Month: January 2013

Time again for one of these posts. Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers linked to below, for adding these books to my never-ending list!

Freddy Goes to Florida by Walter Brooks- Puss Reboots
Dwarf by Tiffanie DiDonato- At Home with Books
Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog- Caroline Bookbinder
Vertical Vegetable Gardening by Chris McLaughlin- Vegetable Gardener
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro – Bermudaonion’s Weblog
Replay by Ken Grimwood- At Home with Books
Catseye by Andre Norton- You Can Never Have Too Many Books
The Aviator\’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin – Books and Movies
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore- A Library of My Own
Lamb by Bonnie Nadzan – Farm Lane Books Blog

by Susanna Kaysen

This book has sat on my shelf for ages. I picked it up because I did so like her earlier memoir Girl, Interrupted.

It\’s quite unlike anything I\’ve ever read. It was a book I could not put down- I don\’t have a lot of spare time to read anymore but found myself making time, even if it was in fragments here and there, to read this. Kaysen has a voice I really love- frank, honest, directly to the point, often makes me laugh but sympathize and feel acute sorrow as well. Her story is one I don\’t think often gets told. She narrates the turmoil her life becomes when she is suddenly stricken with chronic pain, in the most private region of her body. Doctors can\’t explain it, myriad treatments fail to work. She consults her friends (a very informed group), reads medical journals, visits specialists and alternative clinics and has a terrible time with her boyfriend. The relationship goes sour very quickly when intimacy becomes painful for her. She even starts to question if it\’s all just psychological.

I was riveted to this story. It\’s refreshing to read something so honest dealing with an aspect of a woman\’s life that most people don\’t even talk about. The details were vivid, but not too much for me. She\’s very good at cutting to the quick of things. I have to say I am really glad I read this, because it made me recognize some things about my own life. Although I\’ve not had the same medical condition, I\’d read conversations in the book between her and her boyfriend and then sit there in shock, staring at the page. The words echoed exactly some things that my husb and I said to each other, many times. I recognized immediately the wrongness of it when in a story; why did it take me so long to recognize it in my own situation? It made me realize that for a long time things were not right between us and it is probably a good thing that we are apart now.

So now you know more about me than you probably did before, because of this book.

I must note a lot of other reviews I saw online complain about this book: it\’s all Kaysen whining about her pain, talking about her vagina. Well yeah, that\’s what the book is about. And I think if you had constant pain so bad it hurt to simply sit on the sofa, to drive a car, to put on a pair of jeans, you\’d be preoccupied with it too…

It\’s really good. Go read it, if you\’re not too squeamish about women\’s health issues and some frank discussions of intimacy. Be ready for a few good laughs as well.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 158 pages, 2001

more opinions:
\”down there\”
Pathography
sdouglass2
Life Under a Rock

by Michael Crosbie and Steve Rosenthal

I really like this little board book series that has counting, shapes, colors, etc. all associated with architecture. It\’s unique from most of the other kid books I see that tend to have cute animals, babies, familiar household objects or food items. This one is about counting- each page has a picture of part of a building and a number to count a certain feature- three dormers, five arches, eight chimneys and so on. The last page shows a large building with lots of windows, columns, chimneys and things for a child to count on his own. But I happen to especially like how it starts out- a picture of an open landscape with the caption 0 buildings.

Rating: 4/5 ……. 26 pages, 1993

by Dayton O. Hyde

Another book I picked up on a whim at the Book Thing, this one also shelved among bird books but not quite as erroneously as the last. It does feature loons although they are not really central to the story- or at least, did not feel so to me. This story is about a boy who grows up in a town on Lake Superior. He doesn\’t know his parents and has pretty much been raised by the whole town, is something of a scamp but well-liked by everyone. He goes missing one day in a storm (has his own fishing boat at fourteen) and ends up on an uninhabited island in the lake, with an escaped convict as his companion. At first the kid tries repeatedly to get off the island and turn the man in, but when the convict gets injured the boy nurses him back to health. They are pretty much trapped there for the winter, and end up slowly developing a friendship as the man\’s growing interest in nature (especially birds) seems to soften his nature. There\’s a happy ending in more ways than one- not only does the convict find a way to redeem himself to society, as it were, but the boy also meets one of his long-lost family members, although that is only thrown in at the very end of the book and you don\’t get any reaction to it at all.

