Month: June 2009

My daughter picked a name this morning. The winner of the zebra bookmark is Cath of Read Warbler. Send me your postal address, Cath, and I\’ll mail you a zebra!

I\’ve been thinking about this, and decided that until future notice, my giveaways are going to be of just bookmarks. Several reasons. Economical: I can afford to mail bookmarks more often than I can mail books. Every week! I can also send them overseas, so my giveaways won\’t be limited geographically anymore. Creative: I\’m making the bookmarks myself, (some from my own artwork, more from my scrap file) which I really enjoy doing (especially since I\’m not painting anymore). The only funny thing is, I don\’t use bookmarks myself. (But I love making them!) And I wonder how many other people do, since I don\’t get as many entries for these giveaways. Is there just more interest in free books than free bookmarks? I could go back to doing book giveaways, but they\’d be far less frequent, perhaps just one a month… any kind of input appreciated, here. Let me know! You\’re the recipients!

Well, for now, the next giveaway features this handpainted, ribbon-edged giraffe bookmark. Do you like giraffes? Leave a comment for a chance to win, by tuesday July 7th. Happy reading!

Some Words in Defense of the American West

by Edward Abbey

This was not as good as Desert Solitaire. It doesn\’t feel as cohesive, there\’s not nearly as much nature writing, the descriptions of the desert climate aren\’t as vivid, the humor began to fall flat with me, and the constant complaints against industrialization and development became tiresome. The Journey Home is still all about southwest desert country- describing parts of Utah, Arizona and the Yosemite Valley, among others. But it\’s more about the strain that population growth and economic pressures have put upon the natural habitat, than about the habitat itself. While the degradation done to wilderness by strip mining, tourism and suburban sprawl needs to be addressed, the way Abbey went on and on about it in this book got very -well, boring. I would have rather read more about the wildlife and the desert landscape, but that\’s just me. I found parts of the book describing a season he worked as a fire lookout on a mountaintop in Glacier National Park, and another about a trip he took down the Green River through winding canyons, the most interesting. More difficult to get through were chapters about when he lived in Hoboken with descriptions of New York City, and a strange segment about the author being carried above the desert country by an \”angel\” in a hawaiian shirt and hiking boots, who pointed out all the pollution that needed cleaning up. Overall an interesting book, which discusses some important environmental issues, but by the end I was just skimming the pages. I don\’t think I\’ll read it again. I\’m going to look for some different works by Abbey. I like the way he writes, but this one\’s just not to my reading taste.

Rating: 2/5 …….. 242 pages, 1977

A Season in the Wilderness
by Edward Abbey

This is one of those books that I devoured in a mere two days, wondering why in the world I\’d never opened it before. Desert Solitaire is a collection of writings Edward Abbey penned about time he spent as a park ranger in Arches National Monument, a spectacular desert near Moab, Utah. Sandstone cliffs, winding gullies and canyons, fantastic formations erosion has created out of rock. Spiny and sinister fauna and flora, amazing sunsets, brutal heat and chill nights…. but not all of his words are about the beauty and strangeness of the desert wilds. He writes about working as a park ranger, frustrations with tourists, searching for lost hikers, railing against litter and waste and development which (in his opinion) spoils the wilderness. He describes days spent gathering range cattle on horseback, exploring the beautiful Glen Canyon right before it was doomed to be drowned by a dam, visiting the depths of the Havasu (whose people I met once before in a book called People of the Blue Water), and an encounter with a runaway horse that had lived alone in the desert for ten years. He muses on the plight of the impoverished Navajo, the place of national parks in the nation\’s consciousness, and the importance of solitude and wide-open spaces for the health of one\’s soul. Abbey has lots of strong opinions, and delivers them in a frank, blustering fashion that is at the same time poetic and humorous. I was sometimes taken aback by his sentiment, and I know this is one of his tamer books, too. (I have yet to read The Monkey Wrench Gang but it\’s on my list now). Even though I don\’t agree with all of his radical opinions on how to keep wilderness pristine, I find his voice so fresh and invigorating, so unique and lively, that I can\’t wait to read more of his works.

Another book I read for the TBR Challenge

Rating: 4/5                     269 pages, 1968

More opinions at:
Blogging for a Good Book
Sapphoq reviews books
Laurisa and Samara\’s Reading Blizzard

My Journey Back to Life
by Lance Armstrong
and Sally Jenkins

All I knew about Lance Armstrong before I read this book was that he was famous, and he won that grueling cycling race, the Tour de France. I picked it up out of idle curiosity at a book sale. Like the title aptly says, it\’s not just about cycling. The beginning of the book describes Armstrong\’s childhood, how he got interested in bicycles, and his intense involvement with the sport from an early age. I knew very little about bicycle racing before, so all the little details were fascinating. I had no idea it got so technical- during training he would spend hours hooked up to computers, doing performance tests to adjust his position on a bike by the slightest increments, to find the position that used his body\’s energy most efficiently. Even when in the middle of a race the athletes had monitors hooked up to their bodies, radios in their ears. Here was a man whose entire occupation was about strength, endurance, and pushing his body to its limits. To go from all this to deathly illness in a matter of weeks. As I\’m sure a lot of you know (but I didn\’t), Armstrong was suddenly diagnosed with very aggressive cancer- in the testicles, lungs and brain. For a year he battled for his life, against the worst odds. He made an amazing recovery, and discusses in depth the experience of surviving cancer, both physical and psychological. When he tried to get back into the sport, he was dismayed to find that no one wanted him on their team- and then when he found a sponsor and got into racing, many publicly doubted that he could make a comeback. He proved them all wrong, in a blistering win that practically made him an American hero.

