JuniperSun's 11/11 "There is no Try"
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New to LT and thought I'd jump right in with a challenge. Usually I read this many books in a year, easily, but never considered trying to keep track by categories. I'm kind of overcommitted with projects now so I'll see how it goes. --11-22-11 adding my planned books as TBR listings, to help identify categories I need help with. Most of these really are from my TBR pile.
3)Earth (nature writings)
6)Air (don't know if I've seen any interesting books about air, so I may need help coming up with good ideas for this)
7)Native American subjects
List repeated w/books read-- I'll get reviews added later:
.........1) The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook reviewed message 6
.........2) keeping the bees reviewed message 14
..........3) The Secret Life of Bees reviewed message 38
..........4) What's the Buzz? reveiwed message 37
.........5) Little Bee: a Novel reviewed message 66
.........6) Honeybee: Poems reviewed message 67
.........7) Buzz Off reviewed message 74
..........8) A Recipe for Bees message 144
..........9) Chalice message 161
..........10) Like Bees to Honey message 173
..........11) Natural Beekeeping message 175
..........1)Seeds of Change: the living treasure reviewed message 13
..........2) Talking Dirt reviewed message 20
..........3) The Informed Gardener Blooms Again reviewed message 21
..........4) Gardening For The Future of the Earth reviewed message 22
..........5)Gardening When It Counts reviewed message 23
..........6) parsnips in the snow reviewed message 29
..........7) Growing Trees from Seed reviewed message 54
..........8) The Beetless' Gardening Book reviewed message 78
..........9) Seasons on Henry's Farm message 111
..........10) The Faithful Gardener message 153
..........11) Cultivating Delight message 156
3)Earth (or nature writings) too bad I've already read Pillars of Earth, that was a great book.
..........1) Here on Earth reviewed message 64
..........2) Building With Earth: a Guide to flexible-form earthbag construction message 24 (duplicate count)
...........3) The Earth Hums in B Flat message 82
...........4) Sisters of the Earth message 101
...........5) Little Earthquakes message 130
...........6) Earthly Justice message 137
...........7) tunneling to the center of the earth message 148
...........8) Hope of Earth message 174
...........9) TBR Unaccustomed Earth
...........10) TBR The Earth Speaks
...........11) TBR Prairy Erth
...........1) The Water's Edge message 84
...........2) River Cross My Heart message 97
............3) Running Water message 115
...........4) True Power of Water message 114
...........5) The Well and the Mine message 116
...........6) The Sound of Water message 127
...........7) The Drowning Man message 128
...........8) A Deeper Sea message 135
...........9) At the Scent of Water message 136
..........10)The Nature of Water and Air message 145
..........11) Carry Me Like Water message 152
..........12) Carry on Mr Bowditch message 165
..........13) Stowaway message 165
.........1) Fire Watch reviewed message 59
.........2) Firefly Letters reviewed message 65
.........3) Fire the Sky message 84
.........4) The Girl Who Played With Fire reviewed message 85
.........5) Dreams of Bread and Fire message 107
.........6) Dies the Fire message 121
.........7) It was on Fire When I Lay message 157
.........8) Fire message 170
.........9) Eating Fire, Tasting Blood message 171
........10) The Fire message 172 (really shouldn't count since I didn't finish, but I gave it a shot, & it's time to close this thread)
........11) Fire from Heaven message 172
..........1) The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope msg 17
..........2) How to Read the Air reviewed message 58
..........3) The Folk of the Air reviewed message 33
..........4) Late nights on Air reviewed message 60
..........5) Unlocking the Air reviewed message 61
..........6) The Air We Breathe message 146
..........7) A Breath of Fresh Air message 90
..........8) Air Ferrets Aloft reviewed 83
..........9) Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting message 122
........10) Thin Air message 140
.........11) The Haunted Air message 141
.........12) Fresh Air message 151. What am I doing reading more than 11 in a category when I still have unfinished categories? My excuse: I forgot how many I read & picked up a bunch of books in the category at my last library visit--I couldn't return them unread, could I?
7)Native American subjects
.........1) Buffalo Woman Comes Singing reviewed message 16
.........2) Last Standing Woman reviewed message 36
.........3) Deluge reviewed message 62
.........4) Fire the Sky message 84
.........5) Bernadette Lefthand message 98
.........6) Gardens in Dunes message 102
.........7) Sastun message 105
.........8) Scalpel and the Silver Bear message 106
.........9) Roots of Survival message 169
.......10) Education of Little Tree message 168
........11) Eating Fire, Tasting Blood message 171 double counting this book
.........1) Full Moon Feast reviewed message 7
.........2) Animal Vegetable Miracle message 108
.........3) How much is enough reviewed message 25
.........4) IOU New writing on money reviewed message 26
.........5) the humanure handbook review message 35
.........6) Balance Point: Searching for a Spiritual Missing Link reviewed message 39
.........7) Gaviotas reviewed message 47
.........8) Spent: end exhaustion and feel great again message 79
.........9) Bringing Nature Home message 80
.........10) Building With Earth: a Guide to flexible-form earthbag construction message 24 (duplicate count)
.........11)Farming and the Fate of Wild Nature message 177
.........12) Making Home: Adapting message 178
.........1) Finding Fish reviewed message 31
.........2) A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska reviewed message 32
.........3) Stargazing reviewed message 127
.........4) West with the Night reviewed message 72
.........5) Reason for Hope reviewed message 77
.........6) The Phoenix Trip message 81
.........7) My Double Life: Memoirs of a Naturalist message 87
.........8) The Woman Warrior message 93 along with
.........9) The Road to Coorain message 93
........10) Momma Zen reviewed message 126
.........11) The Wheel of Life: a Memoir message 139
........12) Pastures of Plenty message 158 (to make up for some entries just being memoirs)
.........1) Rut reviewed message 9
.........2) Bone Dance reviewed message 18
.........3) Gathering Blue reviewed message 42
.........4) An Acceptable Time reviewed message 43
.........5) The Shore of Women reviewed message 46
.........6) Across the Universe message 92
.........7) The Postman message 91
.........8) Brown Girl in the Ring message 89
.........9) Ill Wind message 159
.........10) White Horse by Alex Adams (ARC, no touchstone) message 160
.........11) Life as we Knew It message 163
.........1) Ordinary Wolves reviewed message 19
.........2) Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia reviewed message 15
.........3)Silverwing reviewed message 41
.........4) The White Giraffe reviewed message 48
.........5) Water for Elephants reviewed message 51
.........6) Wild Health reviewed message 53
.........7) The White Bone reviewed message 56
.........8) Shopping for Porcupine reviewed message 69
.........9) Fup reviewed message 73
........10)The Badgers of Summercombe message 94
........11) Ape House message 103
Thank you DeltaQueen. I'm just hoping I can find time to pop in here--or rather, hoping I can limit my browsing othe people's lists so I have time to read mine.
