Month: May 2010

by Richard Preston

Very interesting book about incredibly tall trees. The Wild Trees swings around people passionate about climbing trees- finding the tallest ones alive, measuring them, exploring them and documenting the life within their branches. Mostly coastal redwoods but also douglas firs and the mountain ash (in Australia). It starts out with a handful of college kids climbing redwoods in a national park just to see what it\’s like, and then unfolds in novelistic fashion telling the story of several canopy scientists: their original interests in trees, how they met up, taught each other skills and collaborated to find and study the very tallest of the tall, hidden in unexplored pockets of old growth forest. Along the way there\’s tons of information about the trees, their history, how they grow, etc. These men who climb were the first to discover that redwood canopies hold an ecosystem within their own branches, soil held in pockets that support plants and animal life. Not to mention the myriad different kinds of lichens, which pull nutrients out of the air to feed themselves and the trees. I could go on, but I\’ll let you read and discover it for yourself. Fascinating! I would have wished for a bit more description and less about the climber\’s personal lives, but that\’s a minor complaint. The trees are just amazing. They\’re the largest living organism on earth (aside from a huge underground fungus I just learned about, which covers several square miles!)

I read this book thanks to two recommendations: a review on Maggie Reads, and my mother told me about it after she read it during a trip to see the redwoods in California. I borrowed a copy from the public library.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 294 pages, 2007

More opinions at:
Bookwyrme\’s Lair
Nina\’s Reading Blog
I\’ll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!
Old Smiley
The Book Banter Blog

I’ve never participated in Friday Finds before, hosted at Should Be Reading. But I’ve always enjoyed reading other blogger’s posts on it. And I noticed lately that the list I constantly compile of new books to read, becomes dangerously long before I add it to my TBR page here (which is a bit more organized). So I thought maybe if I start doing this weekly meme, it will help me stay organized and keep my list updated. (Hopefully it’s okay that I’m starting out on a saturday!)

So here are my finds (in no particular order) from the past week (or two):

Seven Ravens by Lesley Choyce – I saw this one on The Indextrious Reader. I love the sound of the nature writing, the connection between creativity and nature, and the idea of following ravens. It sounds really intriguing to me.

Lost Worlds by Bruce M. Beehler – I’m starting to really enjoy books categorized as “popular science reading” and even though Pussreboots wasn’t thrilled with this one, it sounds interesting enough I’m adding it to my list.

Not so Perfect by Nik Perring – Short stories have never really been my favorite to read, but Book Chase makes this collection sound so good, I want to give it a try.

Sylva by Jean Vercors – A little-known but intriguing book I’ve read is Lady into Fox by David Garnett. I was eagerly reading a new review of it at Page247, and then following links to see what other bloggers had said. At Stuck in a Book I found it compared to Silva, another book about a fox-turned-woman. Onto the list!

The Hive Detectives by Loree BurnsA Patchwork of Books told me about this book that details the work of honeybee keepers and scientists who are trying to figure out why bees are vanishing. Sounds like just my kind of book!

Clan Apis by Jay Hosler – And the first comment on that post about The Hive Detectives mentioned this graphic novel about bees. I\’m just getting into graphic novels, so I’m really curious about this one.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – I loved The Secret Garden, read it over and over as a kid. So I think I’d surely like this one as well, described at The Lost Entwife.

Coop by Michael Perry – I’ve read about this book recently on several blogs; Tales of a Capricious Reader and Raging Bibliomania were the ones that made me want to read it. Apparently it’s not all about chicken-raising, but about life on a farm and family values. Sounds good!

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa – I haven’t put any fantasy on my list in a while, nor YA, but Steph Su Reads makes this one sound really compelling.

and finally, The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery and The Red Centre by one Finlayson got added to my list because they were mentioned in Chasing Kangaroos

a Continent, a Scientist and a Search for the World\’s Most Extraordinary Creature
by Tim Flannery

I first saw this title on shelf at a bookstore, and was intrigued because I\’d never read anything about kangaroos before. I thought at first the subtitle was a bit puzzling: how hard can it be to find a kangaroo? aren\’t they numerous enough to be considered pests in certain parts of Australia? Well, I found out two reasons: many kinds of mid-sized kangaroos are gone forever, or very close to extinction. Also, Flannery wasn\’t neccessarily looking for live kangaroos. He was searching for fossils, to answer questions about how kangaroos evolved and what caused mass extinctions of ice-age giants like the short-faced kangaroo.

