Aug 31, 2013

Behind the Bathtub

by Colette Audrey

** if you care to know, there are SPOILERS in this post **

The story of a dog living in a French apartment. You might think this is one of those fairly common books all about the author's dog and what it meant to the family and its endearing or destructive habits, but instead it's a bit more untidy. Or at least, had a different angle than I expected. Because the author seems rather focused on her dog's sexual behavior, and its death (the dog crawled into a small space in the bathroom to die, thus the title).  I don't really understand why the owner didn't have her dog spayed, but I think I recall that she wanted puppies. Or to just see the dog have puppies. Or to give her dog the joy of motherhood, something like that. But there are far too many details about trying to find a suitable mate for her dog, and how the activities surrounding that went (unsuccessful) and how messy and inconvenient it was when the dog was in heat. Plus some almost-funny but mostly just awkward scenes where she took her dog out in public and it persistently made advances on men in the restaurant, who had no idea what the dog was actually doing. Mostly I felt sorry for the uncomfortable situations and wondered why this lady didn't just get her dog fixed already. Although looking at when it was published (the sixties) perhaps it wasn't so common for most people to get their pets neutered and spayed?

So it was an okay book, certainly different in terms of dog stories but not very memorable. And take all this with salt; there was probably much more normal stuff about the dog in there that I just don't remember, it didn't stand out.

This was a book I picked up at a used sale once on a whim, but it isn't in my collection anymore.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 307 pages, 1963

Aug 30, 2013

threat averted (I hope)

I recently spent half a morning involved in a serious cleaning operation and inspecting the bookshelves thoroughly, taking out each volume to fan its pages and dusting around, atop and behind all the books.

Because I found this nasty little critter:

Three of them, actually. Scurrying up the wall. Silverfish. They EAT BOOKS. Also cotton, starch, flour, etc. Multiply like crazy. Hard to get rid of once you have a serious infestation.

It's in my small office room that I've seen them. My office doesn't house a lot of books; there's just a handful of reference books in there but also all my sketchbooks, which I hold dear. And I don't want my documents getting destroyed either. The strange thing is that I've seen the silverfish near the file cabinet, but carefully went through all the drawers and see no damage to any paper. Nor is there any dampness there, which also attracts the pests. (I have been very careful to keep my books away from dampness, as I have a horror of mold). I am hoping they are just scouting from an adjacent apartment, and haven't actually set up house in my walls or corners, yet.

I've called the management to send in pest control, before this gets out of hand. I was horrified when I first saw an insect run up the wall; I thought it was a roach and I detest those things. I was perhaps even more horrified when I realized it was a silverfish and could easily destroy my entire library. My boyfriend joked about it, saying "they like to eat books? Well, they've come to the right place!" but I didn't think that was funny at all. Especially concerning as I have plenty of older books acquired from used shops, with yellowed, weary pages (tempting to pests). It did spur me on to dust everything very thoroughly.  So I went through all the bookcases in the other room methodically (do you know how tiring it is to move 897 books? -current count- even if just lifting a few at a time off the shelves and then putting them back?) The good thing is that I found no signs of damage there (thank god).

Strangely it was nice to go through all the books, even for such an alarming reason. I paused over many, turning a few pages, remember why I enjoyed them so, wonder when I'll get to visit them personally again. I keep thinking it would be nice to only reread my favorites off my own shelves, for a whole year. I wonder how many I would get through... If anything it was even more pleasant to look through all the TBR shelves, suddenly struck again by my interest in all these books and hoping to get to them sooner now, rather than later.

I did a bit of shuffling too, moving a few to another shelf and removing two volumes altogether, which made enough space to properly shelve upright the handful that had been sitting horizontally across the tops of other books. I've heard that it isn't good to cram your books in tightly wedged together, they need room to breathe a little bit. But I'm guilty of crowding them in, and actually wedge them close on the bottom shelves on purpose to deter my toddler from pulling them off the shelves!

I gave my older daughter a complete set of the Chronicles of Narnia. It has all seven books bound together in one fat volume. With the original illustrations by Pauline Baynes. I happen to have all seven books individual as well, ones that I sought out at used sales as a kid until I had collected them all. Don't really need the redundancy and my daughter was thrilled to have it for her own!

