Jul 20, 2017

Unlikely Loves

by Jennifer S. Holland

Sometimes when life is so busy you need a light, comforting read that's easy to dip in and out of. This book was perfect for that, cute and heartwarming. It's a collection of brief accounts featuring various animals that formed a bond with another species. A goat and a dog, great dane and a fawn, rhino and warthog, donkey and sheep, horse and dog, mother dog adopts kittens and so on. There are orphaned animals tucked into another litter- a piglet among rottweilers, for example. And others more unusual: a turtle who like to hang out with puppies. A miniature pony who befriended a capybara. A dog who liked his owner's snake. Some of the ones I found really endearing were the dalmatian who was attached to a spotted lamb, a hen who took it upon herself to babysit puppies, an otter who was rehabilitated among badger cubs, a disabled macaque who was given a rabbit and guinea pig for companions. But a few of the stories include humans- a boy who visited a field of marmots and they were friendly to him, a guy who flew a lightweight aircraft with his golden eagle, a young woman who helped nurse a moose calf, which never forgot her. And there's one about two lionesses- doesn't really fit with the theme. Overall, nice little stories. Most of which you can find online if you look- I'd seen the one of the cat and the owl before, and I looked up the one about a disfigured dolphin that appeared to be living with sperm whales.

The title is rather familiar- I think once before I picked up the precursor Unlikely Friendships but didn't find it interesting enough to really read. And I was a bit surprised to find another title in this now-apparent series with a focus on dogs, that had a tiny trademark-circled R after the title. Really? I don't know why but that irritates me.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2013

Jul 12, 2017

The Narrow Edge

A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab and an Epic Journey
by Deborah Cramer

It's about a small shorebird, the red knot. Mostly this bird feeds on small clams, but during its migration it makes a stopover on one particular beach in Delaware Bay to feed on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs. The author saw the birds and horseshoe crabs on a beach near her home and became intrigued by this close interaction of two species. The knots are dependent on the crab eggs to make it to their summer home and breed. Cramer undertook a project to follow the knots on their entire annual migration. She started in southern Chile and made stops all along two continents to observe the birds on their journey, all the way up into the Arctic. Met a wide variety of people who work with conservation efforts to save the red knots and other shorebirds, and found a vast difference in environmental conditions in each location. Like many other birds, knots are facing population decline, mostly caused by people of course. Lots of varying factors for this, most of which the general public seems unaware. After all the birds are small, and seldom seen in large, impressive numbers anymore.

Well, I really wanted to like this book. It has a lot of information, the kind I usually particularly enjoy. But something about the constant introduction of new names, places, details, scientific terms- I kept loosing attention. I think it's just me, this time. I want to come back to this one someday when I have better focus.

Borrowed from the public library.

Abandoned          293 pages, 2015

Jul 2, 2017

Harvest

An Adventure into the Heart of America's Family Farms
by Richard Horan

This guy travelled around the country visiting small family farms to help with the harvesting of crops, and then wrote a book about it. I really liked the concept, and I appreciated learning a little about what goes into the production of certain crops, but overall the book left me feeling dissatisfied and a little irritated, and I skimmed some sections, especially getting near the end. The author worked with these crops in the following states: turkey red wheat in Kansas; green beans, potatoes and squash in Michigan; blueberries in New York, tomatoes and sundry in Massachusetts, raspberries and Brussels sprouts in Ohio, wild rice in Michigan, cranberries at a bog in Massachusetts, potatoes in Maine, walnuts in California. He also visited a winery in California, but didn't actually pick grapes. In each chapter, for each locale, he describes his experience, the people he met, how the operations are run, and a bit about the philosophy or history of the farm (however much the owner and/or their family would share).