>3 Thanks for the suggestions BCTeaGrl. Kite Runner has been on my WTR pile and I always like books about the North so I'll look for Late Nights.
I took a peek at your dystopia category--I think there will be some crossover with my alternate futures category, only most of your selections were older & I'm usually looking for something new.
Category 1: Bees
I just finished The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook. The first part I would give a 5* because I'm also very interested in plants, but the second part drops it down. The recipes are more yuppie than I cook (who has time to create exciting dishes when there are books to read?).
Most of the standard books on beekeeping focus on getting high production from the bees. When you care for hives for your own use, you can focus on quality rather than quantity. This is not necessarily a beginner’s instruction manual, rather it is a guide to delving further into honey. In the first 1/3 of the book, Flottum shows us how to pay attention to what plants are flowering at different times and the different flavors of honey produced. Keeping track of the weather (or getting Growing Degree Days online from an Ag Extension agent) will help you predict blossom time. She also explains how to manage your bees so they are ready for peak production at the same time the plants are at peak production by explaining what motivates bees to forage. This is the section I got the most from, and the main reason for rating the book as high as 4.
The second 1/3 of the book describes how to harvest honey in a way that preserves the unique scent and flavor of each batch. Some of her procedures, while standard, may not be approved by beekeepers who are Bee Guardians (i.e. letting the bees flourish under their own instinctual behaviors). For example, she uses air blowers to chase the bees away from frames she wants to harvest. Her description and photos for an efficient extracting room are much more extensive than any “backyard” beekeeper would use. Apparently she has shifted her focus to production for commercial sale of “artisanal” honey. Her advice on dealing with solid honey is well worth checking, since most methods of liquefying honey actually overheat it and cause loss of enzymes and flavor. She says the critical temperature is 110° F. A small bottle may be warmed in a pan of hot water (watch the temperature!) and a 5 gallon pail can be warmed by setting it in a homemade Styrofoam enclosure with a single 40 watt light bulb.
The final 1/3 of the book is a collection of recipes which highlight different flavors of honey. Barbecue sauces, dips, dressings, drinks (yes! there is Wassail) and spreads are featured, in addition to the expected desserts and breads. I haven’t tried any, tho they all look simple enough, so can’t comment further.
Category 8) Sustainability 5*
I have just finished Full Moon Feast and I am awed. Prentice ties it all together: food, culture, agricultural practices, Peak Oil, artificial lighting, yearly cycles, and human health. She challenges some of the current trends in nutrition (vegetarianism, low fat, sugars) while supporting others (pesticide- and antiobitic-free foods, local sourcing). References are provided for many of her assertions. While she quotes from a wide variety of researchers and other authors, she does not necessarily take all their statements as gospel. For example, while frequently referring to Weston Price’s research on the effects of dietary changes on human health, in the final chapter she notes he missed the concurrent changes in those traditional cultures’ lifestyles. Although she brings up serious problems, which other writers have treated as crises, Prentice maintains a positive tone. I greatly appreciate the way she closes each chapter with some wish for us and our lives.
My only quarrel with her is her unqualified promotion of fermented foods. She identifies the ways many traditional cultures used fermented or cultured foods, and provides some recipes, yet never mentions the controls necessary to prevent unwanted contamination with spoilage bacteria. Most of her smattering of recipes didn’t seem unique enough to recommend this as a cookbook---in fact, one of her points is that we need to trust our own intuition in cooking—but this book definitely has a place on my shelf for its cohesive synthesis of human’s relationship with food
5,6: Thanks! Yes I am playing catchup with my reading, catching up on the old classics I should have read a long time ago :)
The Backyard Beekeeper is a book I have been considering, thank you for the review!
10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures rut 5* I loved this book--maybe bcause I'd like to be out there researching amphibians (salamanders esp). I write reviews to help me remember everything. Let me know if I'm putting in too many spoilers.
Phillips extrapolates a possible near future from some current trends. What would happen if right-wing religio-politicos really controlled the US, energy shortages were the norm, and China controlled world economics?
Bridget is a grad student studying environmental effects on animals. She is welcomed by the residents of Gower, a small Rocky Mountain community, yet one of the first questions posed to her by Cole, Stacey’s teenage son, is what her religion is. Apparently everyone needs to have a declared religious (Christian) affiliation in the US. She camps out by a pond with a reproducing amphibian population—quite unusual in this time of genetic anomalies and sure to earn her professional recognition. Gower is full of odd characters: Darla, a former rock star groupie who is now an aging bag lady; Dr Glaspie, the vet who also serves as the communities doctor since there are no farm animals for him to tend to--and no MD; Rex Dagget, backwoods mountain man; Stacey Elder, who owns the property with the pond and whose husband has “disappeared”. People watch what they say in Gower, since Security Forces seem to make dissidents disappear.
Phillips makes great use of details to bring his world to life. Chicory coffee is all that’s available. Individuals don’t own cars, they either walk, bike, or catch a ride with freight trucks. Bridget flew “upright class” on a plane to the state and then caught a ride with the Walmart delivery semi which has a weekly route to the village. “Hero Dogs” are trained as corpse and disease sniffers. The mayor has a thriving black market in confiscated wine. Yes, those in power still seem to have all the pleasures they want. As interesting as this crazy world is, I think it’s all too predictable and, like Cole who accurately predicts the ending of every TV movie after 15 minutes, I think I already know the story as the stock characters run through their roles. Or do I? Half way through the book people seem to be acting out of stereotype. What’s going on?
Pick this book up for an intriguing mind-bender. I can’t tell you to buy it, because the publishers give the book away for free. All they ask is that you donate money to a charity and pass the book along when you are done. What a great way to break free of the capitalist model.
What a great review! On the wishlist it goes. Where did you get your copy?
Couldn't figure out how to add it to my bookmooch wishlist (not on amazon lol) but did request a copy through here:
Glad you figured out the publisher's site. I got mine from my local bookstore http://www.bayshorebooksllc.com/ which is also listed as a venue here on LT (don't know this site well enough to post that link also)
Category 2: Gardening seeds of change
Rating 4* As someone who lived the 60's I felt very comfortable with this book.
The 60’s were a time of creativity fertilized by the many groups which experimented with new ways of living, cross-pollinated by visitors from across the US yes, Ausubel is fond of a horticultural play on words. If you were active then, this story of the founding of Seeds of Change will strike a familiar chord and be an enjoyable read. Beyond just this company, we are shown how a culture’s identity is tied to its seeds and food, so that preserving heirloom seeds helps preserve cultures.
The first section is the history of how the founders met and their personal experiences which led to their passion for different aspects of seed diversity. The second section describes how the nutritional content of food is related to the growing methods used. Recipes from different restaurants are included which take advantage of the uniqueness of different heirloom vegetables. I haven’t cooked any of them yet, so can’t comment on them.