What about you? Do you squeeze your books in as tight as they can go? Have you ever come across critters that threaten your library? I seriously hope this is the last I see of them!

more books

for the TBR! you guys all read such interesting-looking stuff, I can't resist...
The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice- Bermudaonion's Weblog
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver- You've GOTTA Read This!
The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan- Bookfoolery
The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls- Bermudaonion's Weblog
Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban- A Work in Progress
Instruction Manual for Swallowing by Adam Marek- Opinions of a Wolf
A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting by Guy Delisle- Captive Reader

Aug 29, 2013

The Mud Fairy

by Amy Young

My youngest child is starting to get out of board books and into regular picture books, but I have to choose them carefully because those with too much text are still beyond her attention span. So I've started browsing the picture-book shelves at the public library again, which is delightful. Writing these short reviews about children's books is a nice relief from the lengthy stuff that is Game of Thrones (yes, still slowly working my way through that!) as well. This book caught my eye and I actually brought it home to share with my eight-year-old, who asserts she is no longer interested in picture books but will read it if I pretend not to notice.

The Mud Fairy is a cute story about a little fairy named Emmalina who is a bit of a tomboy; she likes to play in the mud with frogs, not sit at dainty tea parties (well, it's not tea but dew drops- you get the idea). Emmalina really wants to "earn her wings" by doing something special. She sees what other fairies do and tries to copy them: opening a flower, delicately adding dewdrops to a spiderweb, creating a rainbow. But things always go wrong for her. The Fairy Queen gently suggests that she just needs time, and the fairy glumly goes back to visit her frog friends in the swap. Emmalina finds them in trouble and helps out; then to her surprise gets rewarded for her efforts by being proclaimed the Protector of Frogs and earning her wings for accomplishing something no other fairy could have done. It's a lovely little tale of being true to yourself. And the illustrations are just darling, I really like how the characters are drawn.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 32 pages, 2010

more opinions:
The Book Whisperer
Manga Maniac Cafe: Picture Book Roundup

Aug 28, 2013

bookmarks giveaway!

Win this free pair of bookmarks! Featuring a beautiful spotted wildcat, the Ocelot. Giveaway runs until tuesday, Sept 10th. Simply leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered to win. A name will be drawn using Open to anyone with a postal address in the US or Canada.

Aug 27, 2013

The Adventures of Sammy Jay

by Thornton W. Burgess

I thought for sure when I picked up this Bedtime Storybook that it was the one I recall my father introducing me to long ago. I have a distinct memory of a large book (borrowed from the library, I think) that had a collection of stories about forest animals, with lovely illustrations. And I do remember something about a squirrel and a corn-crib, but I thought the squirrel was stuck or trapped inside the corn-crib. The story turned out to be a little different from my memory.

It's a little tale of greed and blackmail, and survival for the animals of course. The gist of it is that Chatterer the squirrel is trying to store up food for winter, but has been displaced from his home in fear of a weasel, his mortal enemy. Sammy Jay, always looking for trouble, tells Chatterer where he can get all the corn he wants- from the farmer's supply stored in his corn-crib. The squirrel finds the corn and starts stocking up for winter but then plays a trick on Sammy to scare the jaybird away, wanting all the corn for himself. Neither is really entitled to the corn, they're both stealing from the farmer. But they squabble over it regardless, and the jay forces the squirrel to do what he wants by threatening to tell the weasel where he lives, unless Chatterer fetches corn for him whenever he wants it. So it ends with both animals trying to "get even" and each thinking of ways to outwit the other. Reddy the fox gets involved as well, and I met a new character I hadn't seen in previous books, the black farm cat. It is pointed out that the cat hunts for sport, not because she needs food, and so all the smaller animals hate her whereas they fear the fox and other forest predators but not in the same manner.

