Month: April 2010

I\’ve been sketching foxes lately. And dug through my pile of bookmarks (made from magazine scrap) to find all the foxy ones. Here\’s a trio:

front
and back

Would anyone like to have these fox bookmarks? Leave your name in the comments! I\’ll pick a winner next thursday, May 6. Open to anyone, anywhere. All you need is a postal address.

by Terri Crisp

You know me, I always love stories about animals. Here\’s one I read several years ago. Out of Harm\’s Way is about the experiences of Terri Crisp, who rescues animals from disaster sites: floods, fires, hurricanes, oil spills, earthquakes, etc. The stories in her book are both heartbreaking and inspiring. It was never an easy thing to reach frightened, often injured animals and get them to safety- the work took a lot of patience, courage and ingenuity. It\’s very sad to see the animals suffering- they have no idea what happened, are bewildered by the the sudden, traumatic change in their lives and often don\’t realize the rescuers are there to help them. Some were even purposefully abandoned by their owners. Most of the incidents involve cats and dogs, of course, but there are birds, horses and other livestock too. Besides stories about animal rescues, the book also contains information on how to prepare for an emergency with your pets in mind, and how to help animals you might find in trouble.

I wrote this little bit because I remember enjoying this book when I read it, and admiring the work done by Crisp and her colleagues in its pages. I was unaware, until I began looking for other reviews to link to (and failed to find them- anyone?) that the author was fired from the animal rescue organization she worked for when she wrote it, supposedly for misuse of funds meant to help animals in Hurricane Katrina. I can\’t comment on that, as I just found out about it, and the information has not really colored my opinion of her book. I still think it\’s a good read!

Rating: 3/5 …….. 394 pages, 1996

by Norma Fox Mazer

I read this book first as a preteen. I think it was the first book I ever read depicting what life might have been like among prehistoric peoples, and it fired my imagination. Not only was it about prehistoric humans, but a girl from modern times is inexplicably catapulted back through the centuries to live among them. Following a harrowing incident, Alexandra (\”Zan\”) hides herself behind a boulder in the park, feels a whirlwind around her and wakes up in a wild world of immense, vivid plants, strange creatures, and shy people who speak an unknown language and seem to melt into the forest, where they exist in harmony with nature. Bruised, terrified and confused, Zan tries desperately to follow them, finding herself clumsy and inarticulate at best. After overcoming her shock (which takes several days), she slowly manages to find acceptance in the tribe, but some of the people always see her as a foreign outsider, a threat. Zan herself comes to enjoy her life among them, while at the same time struggling to hold onto memories and knowledge from her true home. What begins as a peaceful coexistence starts to escalate into conflict until Zan begins to wonder what her future will really be like. Will she be stuck in this primeval world forever?

Saturday, the Twelfth of October is a really cool book. Highly imaginative, fluidly written. Not just an adventure story or look at life in the ancient, ancient past but also a coming-of-age story, about a girl painfully seeking her way through the ups and downs of puberty and adolescence.

I first read this time and time again at the library, but have since found my own used copy. I think it\’s out of print now. Has anyone else read it? Can you recommend any other books by Norma Fox Mazer? This is the only one I\’ve ever read by her.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 247 pages, 1975

Anyone else posted about this book? I\’ll add your link here!

Lessons from the Natural World
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

In a personal look at wildlife behavior, the author spent a year closely observing deer and other animals on her wooded New Hampshire property, telling us what she learned in The Hidden Life of Deer. It started when the fall acorn crop failed, and Thomas started putting out corn for the deer, watching from her window as they fed in her back field. She sorted out their family groups and social hierarchy, learned where they rested during the day, how they communicated, etc. As she didn\’t radio-collar the deer or follow them through the forest, a lot of her information was gathered slowly over time, or via secondhand signs. I was surprised at how much time (over two chapters it felt like) was spent debating whether she should even feed the deer, examining each reason the Fish and Game Department gives not to do so. Although Thomas loved the deer, lived tolerantly even with the mice in her house and hated seeing wildlife injured by careless hunters or vehicles on the road, she also tried to be practical about the fact that not all of them would survive, and minus their natural predators man has taken up the role of thinning their numbers. In one interesting chapter she describes taking a course on hunting and accompanying a friend on his annual deer hunt, in another she admits her error in trying to poison rats and then watching predators suffer in a chain-reaction.  Not all of the book is about deer; there are also turkeys, bears, caterpillars and others.  I liked reading her stories about animals, her thoughts on how all living things share the same basic needs: to be safe, acquire food, be with their families, though which similarities we can understand them by comparing them to ourselves.

