Month: October 2015

Title is the name of this puzzle, not the fact that it’s the first one I’m considering culling from my collection. I like all the blues in the picture, but little else about it. Although the pieces have satisfying variety of shapes, they’re quite small and very shiny, also the picture is darker than it looks here, so I had to lean in close (often bumping heads with my kid or crossing each others’ view with our hands) and tipping my head constantly to avoid glare. It was annoying. Also, the pieces are flimsy and the upper layer easily tears off; just from moving pieces around my fingernails inadvertently tore up edges or created crease lines on them.  I’ve learned a lesson from it: don’t buy cheap puzzles. This one is made by papercity puzzles. It’s only the second time I’ve worked this puzzle, and at 500 pieces it was fairly quick even though I did a background/general-to specific strategy and mostly avoided looking at the box picture as a guide. Previously I’ve taken a photo about every other sitting, but this puzzle was actually assembled in just six sittings. My four-year-old helped. She did the fish’s open mouth all by herself, so had her own sitting between pics 2 and 3 and surprised me with it.

by Bob Tarte

This was a nice read about people and cats. The author tells how, in spite of never liking cats as a child, his household gradually expanded from just one cat to include six. Adding a second cat seemed impossible- what if they don\’t get along? a third, not so much trouble, and after that it just seemed to happen. They really do seem to be bird people (ducks, chickens, geese and especially parrots, which starred in a prior book) but cannot turn down a needy cat when its owners are about to ditch it. There\’s a continual kitty shuffle as each new arrival finds its way to fit in. Very apt descriptions of how determined and inscrutable cats can be. Getting their own way, making you laugh one minute, striking out the next, then melting it all with a show of affection. Anybody who\’s lived with a cat can appreciate this book with its unique, individual feline personalities. Yes there are some headaches and anxious moments as several of their cats go through illness or meet with accidents, but I will let you know it all turns out well in the end (no death).

I have to say I enjoyed this one a lot more than Fowl Weather. Maybe I just was not in the right mood to read the other book, or this one wasn\’t so heavy-handed with the humor? But in this case the author\’s little asides and tongue-in-cheek remarks made me chuckle, they didn\’t seem exaggerated or tiresome as I recall thinking before…

I borrowed this one from the public library.

Rating: 3/5         288 pages, 2012

more opinions:
Bookfoolery
Lesa\’s Book Critiques

This list proves I\’m still reading all your blogs, even if I seldom find something meaningful to say and leave a comment. Book titles not linked to a fellow blogger are from browsing at the public library, were mentioned in another book I read, or were seen in a gift shop at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History…

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall- Shelf Love
Life in Motion by Misty Copeland- Caroline Bookbinder
All the Light We Cannot See by Antonhy Doerr- Shelf Love
Every Boy Should Have a Man by Preston L. Allen- Farm Lane Books Blog
The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck- Caroline Bookbinder
The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg- Farm Lane Books Blog
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet- Reading the End
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney- Caroline Bookbinder
What the Robin Knows by Jon Young
Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead
Domesticated by Richard Francis
The Narrow Edge by Deborah Cramer
World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky
Horses Never Lie About Love by Jana Harris
Invisible Beasts by Sharon Muir
Oh, Rats! by Albert Marrin
The Bluebird Effect by Julie Zickefoose
What If? by Randall Munroe
Animalium by Jenny Broom
Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature by N.B. Davies
Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst
The Hidden Life of Wolves by James Dutcher
Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History by Eric Chaline
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo- Melody\’s Reading Corner

The Utopia Experiment by Dylan Evans- Farm Lane Books Blog
People of the Sky by Clare Bell- recommended by Thistle Chaser
Miracle Dog by Randy Grim
Hawk Hill by Suzie Gilbert
The House of Owls by Tony Angell
The Man Who Talks to Dogs by Melinda Roth
Chimpanzees of the Lakeshore by Toshisada Nishida
Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest by Christophe Boesch
Among the Bone Eaters by Marcus Baynes-Rock
The Chimpanzees of Gombe by Jane Goodall
Lost Animals by Errol Fuller
Zombie Birds, Astronaut Fish, and Other Weird Animals by Becky Crew
Mammals of Ungava and Labrador by Scott A. Heyes and Kristofer M. Helgen (editors)