All in all there were some interesting little dynamics in the story, and by the end of it a few animals had learned their lessons. But I am sure they will get up to further mischief in tales to come! I enjoyed this just as much as all the other Burgess books. Still looking for more to add to my collection!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 119 pages, 1964

Aug 26, 2013

Fish Eyes

A Book You Can Count On 
by Lois Ehlert 

This is a fun counting book. It's full of fish with all kinds of different shapes, patterns and vivid colors on a dark blue background, which really makes them pop. They're drawn with basic shapes and bold markings, but I recognize a lot of the species. The eyes are cut-out holes which always intrigues my toddler, she likes to poke her finger into the holes. She's even starting to count along with me on the pages. The first few pages have rhyming text leading a child along on an imaginary swim through the ocean: If I could put on a suit of scales / add some fins and one of these tails / I'd close my eyes and then I'd wish / that I'd turn into a beautiful fish... then counts one through ten all the fish you encounter. The very last page is even bolder, with fish eyes glowing off the dark page, bodies as obscured silhouettes. My kid really likes it.

 Rating: 4/5 ........ 32 pages, 1990

Aug 25, 2013

another belated

Dogear Diary is now six years old!
Once again, I missed my blogiversary. It was august 19th.

So what's the status of this blog? Well, I'm still here even though I'm preoccupied nowadays. I don't read as much as I used to, nor participate with all the social media stuff, but I think you've all recognized that by now.

I don't think this blog will ever die, as long as I'm still reading (and that's a lifelong passion!) If anything, it will quietly go back to what it was in the first place: simply a location to note down my thoughts on books, and keep track of what I've read. At some point that author/title index is going to get unwieldy; I've been thinking of how to make that function better- perhaps a separate page for each letter? or an anchor link at the head of the index page... ?

But I digress. I'm sorry for the silence from my little corner of the blogging world. It's easy to get burned out at six years, especially when the rest of your life gets busier. I might slow down, but I'm not close to quitting yet!

Aug 24, 2013

Roller Coaster

Curious George
adapted by Monica Perez

This is one of those newer Curious George books not written by the original author, but based on the current tv series. As ever, it's a cute story about a little monkey (or ape, see my first Curious George review) who gets into mischief. I have a problem with this one, though.

Curious George is excited to go to an amusement park with his friends. He wants to ride the roller coaster but is too short. An employee shows George how many candy sticks tall he'd have to be to ride. George tries to think of things to do that will make him grow tall faster, and after he does each activity he holds up the candy sticks again. It appears that he is indeed growing, but George finds out later that instead, the candy sticks were getting shorter (because he kept eating them). It's an interesting concept to present to a kid, and I liked that part of the book.

It was the ending that bugged me. George is understandably very disappointed that he is still too short to ride, but instead of having to wait like all kids would, or having some other solution presented (like padding to make him tall enough in the seat?) the park owner says there's a special sign to measure monkeys and lets him ride anyways. I didn't like that excuse. The reason for height requirements is for safety on the ride; technically speaking George would still be too short to fit properly in the harness or whatever. So he gets to bypass the safety rule just because he's a monkey and not a kid? It bothers me what message this might give to kids.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 22 pages, 2007

Aug 23, 2013

A Field Guide to Ticks

by Susan Carol Hauser

Purely informational, this one. My sister bought the little guidebook when we went camping in a nearby national park, last month. I'm particularly wary of ticks since the county I live in has one of the highest incidents of lyme disease in the nation, I personally know two people who have contracted the disease, and my kids have gotten ticks on them four times since we moved here. The cat occasionally comes home with a tick on him, as well. This little book is dense with information, written in a clear format. I learned about the life cycle of ticks and when they are likely to carry the disease and transmit it to humans. I learned more about their behavior- particularly that they don't drop from trees but climb up stems of grass or brush and then grab onto you as you walk past. They will climb up your body, which is why you find them on your head. I learned more about how to prevent tick bites, how to treat them, and when to worry about the disease (not quite as much of a risk as I had feared). The book also has information on a myriad of other diseases ticks can harbor, and other small critters that can give dangerous bits or stings such as scorpions, black widow spiders and chiggers. I have certainly been educated.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 108 pages, 2008

Aug 20, 2013

Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren

by Barbara Park

For a light read between the massive tomes that are Game of Thrones, I picked up a Junie B. Jones book my daughter brought home from the library. This one is about Junie B. and her friends squabbling over the attentions of a new boy at school. They each want him to be their "boyfriend" and to love them. Junie tries her hardest to get Warren's attention but he just thinks she's weird. So she tries to act more normal, but that doesn't work either. Finally her mother tells her that to make new friends she has to be herself, and to show she cares about other people's feelings. In the end, Junie shines all on her own. I did like that.