Well. It\’s a good story, but it didn\’t really captivate me. Probably because it\’s written for younger readers and so lacked the detail or complexity I wanted. There wasn\’t enough about nature to suit me, even the appearance of wolves later in the story was kind of disappointing. I was also surprised at how extremely adept these two were at surviving in the wilderness- a young teenager and a man who\’d been locked up for years were able to easily enough find and gather food, fell trees, build a cabin, etc. Maybe if you grow up in those northern parts these skills are just something everyone knows but it seemed a little too convenient. Yes, they had mishaps and struggles but getting supplies and knowing how to fix or build things was never an obstacle. It seemed a bit unrealistic.

The island really does exist, and it is a location where wildlife was studied and battled over to save the land from commercial development; so the brief afterward informs me. I just have to say I probably would have loved this book had I read it ten or more years ago, but I can\’t help compare it to the other books by this author I\’ve read, based on his own experiences, which I found much more enjoyable.

Rating: 2/5 …….. 155 pages, 1984

by Rod Campbell

A child writes to the zoo asking for a pet. Each page has the shipping container, which open in various ways-  and usually there is a bit of the animal peeking out. Lift the flaps and see what arrived- but most of them are of course unsuitable as pets- elephant, giraffe, lion, etc and get returned to the zoo. They keep diminishing in size down to a monkey, frog and finally a puppy which the child decides to keep. I think it\’s really cute and my toddler likes \”opening\” each package to find the animal inside. She loves puppies right now, so it has the perfect ending. My favorite page is the one featuring a lion- the flap of the crate actually has gaps cut so you see the lion\’s body through it- as pictured on the cover- and my kid always points out (delightedly) that his tongue is showing as the lion roars!

Rating: 4/5 ……. 18 pages, 1982

by Kate Endle and Caspar Babypants

I think this little book is so wonderful, even though my toddler doesn\’t (once again!) share my opinion. It has lovely illustrations by Kate Endle of What is Green? and apparently the text is also a song- you can hear a bit of it here. Very catchy and cute. And the book is pretty unique, for baby fare. It\’s not just about naming animals or recognizing colors, but shows individual animals in their different habitats, and names the kind of light they\’re basking (or sleeping, etc) in. So it\’s not just sunlight and moonlight but starlight (skunk wandering across a yard), fog light (whale by a lighthouse), lamplight, lantern light, candle light, dawn light, twilight and so on. I really enjoyed this one. I\’m holding onto it for a bit even though my kid shows little interest and won\’t sit through it. Maybe she will if I sing!

Rating: 4/5 …….. 20 pages, 2011

by Guido van Genechten

I seem to be making a round of poor choices, for my toddler\’s taste in books lately. This one I happen to almost agree with her assessment, though, which equals that of the last book. The book is about how kids eat, compared to other animals. First shows an infant nursing with a young boy looking on. Then shows a variety of animals eating different kinds of foods- the orangutan only eats fruit, the rabbit likes veggies, squirrel has nuts, the goat eats grass and so forth. I like that the last page of animals shows butterflies and says they get their food from flowers! Then we see the little boy again, eagerly raising his fork and spoon before a spread of spaghetti, salad, soup and bread. And on the next page he gets three desserts! I don\’t know why but something about the ending doesn\’t sit right with me. I like that it showed how we eat a variety of foods- but did the boy have to have three bowls of ice cream? I guess kids would find it delightful, though. And I do like the quality of the illustrations.

Rating: 2/5 …….. 20 pages, 2007

by Helen Collins

I really picked up this book by mistake. Probably because of the title, it was shelved among nature books on birds, where I found it browsing at the Book Thing. It was an interesting read, but not really my kind of book.