Rating: 3/5 ……… 239 pages, 2009

More opinions at:
Bibliophile by the Sea
FT\’s Books
curled up with a good book
5 Minutes for Books

Ever find something cool in a used book you\’ve bought? I found this photo tucked between the pages of a forgotten title. It looks like it was removed from another book, probably a memoir. I just thought I\’d share it with you because it\’s such a great image- all the children lining up for their reading material. It says \”Charleston County Free Library\” on the side of the antique vehicle. Anyone know the source? I\’d love to give it proper credit.

and other tales from Africa
by Alexander McCall Smith

This little book is a collection of African folktales from Botswana and Zimbabwe. It caught my eye on a display shelf at the library so I brought it home to read. The tales have a similar style and flavor to Aesop\’s fables, one also reminded me closely of a B\’rer Rabbit story. There are stories of families and friendships, of keeping promises and secrets, of disobedience and greed, treating others fairly, appreciating kindness, and of course, clever tricksters. Animals mingle with humans: sometimes they are hunted, other times they are helpers, often they speak to people, or change their shapes, or even live together. Some stories explain characteristics of wildlife, others illustrate human follies. They all have a lesson, though it wasn\’t always what I expected to find when I reached the end! I loved the setting, the animals, and the imaginative quality of them. My favorite was the one about the wax child who longed so much to see the world he got himself into danger and melted, but then found freedom in another form, thanks to his family who let him go. And I was really curious about two stories that featured a \”strange animal\” which was never quite described, and kept wrapped in mystery. I wonder what the animal was- one the storytellers saw, but were unfamiliar with? did its identity change with each re-telling, or was it always an enigma? Well, the book is fun, and the stories very interesting and educational, though I must warn they\’re not always pretty – a lion gets his tail nailed to the floor, people get eaten by animals or beaten by others for their wrongdoings, many suffer from hunger and thirst. The stories of The Girl Who Married a Lion reflect the world, but throw light back on it so we see ourselves, and perhaps our relationship with nature, more clearly.

Rating: 3/5 ……… 189 pages, 1989

A few more opinions at:
Things Mean a Lot
Sequestered Nooks
Canon Fodder

by John Griesemer

In the 1950\’s a young corporal in the army named Rudy gets mistakenly sent to Greenland, where a secret military hospital houses severely wounded soldiers from the Korean war. They are kept there until they die, then reported suddenly found to their families (who assumed them missing-in-action) with no details disclosed…

Rudy finds himself assigned to create a newspaper for the hospital base, and with it gets special clearance to enter \”the Wing\” where the wounded are tended. Feeling a journalistic spirit, he starts to unfold stories about the hospital, the soldiers and wounded there, but as he digs for information and begins to uncover secrets, things start to unravel around him… Not to mention that he finds his superior\’s aide/girlfriend irresistibly attractive, and the Colonel is a dangerous man to cross. The setting has an unreal, foreboding quality- wide flat vistas, towering icy walls of glaciers, flaming color in the sky, light stretching into night and then reversing so that darkness reaches into every hour. The violence at the end was shocking, but did not surprise me too much; after all, they called the time of winter \”The Stark Raving Dark.\” Descriptions of No One Thinks of Greenland might come across as just some conspiracy thriller, but the book is much more than that. The characters have considerable depth. Rudy in particular wrestles with his conscience, occasionally does inexplicably crazy things, is awed by the landscape, confused by his own presence there. In this strange and remote place, he begins to find himself in ways he never did back home where everything was easier, and safer.

This book has been on my TBR long enough that I don\’t recall how it got there. (Thus I read it for the TBR challenge). I think I picked up my copy at a thrift store, but am no longer sure.

In an aside from the story, a few times in the novel the abandoned Viking settlement of Greenland was mentioned, a place forgotten by civilization when the Black Plague struck Europe. When it was rediscovered, one of the characters states, \”there were only a few stunted, inbred people left, practicing some weird kind of Christianity. A real lost civilization.\” I\’ve never heard of this Viking settlement before. I\’d like to read more about it- does anyone know some good historical fiction on the subject?

