Month: September 2010

I feel like making excuses today. Not that it\’s useful, and if you think it lame, go ahead and skip over this post. But it makes me feel better, for some reason! My presence on the blogging scene has been waning here, lately. So much else has been going on in my life. My daughter just started her first week of kindergarten, and I\’m still getting used to the change in schedule. My husband has been facing the possibility of a strike at work for the past few weeks, and we\’ve been very worried about that (but thankfully found out last night it\’s not going to occur, they reached an agreement. I\’m so glad!) My garden has been going through a transition from summer into fall, so I\’m busy cleaning up dead plants and putting in new ones. And I just found out I\’m now expecting my second child!

So all in all, I\’ve been rather preoccupied. The original goal I had here of posting about a book every day, whether a new one I\’ve finished or an old one I read in the past, has been sliding. I\’ve just been keeping up with currently read books lately, and although I do have over a hundred blogs in my reader and look at all your posts every day, sadly I haven\’t been commenting much. It\’s just so hard to keep up with it all. I haven\’t even felt the energy to really take part in BBAW, although I\’m enjoying following along with the excitement from the sidelines, as it were. But I\’m still here! Still reading! Just a bit too busy to write much. As school gets settled in, the garden goes to sleep for the winter, and I get used to the idea of two kids, I\’ll be back in full blogging force. And then you\’ll get tired of me yapping here all the time about books in sundry.

Life, Motherhood and 180,000 Honeybees
 by Roseanne Daryle Thomas

I\’ve been a little curious about the art of beekeeping lately, so this title caught my eye on the library shelf. I\’ve got several other books about bees on my TBR list, as well. I think this one was a good start with the subject. It\’s a personal narrative of one woman\’s foray into beekeeping, after a painful divorce. She doesn\’t linger over her personal struggles, other than to show how the involvement with bees, the peace and focus this new endeavor brings her, settles some of the upheaval in her life. Most of it is about the bees, learning how to care for them, making mistakes, sourcing the local Bee Master for help, etc. There\’s also a love of the land, observations of nature, little tidbits on apian behavior, some quirky neighbors in her new town, and a beautiful ongoing portrait of her seven-year-old daughter, eager to dive into the newness of beekeeping alongside her mom. The writing is really engaging, so I breezed through this book in just a few days. It had my full attention.

I just found a site here which has the most amazing photograhps of honeybees, and the captions alone teach you a lot about them. Go take a look!

Rating: 3/5 …….. 228 pages, 2002

More opinions at:
A Gardener\’s Notebook
anyone else?

by David Wroblewski

I’ve been reading and reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It started out quite a compelling story, but halfway through I started to loose interest; it was still good, but didn’t grip me as much. The writing style became a little boring to me. And I think it was also because I kept thinking about what was coming. I read too many reviews of this one before approaching it; several suggested that it was a modern retelling of Hamlet. At first I didn’t see that in the narrative, but once the scene in the rain came up, I started to notice parallels and then couldn’t help predicting future events, which unfolded pretty much as I expected them to. The final tragedy was more twisted and complex than I expected, but had the same end result. So to avoid giving another reader the same experience, I’ll try not to tell too much here (although perhaps I have already).

So here’s the gist of it: Edgar Sawtelle was born mute, on a farm where his family raised dogs. Extraordinary dogs, a completely made-up breed that was based on intelligence and response, not appearance- dogs that were remarkably receptive to human communication and direction. Edgar helped his mother train the dogs, using hand signals; his other main task was to give the new puppies names, searched out of a thick dictionary. Then his uncle showed up on the farm, and had frequent arguments and fights with his father, results of conflict stretching back through the years they grew up together. One day his father died in what appeared to be a freak accident. Grief-stricken, Edgar came to strongly resent the presence of his uncle on the farm. He began to suspect his uncle guilty of his father’s death, but his attempts to prove it turned disastrous and Edgar fled the farm with three young dogs. They ran off in the woods, living a vagabond existence, scrabbling for survival. Eventually, Edgar realized he can’t keep running, and the desire to get revenge on his uncle made him return to the farm, with every hope of a confrontation.

That’s really just the bare bones of the story, there’s so much more involved (how else do you get 500+ pages?) A bitter family entanglement, something of a murder mystery, and lots and lots of dogs. A few of the chapters are even narrated from a dog’s point of view, which was very interesting. Sound appealing? give it a try. You might be unable to put this book down.