The final section explains the financing of starting up a new business—perhaps going into too much detail about how they had to scramble to get startup funds, but instructive. Reading this “case study” is certainly more interesting than dry business theory. This initiative was basically funded by investors with a vision of a different way of doing business, investors who weren’t afraid to put their money where their values were, and who were prepared to delay the gratification of immediate dividends because of their confidence that preserving biodiversity and providing heirloom seeds was a worthwhile venture. He elaborates on Social Venture Networks as our hope for the future—a needed change in the way we do things to prevent the destruction of the living earth. Ausubel is inspiring as he encourages us to dream an earth-honoring dream with clean rivers and plants.
Category 1) keeping the bees
Rating 3 ½*
This is a book I would have liked to give a higher rating to, but after 5 years in college I’m getting kind of tired of scientific essays. This is actually well written, has copious references at the end, and leads off most chapters with some experience Packer had while studying bees in the wild. Altho honey bees have gotten the most press lately, all bees are having a hard time surviving and many other species besides the honey bee are important for crops. Packer gives many unusual facts which would be good conversational tidbits: blueberry stamens need to be vibrated before they will release their pollen—which the right bee species can do or the C string on a guitar; the genetics of how bee sex is determined leads to "dud" males if the queen's gene was the same as the fertilizing drone's; not all bees sting; many are solitary rather than social hive dwellers. What he did not explain is how scientists can dig out the length of a ground bee nest without destroying it.
The final chapter gives practical suggestions for what the average person can do to help bees: grow native bee-friendly plants, provide nest sites for bees, do not use pesticides, buy organic food whenever possible, walk on the grass, encourage bee-friendly practices at municipal or higher government levels and in developments. Please read the book to find out more details on why these are helpful and what specifics are necessary.
This would be great for a teenager who has some interest in insects already, as it shows the kind of work mellitologists do. A good book for younger readers would be What's the Buzz?: The Secret Lives of Bees (Rain Forest Pilot)
If you like this book, you’ll also like Coyote at the Kitchen Door. A much more interesting book on natural science studies is Gathering Moss.
Category 11) Coyote at the Kitchen Door
I don't think his interspersing a descriptive page of life from a coyote's perspective between each chapter works very well. My attention was held throughout the book, despite being non-fiction. DeStefano writes about human perceptions of wildlife, how they are depicted in the news, at what point they shift from being "cute" to being seen as pests--he defines a "cultural carrying capacity" as opposed to the ecological carrying capacity that gets taught in Environmental Science. He identifies 3 different ways animals respond to human changes (and animals do change their behavior based on what we do--often losing their fear, or at least figuring out how to take advantage of food opportunities): 1)thrive in our human-made new habitat, 2)do poorly/decline (e.g. most songbirds, amphibians, butterfiles), or 3)species which will do well in any habitat. He talks about specific wildlife consequences of different ways we change the environment. He mentions the place for hunting and fishing in conservation of wildlife, and how out of touch with nature some preservation practices, such as zoos, actually make us.
Category 7)Native American subjects buffalo woman comes singing
Rating 3 1/2*
I really hate to give this such a low rating, but I don't like books that give you "exercises" to do. No matter how well meaning, I just skip over them. I had received her newsletters about 30 years ago, and always meant to read her book when it came out. Now that I finally have it, it's taken me about 2 years to read--mostly because it's the one I turn to while I'm waiting for my son to brush his teeth, so I only get about a page at a time. That probably also makes it hard to do an honest review. Part autobiography and part spiritual guide. She combines traditional ceremonies with other healing modalities, and encourages each of us to become better people.
Maybe I'll have to edit this review later, to give a better flavor of the book!
Category 6)Air The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
Rating 4 1/2*
The tone of the book makes me feel I am talking with a next-door neighbor—casual and low key. This, despite descriptions of obviously different customs, such as a funeral, meals, and family relations. He boasts about his father’s strength and tells of his life growing up, working in his father’s fields and playing with friends. When famine hits, Kamkwambe doesn’t treat it in a dramatic way but simply relates his observations and experiences: how his hunger makes him feel, how his mother works to get the next day’s food, the sight of people looking to work for food and, later, dying of starvation. All this is additional to the main theme of the book: Kamkwambe’s intense interest in electricity and how, lacking the money for schooling and with poor English skills, he finds a book in the small local library and teaches himself how to wire his family’s house for electricity and build a windmill out of an odd assortment of broken bikes, machines, and cast off trash. This theme is very inspiring and is every home-schooling parent’s dream of what their child could do if unfettered by a restrictive teach-to-the-test educational system. The book ends with Kamkwambe’s belief that, with dedicated work by its citizens, Africa can move into the modern age.
This was not rated as a 5 because of a tendency, mid-book, to stray into didactic explanations of how electricity works—of interest, perhaps, only to another fanatic or third world inventor. There was also a duplicate recounting of how tobacco is grown. Since this review is based on an advance reader's proof, it is possible that an editor has modified these problems before publication.
Category 10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures bone dance
Rating 4 1/2*
Macabre. Since Bull was mentioned by deLint, I wasn’t expecting a tale so dark. Tho truthfully, it is only the first half (or 2/3s?) that is setting the stage of things gone awry after The Button was pushed. (Since the Cold War died down, I didn’t think anyone worried about The Button anymore, but Bull has found a novel approach to the responsible party’s identity.) No faery appearances, but hoodoo plays a major role in this changed world. Sparrow, the main character, gets a crash course in hoodoo and also learns about the value of friendship. I like Sparrow, who has some good values, like being honest, despite the background and I can empathize with the desire to be anonymous, unnoticed. I also like authors who give me something to think about for my own life, and Bull has done that with her explanation of how greed blocks energy flow, and how doing what we love, with our whole attention, creates energy. Sparrow starts with a rigid concept of the Deal, where every favor given creates a debt which must be paid. Sher teaches that “as long as you keep the energy, all kinds of energy, moving through the system, everything is free. But as soon as you block some of it off, take it out of circulation—wham. The payback is enormous.” And this could be called a tale of payback and setting free.
Category 11)Animals Ordinary Wolves
Rating 5 ....Spoiler Alert....
Kantner writes in a voice and setting unique in this world of boilerplate novels, yet his character, Cutuk, elicits a recognition from us. Surely we have all moved through our teen years with a sense of uncertainty about who we are, a need to find where we belong and how to fit in. The village dialect Kantner uses jars me into a different way of looking at things.
