Month: August 2008

My Life as a Multiple
by Cameron West

I thought this book looked interesting. Picked up from the same time and place (probably the same shelf even) as Aftershock. It\’s a firsthand account of a man suffering from dissociative personality disorder. He had twenty-four different personalities. I read almost sixty pages before the first suggestion of child abuse arose, that of incest. From his grandmother. I knew there was going to be more, and probably more graphic, descriptions of the incidents from his childhood and I just didn\’t want to read about that. It\’s too much for me. Plus, I was bored by all the descriptions – by brand name- of his expensive possessions and the flat, uninteresting writing style. Curious what others had said about this book, I looked at some of the Amazon reviews. This one describes it pretty well: \”This book must contain the largest collection of bad metaphors ever published.\”

Abandoned                     319 pages, 1999

the Story of a Psychotic Episode
by Ellen Wolfe

I picked this book up at random when visiting the Book Thing one day. First glance at the title I thought it had something to do with earthquakes; was I ever wrong! Aftershock is set in New York during the 1960s, the story of a woman who had a nervous breakdown and spent a month in a mental hospital, where she received electroshock therapy. The book begins at the end of her stay in the hospital, and describes in a quiet, conversational tone her attempts to resume normal life at home. It\’s very difficult, because her memory is in a terrible state. She can\’t remember who she spoke to yesterday, how to make breakfast for her children, that she and her husband are about to buy their first house. She can\’t even recall the incident that led to her admittance in the hospital, and is constantly afraid of running into people who know what happened, while she has no idea who they are or what she might have said to them while in her prior \”manic state\”. Following through her days of bewilderment and frustration, I was waiting for the revelation of what had led to her nervous breakdown. It wasn\’t what I expected at all, and for several pages the book became a discussion of morality and abortion.

It was very interesting to me to see how this book reflected its times, especially the attitudes held by and towards women. I was rather dismayed to see how prevalent the use of electroshock therapy was- one statement said that this book details an experience faced by millions of families every year. That seems like a high number to me.

Rating: 3/5                   216 pages, 1969

Understanding and Learning to Live in Harmony with Them
by Merlin D. Tuttle

Our backyard seems to be a mosquito breeding ground. One night I saw a bat flitting about. Haven\’t since, but I want to know more about them. So when I saw this book offered as a two-for-one on Paperback Swap, I grabbed it. A quick read, short but very informative, with gorgeous photographs. America\’s Neighborhood Bats taught me that there are nearly a thousand species of bats, that flying foxes are more closely related to primates than rodents, that bat are natural pollinators of some plants like bananas, avocados, mangoes, and agave, from which tequila is made. And that one mouse-eared bat can eat six hundred mosquitoes in an hour! That\’s what I wanted to hear! Plus, bats do not attack people, rarely transmit rabies, and only bite if you pick them up. If you leave them alone, they leave you alone (and eat all your nasty bugs). Bats are cool. I want to install a bat house in my yard now, and I\’m going to look for more to read about them. This book has sparked my interest.

Rating: 3/5                   96 pages, 1988

Lessons from a Country Garden
by Sydney Eddison

Thus far my focus in gardening has been to get something edible out of the ground. But I do want to plant some flowers next year, where the back part of my yard is all dreary. I didn\’t know The Self-Taught Gardener was mostly about flower gardening when I picked it up, and was delightfully surprised. I really like the way this book presents its information. It begins just as any new homeowner like myself does: contemplating the blank or messy slate of a piece of land and feeling the urge to do something with it. So Eddison encourages you to just jump in: clear some ground, dig a hole, plant something, and learn as you go. Based on the author\’s own thirty-odd years of gardening experience and those of several gardening friends, this book gives examples of a variety of gardening designs and how to make them work. Narrow city lots, sprawling country estates, formal and informal, gardens focused on roses, on evergreens, on color schemes. What I liked most were the discussions on color theory and basic landscape design, all of which rang familiar to me as an artist. There\’s also some basic gardening info on composting and transplanting, mail-ordering plants, dealing with pests, growing bulbs, etc. Written in a very friendly, informal fashion, this book is great for someone who wants to immediately go out and get their hands dirty in the garden, without a lot of extra fuss. And I really like the descriptions recommending lots of beautiful, hardy plants.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 238 pages, 1997

Win a free book or two, celebratory giveaway!
A year ago today I made my first post here. It\’s my blogiversary! (Is that a real word yet? Well, everyone seems to use it, so I will too.) I find it hard to believe that when my sister suggested we start a family blog to keep in touch (over two years ago), I had to ask \”what\’s a blog?\” Since discovering book blogging, it\’s become part of my daily routine. I\’ve really enjoyed reading about so many good books (my TBR has grown out of control!), and conversing with so many nice people. Book bloggers are the best! To celebrate, I\’m having a giveaway! Two winners will get their choice from the following:

one of these books (click on photo for a larger view):

or two of these books (click for larger view):

or, if none of those titles appeal to you, I\’ll give you four Book Mooch points (you have to be a Book Mooch member to receive the points, but it\’s easy to sign up!)

To enter you must do two things:

First, leave a comment here and let me know which prize you want! (Feel free to email me if you can\’t read a title: jeanenevarez AT gmail DOT com, or ask in the comments. As you can see, some spines have library stickers. Most of these books are gently used).