by Leonard Lee Rue III

This instructional book by a successful wildlife photographer outlines his methods and gives advice on getting professional level photos of wild animals. The author covers every aspect of it, from technical details on using camera equipment to the artistic side of things- visualizing and framing a nice composition. Also things like how to manage photography trips abroad and simple tips on handling the business side of things like approaching editors, writing contracts and so on. Even what kinds of socks and outerwear he uses in different situations (this can be crucial!) And tons of helpful tips on little things- how to set up blinds, how to approach bird nests, how to hold the camera steady in various situations, what time of day to go out for pictures, what kinds of animals it\’s better to get photos in the field or in a studio, how to get good pictures at a zoo, how wildlife behaves differently in a park frequented by tourists as opposed to really remote areas and on and on. I\’m not really a photographer so the parts that interested me the most were his advice on approaching wildlife because of what it teaches on their behavior- where to find animals, how to get close to them (or when to stay away and use telephoto lens!) how to be safe in the wilderness, how to lure certain animals closer, what to know about their habits and so on. You can tell the man really knows his stuff. I am pretty sure many of the details about equipment are outdated at this point, although the basics of camera use, light metering and composition are still useful. Also the career side of things have also drastically changed- the author tells about sending sample photos (actual prints) off to editors of outdoors magazines, but when I google his name it\’s easy to see he sells his work on photo stock sites now. When he wrote the book his focus was mostly on black-and-white photography, and his work is high quality. He makes it clear that while he loves what he does, being a dedicated wildlife photographer is a lot of hard work.

The author has written many other books about wildlife (he is a naturalist at heart) and now I\’m going to keep my eye out for them.

Rating: 4/5       287 pages, 1984

by Edward Eager

Gladly, this book has all the charm of the first two again. Five kids discover a mysterious old book in the library. It appears to be telling a story about them, only the book isn\’t complete, the end a run of blank pages. So they figure out it\’s a magic book and they can have adventures that will fill it up. I\’m not sure how it happens they decide their rules are how the magic works, but in a now-familiar pattern they take turns wishing themselves into curious and exciting episodes, that don\’t always turn out the way they expect. The book can only put them in adventures that come from other books, and I happened to recognize most of these. They go to the land of Oz before it was Oz (apparently), visit the prairie of the Little House books (with their own grandmother as a young schoolteacher), pause on Robinson Crusoe\’s island, and even have an encounter with characters from one of Eager\’s other books, with magic of her own. The episode where a baby got turned into a man who still acted and thought like a baby but could now speak, was hilarious. The part where one girl gets carried away by a dragon who is then shrunk down small enough to get pounced on by a cat, very clever. (Dragons and cats have always seemed to have similar temperaments, to me. It made sense they would dislike each other!) And the story of a girl wishing her father would make it big on the stage (he was a backup singer for a television performer) turned out to be a big criticism of television, with the kids all hoping this new invention of entertainment would not shoulder out books in the future. It\’s also fun that apart from this group of children, the book has different contents for each person who picks it up. All in all, it\’s a very fun bookish story with references dropped all over the place that I very much enjoyed.

Apparently The Well-Wishers was an anomaly of Eager\’s; other reviewers mention it is also their least-favorite of the series, and reading Seven-Day Magic has upped my hopes that all the rest I find will be good too.

Rating: 3/5       190 pages, 1962

more opinions:
A Little Reading

by Edward Eager

This story is about a bunch of kids whose friendship centers around a wishing well in one of their yards, which they assume is magic.The style of this book is slightly different. Each chapter is told from a different point of view, as the kids take turns initiating magic by wishing on the well (with the intent of doing good and helping someone). Except- it doesn\’t really seem to be magic at all. The situations they get into all have a curious outcome, created by the magic well or just lucky circumstance? They do make good stories, and they\’re nice studies of human nature and kids just being kids, but not the same sort of thing I got in the prior two books.

My favorite chapters were one where the children help a man whose apple orchard is doomed to being plowed up for a new development, and another where they welcome a new family into the neighborhood by starting a garden and gathering houseplants. There\’s also one about a lonely reclusive child who is befriended, another about a bully who reaches an understanding with them, one where the young son of the new family resents everyone, and a final \’adventure\’ where an older girl plays on the kids\’ belief in magic to get her own way. I found that one the most amusing. The final chapter is kind of awkward, where each kid gives a little wrap-up to their part of the story. Part of what didn\’t work for me was the voices didn\’t really vary enough to feel distinct, and I wasn\’t familiar with the characters. I think this is one I would have liked better if I\’d read its predecessor first (or maybe if I\’d read it first as a kid…)

I borrowed this book from the public library. After liking Half Magic and Magic by the Lake so much, I wanted to read all of Edward Eager\’s magic series, but my library system doesn\’t have Knight\’s Castle at all, and I\’m approaching the others out of order as they come up individually on hold. (Hey, at least that means someone else out there is reading them!)