It\’s Not About the Bike is a well-written, engaging, and inspirational book. There were a few times when it got dull- the chapter about his creating a foundation for cancer patients was kind of boring to read about, I\’m embarrassed to say. And the epilogue, about his second win of the Tour de France (he went on to win it seven times in a row) was just too densely packed with details of the race and people involved, my eyes started glazing over. But overall a good read. An amazing story. My husband kept raining on this book, though. Every time he saw me reading it he scoffed, and pointed out the allegations against Armstrong, especially for performance-enhancing drug use, which were denied in the book. Having these negatives brought to my attention spoiled my enjoyment of the book somewhat. I feel like Armstrong was honest about his faults- he could be really aggressive and cocky, for example- but I guess you never know, when reading someone\’s autobiography, exactly how much is true or what\’s left out. In this case, I\’d like to believe the author.

This one I read for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge.

Rating: 3/5                     289 pages, 2000

More opinions at:
Ramblings of a Bibliophile
Clearly Confused
Reading Railroad
By a Hopeless Bookaholic

New words that I have found in my reading this week, from Almost Perfect:

Brux– \”He\’s bruxing. That\’s the noise a rat makes when it\’s really happy.\”
Definition: grinding the teeth

and from It\’s Not About the Bike:

Peloton– \”The spectator rarely sees the technical side of cycling, but behind the gorgeous rainbow blur of the peloton is the more boring reality that road racing is a carefully calibrated thing…\”
Definition: the main group of riders in a cycling road race

Velodrome– \”We went into a velodrome to look at my position on the bike and determine where I was loosing power.
Definition: an indoor arena with a banked track for bicycle races

Collate– \”That first week my mother picked up all of my prescriptions, collated my medical records, scoured bookstores for cancer material, and organized my schedule.\”
Definition: to gather or arrange pages into a proper sequence

for more wondrous words, visit Bermudaonion\’s Weblog!

by May Sarton

May Sarton is an author I really enjoy, although I have only read a handful of her books. The Fur Person is a lovely little volume all about- of course- a cat. At first a homeless vagabond, the Cat sets about to find himself a permanent home, with a decent person (or two) to \”keep house\” for him. He comes across several different sorts that aren\’t quite the right fit before settling in with none other than Ms. Sarton\’s own household. Based partly on the doings of her own cat, this book is full of wonderful depictions of how cats compose themselves, what they might be thinking, how they like to be treated, etc. The parts about his experience with catnip, and his routing of a mouse through the house, are just great. It\’s lyrical and funny and just a bit sad at times. Some exquisite line drawings by David Canright illustrate the pages, giving it just the right touch. Anyone who\’s loved a book like The Silent Miaow, or shared a home with a cat, is bound to cherish The Fur Person

Rating: 4/5                       106 pages, 1978

The kitten helped me pick a name this morning. And she\’s got her paws on Holly, of 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews. Holly, you\’ve won two flower bookmarks! Send me your address and I\’ll mail them along.
I\’m having so much fun making these bookmarks to give away, I\’ve decided to do it every week. Next up is a ribbon-edged zebra (from my own artwork). Anyone want a zebra bookmark? Leave your name here for the drawing next tuesday, 6/30.

to those of you who are seeing numerous posts in gibberish chinese in your reader. I don\’t know how this happened. I burned my feed this morning, because I thought I ought to provide an option to subscribe via email, and that\’s the only way I know how to do it. Then I was feeling ill and took a four-hour nap. When I woke up, found out someone had hacked into my feed. I\’ve deleted the feed- gone back to the regular one- sorry, no email updates for anyone! and hopefully it won\’t occur again. If problems continue, this blog might be migrating soon…

by John Howard Griffin

This is the story of a man who changed his skin. In the late 1950\’s John Griffin, a white journalist, stained his skin dark brown and traveled into the deep south to experience racism firsthand. He was shocked at what he found. Being educated and well-spoken did not help him find employment or be treated with courtesy from white people. On the contrary, he was often treated despicably by them, and many white men defended to him with complete candor and confidence their racist attitudes. He encountered prejudice, anger, fear and mistrust- on the part of both black and white people, towards each other. He was also recipient of compassion and acts of kindness from his fellow men… and returned to his own home months later a changed man. Black Like Me is a very moving account, one that still makes an impression on me just as it did when I first read it back in high school (not as an assignment).

Rating: 4/5               200 pages, 1960

More opinions at:
Book Addiction
The Reader\’s Cafe

Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them
edited by Mary Shafer

This short book is a collection of true-life stories about pets who have touched and inspired the people around them. But these are not ordinary cats and dogs- all of them are disabled in some way. Dogs with missing or paralyzed legs- one even continuing to work as a service dog after loosing a limb. Blind dogs and cats who learn to navigate their surroundings with ease. A white cat with chronically sunburned ears. A kitten with a brain disorder. Animals suffering from serious injury or illness who make remarkable recoveries, beating all the odds. I expected all the stories to have happy endings, but that wasn\’t the case- there\’s a few real tear-jerkers here. And a few surprises- who would have thought that a parapalegic pet rat could be inspiring? Cagney\’s story was probably my favorite; I\’ve read lots of heartwarming tales about dogs and cats, but not that many about a rat! I\’ve sometimes wondered how humane it would be to let a pet live with a serious disability, but after reading Almost Perfect it\’s clear to me that most animals adjust and simply move on, living their life in the moment. I do wish more stories had been included, and a few times an awkward phrase distracted me from the reading- but overall this was a pleasant, quick read. The voices here vary as widely as their pets- some of the writing is brisk and straightforward, others eloquent. Some humorous even in the saddest moments. Almost Perfect is a book that will warm the heart of any animal lover or pet owner.

I received a copy of this book from Roberta Jacobson, one of the authors.

Rating: 3/5                   128 pages, 2008

More opinions at:
Something About Barbaro


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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