Rating: 3/5 …….. 310 pages, 2001

More opinions at: fun. Anyone else?

by Gladys Taber

Once there was a woman who lived on Cape Cod, a writer. She had a beautiful little abyssinian cat, whom you might think spoiled- this kitty dines fresh steaks, lamb or flounder fillets, interrupts the bed-making with her naps- which must go undisturbed, takes supervised strolls around the property on a leash, nibbles on asparagus tips and is constantly provided with fresh drinking water in a glass, served with ice. Some life for a kitty! But Amber, as she is called, also has a very distinctive personality, and a determined will of her own as well. She is a well-loved companion, and listens patiently to all Mrs. Taber\’s musings. Conversations with Amber is a gentle book about the deep companionship they share. Not only is it about life with a cat, all their interesting feline habits and traits, but also a compilation of the author\’s thoughts on many different subjects- from world hunger, the women\’s liberation movement and ageing to subjects closer to home, like the responsibility we have to those we love, how sensitive pets can be to the emotional tension in a home, or methods for relieving a worried mind- all in the format of discussions she has with her cat. Amber answers in kind, her direct (or averted) gaze, lifted whiskers, swiveling ears, moving tail or gently prodding paw speaking just as loud as words. A lovely book, indeed.

I read this one for the Random challenge, although I\’m not quite sure it counts. I read it several times long ago when found at my public library in childhood, but hadn\’t seen it since and when I picked it up at a discard sale a few months ago, wasn\’t sure of the contents (I knew it was about a cat, and that I\’d enjoyed it, but no more than that). So it was shelved among my TBR books, as I wanted to be reintroduced to it with another reading.

The author, Gladys Taber, was apparently a prolific writer (LibraryThing lists 46 books to her name) and popular in her time. I\’ve never seen another book of hers, but I do want to read the other one she\’s written about her kitty, titled Amber, a Very Personal Cat. It was kind of sad to me (but happy too, because this is why the library discarded it and the book came into my hands!) to see on the old borrower\’s card inside the pocket that my copy of Conversations with Amber was checked out only six times in the year it was published, then seven times in 1979, once in 1980, twice in \’81, three times in \’86 and never again for the next twenty-some years. Of course, I can\’t tell when its library of origin switched over to computers as opposed to stamping cards, but I do know this book has been under-appreciated! Give it a read, if you come across a copy. It\’s worth it.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 176 pages, 1978

In celebration of her 500th post, Jessica put up a list of her 500 favorite books at Both Eyes Book Blog. I’ve read and loved many of the same, and she wanted to know which ones! So here\’s a little list of my own. Out of Jessica’s 500, I’ve read 90.

Eighty-two I liked, or loved:

1984 – George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Aesop’s Fables
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten – Robert Fulghum
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
Antigone – Sophocles
Autobiography of a Face – Lucy Grealy
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Beowulf
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin
The Bone People – Keri Hulme
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Call It Sleep – Henry Roth
The Castle – Franz Kafka
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
The Color of Water – James McBride
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Crucible – Arthur Miller
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Equus – Peter Shaffer
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Griffin and Sabine – Nick Bantock
Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
Heidi – Johanna Spyri
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Maus – Art Spiegelman
Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Once and Future King – T.H. White
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Out of Africa – Isaac Dinesen
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seven Gothic Tales – Isak Dinesen
Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
Silas Marner – George Eliot
Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
The Tempest – William Shakespeare
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Through the Looking-Glass – Lewis Carroll
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Tragedy of Puddin’head Wilson – Mark Twain
Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt
The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
Wicked – Gregory Maguire
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A. Milne
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Persig

Seven I didn’t care for as much:

Franny and Zooey – J. D. Salinger
Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Emma – Jane Austen
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
The Gunslinger – Stephen King
The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan

Thirteen I tried, and did not finish:

As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Primary Colors – Anonymous
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley
Henderson the Rain King – Saul Bellow
Dune – Frank Herbert
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris

These I’ve been meaning to read:

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby
Downtown Owl – Chuck Klosterman
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
My Antonia – Willa Cather
The Monkey Wrench Gang – Edward Abbey
Out Stealing Horses – Per Petterson
Pigs in Heaven – Barbara Kingsolver
Stiff – Mary Roach
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
Walden – Henry David Thoreau

And these I added to my TBR because Jessica introduced me to them:

Animal Liberation – Peter Singer
The Coming Plague – Laurie Garrett
The Female Man – Joanna Russ
The Roaches Have No King – Daniel Evan Weiss
The World Without Us – Alan Weisman

Also, my husband has read half of Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter, which I never would have heard of otherwise.