Cutuk is 5 years old, when the book opens, setting the scene with descriptions of chipping ice from the bottom of the door, mice and shrews scurrying in the sod roof and around the blankets, watching the actions of others to learn how he should act, controlling his own behavior because his father “doesn’t like whiners”, missing his mother who flew off with a bush pilot. The self-imposed hardships of the bush life chosen by his father are accepted by Cutuk as the way things are, and he wants to become a proficient hunter like the visiting Eskimo elder. As the only white family in the region, the kids get beaten by the village children whenever they need to go to the store or post office. The hands-off parenting of his father follows the same pattern of the native families, who may yell at the kids to “stop that” but don’t follow through to see that they are obeyed, and the kids learn to be tough and find their own way to develop relationships. At least his brother and sister do. This novel is Cutuk’s journey to finding out how to relate to people, besides finding out how to live his life without becoming “mean” or an “Everything-Wanter”.
There is a lot of physical violence in this tale. In the dysfunctional society of the village, men beat up each other and their wives and kids, kids beat each other, everyone drinks whatever they can get their hands on, young men commit suicide and young women get pregnant. As he grows up, Cutuk, like all the teens, is encouraged to go to The City and make his way. Here Kantner shows us how wide a gap there is between life in the Outback and life in the city, the culture shock of trying to figure out cars and highways, finding his way around in a place where no one stops long enough to be asked for help. He recognizes now that the prejudice he felt as a white minority is here reversed and that the natives with whom he feels connected are the ones at the bottom of the pecking order in the city.
Without TV or radio, Cutuk never learned all the slang and idioms that permeate modern conversations, misses the references to celebrities and to the gear that clutters modern life. He takes refuge with the bush pilot who flew his mother away and learns the importance of flying in his family history. The theme of flying crops up throughout the book, such as in the invasion of the wilderness by hunters shooting wolves or moose from their plane. As Cutuk learns what is important to him, and gains the self-confidence to make choices against the local norm of drinking and drugging, his learning to fly symbolizes his own freedom.
Why “ordinary wolves”? It’s how Cutuk explains his life in the Bush to a city girl, that he has a connection with them but “no Mowgli and Gray Brother stuff.”
Category 2)Gardening talking dirt
Rated 3 * (only because she does espouse organic methods)
If you are a Cosmo Girl, you might really enjoy this book. For my taste, her approach is too brash, too much in-your-face New Yorker. However, she is a Master Gardener and does offer some good advice, promoting an organic, no chemical approach to gardening. Her advice falls short when it comes to recommending specific plants—her recommendations often are for Zone 7 and not appropriate for Wisconsin weather, and she will sometimes suggest plants that she acknowledges are invasive. There are enough different plant species that non-invasive plants could have been recommended.
Category 2)Gardening the informed gardener blooms again
Rating 2 ½
Accuracy without a heart. Definitely would not inspire anyone to take up gardening. To call it “gardening” is also misleading, since much of her work deals with landscape/lawn/tree & shrub care. She occasionally explains that some wrongly touted practices have their source in agricultural/production growing, which faces nutrient limitations. Perennials and landscapes generally do not—soil testing is important before any fertilizing is done. Because I’m concerned with vegetable gardening, most of her information was of no interest, tho she did make some useful points. For example, kelp harvests disrupt a natural coastal ecosystem so she doesn’t recommend kelp for gardens. The “water crystals” (polyacrylamide co-polymer) are not inert in environmental conditions, despite claims. When they are degraded, they can release a toxic byproduct which, besides irritation to skin of humans, binds to fish gills, suffocating them. Though anionic forms are less problematic, manufacturer’s don’t routinely provide that information on the packages. She speaks against the use of tires or their rubber chips in landscaping as they will leach toxins which can be concentrated by plants. I recall some alternative gardening tips to make earth berms with old tires and plant them with food or herbs. The author does have a website, so you can check out other plant care myths.
Category 2)Gardening gardening for the future of the earth
The first section is a wonderful manifesto—a call, if not to ploughshares, at least to hoe and rake. We are reminded how empowering gardening is, how it puts us back in touch with the essence of life and renews a positive outlook. The majority of the book is an overview of various methods of gardening which support biodiversity: biodynamics, kinship gardening, permaculture, seed saving, polyculture, biointensive beds. An overview is given on the importance of soil and wise use of water. Some of these ideas were new to me and very intriguing. Some were familiar, and I tended to skim those chapters. Part of this book feels like a celebration of Seeds of Change—not surprising since they are the publishers. This is a good book for not-yet gardeners who are curious about gardening and also for experienced gardeners who are ready to try something new—to go that one step further towards earth stewardship. It is not a good book for someone who wants specific details on how to garden.
Category 2)Gardening gardening when it counts
The first half of the book was so interesting I read it thru quickly, despite the many ways he challenges my gardening habits. He does support my lifelong approach of extensive gardening (tho I didn't know it's label before). I appreciate the concept of setting up a garden in a way that can be sustained no matter what happens to our energy supply, yet Solomon's approach is limited by his experiences in Oregon and Tasmania. For instance, he scoffs at mulching as being only for the handicapped and elderly but allows that it could be useful in areas with freezing winters and hot summers. That sounds like my home area in Wisconsin to me.
Not a stickler for the standard organic approaches, Solomon challenges us to look logically at plant and soil processes rather than following Everybody Else. No references are given for his nutrient cycling explanations, so I can only take his word that plants will not grow well without a precise 12:1 carbon:nitrogen ratio. I can't help but think that nature is a bit more complex--and forgiving--than that. He makes no mention of the role of fungi in releasing nutrients. I know that our modern gardens are primarily driven by bacterial processes, but I suspect that fungi will need to be re-established for long-term sustainability. He gives a clue in his suspicion that Native Americans mulched between their corn hills with forest leaves--a source of fungal input. I will just have to wait for someone else to write the definitive Vegetable Gardening With Fungi book.
The most informative chapters are those dealing with modern seed production and seed companies. Drawing heavily on his experience as former owner of Territorial Seed Company, he gives advice on purchasing reliable seeds. Apparently not all problems with growing vegetables can be blamed on home-grower error.
The last chapter goes over 41 of the most common vegetables, describing the best method for growing for high nutritional value and taste. This includes methods for saving your own seeds which is somewhat inconsisttent with his previous assertion that plant genetics deteriorate unless a large enough planting is made.
While his opening chapters state that irrigation will be too costly under energy and water shortages, he devotes a lengthy chapter to setting up an irrigation system. I suppose he wanted to be sure he passes on the best practices that he has gleaned over the years and didn't have any other book planned where it would make more sense to include.
Category 8)Sustainability )Building With Earth
I really wanted to like this book.(I seem to say that a lot--but really why would I start a book I didn't think I'd like?)
