Month: January 2010

A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon
by Dr. Nick Trout

Finally, a book that I\’d love to shelve alongside James Herriot. Tell Me Where It Hurts gives readers an intimate look at what goes on behind the scenes in a modern animal hospital. The author, Dr. Trout -a veterinary surgeon trained in England and practicing in the US- describes many patients and incidents in his work, all compacted into the scene of one busy day. To add to the confusion of juggling numerous appointments, phone calls and consults with owners and colleagues, he often flashes back to other events earlier in his career that relate to the present case- jumping back into the current thread near the end of a chapter with a suddenness that often threw me for a moment. I had to flip back a few pages more than once to remember which dog with what problem he was talking about. He can be a little wordy, sometimes the jokes felt forced, and I never really like it when an author tosses around brand names to illustrate someone\’s wealth (or lack of) (probably just because I don\’t recognize them so they don\’t ring up the intended images). But aside from all those things, this was a great read.

So many things are discussed in depth. The relationship of the vet with pet owners, both good and bad. The skill of surgery and the beauty he sees in it. The frustrations of working with animals who can\’t tell you what they\’re feeling, having to deduce so many things. The heart-rending decisions, when owners must decide if their pets\’ life is worth the cost of the tests it takes to find out what\’s wrong, and the intensive care. Although dogs and cats are the mainstay of Trout\’s work, he also mentions working with livestock during his training, and peering over the shoulder of an exotics specialist to observe surgery on turtle. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the appreciation it gave me for the hard work veterinarians do.

I borrowed this book from the public library.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 286 pages, 2008

More opinions at:
FT\’s Books
Read Like Me
For the Pits
Live Vitale

by Jane Yolen

This story is about a young girl with a hearing impairment who resents having to wear a hearing aid and learn sign language. The she meets a silent girl on the beach who turns out to be a mermaid. The mermaid had disobeyed the merfolk laws and as punishment was banished from the sea, thrust onto land with legs. She and the girl strike up a friendship. Under the water, mermaids speak via signals with bubbles and hand gestures, so the two easily work out how to communicate in sign language. The girl comes to find beauty in the fluid motion of speaking hands, and the mermaid does a good deed for a dolphin, after which she is allowed to return to the sea. The Mermaid\’s Three Wisdoms is a nice little book. It reminds me somewhat of The Seal Child.

Rating: 2/5 …….. 112 pages, 1978

From Booking Through Thursday, suggested by Prairie Progressive:

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

I had to think about this. I\’m kind of all over the place. If it\’s fiction and brand-new to me, I\’ll often read the flaps and all blurbs on the back before starting, to get an idea of what I\’m in for. If it\’s an author I\’m returning to, I usually skip it because I want to approach the book with an empty slate. Sometimes I go back and read it after I\’m done, to see how the flap description matched up with what I thought of the book. Sometimes it seems way off the mark, as if whoever wrote the flap copy didn\’t even read the entire book!

With nonfiction, I often come up with a question somewhere in the middle of my reading that I think flap copy might answer (usually about the author) and read it then. I have a very old worn copy of Icebound Summer, with an awful-looking dust jacket that I\’ve kept just because the flap copy is informative about the origins of the book itself, and I didn\’t want to loose that information.

And then there\’s always books of all descriptions where it never even occurs to me to read the flaps, and I just dive right in. I guess it depends on how much I want to know beforehand, and how informative the flaps might be.

What about you? do you read the flaps?

by P.L. Travers

I always like reading alternate versions of fairy tales, so once years ago I picked this one up from the public library. The little volume About the Sleeping Beauty includes a retelling of Sleeping Beauty by Travers, then an essay examining the fairy tale, and concluding with five different versions from other cultures. More interesting than variants on the fairy tale are Travers\’ analysis and musings over the heart of the legendary story itself, its underlying meanings and implications. But although I liked reading it at the time, none of the stories really made a strong impression upon me and now I can\’t recall a single one well enough to give you the details. However, if Sleeping Beauty is one of your favorite fairy tales, I would definitely look this book up!

Rating: 2/5 …….. 112 pages, 1975

by Betty MacDonald

This book was a little slow at the start, but pretty soon I found myself laughing fit to burst every few pages. It\’s another memoir by Betty MacDonald, who having recently left the chicken farm she wrote about in The Egg and I, comes home to Seattle. It\’s the Depression Era, and jobs are very hard to come by, but as a single mother with two children, Betty must find work to help support her family (she lives with her mother and sisters). She feels herself woefully inadequate and lacking in office skills but her older sister Mary has connections everywhere and being indomitably optimistic, pushes Betty into one job after another. Most of them don\’t last long. Everything from being a secretary (dictation, shorthand, mimeograph machines) to selling advertising, working the sales floor, tinting photographs by hand, and organizing Christmas parties for large corporations. Eventually she gets steady work in the offices of the National Recovery Administration, and from goes on to find her feet as a writer.