Rating: 2/5      220 pages, 1960

by Jane Goodall
with Phillip Berman

Jane Goodall is one of the field research scientists I have long admired. I was enthralled by her earlier books about studying chimpanzees in the wild and theorizing on what the behavior of these apes, so closely related to humans, could teach us. While this book mentions many of the highlights of her chimp studies, most of it is about her life before and after the pivotal Gombe studies. She tells of her childhood, what her family life was like, at what young age she displayed great concern for all animals. She describes how her life path led to working for Louis Leakey, how she first arrived in the rainforests surrounding the Gombe, and how the chimps changed her life. There\’s a switch in focus when she had a son to raise; by then students and other researchers had taken on the bulk of the chimpanzee work. Goodall learned of the often horrific conditions chimps were usually kept in when captive- whether in the pet trade, zoos, or research facilities, and it became her life work to fight for their cause. She does express regrets and not being able to spend time in direct contact with the apes she had grown to know so well, in the peaceful natural surroundings of the forest. Now her work is about environmentalism and educating the public, especially those living in poor areas near threatened wildlife. Throughout the book she also discusses her own spirituality, her faith in mankind despite the awful things she has seen and pondered over (particularly the Holocaust), how she has overcome personal trials, and various small stories about changing attitudes of individuals regarding the need to care for the environment and wildlife. Such an inspiring woman.

And yet I feel a bit disappointed in the book. It doesn\’t have quite the depth I recall from earlier books that were solely about the chimpanzee research. Sincerity and a good cause, yes. Interesting writing- not really. Overall it is rather bland. I also felt this way about her book on mindful food consumption, but wasn\’t brave enough to mention it then. I do still think I\’d like the read The Chimpanzees of Gombe, but after that I\’m afraid I\’m loosing interest in her books.

Rating: 3/5       282 pages, 1999

Here’s an old puzzle. It’s a 550 piece Kodacolor with teal colored backsides. The pieces are very uniform- I don’t think there’s a single piece in this puzzle that doesn’t have two bumps and two holes (aside from the edges of course), so putting it together is all a matter of matching colors. The pieces are too small to easily visualize slight differences in shape. Surprisingly, I enjoyed this one- the foliage is a challenge. And my kids were all into it just because the kittens are cute! I didn’t make an effort to challenge myself on this one, but just started with the areas of greatest contrast or interest, and worked from there.

by Charles de Lint

Just for fun I read another book connected to The Cats of Tanglewood Forest– this one tells another adventure set decades later. Lillian of the first book is now an old lady. A family of girls lives down the hill- seven red-haired sisters. They all have their own interests and personalities of course, which comes into play significantly in the story. One girl meets Lilian, goes off collecting ginseng root in the forests, and rescues a \’sangman (personification of the spirit of the ginseng I guess) who had been injured. Her good deed is seen as an unwanted intrusion into an ancient quarrel between two groups of fairies- the woodsy root-like \’sangmen and the bee fairies. As one sister gets drawn into the strife, others do also- several sets of twins are taken hostage by either side, there are bargains and fiddling contests (that fail) and strange magical characters and differing codes of honor and fair play among the fairies. Lots of familiar themes with a new turn. I did like that.

But it wasn\’t quite enjoyable. Too many sisters to keep track of, not enough depth or story for my liking. I wanted more of the cat-man L\’il Pater! There were hints of other stories untold- some secret history between Lilian and the Apple Tree Man that I don\’t recall at all from Cats of Tanglewood Forest, and suggestions of another story that might someday follow this one. I don\’t know if I\’ll ever feel motivated to pick it up, though.

It was curious to see some similar themes to another very different book I just read, A Girl of the Limberlost. Here we also had a woman protecting acres and acres of land, refusing to fell the trees for profit, handing ownership to a younger woman with an injunction to keep it whole… People living close to the land, using their own resources. I kind of wished for more of that stuff and less of the fairies, but then it wouldn\’t have been the same story at all!

Rating: 2/5        260 pages, 2014

more opinions:
Puss Reboots

by Charles de Lint

This is the original telling of Charles de Lint\’s fable about a girl who gets bitten by a poisonous snake and saved by a bunch of wild cats. To escape death, they magically turn her into a cat. She doesn\’t want to be a cat and her first thought is to find out how to get changed back into a girl. At first she believes that fairies turned her into a cat, but an owl sets her straight. This story is rather brief; the girl goes straight to the spirit of the apple tree and the panther Father of Cats himself for her remedy. It\’s still got a lot of charm and good morale (about repay your debts and making wise choices) but personally I like the expanded version The Cats of Tanglewood Forest better. I\’m glad he wrote it. The illustrations by Charles Vess are better in the second book, too.

I saw this one mentioned on Puss Reboots, which prompted me to pick it up at the library.

Rating: 3/5        52 pages, 2003

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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