There’s something attractive to me about building with earth, and the cover photo of 2 children making mudpies is enchanting. This book is not well organized, with lots of repetition in the beginning. It improves and becomes more practical later, but I don’t end up w/a sense of what it takes to make an earthbag building, that is more than a simple cone, structurally sound. She makes copious use of examples of built homes, including one which she criticizes the project leaders of using concrete unnecessarily, thus adding to the expense of the project which was meant as housing for a poor community. She does provide details for several types of earthen floor finishes, which is nice and can be used in any house, and limewash recipes for weatherproofing (tho quoted from 1861 & doesn’t say if it’s been used lately)--& cautions that cement plasters will not move with the earthen walls as they expand/contract with the seasons. The only snow climate home (Wisconsin) uses earthbag infill in a timber frame home w/conventional concrete foundation. Reinforced concrete beams for wall plates.
The one paragraph I liked enough to make note of actually is a quote from another book ( Earthbag Building by Kaki Hunter & Doni Kiffmeyer, Moab UT) “We have adopted the FQSS stamp approval—Fun, Quick, Simple, and Solid. By following this criterion, we have made the ease of the construction process our priority. As long as the work is Fun and Simiple, it goes Quickly and the results are Solid. When the work becomes in any way awkward, FQSS deteriorates into Frustrating, Quarrelsome, Slow, and Stupid, prompting us to stop, change tactics, or blow the whole thing off and have lunch (returning refreshed often spontaneously restores FQSS approval).”
Category 8)Sustainability how much is enough
Although the first part of the book purports to help us analyze what we really need to be happy, this is NOT about having a sustainable lifestyle, or about ensuring there is a clean earth for our grandchildren, but about making investments that will allow us to be as greedy as we want. It seems to be geared toward a Yuppie lifestyle, e.g. instead of building a second vacation home, which will lose it’s appeal as our children grow up, we might be better off taking our family on a European vacation for a fraction of the cost. His advice to parents whose children are suffering emotional damage from peer teasing about their lack of the latest fashions or technology? Does he advise working with schools to develop anti-bullying or social awareness curriculum? No, he seems to say if you put your kids in a preppie school you should follow up with all the accoutrements they need to thrive there.
The first half of the book is a mishmash of various psychological theories and research, some of which have questionable relevance to his text, such as linking traffic accidents to research that shows our brains don’t interpret distant objects as dangerous because when our brains were developing as proto-humans nothing moved as fast as cars do now. Huh?
He uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to show that, once we have our basic survival needs met, we will get most pleasure from being altruistic, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (Buffett gets used frequently as a model throughout the book). And what do we need to be altruistic? Money, of course.
As an investment advisor, you can trust him (wink, wink) and the advice he gives in the second half. The astute reader might catch the “Truth in Investment” caveat hidden in all the upbeat promises: “Without it the Investment Prize, the system would collapse”. His role—for his own job security and personal financial security—is to ensure every reader has confidence in the stock market, despite all its ups and downs, and enough self-doubt that we will hire an investment advisor to help us choose Quality and Value.
His investment advice boils down to choosing Quality and Value and then waiting. He never explains how to judge Q and V (which we should leave to our investment advisor), tho he goes at length to describe the effects of timing of investments, and elaborating on how large our Investment Prize will be because of compounding. He –and every other investing book--neglects to tell us that all this investment gain is just on paper. If we want to use any of that increased value, such as for our retirement, we’ll have to sell our stock. Will our retirement needs match with an upswing in the stock market? What will happen when all the baby boomers are trying to cash in their stocks at the same time? But, hey, don’t believe me. I’m not an investment advisor. Besides, I’ve got my own 401(k) I’ll want to cash in soon. You really need to get out there and Invest In Our Country.
Category 8)Sustainability iou-new writing on money
Rating 3 1/2*, due to uneven quality--some are 5*
It should perhaps not be surprising that a collection of writing on money which is published by a company that gives its books away contains very little celebrating the joys of making money. That does, however, make the stories more relevant to the lives of the average reader. The first story. “Interest” by Michelle Huneven, reminded me strongly of my father, but I was fortunate that mine controlled his usual impulse to “know what is best” when I asked him for help with a house purchase.
The quality of the writing varies somewhat, or perhaps my preferences reflect my personal tastes. A fair number of the poems make no sense at all, but I did enjoy Hailey Leithauser’s use of poetic devices (alliteration, assonance, internal rhymes, repetition with variations) in her lengthily-titled poem. And Greg McBride’s “Back of the Envelope” is beautifully told.
My favorite non-fiction piece was “Local Money” by Douglas Rushkoff. He gives a good explanation of the development of alternative currency for daily transactions when dollars are tight.
With 25 poems and 22 short stories or essays (some of the stories deal with current issues and some may count them as essays), I wish I were able to keep the book to revisit my favorites. But I support the publisher’s goal of exchanging their publications free for donations—their form of Pay It Forward. Go to www.concordfreepress.com to find out when and where you can get their next book—and to see what donations have been generated by their readers.
>27 Not quite that much reading--my access is sporadic, so all the March reviews include many read earlier this year.
I thought I had set my account to send me notices when someone posts on this thread, but I guess it didn't work.
Category 2: Gardening Parsnips in the Snow
Pleasant assortment of interviews, with more "southern" Midwesterners (Missouri) than I expected from the title. I like all the direct quotes, how friendly the gardeners were in opening their homes to the authors. I was surprised by the number of people interviewed who could remember farming with hourses, or who grew up in families that expected the kids would work hard doing family chores. Seems like it's been a long time since that was the standard way of life in the US. The book was published in 1990, so there may have been a number of elderly people who lived thru the depression still alive.
There are some young gardeners interviewed--primarily one woman who developed multiple chemical sensitivities from her ag farming exposures and had to turn to organic gardening just to find food she could tolerate.
After a while, tho, I started to get bothered by the way each person's movements would be described--jiggling a foot, brushing hair off his/her face, wiping his forehead with a folded handkerchief. When the same action is re-described several times it became intrusive and seemed to turn the people into caricatures of themselves.
I notice you have animals as a category I read Water for Elephants which actually was really good. And Yes the movie is coming out this Friday.
3.5* finding fish
Listening to my friends despair of making a difference in the lives of their foster kids, I find it hopeful to read of one boy who managed to change his life around, who remembers the small acts of kindness shown to him which stood as shining lights in the dead sea of his childhood. The story of the psychological and physical abuse he received is, unfortunately, all too believable and all too common.
3.5* A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska
I don't think I would have liked Hannah Breece--but she typifies the do-gooder zeal of her time. She doesn't really write too much about her interactions in the classroom, which is a pity since I was hoping for another Sylvia Ashton Warner-style book. She says she was well loved by her villagers, but she really had a low opinion of them. I don't think I would have finished this without the lengthy Forward written by her niece, Jane Jacobs, who readied the manuscript for publication. Jacobs did an excellent job of preparing the reader to look past the prejudices and consider what a challenge this woman undertook. Jacobs then provides an excellent Epilogue which explains some of the historic events and personages mentioned or alluded to.