Egret is about a young woman named Jodi trying to make her way in New York City. She\’s an artist, and her experiences adjusting to city life, living in crowded apartments with roommates who don\’t share your interests, and the often-desperate embarrassment caused by feeling like you\’ll never get out of poverty were all things I could relate to (from my years as an art student). Her experiences with budding sexual awareness and entanglement with various love interests were foreign to me. She\’s lesbian, also a virgin and very uncomfortable when her roommates drag her along to bars and nightclubs. Then they convince her to accompany them to Long Island, using an older woman\’s interest in her and her desire to see the local wetlands and wildlife, to get into a party, where they promptly ditch her. Lots of strange experiences unfold. I could not comprehend the behavior of many characters in this story, and the apparent love-at-first-sight scenario between two people from opposite backgrounds and social classes seemed very unlikely to me. Even up until the end of the story, I couldn\’t always understand what was going on, people\’s reactions to each other just did not make sense to me.

The book did make a good point that stereotypes are usually incorrect, whether it was from straight people judging the homosexuals they knew, or the other way around. I found their constant misunderstandings of each other rather amusing, although sometimes a puzzle to work out. But there were other problems with the book, for me. The writing often felt awkward, unpolished. The characters\’ inner thoughts and opinions on each other were all over-explained, yet in a way that left me with really no sense of who they were. I kept getting her three main friends mixed up; even though they were very different people their characters were unclear to me for a long time. I enjoyed the parts that had to do with art, but felt disappointed there wasn\’t a bit more depth there. And the aspect of the story that had to do with wildlife conservation felt unrealistic, an extra thing tacked onto the story that didn\’t really fit. I wished it had fit in better, but most of the narrative seemed to be about who-thought-this-about-whom and which party Jodi was awkwardly navigating now or who she was having overwhelming feelings for (in spite of hardly knowing them) and I just didn\’t care for all that.

Anyhow, it was interesting and I liked reading about the life-in-the-big-city with an artistic bent, but it\’s not a reading experience I\’ll care to repeat.

Rating: 2/5 ……… 220 pages, 2001

by Linda Ashman
illustrated by Jane Dyer

This is another board book that my child just doesn\’t like, protests when I pull it out and we never get through more than a few pages. I however think it\’s lovely- all about how different infants are carried about by their mothers. The first page shows a baby in a stroller, then goes through a variety of animals: swan cygnet tucked under wing, baby bat clinging to its mom, lion cub dangling by its nape, anteater riding piggyback, kangaroo joey tucked in a pocket and so forth. It\’s got some nice rhymes and shows a wide variety of animals and methods of taking their babies from here to there. The last spread shows human infants once again, in different kinds of infant carriers, strollers, baby slings etc. The illustrations are nice with very gentle lines and colors, perhaps the lack of strong contrast, bright colors or general liveliness is what bores my kid. I\’ll try it on her again a few more times when we\’re in quieter moments, then back to the library it goes!

Rating: 3/5 ……. 32 pages, 2003

by Alys Fowler

This is my favorite book right now. It has galvanized me into doing new things for my little garden. I was kind of dismayed at first at the lack of space and open ground I now have, living in an apartment. But I do have big windows with lots of southern light, and a decent-sized balcony. And suddenly I am excited about the prospects of spring again, I have all kinds of plans. Thanks to the inspiration that is Garden Anywhere.

I used to always kind of ignore the advice in gardening books about container and small-space gardening, but now that\’s what I need to learn, so this book was perfect. It\’s all about gardening in a city environment, in a rental unit or small space, when you don\’t have permanence to put a lot of effort into the soil, for instance. She talks about choosing containers, utilizing space, understanding the needs of your plants- light, soil, moisture, etc. Discusses aesthetics, recommends easy plants, pretty ones and tasty ones. Stresses the importance of being environmental-friendly, of saving your own seed, of growing organically, of learning to deal with the pests in ways that don\’t hurt others. She gave me enough info on making a worm bin that I am hoping to create my own plant food again, and taught me some new stuff about composting as well. Introduced me to a whole slew of new favorite websites. And even better than all that, she discusses all kinds of ways to re-use or find materials you need for your garden, or make it yourself. She calls it \”scrap crafting\” and this is my kind of thing! I got a lot of new ideas on things to use and make, and hers are usually attractive-looking to boot. I took tons of notes; if you\’re interested in the details they\’re over here.

rating: 5/5 ……… 192 pages, 2008

more opinions:
Eco-Library blog
apartment therapy
Folkways Notebook
Velvet nectar

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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