Rating: 2/5
566 pages, 2008

by M. Jane Coleman

Okay, so this isn\’t really a book but more properly a booklet, or pamphlet. Or at least it feels so to me, because the binding is stapled, not sewn or stitched. It\’s a plant care book specifically about suspended houseplants. I\’ve kind of taken a fancy to hanging plants lately, and so picked this one up mainly to look at the pictures. Like most plant books, it has information on specific plant care and troubleshooting problems with pests and health. It points out the special care hanging plants need, as they tend to dry out quicker. The bulk of the book is a gallery of plant species that do well or look nice in hung pots or baskets. I tend to think of trailing plants like pothos as suitable for such display, but others I\’d never have thought to put up in the air are shown here too- like African violets, flowering geraniums and zebra plants. Mostly I used this book to make myself a list of all the new plants I find attractive, to add to my plant wishlist. As far as plant books go, the care information is pretty basic and the photos all look outdated; the style and decor feels very much from the seventies. I\’m really only noting this book here for my own records; not really expecting anyone else will be moved to read it!

Rating: 2/5 …….. 80 pages, 1975

Observations on the History and Habitat of the City\’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants 
by Robert Sullivan

I was disappointed in Rats. I did not enjoy it much. At halfway through the book I started just skimming, and reading the parts that were actually about rats, but even those got to be dull or just plain gross. I was expecting the book to be all about rat behavior and ecology and how smart they are, always outwitting those trying to kill them. It starts out promising enough, this guy finding an obscure New York alley where trash from two restaurants accumulates, and he settles in to watch the rat colony there. But his descriptions aren\’t interesting. He never finds out anything new about rats himself. He doesn\’t pick apart their habits or social structure, or even recognize any individuals. There is an awful lot about efforts cities make to eradicate rats, and different methods of exterminators; Sullivan even goes to pest-control conventions to meet the big names in rat control. But there are so many long passages in the book that go into rambling historical jaunts describing people who have some vague connection to rats or some really buried history about the particular alley itself. It was just so dull. Equally boring the numerous detailed descriptions of every character Sullivan met or talked about, but the rats themselves? even the ones he finally trapped and viewed up close? you just get: it was a really big rat and not much else. If you like to read about obscure city history loosely tied to rats, this might be your book, but it didn\’t really work for me.

I do really like the cover, though. Borrowed this one from the public library. Don\’t remember how it first got on my reading list.

Rating: 2/5 …….. 242 pages, 2004

More opinions at:
Guys Lit Wire
Paring Life
WI Book Blog

Just the other day I finished the Trish\’s Non-Fiction Five challenge. I read about immigration, mental illness, an expedition stranded in Antarctica, and several different kinds of neurological disease.

The titles I read were:

Enrique\’s Journey by Sonia Nazario
Awakenings by Oliver Sacks
Endurance by Alfred Lansing
The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller
The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks

They were all really interesting! This is the second time I\’ve participated in Trish\’s non-fiction challenge, and I\’m sure I\’ll join many more in the future.

and Cycad Island 
by Oliver Sacks

This is one of the most interesting books by Oliver Sacks I\’ve read yet. In The Island of the Colorblind, Sacks travels with a few colleagues to the remote islands of Pingelap and Pohnpei where a large percentage of the population suffered from complete color-blindness. He was curious to study this phenomenon and see how the local culture might have adapted itself to having so many people with a color disability. The later part of the book tackles a different subject, as Sacks goes to Guam, another remote island with a high incidence of a mysterious disease called lytico-bodig. For decades doctors and scientists have been trying to find the cause of this degenerative neurological disease. The strangeness of lytico-bodig was that it seemed to run in families, mostly affected people who were native to or had visited the island (very rarely were cases found in other countries) and apparently hid dormant in the body for a long time, symptoms manifesting themselves suddenly years after whatever infecting agent had been encountered. The number of cases peaked in the 1940\’s and 50\’s, and after 1961 no more people contracted the disease. All kinds of things have been investigating as possibly causing lytico-bodig, from something toxic concentrated in fish to abnormally high levels of mineral content in water to a virus spread by an animal that has vanished from the island. But all the scientists (Sacks included) kept coming back to the cycad trees: at times the islanders made a special flour out of the seeds, which were highly poisonous but carefully prepared to removed the toxin. Over and over research has studied different contents of the cycad seed, but always drawn a blank. From reading around a bit, I found that after publishing this book, Sacks came up with a theory that eating bats which themselves had eaten cycad seeds, could have given people high levels of the toxin (the natives ate so many bats they became extinct on the island). More than just medical speculation though, the final part of the book is also an ode to the cycads, as Sacks admired these ancient plants and was curious about all aspects of their biology. Island of the Colorblind contains liberal notes in the back, which are just as interesting as the main text, so I kept a second bookmark in the back to flip to the notes whenever they were indicated.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 312 pages, 1996

More opinions at:
book addiction


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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