Tag: 2/5- Just Okay

Animorphs #37
by K.A. Applegate

Wow, it\’s been a long time. I didn\’t really feel like reading Animorphs again, but my other current read is a tough book- so I need breaks between chapters, and this happens to be a good alternative, in an odd way. Turns out I read half of The Weakness months and months ago, then put it down and forgot about it. Don\’t remember why. Skimmed a bit to remind myself of the storyline, but didn\’t bother to re-read entire chapters again. Jake is absent so the team decides to put Rachel in charge when a report comes in of discovering the Visser\’s secret feeding spot. They can\’t pass up the opportunity to try and get the enemy. Rachel is all for just trying to chase him down (using a new cheetah morph) but of course they fail. Also meet a new alien creature, the only good thing here being that the Visser and this new enemy the Inspector appear to despise each other, which is to the Animorphs\’ advantage. Then they decide to rush around town storming different shops and locations one after the other making it appear that they have much larger numbers than in reality, so the Visser will look bad in front of the Inspector. Causing a lot of conspicuous damage and probably hurting innocent people (not like them at all). Then to bash in on a meeting of high-up Controllers, all of them using polar bear form instead of their usual battle morphs. It goes badly. Cassie gets captured and almost forced into the Yeerk pool. The others barely save her in time- using bird of prey morphs and one cobra. They pretty much only escape because when Marco-as-cobra takes the Inspector down, the Visser and all his underlings just stand there staring, instead of grabbing the Animorphs who are exhausted and injured. All these frenetic attacks without much planning were Rachel\’s push, but she has doubts the whole time and feels terrible about putting her friends in danger and afterwards when Jake returns asks him: how do you do it? how can you stand to make those decisions, putting your friends\’ lives on the line? He flinches for a moment then closes it off and says: I just don\’t think about it. Well, I could have done without all the hectic nonsense fighting scenes, but the ending had a more serious note.

Rating: 2/5                144 pages, 1999

more opinions:
The Library Ladies
Arkham Reviews
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales

by Meir Shalev

I didn\’t realize this when I first picked it up (at the Book Thing), but it\’s a love story. Two love stories actually- past and present which have an almost too tidy connection, but also confused me at first keeping straight who was who. Doesn\’t help that the narrator sometimes addresses his mother in second person, other times referring to her in third. Not just in the same chapter or paragraph, but often in the same sentence. This is also a war story, and pigeons have a key role, because several of the main characters work in pigeon lofts. Two of them start as young people, boy and girl in different cities, sending love notes to each other via the birds (even though they\’re only supposed to carry official messages). I did like the parts about the pigeons and how they are kept, the symbolism quite strong as a lot of this story is also about home. What makes a home, what holds you there, what draws you back when you\’ve been away. And a large part is also about one character (present day) having an old house remodeled to suit his tastes exactly. Some parts were interesting and others bored me a lot and then a key event occurs which seemed so implausible (plus the pigeons start talking to people- and this is not a talking animal story- maybe they were delusional?) that I really had difficulty finishing the book at all. Well, it certainly was a romantic idea, but kind of ridiculous too. I did not like the ending. Characters did things that seemed really unlike them, made no sense, and even angered me. This one\’s not staying in my collection.