Second, visit one of my old blog posts that hasn\’t been commented on yet. There\’s a list below (by book title). Your comment must be relevant to the post. (As posts receive comments, they\’ll be removed from the list to keep things tidy).

If you blog about this post and link back here, you get two entries. On the day the contest closes, I\’ll throw all the names in a hat, and draw two. (If your name gets drawn second but your title of choice was the first winner\’s selection, I\’ll draw another name). Contest closes the last day of this month. The winners will be announced Sept 1st. Happy reading!

< the list has been removed so as to not interfere with title searches >

the Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind
by Sue Rumbaugh

Kanzi is a bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee. In 1980 his mother was involved in language experiments. Kanzi sat with his mother through her lessons and tests. She did quite poorly. To everyone\’s surprise, one day when the mother ape was not there, Kanzi demonstrated that he had learned by observation the symbols they had been attempting to teach her. He was eventually able to identify and respond to over two hundred lexigrams, follow verbal directions given in English, play simple computer games (I saw him beat Pac-Man in a video) and forced his teachers to begin spelling words when they didn\’t want him to understand what they were saying. I thought of this book because I recently viewed a film made of Kanzi and the researcher who worked with him, Sue Rumbaugh. It was even more fascinating to watch a brief five-minute clip of Kanzi than to read a few hundred pages describing the research work and his abilities. If you doubt that apes can learn a rudimentary use of language, I\’d say, go read Kanzi! It\’s a fascinating book.

Rating: 4/5                  299 pages, 1996

by Martha Beck

This book is about one woman\’s search for truth, emotional healing and spirituality. Martha Beck grew up in the Mormon faith, the daughter of a prominent BYU scholar. Much of the book focuses on her family. They were highly intellectual- I enjoyed the many references to Shakespeare and other literary works- but also very dysfunctional. The book is organized in alternating chapters between Beck\’s drawn-out confrontation with her father in a hotel room, and her slow journey of discovery. Leaving the Saints is a very frank, outspoken insider\’s look at \”Mormon culture.\” Having grown up in the church, a lot of her descriptions rang absolutely true to me. I laughed out loud at things like how she staved off boredom in sacrament meetings by going through the hymn book and adding the phrase \”in the bathtub\” to hymn titles (\”Behold a Royal Army in the bathtub\”). I almost flinched at how openly she described some of what goes on inside the sacred Mormon temples. In the midst of dealing with her depression and facing the sudden revelation repressed memories brought to her, Beck talks about polygamy, feminism, and the questionable origins of some LDS scripture. What shocked me the most was to read of how church authorities suppressed knowledge and heavily censored materials at BYU, where she was an instructor. This book ignited my mind with outrage, indignation and a barrage of questions. I found it rich food for thought, but at the time I read it I had already begun stepping away from my religious upbringing. I would not recommend it to any Latter-Day-Saints who want to avoid an open-minded challenge to their faith.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 306 pages, 2005

more opinions at:
Ardent Reader

by Mary Leister

This is a nature book with a similar feel to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek or A Sand County Almanac. It was a very pleasant surprise- especially when I discovered it describes the small wildlife inhabitants and flora of Maryland, where I recently lived. Illustrated by dated-looking but charming photographs by Robert Wirth, Wildlings is a series of nature essays from walks the author took with her dog (who has a very marginal presence in the book) through fields, marshes and woodlands. Like Dillard, Mary Leister focuses attention on the smaller things- frogs, insects, birds, flowers, mushrooms, leaf buds. Some of the more interesting thing I read were of spiders with maternal behavior, secrets of skunk cabbage regrowth, the existence of the wheel bug (I\’ve never seen them before), and mushrooms that glow in the dark. I\’ve always found tent caterpillars repulsive (we battled infestations in my mother\’s fruit trees, the only way to get rid of them was by cutting off tented branches and burning them) but she makes even these little crawlers interesting. This wonderful book was an enjoyable read that fully held my interest. It almost made me want to crawl through the grass to see the smaller creatures hidden underfoot in my own small yard.

Rating: 4/5                      180 pages, 1976

by Rebecca Sjonger and Bobbie Kalman

My daughter and I read this book last night. Produced by the same people as Mice, it has the exact same layout and scope of information. I found it particularly interesting since I know very little about the animals. Gerbils informs me that there are four breeds of gerbils kept as pets. That baby gerbils are called puppies, gerbils can get used to staying awake at day and need quiet to sleep (so not a problem to keep in the child\’s room) and they like to bathe by rolling in sand! Again, like in Mice, the information was great, the illustrations awful. The one of a gerbil bathing in sand was so bad I could not even figure out what it was until I read the text.

Rating: 3/5                   32 pages, 2004

by Diane Bengson

This book was written by a La Leche League leader, so of course it is strongly pro-breastfeeding. How Weaning Happens really advocates child-led weaning, which basically means you nurse until your child decides to quit! I wasn\’t about to do that, myself. But I read this book months before I was ready to try and wean, so I actually found it a very encouraging book. It gives a lot of personal stories of mothers and their nursing children, their weaning experiences (attempts, in some cases) and looks at weaning practices in other cultures. Also discussed are how to wean suddenly when you have to (in the case of medical problems), how to wean gradually (substituting other activities strongly suggested) and understand how different stages of growth and development affect the mother-child relationship and the child\’s experience of weaning. For someone who isn\’t ready yet, but wants to know more about weaning, this book is very useful.

Rating: 4/5                   160 pages, 2000


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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