So the book is partly a travel adventure crisscrossing Australia, from deserts and rugged landscapes to ancient rivers that once bordered rain forests and islands that hold pockets of surviving marsupials now extinct on the mainland. Encounters with quirky characters and elderly Aborigines who sometimes remember those vanished animals clearly. Its other main focus is Flannery\’s work as a palaeontologist, from a young graduate student volunteering to help clean fossils in museums to conducting his own research. And then there\’s the kangaroos. I had no idea how diverse they were before. Or the peculiarities of their reproductive strategies and feeding habits (all quite bizzare). One drawback was the inclusion of many Australian slang terms I had to look up. A short glossary, or a suggestion in the text, would have helped this unfamiliar reader. Overall the book is informative, interesting, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I\’m game to read some more Flannery. Any suggestions on what I should try next?

Rating: 3/5 …….. 258 pages, 2004

More opinions at:
Book Lust Forever
Rick Librarian

from Booking Through Thursday

What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

It\’s easiest just to show you a picture. My bedside table is a bookshelf, so right now it\’s full of books I\’m hoping to read for challenges this year (progress middling so far). The ones on the top are what remains from my last library haul, with my current read Chasing Kangaroos, on top. (The other three are The Wild Trees, The Natural History of Unicorns and The Life of the Skies).

Across the room is another full bookcase that holds the rest of my TBR books. I have a goal to get enough read or discarded (the ones I end up not liking) so that my TBR books just fit in the bedside shelves, but I don\’t know how realistic that is!

As for the rest of the house, The Arrival is still sitting on the couch, because my husband just finished reading it to my daughter, and she\’s still enjoying looking at the pictures now and again. And then, of course, there\’s the wall of shelves that holds my permanent collection, which I\’ve shown in pictures before, although it\’s been rearranged since and looks a bit different now. It was fun to look at those older pictures of my bedside shelf and realize I have gone through a third, at least, of the books that used to sit there. They do shuffle in and out. So I guess that\’s some progress!

by Gus Mills

Another book I picked up browsing at the library, just because it looked interesting. This \”coffee-table book\” is about 14 species of predators that live in Africa. They are divided into three families: canines, felines, and the hyenas, with a brief explanation of how they evolved. Following a description of each species, there are sections that compare how each hunts, their social lives, and how they interact or compete with each other. A small segment at the end describes conservation efforts. The writing is straightforward, with some interesting facts but pretty dry. Lots of color photos illustrate the different animals (I almost enjoyed the pictures more than the text). For the predators like lions, cheetahs and jackals I didn\’t learn much new. What really caught my attention were the less familiar species featured: the brown hyena, servals and caracals, the aardwolf (related to hyenas) and ethiopian wolf, the persecuted wild dog. I couldn\’t get enough of looking at images of those, having seen few in books of this kind before.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 160 pages, 2001

by Marsha Boulton

When I saw this book about \”Wally the Wonder Dog\” I thought it looked like a cute dog story. It\’s actually more of a sobering memoir. Marsha Boulton, a Canadian writer, tells about the dogs she owned early on, who all had unhappy endings- a freak accident in the forest, a dangerous proclivity to wander busy streets, incurable disease. When she and her partner (writer Stephen Williams) were finally ready to get a dog again, they decided they needed a very sturdy one. Wally it was, a stout bull terrier with tons of spunk and personality. Wally accompanied the couple through the ups and downs of the next decade, providing them with laughs and comfort in their times of trouble. I liked reading about Boulton\’s life on her farm, and the antics of Wally. Most of the book, though, ends up being about the tangled legal battle Williams got into after publishing two books about a murderess. At the end, not unforseen, Wally dies of medical problems in his old age, but I was unable to feel sad about it, being so tired of reading about vindictive police actions and wranglings with lawyers. I do really like the way Boulton writes, though, so I wanted to find more of her books; I\’d like to read the ones about her farm. But this is the only one in my library\’s system, so I don\’t know when that will happen.