Rating: 2/5                  311 pages, 2007

Encounters with Feral Cats

by Ellen Perry Berkeley

The author and her husband lived in a rural area of Vermont, and soon noticed cats around their property. At one time or another they fed or closely observed six different cats, and here describe the feline characters. Some only came to eat and they left again without much interaction. One brought her kittens, which disappeared within a few days. An obviously ill black cat staggered onto their driveway, laid down and died (while the author watched from inside, considering shooting the cat to end its misery but unable to bring herself to do so). Two male cats- one that hangs around for a while then goes off to make its individual living elsewhere- they often see it at some distance in a field later on- and another which starts to act pushy towards a female cat they really admire- are prominent characters. The cat that gets the most pages is a female tortoiseshell that gradually became very friendly and eventually lived inside their house. In alternate chapters the author discusses facts about feral cats. There\’s several studies on feral cat populations on individual islands mentioned, how the cats do or do not affect other animal populations. Other studies on feral cat numbers in different areas of the country, how prevalent disease is among them, how old they live, etc etc are also referenced. This book was written before trap-neuter-release was really done, so other methods of control- and questioning the need for it at all- is gone over. Reports on findings inside the stomachs of feral cats are given, indicating that they don\’t kill many songbirds- the vast majority of their prey is rodents. It\’s a nice little book, but seems to have so many unknowns stated, especially in those chapters on studies that don\’t have any consensus- because many of them were not finished, or done extensively enough, or had different results in different areas. The main conclusion I drew was that cats are definitely survivors, they don\’t really need people, they are very much individuals, and thus is all the more a mystery and pleasure when they share your home. But I would have preferred more detail about the cats the author personally knew, then reading all the people she quoted. Maybe this is one of the first books to consolidate research on feral cats, but if so it\’s done rather casually is my opinion.

Rating: 2/5           142 pages, 1982

Sustainable Gardening Methods
by Vincent A. Simeone

This book looks nice, but was a disappointment for me. It has thick, glossy paper and clear photographs, but they\’re often not identified so you might not know which of the plants in the text is pictured. As the material seems aimed at beginning gardeners, this felt lacking. I do appreciate the message, to use gardening methods that are environmentally friendly and cost effective: saving water, selecting plants that require less care, encouraging wildlife etc. However there wasn\’t much new material in here for me. It wasn\’t interesting until page 90 where I was looking forward to the chapters about integrated pest management and attracting wildlife, but even that felt bland. I dutifully finished the book hoping to glean something, and noticed after a while that a lot of the text is repetitive, there are quite a few typos, and the information never gets deep enough to actually be useful. For example, the charts never tell you much more than the text itself did. One section in the book says you should survey insect pests on your plants regularly and lists things to gather for the task, but then doesn\’t tell you how to use the items. Also, the chapter intros have a printed background of burlap texture, which makes the text annoyingly hard to read (might have worked if the font was bold for those pages). It also tends to veer slightly off-topic sometimes, into other ways you can make your home and landscape more \’green\’. Not just about gardening, and I didn\’t learn a bunch of new ways to recycle and save in the garden like I\’d hoped. So I can\’t recommend it, except to absolute beginners who want a nice general introduction into organic, sustainable gardening.

Rating: 2/5              192 pages, 2013

by Malcolm Gladwell

I finished a book. I didn\’t really like it, so am having a hard time thinking what to say. The subtitle: What We Should Know About the People We Don\’t Know. Which seems to be, in a nutshell: you\’ll never be able to judge strangers accurately. You will misread their facial expressions, truthfulness and intentions more than half the time. This book has lots of examples from famous court cases, encounters with police gone badly wrong, incidents of sexual assault and pedophilia, meetings between enemy leaders of countries, high ranking FBI agents who were duped by spies for years and so on. All about how people who are trained to pick out the lies and find the wrongdoers are so very often wrong. There\’s a part about studies that show how deprivation and torture makes prisoners very bad about providing information- it affects the brain, the memory- so the info they do give is probably inaccurate. So why do people keep getting tortured in order to extract information? There\’s another section all about suicides- in particular with details on Sylvia Plath- which I found educational to read in one sense, and very upsetting in another. The takeaway seems to be: as a human race we\’re bad at judging people we don\’t know. We guess wrong. So stop trying? It doesn\’t really give any suggestions on that. Only that we shouldn\’t be too harsh on people who were taken in by strangers or misled, because it\’s so very easy to fall prey. I found the implications depressing honestly. There\’s a lot more, but I don\’t really feel like thumbing through the book to remind myself of them right now. Check out Goodreads, or some of the links below. Lots of different opinions on this one.

Borrowed from my sister.

Rating: 2/5            386 pages, 2019

more opinions:
Book\’d Out
Rhapsody in Books Weblog
anyone else?