In the meantime, most of Anybody Can Do Anything is full of awkward interviews, scrambling to acquire or prove non-existent job skills, fending off jealous co-workers and sidestepping desperate people on the sidewalk where \”every day found a better class of people selling apples on street corners.\” At home she and her sisters pinch pennies, make their own party dresses out of hand-me-downs, eat by candlelight when the power is cut off, and put up with each others\’ endless blind dates. Their cheer and solidarity in the face of hard times is heartening. When there\’s no money to be had they stretch the meatloaf and stew to share with sundry friends and amuse themselves by sneaking into luncheons of private clubs (such as the Northwest Association of Agate Polishers), sitting in the back row of music student recitals and laughing themselves silly over the awkward performance, or even pretending to be rich and making real estate agents drive them all over town to tour big old empty mansions, where they argue over who will get what room and where their non-existent collection of furniture should be arranged.

As I grew up in a Seattle suburb, a lot of the atmosphere, locales and details of the city were familiar to me. I loved reading about the era when public transportation was all streetcars, Pike Place was just the local three-block \”public market\” and the ferry dock a long drive over dark hills from downtown. While the gloom of the Depression is always present- desperation for jobs, hearing of people committing suicide, constantly dodging debt collectors- the ability of Betty and her family to keep their heads up and find amusement in everyday circumstances makes this little memoir glow.

I got this book through Paperback Swap. I read it for the Random Reading Challenge.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 256 pages, 1950

More opinions at:
Penny Farthing
anyone else?

This reading challenge is about appreciating the old, worn-out and beat-up books we come across. They\’re out there, and perhaps they\’re feeling neglected- hoping they don\’t get shuffled long enough to end up in the recycling (or worse, trash). So let\’s give them some love! For the Dogeared Challenge, you have to read dog-eared, torn, stained, winkled, falling-apart or otherwise in-bad-condition books.

These can be manhandled books, from public libraries, used bookstores, etc that have passed through many readers\’ hands already.

They can be old copies, books which have been in print for a long, long time yet still hold together (I\’m thinking anything printed earlier than 1920).

They can be well-loved books that you\’ve read so many times since childhood the pages are barely intact (I\’ve known a few to be held together with rubber bands to keep the pages from getting lost).

They can be abused books, ones that get their pages bent, edges scuffed, laid down on their faces, coffee spilled on them, etc.


 – You must read 10 (or more) books that fit the criteria. The older, more neglected, worn-out they are, the better! 
 – Can be crossed over with any other reading challenge.
 – Make a list to start with, or find the books as you go.
 – The genre or subject is entirely up to you.
 – Re-reads are fine, as long as it\’s been several years since the last time.
 – Books must already be in poor condition. Please don\’t beat up a book while you read it, just to count it for this challenge. Treat your worn-out books gently, and hopefully they can be read again and again. 
 – If you want to, post about the worn books you read on your blog and share photos of the actual copy you have in hand. If you don\’t have a blog, you can share about your experience in comments on the posts I will be making for this challenge throughout the year (watch my sidebar).
 – Challenge starts now, ends on December 15, 2010
 – To join, sign up with the Mr. Linky below, or leave a comment on this post. Link directly to the post on your blog where you announce how you will take part in the challenge.

Optional: To add to the fun, you can evaluate the wear and tear each book you read is suffering from, and there will be a little contest to accumulate \”damage points\” for your books. (Winner will be required to share photos showing the condition of the books they read). You can count one point for each of the following conditions your poor book has:

– dogears, folds, creased or crumpled pages
– spine/binding badly damaged, loose or cracked
– water damage, wavy pages and/or wrinkles
– covers very fanned, curled, or separating from book
– stains, soil, yellowed pages and/or lots of foxing
– writing, underlining or highlighting  (in body of text)
– heavy scuff marks, dents and/or bumped corners
– bad odor (enough that it makes you uncomfortable)
– pages torn, chewed on or missing (body text, not endpapers)
– mold or other organic substance (yeah, yucky I know)

Thus, one book can have a maximum of 10 damage points.

So here\’s how to participate:

Worn and Weary: Commit to read 10 or more obviously worn books. The more worn-out, the better!

Tattered and Torn: Read 10 or more very worn books, and count up damage points accordingly. Over 50 points will get you entered into the drawing for a prize.