I liked reading about the farms and the food they grow, but the author shares a bit too much about his personal politics and even though for the most part I agree with his stance, I didn't like it. He kept quoting books and authors and mentioning stuff in little footnotes but the way they were included here felt awkward. The chapter about visiting San Francisco was entirely unnecessary and felt uncomfortable. The way he talks about people sometimes confused me- if I was that person, I might be embarrassed let's say. There's just too much stuff on an unnecessarily personal level, or him poking fun at things and making jokes I don't find amusing at all, it just makes me want to skip the page. Disappointingly, the one chapter I was most curious to read, about harvesting wild rice, was the most unintelligible. Most of it was in an entirely different voice, as if imitating the style of a Native American storyteller, with so many Chippewa words interspersed it kept jarring me out of the narrative entirely. I didn't get it. On the whole it all felt a little bit off.

Rating: 2/5         300 pages, 2012

Jul 1, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 1
by Yumi Unita

I admit I picked this one up to make sure my twelve-year-old wasn't reading anything too objectionable, as I've noticed that manga can sometimes have very mature or explicit content, let's say. And flipping through this one I saw one illustration showing a young girl in the bath with a grown man, so I wondered and sat down to read it myself.

Turns out it was innocent, and the story is an interesting and sensitive look at the kind of unusual family structure that can easily lead to misunderstandings or judgement from others. The man in that scene is Daikichi, a thirty-year-old bachelor who works hard, enjoys his beer and considers children and women to be "the enemy" - avoid interaction at all costs kind of thing. The six-year-old girl Rin is his aunt. Daikichi finds out when he attends his grandfather's funeral that the old man had a secret love affair with a younger woman, and Rin is his child. The family is all shocked and no-one wants to take in the illegitimate child. They're going to put her in an institution but Daikichi finds himself angered at how casually and judgemental the relatives talk about her and in a fit of compassion he decides to give her a home himself.

This is a huge adjustment. Obviously Daikichi has no idea how to be a parent- what kids will eat, what she needs in everything from comfort to clothing; finding a daycare provider is such a difficult issue he even realizes he may have to reconsider his career path. He comes up with all kinds of questions and goes through internet searches, then starts to make new acquaintances just on behalf of the child. They have to deal with bedwetting and Rin's silent little deceits (he's shocked to find out she lies to him in the simple manner of avoidance all kids use I bet). Daikichi notices that Rin isn't dimwitted or shy as most adults assume when they meet her, but struggling with emotions she can't express. He realizes that no one ever helped her cope with or comprehend what happened when her father (whom she called 'grandpa') died and he has no idea what her past was like. He determines to find out more about her mother, a completely absent figure whom no one in the family has ever met.

The author hooked me pretty effectively with this unlikely pair. And now I want to read more, to see where this story is going and what happens with this child. Happily the manga series has at least ten volumes. Borrowed from the public library. There was one thing that took some getting used to- following the original style of printing in Japanese, the book reads not only back-to-front but right-to-left, which was confusing at first. You get used to it fairly quickly, though.

Rating 3/5                      208 pages, 2006

One Trick Pony

by Nathan Hale

Graphic novels are fun. The more of them I read, the more I like them. This one I picked up on a whim, browsing shelves. It's a post-apocalyptic tale, neatly told in a steady reveal through the interactions of the characters. So fair warning: there may be spoilers, especially if you want to understand the story gradually as I did, on the first read.

The world is gone to ruin, any kind of technology snatched away by dangerous aliens that have invaded and turned most of Earth into a wasteland. The survivors live in small bands, reverted to a stone-age lifestyle. Except for one group that lives in a traveling caravan, attempting to find any remnants of technology (computers, robots, films, even small things like watches) before the aliens do and saving it in a vast hoarde of precious knowledge. Which is highly risky of course, as the tech stuff attracts the aliens. Out on a scavenging trip, a group of teens finds a robot pony- something none of them have ever seen before. The girl Strata is so intrigued by the pony, she's determined to take it back with them. Which of course attracts the aliens, and lands them in a fast-paced adventure that leads to a greater understanding of what the aliens actually are and why they are there.

It was great. The worldbuilding (very well done in such a brief book), the banter between the characters, the pony especially and how its limited specialized functions (as a robot) led so very neatly to its final role in the story. I liked the artwork, although there were a few illustrations where the legs look weird (upper leg above the elbow too long).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5                   128 pages, 2017