An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden
by Ruth Kassinger

I don\’t know if it\’s just my mental state, but I found this book a disappointment. It seemed right up my alley- a woman who could barely keep a single houseplant alive, suddenly feels inspired to build what I\’d call a large sunroom onto her house to replace an old deck. She stocks it with fruit trees and vibrant tropical foliage plants, learning by mistakes and with the guidance of a helpful local nursery employee. Becoming enthused with all the green growing things, she travels to visit commercial greenhouses and public arboretums, admiring a living green wall, learning about the history of clivias and Victorian fern hunters, seeing what it takes for an operation to produce thousands of houseplants for sale. She tells a lot about the history of greenhouses- starting with how citrus trees were first imported from China to other countries and kept alive through the winters- and early plant collectors and the architecture of glass buildings and so much of that overwhelmed the main story and made my eyes swim. I really was not interested in all the historical people and their doings. I\’d have rather just read the personal bits- the part about butterflies was really wonderful, also the chapter on how she battled infestations in her sunroom and learned about beneficial bugs. The section about her sister\’s poor health very sad but also felt a little out of place. In all it was a rather uneven read for me- I really liked reading about her own plants and how she learned to care for them, but the historical sections failed to hold my interest.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5          347 pages, 2010

vol. 4

by Konami Kanata
Adapted by Kinoko Natsume

This fourth volume of Chi’s Sweet Adventures is obviously aiming more at entertaining children watching the cute tv show, so it wasn’t quite as appealing to me. I really prefer the earlier series that sticks more or less to what a real kitten’s life is like. There’s still plenty of normal stuff in here- Chi gets repeated lessons from Blackie on how to hiss and intimidate- practicing on frogs and lizards- but she’s too darn cute to make it convincing. Chi and Cocchi go wandering at night, someone gives them fish to eat, but older stray cats chase them trying to steal the food. The kittens are out on a very hot day and try desperately to find shade- sometimes in amusing places. They chase cicadas up trees and then admire the view, but are a bit scared to come down again. They’re frightened by a coiled hose, thinking it a snake. At home, Chi watches her family argue and fight, and feels lonely in the empty rooms when everyone’s avoiding each other- and later she helps them come together again.

The bits that stretched reality were Chi and the other kittens climbing up into the clouds (turned out to be a dream), pushing a skateboard then deliberately jumping on it for a ride, and Chi visiting the beach with the family. That part could be realistic, except Chi acted excited and curious and played with the waves more like a dog than a cat, in my opinion. I did appreciate one part that was really true to modern life- the boy Yohei busy playing video games on a device, ignoring both Chi and his dad. Dad brings out a bunch of nostalgic old-fashioned toys trying to convince Yohei to play, Chi starts joining in which finally gets the kid interested too. I liked that.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5           88 pages, 2017

by Andy Weir

You\’ve probably heard of this one. Astronaut gets stranded on Mars and has to figure out survival completely alone in a hostile environment, for over a year while he hopes for rescue. He does manage to make contact with Earth eventually, so knows when he might get rescued- and the food will run out long before it\’s possible. So he rigs stuff up, activates soil, reclaims more water, grows potatoes. Has lots of equipment failures or simple mistakes that throw things awry, sometimes to the point of disaster it looks like- but he always manages to squeak past death and survive another day. I thought I would enjoy this just as much, if not more, than the movie version- which I saw quite a while ago- because a lot of the science is explained here (and it\’s based on a lot of research, reputedly very true-to-life what that kind of situation would be like) but unfortunately the explanations mostly either went over my head or were boring, so I found I didn\’t get more out of it. The film was more gripping, I followed along better seeing the suspenseful moments, whereas this book doesn\’t really convey a lot of emotion. You hardly get to know the main character as a person. It\’s all about the problems he\’s tackling. There is some humor thrown in there- but honestly I didn\’t find it funny, just tiresome. Being a gardener, I was pretty interested in how he got a potato farm going on Mars to feed himself, but even that lacked the kind of description I enjoy. When the story moved on I still wanted to see how it all played out (having forgotten a lot of key points) but turns out it was fairly dull and I didn\’t get a sense of tension in the end, I was just turning pages to be done. So this is another case where I actually preferred the movie. That\’s all.

However, lots of other readers enjoyed it- see the links below.