The Most Battered Book: A separate contest will run for the one most beat-up book read this year. If you find and read a book in really awful condition, share a photo of your copy! Email your photos and a brief description to jeanenevarez (at) gmail (dot) com. I\’ll published the photos here on the blog as they come in, and at the end of the year we\’ll vote for which book has the wost condition.

Note: if you don\’t want to sign up for the Dogeared Reading Challenge, but just happen to come across and read a really tattered book during the year, you\’re still welcome to enter the Most Battered Book contest. Simply email me your photo and description.


Completely Dogeared Everyone who completes the reading challenge will be entered into a drawing for this prize: Your pick of any 2 books off my \”swap shelf\” or 2 Book Mooch points, plus a collection of 10 bookmarks I\’ve found in used books (most featuring bookshops).

Utterly Decrepit Everyone who completes the challenge and tallies more than 50 damage points for the condition of their books, will be entered into a drawing for this prize: 10 mylar sleeves to protect your dust jackets, a manual on book care/repair, and a custommade jacket by me to cover one of your own \”naked\” hardbound books.

Most Battered Book Winner chosen by popular vote, from submitted photos of beat-up books read during the challenge: $20 gift card at Powell\’s Books.

Last of all, pick a button and have fun! (Buttons were created from photos I took of a very dog-eared and folded book my neighbor is reading. The second one shows just how much the cover is curled!)


Okay, maybe I\’m a bit crazy, but I saw this reading challenge and thought it looked great. So I\’m signing up for yet another challenge, the New Authors Challenge 2010. Basically the idea is to read books by authors that are new to you, mostly in novels. (You can read the rules at Literary Escapism) I\’m always eager to try new authors, but haven\’t done so much fiction reading as I used to, so maybe this will coax me to include more novels in my reading this year. I\’m signing up to read 15. I don\’t have a list yet, but will discover them as I go.

by Mark Bittner

After reading a novel that featured the wild parrots in San Francisco –Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots– I was delighted to finally read a true account of these birds. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is the story of one man\’s relationship with these birds, mostly cherry-headed conures, which have established themselves in the city. Bittner was living in a studio apartment on Telegraph Hill when he first began to take an interest in the small parrots. He started feeding them at regular times, gradually getting the flock used to his presence until he could stand outside on the balcony, with birds eating from his hand and perched on his shoulders. The more he observed the birds, the more he wanted to know about them. He gave them names, sorted out some of their relationships, and rescued ones that were injured or sick, nursing them back to health in his home. He began asking around about the parrots, trying to learn more about the origins of the flock. Surprised to find that no one was studying the conures (and many people wanted them eradicated because they are non-natives), Bittner began taking detailed notes himself on their behavior, and after six years had become something of a local authority on the birds. He gave slide shows and lectures, and after the book was published, pushed to get legislation passed to protect the birds. His book is a wonderful read full of details about the parrots\’ distinct personalities. It\’s also a story of the author\’s own search for meaning in his life, for stability (in his early years in San Francisco he was homeless), spirituality and love.

You can read more about Mark Bittner and the parrots on his website. There\’s some gorgeous photos there, too.

I borrowed this book from the public library.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 288 pages, 2004

More opinions at:
Breaking the Fourth Wall
Loily\’s Book Tryst

by Donn Kushner

I read a review on Savidge Reads today about a book I\’ve been wanting to read, Firmin. It reminded me of another book I read several years ago, about another small animal who loved books, this one a dragon. I saw it on a clearance table at a bookstore one day, and was curious enough to buy it.

A Book Dragon is a charming tale about a dragon called Nonesuch, who is the last of his kind. It covers some six hundred years of his life, starting out when he is a young dragon living in a medieval forest. Needing a treasure to guard, Nonesuch forsakes the usual gold and instead chooses an illuminated book. For a time he observes the monk who illustrated the volume, then accompanies the book on its journey through the centuries. He survives while his relatives die out, by his ability to change size in order to hide. He watches humans from secrecy, reflecting on their various follies, and in the end is a little dragon no larger than an insect, haunting a modern bookshop and still guarding his precious book. At one point a rat teaches him how to read, and Nonesuch can finally value his book not merely as a physical object (albeit a beautiful one) but for the words it contains. A Book Dragon is an engaging little fantasy, written for younger readers but with intriguing little details and clever explanations (like how the dragon survived into modern times by fasting, hibernating and changing shape). There is some moralizing in the tale, and Nonesuch deals out his own form of justice, to people he feels deserve it. A story sure to charm booklovers who like a little light fantasy.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 197 pages, 1987

I saw this meme at The Book Zombie, and have been thinking about doing end-of-the-year stats instead of looking at the numbers on my blog\’s birthday (middle of August). So even though I kind of did this just four months ago, I\’m looking at a year\’s worth of reading again. The questions are a bit different, and it sounds better to say \”I read so many books in 2009\” than it does \”I read so many books in the last year since my blog began\” ha ha. (So this is probably going to be tradition here from now on, with some other kind of hoopla going on here on my blogiversary).