5* The Folk of the Air
Uncanny early version of a genre currently popularized by deLint. If I was a true fan, I'd be able to tell you how derivatory his Newtown and the Jack tales are, and who knows who, but I'm just a humble reader.
I'm sure I had previously read this book, but it was long enough ago that I enjoyed it afresh, with just an occasional tinge of deja vu.
I appreciate that Farrell is a "witness", as John Erne calls him, even tho I am the opposite kind of person--constantly letting go of the past without looking back. What I can't figure out is how the title is relevant to the tale. It is very misleading--the 'folk' are too solid flesh, and those that aren't, are more earth or fire than air. "The Folk of the Air" makes me think about the "little people"--fairies and sprites--not elementals.
5* The Humanure Handbook
I'm sold. I've heard about this book for a number of years and finally picked up a copy. Now I'm looking for a source of sawdust & plan on remodeling my bathroom this summer. It makes so much sense to reuse organic matter rather than wasting potable water to move it. Flush toilets make as much sense as moving coal out of desert area mines by mixing it with water and piping it hundreds of miles (yes, this is a common practice. see http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=New_Mexico_and_coal )
Thanks for the review of A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska, good to know ;)
Category 7)Native American subjects
4 1/2* Last Standing Woman
For some reason I thought this was going to be a biography, so I was a little confused by the progress of the story. There also seemed to be a lot of similarity of characters and events with the writings of Louise Erdrich, which also confused me --Pillagers as a common family name, Philomena as a housekeeper for a priest, a priest who rewrites history by moving headstonoes. While I haven't gone back in Erdrich's books to verify my perception that there is commonality, I've decided that both women use their tribe's history as inspiration for their novels.
Rather than a progressive narrative, LaDuke intermingles a compressed history from the 1860's when the "land stealers" came with later events when the people acted to take back their land and reclaim their culture. Altho portions do focus on the different women who shared the name Last Standing Woman, the reader is left to discover what the relevance of past events is to current lives.
I'm afraid I haven't made the book sound that interesting. But even if you're not sure what's going on, all the stories are interesting, pull you in, and give you a view of native perceptions of their culture and heritage. Women can be strong active leaders. LaDuke possesses the Native American passion for poking fun at themselves.
Category 1) Bees
4* What's the Buzz?
I just posted a review of this in my books http://www.librarything.com/work/759872/reviews/71047875 , so I'll summarize & add chapter content.
When I visited the Smithsonian Research Station at Barro Colorado Island, I wanted to bring something back that would show my grandkids why I went. The whole Panama study trip was so interesting, I encourage everyone to do something similar--never think you are too old!
Written for kids, this is also a good intro for anyone who wants to know about bees--or about how scientists do research. Filled with neat sketches and photos, I'm sure this will help inspire the next generation to be scientists. The words are definitely at a higher reading level.
Specific chapters are: 1)overview of bee species, anatomy, how they pollinate, and research on bee communication 2) bee life cycle & care of young, using sweat bees as an example, studying bee homes in the ground, taxonomy & classifying specimens 3)studying nocturnal bees, measuring flight speed, how bees see 4)Africanized bees, bee stings 5)glossary 6)further reading.
Category 1) Bees
3* The Secret Life of Bees
It's been over a month since I read this, and I didn't make notes. I remember being incredulous that a white teen could leave home & live with a black woman in the 1960's of the South. Maybe I've just been conditioned by too many tales of the KKK, maybe there were areas of the South where people were not so aggressive. And the story line as a whole is pretty unreal.
However, excepting that, I liked the book. As a new beekeeper I lapped up every detail about beekeeping and the relationship of August to the bees. I did not like how simple Rosaleen was made out to be.
I marked a number of passages that gave me pause: "It was the oldest sound there was. Souls flying away."(p. 213) "I am in the center of the universe, where everything is sung to life."(p. 286)
2* Balance Point
The author writes personally, so at first it is interesting to hear how an ordinary joe finds out about the ecological crisis the earth is facing. Since I already know quite a bit about climate change, consumerism, and ecology, the tale was dragging for me by the middle of the book. I think the intended audience is not likely to hear about this book: people who believe what the media presents to them without a clue that there is so much more happening in our society--or as a result of our society's actions.
A roofer in Pennsylvania receives a bequest from his aunt, with a promise of further inheritance if he can find his personal balance point. He follows her clues and learns how human activities are impacting the world and may imperil human survival.
Great reviews. The Secret Life of Bees has been buried in mount TBR, but is slowly coming closer to the top. I think that just nudged it up a few steps. :)
Category 11)Animals silverwing
I know this is a juvenile book, but I loved it. I was sucked into the imaginatively created viewpoint of a bat, and especially loved the way they transmit memories and navigation sound-pictures. The interactions were so intriguing I had to keep reminding myself that Oppel was not writing about real bats.
Category 10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures
Rating 4* (would rate it higher if I were younger!)
A most unusual juvenile alternate future story, after the collapse of civilization as we know it, with the young protagonists having to deal with a lot of death and abuse. Hard topics for young adults.
The characterizations are well done. I got a kick out of how sassy Matt was. The progression of the plot was well developed, with Kira gradually learning more about the true nature of her society and making choices to act positively.
I've been a weaver & have tried dyeing yarns, so liked this story that included those crafts.
Category 10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures
An Acceptable Time
I was surprised to see that I had missed this sequal to A Wrinkle in Time, but found it to be a fairly flat novel so am not surprised it slipped past my radar. Or maybe I'm just so much older than when I read Wrinkle that I expect more from a novel than I did then.
Too much preaching--so much, that L'Engle had her character apologize frequently for preaching. While Polly is a thoughtful, caring character, Zachary is such a self-centered user he irritated me & I couldn't figure out why Polly would give him any attention.
I have An Acceptable Time on my shelves too. This one doesn't seem to get a lot of buzz. Probably because it isn't that good, alas. I'll still hang onto it, hoping that I'll like it better than you did.
Yes, give it a try--maybe I was just in the wrong mood. I admire Madeleine L'Engle's values, so I wish all her books were good reads. I read Summer of the Great Grandmother a long while ago & liked it so much that I even bought a copy for my mother who was facing parent-care issues (back when my income was even more limited). And now I'm facing similar parent-care issues.
Category 10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures The Shore of Women
Rating 2* Spoiler Alert
A cautionary tale for those feminists who claim that all our society's ills can be laid at the feet of men, believing that men are innately ruthless, domineering, and aggressive. In this book, the women themselves display jealousy, rivalry and power-hunger. Role-reversal. How depressing--Sargent feels that in 4,000 (or whatever) years we won't have learned anything about interpersonal relationships, love, or kindness.
Sargent uses the template of boilerplate romances for the story line. Saying this is hardly a spoiler, since it is obvious once the 2 protagonists meet what will happen: woman abhors man, they are forced by circumstances to work together, woman realizes her desire for man, they have hot sex.