I also liked some parts of the story that showed Junie in a very realistic light, demanding that her parents take her shopping immediately to get something she wants, assuming that certain possessions and appearances will gain her popularity, and I really liked how she discovered she could find things around her house to dress up in, when her mother wouldn't buy her a princess dress (the results were hilarious, of course). Junie's frequent grammatical errors and use of phrases that seem beyond her years didn't bother me; kids are like that. But it wasn't as amusing as some of the other Junie books I've read. And I did find the entire premise of kindergarten girls fighting over the attentions of a boy rather annoying. My daughter is going into second grade and is just now showing the kind of innocent interest in boys that Junie displays here. Back in kindergarten that was not the case. So it felt a little out of place to me. Might have been more appropriate as part of the "Junie B. Jones: First Grader" series, and even then I might question it.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 80 pages, 1996

more opinions:
Shine Up Your Library Card
Kelly's Journal
Banned Books

Aug 19, 2013

A Storm of Swords

by George R.R. Martin

I realize that I never gave a good description of the structure of this series. It's large, sprawling, detailed, well-populated (lengthy character lists in the back, which I actually referred to a few times during this read!) and fascinatingly intricate. I do the best I can here, but it's mostly my impressions and many of the other reviews you can find will give you a fuller synopsis (see a few links below).

Well, here goes. The land is still divided. Several kings each claim their own portion in the south lands, Winterfell has been burned, Joffrey the sadistic puppet boy-king still holds the central seat although plenty of vying factions try to control what happens there regardless of who's supposed to be ruling. Denarys is travelling overland from across the sea through her own maze of war and betrayals to try and reclaim her birthright. In the far north, the real threat looms- hordes of barbarians are attacking the Wall that defends the lower kingdoms, and the diminshed numbers of the Night's Watch are hard-pressed to turn them back. But the Wildlings themselves are fleeing an even greater evil that might overrun all, a doom of which the southern squabbling kings are woefully ignorant (they've been warned, but scoff at the very idea). I keep thinking that the dragons have returned just in time, because what else better to fight frozen demons than creatures breathing fire? I'll just have to wait and see, though, but I suspect that's where this is all going...

And why is there not more about the dragons? they and the direwolves are very interesting to me, but they always take a back seat to what the humans in these books are doing.

I continued to amuse myself by comparing the book to the tv series, although here that will end, as the final fifty pages or so of this book moved beyond the last episode of the third season. There were several major changes, like who Robb's bride was and where she went with him, but not any great shift in plot or character. I still felt for most of the same characters, becoming even more interested in the fates of Tyrion and Sansa, particularly. I was shocked at a few revelations; one of my favorite characters turned out to be a planted informer, betraying the very person he swore to protect- I actually jumped in my seat and shouted aloud at the book when I read that! And the author certainly has no qualms about killing off major characters, let's just say that without further spoilers. Some of those took me by surprise, too. I though I might be weary of this series by the end of this book; it's been slow reading. But the way characters speak to each other explains a great deal of the history of this invented world to me, so that certain things begin to make more sense, certain characters become even more sympathetic, motives are revealed, cause-and-effect more intricately linked, and I am even more invested. Well done.

(These books would certainly get rated one notch higher by me except that I'm not completely enthralled by them. It's a darn good read, and I'm interested in many of the characters, but it splits a bit too much between the eight or nine or ten -never really counted- points of view the chapters alternate around. So I haven't quite fallen in love with it yet, and not sure if I'll ever read the books again after this. I won't really know that until I've completed the entire series, I think. But a three is a good rating, from me! A very solid recommendation).

Rating: 3/5 ....... 1,173 pages, 2000

more opinions:
Passport Books
Books Without Any Pictures
cuddlebuggery book blog
Ludwig's Library

Aug 16, 2013

more for the list

Just a few titles this week. The first two are available at my library, the last two aren't. Like to note that for future searches...