Borrowed from the public library; found while browsing the shelves.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 272 pages, 2006

More opinions at:
Gabe \’n\’ Arch

by Shaun Tan

I’ve been thinking more and more of trying out some graphic novels, having read very few (one being a fabulous edition of Frankenstein illustrated by Bernie Wrightson that I read in college, mostly for the pictures.) I’ve got a few in mind that other book bloggers have drawn my attention to: Tales from Outer Suburbia, Clan Apis, Blankets and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species by Michael Keller. So I wondered if my library had a graphic novel section, and wandering the stacks found them: right next to classics, a few shelves labeled ‘COMIC BOOKS‘. I felt kind of self-conscious poking through them (oddly, as I don’t feel that way looking through picture books, or the YA section) and most were manga and other styles that didn’t really appeal to me. But then I saw The Arrival. I looked through the entire book right there in the library (causing an outburst of where were you? when I got home, from what was supposed to be a quick ten-minute trip to the pharmacy) then brought it back home to go through again at leisure.

This book deserves that kind of close perusal, even though it’s a story told without words. In beautiful, detailed, imaginative and highly communicative illustrations, Shaun Tan tells the story of an immigrant. He leaves his family in his home country and crosses an ocean to seek a better life in a bright, bustling city. Everything there is strange. The technologies, food items, writing and customs are all different- and completely fantastical, so they are strange to the reader as well, who thus shares in his wonder and confusion. As our quiet protagonist navigates this new country, he makes a few friends, meets other immigrants who share their stories, eventually finds work and brings his wife and child to join him. It’s a wondrous story. I loved all the little details in the drawings; puzzled along with the man about what the symbols might mean, or what that strange-looking fruit might taste like. I loved all the curious animals, too.

The book has convinced me. I’m going to read some graphic novels, starting with whatever else I can find by this author. I love his work.

Rating: 4/5
128 pages, 2006

The Small-Town Library Cat who Touched the World
by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter

I\’ve seen this one on so many book blogs, I just had to pick it up last time I was at the library. It\’s the true story of a cat who lived in a small-town library in Iowa. Dewey was dumped in the library\’s drop box one cold night and rescued by the staff. He quickly showed he had the perfect personality for a library cat: calm, welcoming, graceful when walking on the shelves. Dewey worked his way into everyone\’s heart, becoming a favorite with many library patrons, seeking out laps to sit on, letting the children pet him, visiting with any group that used the library\’s meeting room. Beyond entering him in a local pet-photo contest, the library didn\’t seek any publicity for their cat. But people began talking about him, and before long he was being featured in newspapers, radio programs and magazines- not only in Iowa but across the country and eventually around the world. The story isn\’t just about this amazingly popular cat, though. It\’s also about the history of a small farming town, about how a library strives to serve its community, and about the author\’s personal trials, during which she often found comfort in Dewey\’s warm purrs. The cat himself didn\’t get through life easy: he also had continuing health problems, so it\’s all the more incredible he lived to the old age of 19. When he finally did pass away, the community (and Dewey fans around the world) showed just how widely he had been loved. It\’s very touching. Not the best writing, but a heartwarming story that anyone who loves cats or libraries is sure to appreciate.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 277 pages, 2008

some more opinions at:
Puss Reboots
You\’ve GOTTA Read This!
The Narrative Casualty
Melody\’s Reading Corner
Foreign Circus Library
Bermudaonion\’s Weblog
Citizen Reader
The Zen Leaf

I\’m giving away two camel bookmarks! Let me know in the comments if you want to be entered into the drawing, which will conclude next weekend. Open worldwide.

On another note, I finally finished painting those cabinets (with a delay in wrapping it all up as the hinges we\’d bought were wrong size, had to go back and exchange them all). It looks like a totally different kitchen! And as you can see in that last photo (of the group I showed half-painted before) we\’re now looking at tile for our kitchen (currently carpeted- ugh!). At least that\’s not a do-it-yourself-er, we\’re hiring someone to put it in.


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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