Month: December 2014

by Holly Robinson

A lively read- it\’s amusing and interesting, reminded me of many things and taught me others. It\’s another memoir, about growing up in a family with a very curious secret: her father raised gerbils. By the thousands. Some were sold to pet shops, but most were to supply medical and scientific research. The author\’s father was in the military, and for the longest time kept his gerbil hobby a secret, because it wouldn\’t look proper. Later when he had his own gerbil farm instead of a basement or garage setup, he just let neighbors in the rural community assume they bred rats. His efforts to produce animals with certain traits needed in research led to her father becoming famous among certain circles, but it wasn\’t until Holly grew up and took her own children to a gerbil show that she discovered another side: gerbil fanciers. Actually though, most of the story isn\’t about gerbils. It\’s about growing up: dealing with siblings, parents, moving, going through a horse craze, first boyfriends and so on. The chapters about her sister who had cystic fibrosis reminded me acutely of a book I read decades ago called Alex: the Life of a Child. I like the way this book is written- it has a very engaging style that reminded me of Betty MacDonald.

Rating: 3/5        288 pages, 2009

How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life
by Steven D. Wolf with Lynette Padwa

Memoir of a man and his dog. Steve, more often called Wolf, had recently separated from his family to live in a warmer climate during winter months, due to a debilitating back condition. He encountered a group that rescued abandoned racing greyhounds, and was captivated by a particular dog, Comet. Even though he had trouble taking care of himself, Wolf adopted Comet and helped her learn about daily life: raised pretty much as livestock, she had never been inside a house, never encountered stairs, tile floors, dog treats, children, crowds of shoppers and the like. As Wolf learned to understand Comet, she gradually lost her nervousness, gained confidence, and became devoted to him. When his health and mobility seriously deteriorated, he decided to train Comet as an assistance dog. Trainers he consulted had never heard of a greyhound being an assistance animal, none of them would take her on. So Wolf taught her himself, through trial-and-error, how to help him perform daily tasks that had become difficult or impossible- from opening doors and picking up dropped objects to navigating stairs and shopping malls. It\’s amazing to see how Comet stepped into her new role and learned what was expected of her. But it\’s not just a story of this man and his dog. It\’s also about living with disability, the strain it puts on his family relationships, what it\’s like to deal with decades of chronic pain (I thought about The Camera My Mother Gave Me more than once while reading this book). Not without its serious and funny moments, this is overall an inspiring and touching story.

Rating: 3/5        257 pages, 2012

more opinions:
BookNAround
Bookfoolery
Diary of an Eccentric

for the Dare again. Read the details here. I\’m glad it\’s being held one more time! I always enjoy participating. I\’ve slowly been working towards a goal of getting through enough TBR shelves in my home that unread material will fit in one bookcase. I\’d like to shuffle a hundred not-to-be-kept books out the door (total unread pile is still near two hundred). So this will help me get closer to the goal.

I don\’t know why I always mistakenly think that vacation means more reading time, it usually doesn\’t. My own kids were gone for more than a week over thanksgiving, but my time was spent at my boyfriend\’s house with folks visiting, cooking and cleaning, good conversations, raking leaves off the yard, throwing leaves onto children (my boyfriend\’s son and niece), raking them up again, working on some creative projects for christmas gifts, working on the computer and so on. I had checked out a pile of tempting books from the library in anticipation of extra reading time, but then realized the Dare was upcoming. I kept the three I was in the middle of, two more that are actually on my TBR list, and returned the rest.

So let\’s see how many more volumes I can pile onto that out-the-door heap, or fall in love with and reshelve with my keepers.

by Robert B. Haas
An Aerial View of Africa

Photography from the air. Stunning spreads of imagery captured from a small low-flying aircraft. Revealing patterns of the landscape, wrinkles in rolling hills and sand dunes, spreading fingers from volcanic islands, weaving threads of ancient animal trails and pathways. The sinuous lines of riverbeds, the undulating shapes of coral reefs, the movement of herds. Human activity is pictured here too- scattering of huts, pockmarks of dying pits at a riverside, lines of fruit trays or conical heaps of salt dotting an area, snaky curves of fish traps- but mostly it is an image of the soul of the land, of its soil and flora, of the animal life moving in and out of view. I particularly noted the description of how a hunt is viewed so different from the air than from the ground- instead of a close focus on individuals you get a picture of the herd movement responding to the pressure of the predator. The author\’s musings on the land and its wildlife make for thoughtful, poetic reading. My favorite passage was about how deeply mesmerizing it can be to sit and watch the ocean waves or a flickering fire. There are also some writings on the conundrum of dealing with officials in Africa (moving through airports, trying to extend his stay, avoiding exploitation from pilots and so on) and the technical challenges involved in aerial photography.

I\’ve had my eye on this volume for a long time. It has been high up on a display shelf behind the information counter at my public library for ages. Every time I walked by, I glanced at it and wondered what it contained. Now I know. It\’s the kind of book you really want to linger over.

Rating: 4/5          208 pages, 2005

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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