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff- You've GOTTA Read This!
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell- Shelf Love
Heidegger's Glasses by Thaisa Frank - Indextrious Reader
Turning Pages by Tristi Pinkston- It's All About Books

Aug 15, 2013

Colors for Zena

by Monica Wellington

Zena is a little girl who loves colors. She wakes one day into a gray, black-and-white room and runs off with her puppy to find where the colors have gone. Each subsequent page features a prominant color- red fire truck and flowers, yellow bus and store fronts, blue sky and birds and so on. Zena wants more colors, so the primaries are introduced again and then mixed together to create pages of orange, green and purple. Along the way Zena collects new friends as well, who follow her on her discovery- an orange lion, a green frog, a purple dragon. At the end she mixes colors herself and paints a lively picture with a rainbow. It's a delightful little story introducing small children to the color wheel. My toddler was enchanted with the bright illustrations and cute characters.

Disclosure note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 32 pages, 2013

Aug 14, 2013

The Beginning Place

by Ursula K. LeGuin

This is a book I wish I remembered better and feel I really ought to read again someday. It's a fantasy that begins in the real world, with two young people each from troubled families. The girl, Irene, has been visiting a hidden, alternate world where it is always twilight for many years. When the boy, Hugh, discovers it for the first time (he's twenty-one) she sees him as an intruder and outsider. The town of locals in the magic world are experiencing trouble; something is blocking roads and passages and in fact Irene and Hugh have different problems traveling to and from the magic place and their own mundane world. The townsfolk welcome Hugh as a hero when he arrives which angers Irene; but then she finds they must work together to save their secret world from the evil that threatens it. Of course they eventually become friends and perhaps something more...

Wow, does this modern cover sure look different! I found it while googling further information on the book. The older jacket illustration gave me a sense of an idyllic place when I read the story; the new one imbues it more with a sense of adventure. I wonder if I had first read the novel under the more exciting cover, would it have influenced my interpretation of the story? Have you ever felt like the cover of a book significantly affected how you imagined the story, beyond just what the characters look like?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 240 pages, 1980

Aug 13, 2013

Potty Time

by Anne Civardi

This picture book about a two-year-old learning to use the potty is going through its second round in my house. I read it a lot when my first daughter was young, and am reading it to my second child now. It has bright, simple pictures that show the little girl Millie at home with her family (big sister, younger brother) and how she learns to potty. She sees her big sister's example in the bathroom, and then her mom gives her a potty of her own. Her friend tells her what it's for, Mom helps her sit on it (even though nothing happens at first) and she gets out of diapers into "big girl pants" (which I read as "special panties" because that's what I call them with my daughter). Millie has several accidents but is always gently reminded to use the potty instead. She finds that it's okay to potty in different places- taking it along in the car, using it right before bedtime, even occasionally going in the bushes with help from dad when at a picnic. By the end of the book she's using the toilet with some help, and learns to wash her hands afterwards. Then she gets to be the example and tries to sit her baby brother on the potty!

I think it's cute, as well as being a good sample for a child of different activities and experiences that surround toilet training. I also like the home atmosphere in the books; the floors are strewn with toys (just like my house looks most days), the mom always looks gentle and helpful, the family is shown doing things together like making cookies, playing outside with a hose in hot weather, going out on errands. My child is really fond of this book, and was even before we started helping her use the potty in earnest.

When I read it aloud, I do change the euphanisms "Number One" and "Number Two" to the more straightforward "pee pee" and "poo" we use in our house. But the book itself makes that suggestion; there's a brief forward that reminds parents to use whatever terminology they already have in place with their own kids. I don't know why this book seems to have fallen out of favor; the amazon review is rather critical, and nobody else seems to have made notice of it. Maybe some dislike how the pictures show clearly activities surrounding toileting habits, while the text itself doesn't go into great detail. But I think that works just fine; kids don't always need a ton of detailed verbal explanations, whereas they can look at a picture and identify with it clearly. It works for us.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 24 pages, 1988