Rating: 2/5           435 pages, 2011

more opinions:
Indextrious Reader
Attack of the Books!
That\’s What She Read
Bookalicious Babe

by Mitchell Bornstein

Subtitled The Story of One Horse, One Horseman, and One Final Shot at Redemption. This guy is a lawyer, but his passion on the side is working with problem horses. He takes on a project to train an adopted mustang that seemed impossibly violent and unpredictable- the horse attacked other animals and people, destroyed property, fought viciously any attempts at being handled, and constantly injured himself on fences trying to escape. He\’d been caught off the range after living years of his life a free wild stallion, and was gelded at the age of twelve- which did very little to change his behavior by the way. The owner asked Bornstein to work with him as a last resort. So this book is about how the author worked through issues with the intractable horse, step by step teaching him that this one person, at least, did not mean him harm, and working to get him to accept halter and lead, bridle and eventually even a saddle. The details about methods used to approach and train the horse- readjusting its thinking from flight-or-fight to understanding and then acceptance- was fascinating and the reason I kept reading. The rest of the book- not so much. I got tired of the repetitive, flowery clichés and how the author explained himself over and over again. While the atrocities of how wild mustangs were treated by government management programs is useful and interesting information, I felt there was too much of it in this book. It did give me more detail than what I\’ve gleaned from books like The Horse Lover or Nobody\’s Horses, but to the point that I started skimming a lot- rather felt those sections interrupted the story instead of enhancing it. And while I don\’t mind a bit of anthropomorphism- I do believe that animals have emotions- I felt this author took it too far, and I often questioned what he imagined the animals were thinking. (He also made a lot of assumptions about abuse the horse must have suffered in its past). While I enjoyed the main story, and admire the patience and perseverance this man had to work with a horse nobody else could handle, overall I was left with a feeling of unease akin to the end of reading A Dog Called Perth (but not for the same reasons).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5            300 pages, 2015

Age of Fire Book One
by E.E. Knight

It\’s a story from a dragon\’s perspective, and that\’s the main enjoyment I got out of it. The young dragon hatches in a secluded cave guarded by his parents and immediately pitches into a battle for survival- the male hatchlings fight for dominance and one ousts all others from the nest. The young dragon then grows with its sisters under the watchful eye of parents, learning dragon lore and practicing hunting skills on slugs and bats. Before he is old enough to venture into the outside world, their cave is attacked by a band of dwarves, and the dragon barely escapes with one of his siblings. He embarks on a long trek- at first attempting to return to the cave and discover what happened to his family, but then gets separated from his sibling and is just scrambling to survive. He falls in with some wolves, then gets caught by elves and escapes, then makes a deal to guard a caravan of traders, then goes on a search to find an ancient dragon who might tell him why their race is dying out. Eventually ends up in the company of humans- and part of a tangled confusing war- all the different hominids in this world (elves, dwarves, humans and creatures called blighters) are fighting each other, but one group seems to be overpowering the rest because it controls dragons to battle for them. Our dragon seeks them out, hoping to discover what enabled one man to command the dragons, but he finds much more than he\’d bargained for.

Well- there\’s a lot I liked about this book, and a lot I didn\’t. I found this author\’s idea of dragon physiology really intriguing- especially the main character who was different from the other dragons, being born without protective scales. While others immediately saw him as a weakling or a freak, he found his own strength and was often quite clever and bold. I was just as curious as the protagonist to find out how the other dragons were being held in thrall, and the part where he infiltrates the enemy island was pretty interesting. But all the middle of the book- what a slog. It seemed that any part where the dragon was accompanying hominids got to be very dull and boring. I just did not care about their factions and battles and different cultures. The conversations are often awkward, the characters\’ reactions to things feel flat, and the pacing is sometimes odd. I like these dragons, but the execution felt a bit poor. In spite of that, I\’m moving on to the second book in the series, there is something about the story that makes me want to find out what happens.

Oh, and if this might bother some readers- there\’s a lot of death. The dragon eats children, bites the head off foes, tears apart animal prey and so on. It\’s really quite brutal and bloody- which you\’d expect from a story about the dragon\’s viewpoint- but also very tame for all that- the descriptions never really made me feel squeamish or horrified- just oh, so that guy lost his head too? Moving on! which was part of the disconnect I felt through the whole thing . . .

Rating: 2/5                            371 pages, 2005


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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