Even tho Laissa & Arvil gain in knowledge, have adventures, and learn to respect each other, I don't see any inner personal growth. They are still consumed by jealousy at just the thought that the other might be interested in someone else.
I'm sorry I didn't like this, because Sargent was one of the author's I would look for in used book stores (where I picked this one up). I've gotten a number of good collections that she edited, & enjoyed Cloned Lives way back when. Maybe I need to re-read Cloned Lives & see if it still is as good as I remembered.
Category 8)Sustainability. Gaviotas Rating 5*
Gaviotas is a village in Columbia, established in 1971 with the vision of establishing a self-sufficient community in the harshest environment in that country. The closing sentence (of the Acknowledgments) explains why I loved this book: "...the only job worth doing is making our dreams come true." That goal is what leads me to change jobs so often and to live rurally in relative simplicity. I loved reading about the ingenious solutions created by Gaviotas: the bicycle powered casava grinder, the seesaw water pumps, buldings designed to cool from the gentle variable breezes of the savanna. I praise Gaviotans for their humanitarian efforts.
One chapter near the beginning focuses on Columbia's political history--particularly relevant because of violence by guerillas and paramilitary is an ever-present factor in relationships outside of Gaviotas itself, and because of the support given by one president.
This book is only loosely linear. However as Pepe Gomez learned "Life is not just a linear experience" (p. 143) Each time a new person was brought into the story, there was some backtracking to cover that person's connections and role in the community's development.
I do wish Weisman had put more focus on HOW Gaviotas developed its unique governance system, where everyone has a say in decisions that affect them, and where are empowered to make positive changes. Also, there is little said about the lives of the women in the community--understandable, perhaps, for a documentary written by a man. We do hear of some women who were influential in the community, and we are also told of years when Gaviotas was primarily composed of bachelors and some wives in the beginning who left because they couldn't tolerate the situation. It isn't until sometime in the 1990's that the men of the community took over women's work for a day and realized that the kitchens lacked many conveniences and ergonomic improvements that had been implemented in the male work sphere (p.211).
I recommend this book to anyone who wonders how our world is ever going to make it thru the impending hard times.
Category 11)Animals The White Giraffe Rating 4.5*
This was read as an audio book, narrated by Jill Fox.
An excellent book for young adults. An orphaned girl, sent to live with her grandma in Africa, has a hard time fitting in to the local school, primarily serving richer families. She develops a connection with a white giraffe to whom she shares her feelings and with whom she explores the wildlife refuge where they live.
I liked this so much I've sent for other books to share with my granddaughter by the author. The narrator, Jill Fox's voice was perfect in making this story come alive with the flavor of post-British colonialism.
I thumbed your review for Gaviotas. Were most of the people there Columbians? Or was it someplace that attracted people from all over the world?
>49 thanks. The book didn't really enumerate where people were from. There seemed to be 2 types of people: The "engineers" who started it (mostly from wealthy educated families), and local Columbians (including Guahibo tribal members) who worked there. Both appeared to have a say in the governance & input in inventions/designs. Paolo Lugari, who was the main driving force, was born in Columbia with an Italian father. Sven Zethelius was born in Columbia to a Swedish ambassador father. Lugari invited all kinds of people out, seemingly based on their special creativity rather than their nationality, so it did also attract people from all over but not everyone enjoys the tropical climate. When the economy went bad, people who had ties elsewhere tended to leave.
>30 I finally got around to reading Water for Elephants. While it technically fits the way categories in this challenge are used, it's not primarily about animals and so only marginally fits into how I had conceived my categories. I think I need to loosen up my categories if I'm going to get much progress!
Category 11: Animals Rating 5*
I couldn't put this book down, read it straight thru & my poor son had to crawl into bed without supper (tho we did eat at 11pm when I finally finished). I can't analyze what was so special about it; maybe the sympathetic characters & the conflict with the "villains", maybe the immediacy of the action, the unfamiliarity of circus behind-the-scenes. Maybe I cqn just say it is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.
Could be summarized as When Bad Things Happen To Good People and How They Overcome Tragedy, but there are a lot of bad books written on that theme.
Thanks for the extra info on Gaviotas. The book is in an anniversary addition now, so obviously it has had some staying power. That makes me even more curious.
A friend handed me her copy of Water For Elephants and she says I have to read it. That's why my added category in 12 12 is '"begged, borrowed or stolen." I need a category for books other people hand to me! I've done a bit of fudging in my 11 11 categories too. Life of Pi went under animal behavior, a nonfiction category. At least yours has an animal in the title. Pi might not have even had a tiger in it.
Category 11: Animals Wild Health
Why does anyone bother writing about a subject they don't feel passionately about? Or why was the passion edited out of the writing? Perhaps in this case it was to forestall a would-be-herbalist from using, say, deadly nightshade because Engel says some animals have used it.
I really expected more about lessons from animals that we can use. This is not, however, a mass market book but a compendium of research on ways wild animals stay healthy. A good reminder that animals are not "naturally" resistant to all kinds of infections, but are actively choosing foods and behaviors which keep them fit. "Fit" is used advisedly, as Engel reiterates the evolutionists definition as relating to produciing offspring and, thus, passing on one's genes.
It is a fascinating subject, if you can tolerate the scholarly style, with chapters focusing on different aspects of health: nutrition, wounds, parasites, infections, reproductive control, stress, "getting high", and death. She also describes what happens when animals don't have free access to their accustomed plants. The relevance to humans is usually summarized as "this is an interesting avenue for further research" but sometimes as "local natives use this plant for such-and-such".
Her sources are all noted in a final reference section. I'm the kind of sceptical reader who likes to see scientific support for claims, and Engel more than satisfies this. Some of her statements are hearsay or folklore, but she does acknowledge this in her text as well as providing the reference.
Engel's bio states she has a PhD in biology. A search shows she studied at East Anglia University with an article published in 1988 in Animal Behaviour, and a presentation at a 2002 UK Organic Research Conference, and a chapter introduction in a text on Alternative Health Practices for Livestock.
Category 2: Gardening. Growing Trees from Seed Rating 3*
OK, I admit I haven’t read this cover-to-cover, but I am including several other books I also skimmed through. I was looking specifically for information on growing plants native to my region of Wisconsin, and am writing this review mostly to help me remember what I found.
The book’s tone is conversational, begins with general information, and is presumably aimed at the novice grower/landowner. Tips are given about how to set up your seed growing area to avoid wildlife predation or damage by weather.
I applaud his strong commitment to native plantings. He stresses frequently the importance of matching the plant to the site—exotic plants are often adapted to human disturbance but native plants often rely on specific soil, moisture, and climate conditions. Despite this, and despite his stated intention to provide an understanding of each species’ ecology, his descriptions of their growing conditions is often very general, e.g. “along riverbanks and moist thickets.” The reader really needs to take his advice to spend time observing nearby natural areas—not all of the 109+ native woody plants he lists will be native to your particular location, even given the relatively narrow scope of his book (Great Lakes).