Aug 12, 2013

The Book on the Bookshelf

by Henry Petroski

A history of bookshelves, the physical design of books themselves, and to some extent the organizational systems for libraries. Might sound boring. But I think any book-lover, especially one interested in how things are organized, will find it engaging, as I did. Seeing books lined up vertically on shelves is so much the norm for us that it's hard to imagine finding books in other ways (although stacks on the floor are often a norm for me, too). Petroski looks in detail at all the ways throughout history that books have been kept safe, from the oldest scrolls stored in cubbyholes, to precious volumes safeguarded in locked chests, to various takes on shelving until arriving at the horizontal bookcases we are so familiar with today. He looks at library designs as well, and includes plenty of amusing anecdotes about book-lovers through the ages (I remember in particular Samuel Pepys, who was a book collector paramount to none; he had hundreds of books and apparently had to climb over the piles to reach his bed!) I found most intriguing the descriptions of heavy volumes so valuable (back when books were meticulously copied by hand and took scribes many years of their lives to create) they were actually chained to the shelves to thwart library visitors who might also be thieves. It led me to the title The Chained Library, a book that's been lingering on my TBR list forever now (mostly because my public library doesn't have a copy for me to read). As a little plus, the appendix has all sorts of suggestions on ways to organize your own library, from the usual subject or alphabetical arrangements to sorting by color and other whimsical methods. Overall intriguing and fun at times. The writing is pretty good, too. A lot of it is about engineering of shelving systems, but it's written in a friendly fashion that makes that easy to understand, open to the curious mind. Sure to interest any bibliophile who likes to mess with lists and shuffle their books every now and then (I rearrange my shelves every few years just for the fun of it).

Rating: 4/5 ........ 304 pages, 1999

Aug 11, 2013

The Loon

Voice of the Wilderness
by Joan Dunning

Beautiful book about a most interesting bird. I was introduced to Joan Dunning by coming across her book on bird nesting behavior while browsing library shelves; a search turned up this one as well. I clearly remember the calls of loons on a lake in Canada, where I went camping as a kid. It was nice to learn more about them. Dunning's book follows the birds through the four seasons, while describing their behavior and habits. It's a good combination of both scientific facts and lovely prose. The author's delightful black-and-white drawings and color paintings make it a book to treasure.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 143 pages, 1985

Aug 10, 2013

Frank and the Tiger

by Dev Ross

This is an easy-reader book my toddler picked out at the library. It has a feature I haven't come across in picture books before; each spread has one side for the parent to read, and on the second page much simpler text for the child to read. My daughter isn't old enough to participate in this way, but I think it's a great idea to get kids involved. The book is about two little friends, a frog and a mouse, who hear a boy calling for his lost tiger. The frog wants to find the tiger and return it to the boy; the mouse is afraid to meet a tiger. It turns out the tiger is just a stuffed toy, but the mission of returning it isn't quite so easy. A dog snatches up the tiger and the pair of friends must try and get it back. When they finally return the toy to the boy, his reaction isn't quite what they expected!  I like the story, but the pictures leave a little something to be desired. The boy is drawn a bit awkwardly and the frog's face looks odd to me as well. But that's a small complaint. My toddler certainly likes this book well enough. It's one of the longest storylines she'll sit through yet.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 41 pages, 2012

Aug 9, 2013

A Dog's Life

by Peter Mayle

Humorous observations on the life of a suburban french dog. Well, he didn't start out as a suburban dog. He was abandoned by his first owner and lived some time as a stray, suffering kicks at worst, neglect at best. After fending for himself on the streets, he gets adopted by a writer and life is suddenly better, albeit confusing at first. The dog must learn to get along with his new human's many quirks, finding himself delighted (balls to chew on) puzzled (scoldings at rolling in smelly things) and appalled at turns (baths, particularly). He becomes adept at the art of appeasing angy or frustrated owners (whom he refers to as "The Management"), has constant run-ins with cats and handymen (or was it a plumber?) and repeatedly attempts to woo a female dog that lives next door. It's a funny little book stuffed with sarcastic humor and all sorts of witty little pokes at our own habits, as you would expect of a story told from the dog's viewpoint. I believe the author was portraying himself as the dog's owner. The scrawly illustrations add an extra bit of charm and amusement.

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

more opinions:
Reading Thots

Aug 8, 2013

The Scalpel and the Butterfly

by Deborah Rudacille

I go through periods of interest in certain non-fiction subjects, and then read all the books I can get my hands on around that- usually finding other titles of note in the resource lists and continuing on a spin until my interest flags, with more books noted than I originally started with! Over the past years, the subjects most often include field studies of wildlife behavior, but also things like ape language experiments, king arthur legends, the art of falconry, adventures in sailboats, the slow food movement, Charles Lindbergh (spurred by a school project) and animal-rights issues.