There you go, Jessica!

I borrowed this meme from C.B. James. I\’m sure most of you know what triggered it. I tend to steer clear of controversies around the blogosphere, so just a very few remarks here.

When I first started book blogging, I actually wanted my blog to be just about books. I wanted it to look austere and focused. I didn\’t plan on including anything personal. I thought some other blogs were way too cluttered-looking and felt that challenges would make my reading feel constricted. I even looked for other blogs that fit my idea of being strictly books. They were hard to find! Now I\’m not so stuffy. I\’ve come to enjoy the sense of community that all these other activities (memes, giveaways, interviews, contests, etc) bring into book blogging. So over the past nearly-three years I\’ve really changed my mind a lot. More about that below!

Do you participate in memes?
Occasionally. I do Booking Through Thursday when I find the questions interesting, and sometimes pick up memes (like this one) from other bloggers. I like doing memes that have something to do with books or reading, since that\’s what this blog is all about, or that let readers know a little more about me. Sometimes I do more random ones just for fun!

Do you participate in Book Tours?  What about ARCS?
Never done a book tour. Don\’t plan to. I was thrilled to get my first ARCs, until I realized I wasn\’t falling in love with any of the books sent me, and then felt uncomfortable writing negatively about them (wanting to be honest). It\’s very rare now that I accept them. I just have way too many books already on my shelf waiting to be read, and don\’t like the sense of obligation they put upon me.

Do you encourage followers?  Do you follow?
No. Following seems redundant to me, when I already have all I can handle in my google reader. Can someone convince me otherwise? I just don\’t see the point, yet.

What do you think of giveaways and other contests?
They\’re fun! I like doing giveaways, just because it makes me happy to send people stuff, especially books to other readers who will appreciate them. I do giveaways of books (off my shelf) or handmade bookmarks a few times a month. I\’ve entered some, too. Contests more complicated than a simple giveaway are too much trouble for me to pay attention to.

Do you read and/or conduct author interviews?
Nope.

Do you enjoy challenges?
I\’m beginning to! Last year I participated in a few for the first time. Surprised how much I liked crossing titles off a list, and seeing what other bloggers were reading for the same challenge. This year I\’ve signed up for more, probably too many to finish. So far I\’ve been doing challenges that just help me focus on paring down my TBR, but next year I think I\’ll do some that stretch my reading boundaries and get me out of my comfort zone. Isn\’t that why it\’s called a challenge, after all?

I\’ve also tried hosting my own challenge, but that hasn\’t been very successful. Maybe I made it too complicated? Due to lack of interest, I\’m probably not doing to do it again next year. But I don\’t mind. I\’m still going to have fun in other people\’s challenges!

Do you like giving/getting awards?
I was tickled pink when I got my first blog award. They\’re a nice way to show recognition to other bloggers. Lately though, I have trouble deciding who to pass them on to. There are so many blogs I love reading, how can I possibly choose between them all? I think I might start adopting the policy of just thanking who gave it to me and saying: you all deserve this award!

What is your opinion of cat videos?

Some are dull. Some make me cry, I laugh so hard. I don\’t mind if people have them on their blog, as long as it\’s not overwhelming and becoming the-blog-about-what-my-cat-ate-for-breakfast (instead of the about book I couldn\’t put down!) If I\’m too busy I just skip it and read the bookish stuff. Same goes for photos of your flowers, birds in your yard, pics of your vacation, whatever. It\’s lovely to have a bit of that!

In summary- I do some of these things, not all. If a blog is becoming too full of \”extras\” I might gradually loose interest just because I don\’t find enough about books, and that\’s what I originally came for. But it\’s all a matter of personal taste. There\’s many different kinds of readers, and thus many different kinds of blogs. Serious ones, tongue-in-cheek ones, everything in between. Some have very lengthy analysis of the books, others just an emotional response. Everything from heavy literature to picture books! I\’ve even seen bloggers share their kid\’s opinion on books they read together (or in C.B.\’s case, how Dakota thought they tasted!) and that\’s fun, too. That\’s what I love about book blogging. There\’s so much variety out there, you\’re bound to find something you like.

Happy reading, everyone!

DISCLAIMER:

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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