The actual questions here are borrowed from Savidge Reads.

How many books read in 2009?
94. Not the most I\’ve ever done in a year, but pretty good when you consider I\’m raising a toddler, tending to the demands of two cats, and trying to get back into drawing and painting again.

How many fiction and non fiction?
31 fiction and 63 non-. Wow. I was surprised by that. I knew I was reading more non-fiction lately, but not that it was twice as much as fiction. I used to read so much more fantasy, too.

Books about animals?
(I added this question, because I read so many of them!) Fiction and non-fiction featuring animals: 51. Everything else: 43.

Male/Female author ratio?
40 women authors and 52 men. And two written by a man/woman team, which I assume were spouses. Pretty even. I never even thought about this before; I don\’t pay much attention to whether the authors I read are male or female. I don\’t really have a preference, either.

Favourite book read?
It\’s so hard to choose, but I think I would have to say Kon-Tiki. It was just so thrilling to read, and I remember at the end feeling charged with excitement and wonder, and blabbing on and on about it to my husband. I hadn\’t felt that worked up about a book in a long time.

Least favourite?
Emma. Sorry to say. There were a lot of other books that disappointed me, or got dull and I had to force myself to finish. But they were all within my normal reading interests, whereas Emma was not only a very dull book, but one of a genre I don\’t usually read, so it was more difficult to make myself read the whole thing.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?
16. Once or twice a month I usually encounter a book I just can\’t get through. Usually just because they\’re boring me- or I\’m much more interested in another topic at the time. For more details, you can always read the posts about each abandoned book.

Oldest book read?
No question that it\’s Emma. First pubished in 1816. Next-oldest was The Egg and I, published in 1945.

I read nine books published in 2008. (Only half of those were sent to me by the publisher). Had to look at the actual month they were printed in to find the very newest, and I think that would be Chalice, which came out in November.

Longest and shortest book titles?
Assuming I can include the subtitle (some of those get really long!) the longest would be Compost This Book! The Art of Composting for your Yard, your Community, and the Planet. Three tied for short ones: Sand, Frogs, and Fluke.

Longest and shortest books?
The whopping door-stopper was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, at 782 pages. The next contender was Daughters of the Sunstone, 697 pages. And Wolf Totem, 527 pages. Then a few four-hundred pagers, the rest in the normal range (two or three hundred pages). Shortest book was Poop, 61 pages.

How many books from the library?
3. Very, very few. I know I\’ve been trying to plow through all the piles and piles of books that make their way into my house, but I really do want to support my local library more. I\’m working on that this year.

Any translated books?
4. They were Wolf Totem, My Beaver Colony, The Little Prince and Kon-Tiki. The one that definitely felt the most foreign was Wolf Totem. (By which I mean that the sentence structure and use of foreign words made me feel like I was reading a work written in another language. Sometimes I like that).


Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?

I think it was Clare Bell. I read 3 of her books.

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?

Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Mongolia, Sweden, England, Scotland, Argentina, Ecuador, Israel, Egypt, Chile, Kenya and several other countries in Africa. If I could count the imaginary places from fantasy and sci-fi novels, this list would be longer!

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

I don\’t know if this really counts as a recommendation, as I can\’t recall her actually telling me I should read it, but I know I picked up Their Eyes Were Watching God because I\’ve always seen it on my sister\’s shelf, and I think it\’s one of her favorites.

Which author was new to you in 2009 that you now want to read the entire works of?

A few. Betty Macdonald, Edward Abbey, Susanna Clarke, Thor Heyerdahl, Thalassa Cruso.

Any re-reads?

5. They were Red Fox, The Cats of Lamu, Daughters of the Sunstone, The Little Prince and Ratha and Thistle-Chaser. All but one are books I read as a child and loved (but didn\’t necessarily love the second time around) and they were fun to re-visit. The Cats of Lamu I had read once back in college when I found it in the library; read it again after finally acquiring my own copy.

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

Yes. I\’d had The Other End of the Leash on my TBR for ages, and when I finally read it I could see why it was always hard to find at the library! A very good book.


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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