Of all the books I read on the animal-rights front, this one seemed the least biased, carefully stating facts from both sides. The author presents a 150-year history of the conflicts between scientists using animals in biomedical research, and the activists seeking to protect animal rights, concerned for their welfare. There are detailed chapters showing personal stories from both sides. On the one hand, it is pointed out that many advancements in medical science would not have been possible without research and testing using animals. On the other hand, the cruel practices and suffering of animals is exposed- not only from activists trying to shut down labs and threatening violence to specific scientists, but also more subtly, people working from within the system to try and improve things yet keep the labs functional.

I don't think reading this book changed my mind any, but it certainly taught me a lot. It's a pretty compelling read, even if it does stray from time to time into philosophical asides- which I mostly glossed over. In the end, it appears that the author's stance (even though she tries to be neutral you can feel which side she leans towards through the writing) is that research is a necessary evil- we would not be where we are today without it, but things can and must be greatly improved.

Rating: 4/5   .......  389 pages, 2000

Aug 7, 2013

books that caught my eye

The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts- Across the Page
Tiger Lily by Jodi Ann Anderson- It's All About Books
Pandora's Lunchbox by Melanie Warner- It's All About Books
A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren- The Lost Entwife
The Breakaway by Michelle Davidson Argyle - It's All About Books
Openly Straight by Bill Kongigsburg- Stuff as Dreams are Made On
The Bohemian Love Diaries by Slash Coleman- Bookfoolery
Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad- Bookfoolery

Aug 6, 2013

Star of the Sea

by Linda Haldeman

Linda Haldeman wrote one of my very favorite books, The Lastborn of Elvinwood (Which I will write about here someday, putting it off because what I really want to do is read it again!) Over the years I've looked hopefully for more of her books but discovered finally that she only wrote three.This is the last one I found and read. It's just as intriguing and original as her others, but did not quite captivate me like the other two. And it's been long enough that unfortunately I do not remember much about it, at this point. I do know it's about a girl in a religious school (Catholic?) and there is something about a statue of the Virgin Mary. I have a vague impression of an unhappy, lonely girl (perhaps picked on, or neglected?) who fixates on the statue as being able to solve her problems with a miracle, and in the end there was a scene on a cliff, and a fall from a great height... but it's really all a muddle. Have any of you read this little-known book? can you remind me more about it? I'm wondering if I should trouble to look for it again...

Rating: 3/5  ........  182 pages, 1978

Aug 5, 2013

When Dogs Run Wild

by Christine Gentry

This is one of those little-known books so specific in subject that I suspect it will only appeal to a limited audience. It's a report on a study done in the eighties on the behavior of stray dogs in a certain town. The author spent quite a lot of time following dogs around and observing exactly what they do when on their own. She noted which dogs were strictly strays- having no home to speak of- and which had homes but were often running loose. It seemed to be a common habit in her town that at night dogs were simply put outside and left to their own devices. If I remember correctly (it's been a few years since I read this one, and can't locate a copy to borrow for reminders) most of the book looked at the possibility of dogs spreading disease, how they interacted with each other (pack behavior), and specifically how they found food sources. The actual stray dogs varied between accepting handouts and scavenging food; the pet dogs let loose at night chased livestock for amusement and then went home to eat. One of the main aims of the study was to see how roaming dogs were affecting wildlife. The conclusion was not quite what I expected; contrary to popular belief, the author surmised that damage to livestock attributed to coyotes is more likely caused by the roaming pets, who of course aren't going to eat what they kill (or just injure the animals and don't follow through with a kill), since supper is provided at home. It was an interesting book. I wonder if any subsequent studies have been done along a similar vein...

Rating: 3/5 ........ 195 pages, 1983

winner! has chosen Jenny as the winner of my kitty paws-and-noses bookmark giveaway. Have fun reading with a kitty companion, Jenny!
In other news, I can't believe an entire week has gone by without me writing anything about books here. I've been preoccupied with a good thing- I have a new little nephew! and this week have been busy making baby gifts. It's a good reason to be distracted from reading time! And he's really cute!)