm cut off or raped (there's plenty of that). Women are not treated very well, but this didn't bother me much at first, as I pictured the world he's built being structured like a medieval society, and well, things were pretty awful for lots of people back then. Or so I imagine. What I do like is that there are plenty of powerful women who step outside the normal bounds of that society, here. Denarys is a notable one for me, because not only is she powerful, but also merciful, determined to set slaves free wherever her army goes (although the results of that are not always what she had hoped). Then there is Brienne. She is the opposite of most women: large, strong, wields a sword as good as any knight, puts her life into the service of others. Is constantly mocked for her looks and unfeminine strength. Stubbornly loyal as well. I like her, and I don't like how other people treat her. She's been a constant thread in the books before, but this is the first time that Martin has given entire chapters over to her point of view, which I appreciated. Compared to those two women Catelyn Stark is just plain dull.

I was horrified by what happens later in the book. I started to really detest some of the characters who treat others in a vile manner, repeatedly. Namely Cersei. How I loathe that woman! My eyes started to glaze over with the numerous names, the introduction of yet more minor characters, the constant shifting between viewpoints. And I haven't even told you of what happens! Well, a lot. People continue to struggle for power in the realm (if they are in a position to care about that, or have a shot at it) or they simply struggle for survival. It's a detailed picture of the aftermath of war (well, quite a bit of war still going on) and of how people pick up the pieces and go on when main figures simply fall off the map. Dealing with the aftermath of everything. Turning it into new events. I found it amusing a few times when certain characters would intersect with others and they had no idea who each other were, or why they were significant, but the reader knows.

I was disappointed that most of the characters I'd become most interested in weren't featured in this book at all, but are the focus of the fifth one, which is a companion volume to this (it was so long the author turned it into two volumes). I am in continual admiration at the author's skill in building so complex a world, and also continually feeling annoyed, tired, disgusted and bored (this last with the politics mainly). I do want to read A Dance with Dragons just because I want more of the dragons, but am starting to wonder if I will really finish this series (it's starting to feel like Wheel of Time to me- never got through all of that one...) I need to get back to something simpler, now. Maybe silly or fun. While I wait for the fifth book to become available to me (waiting for my turn to borrow a library copy).

Rating: 2/5 ........ 978 pages, 2005

a few more opinions:
Satia's Reviews
The Book Barn
Val's Random Comments
Book Bunny's Burrow

Sep 3, 2013

The Kingdoms of Elfin

by Sylvia Townsend Warner

A collection of short stories about the Elfin kingdoms as Sylvia Townsend Warner imagined them. These elves are not gentle or necessarily wise and definitely not jolly or cute. They are cold, austere, often cruel and careless. Elegant and dazzling for sure but not lovely. They live centuries and have completely different, alien customs and values from ours. They are another race altogether and their depiction in these pages is fascinating. Language is a beautifully crafted thing and by itself enthralled me here. If you like intricate descriptions, that is. The stories are mostly about the elves themselves, and their various courts and aristocracies but sometimes about humans who have been captured by them or tricked into an exchange. I wish I could tell you some of the threads of the stories but have unfortunately forgotten them (it's been years since I read it). The impression lingers, though- of a dim, glittering world in a forest far away and yet close enough to be parallel, a place where beings live their own lives in a strange way, touched differently by time...

Another book I'd like to revisit someday, if ever I could find a copy (borrowed once from a public library when I lived elsewhere; not available in mine own here now). Anyone else read it? What was your impression?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 221 pages, 1977

more opinions:
Nannygoat Hill
My Book Blog

Sep 2, 2013

The Sea Runners

by Ivan Doig

An adventure story set in a place my heart is tied to: the Pacific Northwest. Set during the 1800's, it tells of a daring escape attempt by four men working in a fish packing house in Alaska, as indentured servants to the Russians. They flee in the dark of night and make their way south to Oregon, paddling a dugout canoe almost the entire way. They have to endure harsh weather, cold seas, hostile native tribes. They have to find food and navigate the rocky shores. Most of all it is a tale of endurance filled with vivid descriptions of the beautiful, wild scenery. Supposedly it's based on a true account. But for some reason I didn't fall in love with this story. The writing style takes some getting used to and I felt like I never really got to know any of the characters as individuals. I feel a bit ashamed to admit that I didn't really love it, as Doig is one my mother's favorite authors (I think I might have even borrowed this book from her). I've discovered that Ivan Doig has written many books about different places in the Pacific Northwest so I'm determined to give a few more a try. Any recommendations?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 288 pages, 1982

more opinions:
The Literary Tally
Andrew's Dedicated Blog

Sep 1, 2013

BIG and Little

by Samantha Berger

This simple little book compares sizes. It shows photographs of large and small animals (great dane next to a chihuahua, mother elephant with a small baby, etc) little kids next to older kids, a huge elaborate sand castle next to a small molded one, a grown-up's hand holding a child's, etc. My toddler likes the page with the hands, she always puts her hand on the small one and announces: "my hand!" and points to the other: "mommy hand!" As a little variation, the last page shows a pair of twins, which are the same size. This book is read often at my house. Liked so much that when I moved and realized I'd left it behind, I bought a new copy for my daughter.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 14 pages, 1999