A proponent of restoration, but not life-support. Rather than focusing on disease or pest control to maintain healthy trees in your area, look at the whole ecosystem and stressors they deal with, allow the weak trees to die while providing for the life of new seedlings from those trees that have natural resistance. “Disease control in plants is managed through selection” p.64 In order to bring about ecological restoration, Kock feels it is important for people to be involved in nature from an early age, to understand our relationship to nature.
Some of my favorite quotes: “You choose where the seed comes from, there are no plant police watching.” (p.23) “a nursery was all about growing a root system that could be transplanted—anyone could grow the top of a plant.” (p 42) “The feverish ‘rescue’ of plants and animals in advance of the bulldozers wrongly lets the decision-makers off the hook. Our aim should be to preserve wild nature, not to rescue it.” p.46.
Appendix I needs more description of how it displays the information. It is simply labeled “Invasive Species” and it is up to the reader to figure out that only the indented species are invasive; the outdented species appear to be the native species closely related to the invasives. Surprisingly, two well-known invasives in the genera Lonicera and Rhamnus are not mentioned. While they are discussed in the text, a reader simply looking at this list may erroneously plant them.
The information on flowering dates and seed dispersal should be taken as a general guideline only. I’ve worked with a botanist preparing his own book, and heard his frustration at such observations which are presented without qualification about where they apply.
I compared this with Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines by Wm Cullina. Altho “native” is in the title, he clarifies that his intent is not to rigorously weed out every exotic species, but to keep in mind the whole interconnected ecosystem, the role each plant plays in it, and the importance of maintaining the various ecosystems rather than making everything the same. His text does focus more on landscape use of plants (e.g. “an oval silhouette…petioles the color of a fine merlot” p.176)rather than for ecological restoration. Cullina goes into much more detail about how to propagate his 141 woody species than Kock. He separates out the propagation information in a separate section from the general overview, and uses codes to refer the reader to the specific technique, so is not as conversational as Kock’s presentation. His appendix includes lists to help in landscape design. In addition to a list of plants providing food and cover for wildlife (as well as those not preferred by deer), he has lists which remind us that woody plants have nectar used by butterflies and bees and are larval hosts for some caterpillars. Unique are his lists of Plants with Interesting Bark and Plants with Outstanding Fall Color. He doesn’t have Kock’s perspective on pests and diseases, instead says (about butternut, for example) “there is little point in planting this tree unless resistant strains can be found” p.146.
It’s a tossup which book I’d recommend first for a budding tree grower: Kock or Cullina.
Natural Landscaping is about design, not growing--not what I was looking for.
Making the most of Shade doesn’t care about a plant’s origin, just whether it can handle shade. If you are knowledgeable about which plants are native to your area, it does have minimal information on propagation (e.g. best by division). However, since Hodgson recommends cultivars for those native plants he does manage to include, I cannot recommend this book.
Growing and Propagating Wild Flowers goes into much greater detail about propagation from seed and vegetatively. Written by a North Carolina botanist, it does not necessarily include all the native wild flowers from Wisconsin. However, with 75 plants listed, there is likely to be a similar species to our northern wildflowers. In addition, Philips includes information on growing 15 ferns from both spores and root cuttings, and on growing carnivorous plants—tho I would have hoped to have read cautions about their rarity in their natural setting and their frequent eradication by unscrupulous collectors. His Production Timetable in the appendix looks to be a useful guide to how long it takes to get viable plants. Unlike Kock’s resistance to plant rescues, Philips devotes a chapter to How to Organize a Plant Rescue.
Growing trees from seed sound like a good book, I may have to try to find something similar for my region :)
Category 11: Animals The White Bone
I could only grab bits and pieces of time to read this book, a couple pages at a time. This wasn't a problem, other than confusing Hail Stones and Tall Time; the book was intensely intriguing yet not so compelling that I couldn't put it down.
After a while I began to wonder how it would be to look at this book as science fiction. The creation of a coherent culture is the basis of good scifi. But would The White Bone have the same poignancy, the same heartbreak, if we didn't relate to the She-ones as a lifeform we know in our hearts is being harmed by humans?
Your comments made me curious about The White Bone. Actually, it sounds like it could fit under a Science Fiction and Fantasy category. Looks like people either loved the book or hated it. Now I'm curious.
Category 6: Air How to read the air Rating 2*
This was an excrutiating read. I hate stories that show us why a marriage failed, that drags us thru petty fights and disillusionment. There were no phrases that caught my imagination, which I would want to remember. I only finished it, and skimming pretty rapidly, because I didn't have another book with me at the time, I wanted to include it in my category challenge, and so I could write this negative review.
Category 5: Fire Fire Watch
Short story collection
I usually don't read older science fiction (1979-1984), but it was available at my local library & fit the category. In this case being dated gave an interesting perspective to the title story. Set in WWII, so anti-nazi feeling is high, a minor plot tells us it is the communists we really have to watch out for. Another story, "A Letter from the Clearys" is post-devastation, not very realistically done based on what we now know about nuclear winter, but the father presciently remarks "I don't think the Russians started it or the United States either. I think it was some little terrorist group somewhere or maybe just one person."
The first few stories were pretty interesting, with a surprising ending. But a number of them seemed contrived, "so what?". Or maybe it's what happens with every short story collection by a single author; they all start to sound alike after a while.
Category 6: Air Late nights on air
While I couldn't find the original quote that describes my issues with this book, I did come across a quote by Tom Perrotta that comes close: "...the idea that literary fiction should work the way that popular fiction works, in terms of being a pleasure to read, with a story that moves swiftly."
Late Nights is a series of disjointed vignettes, rather than a story, in which we are told how people feel rather than being shown how and why. There is too much remembering of past events that are don't really carry the story line since none of the characters has any shared past. For example, "Not brilliant as in the Mediterranean (where Harry once removed a splinter from a woman's finger..." (p. 281). What an irrelevant non sequitur.
Hay is heavyhanded about letting us know that something is going to happen. I didn't mark the first instance, but when I came to the 2nd I started keeping track: "There would be a later letter, too (181)", ""This was the winter... that Gwen would remember in part for the three unlucky things that happened...at beginning of chapter telling the 2nd thing (216)", "Aircraft...would have spotted them easily, which was the point and became the point (252)", "It should have occurred to them what lay ahead... (252)", "...what would be the first in a series of shocks ending in something far worse (254)", "This pattern...wouldn't register in all its significance until it was too late (272)", "A wolf...A harbinger, had they but known (292)", "This was one such moment and soon there would be another (345)".
SPOILER ALERT***Even the more explicit hints don't always pan out to effective drama. for example, (what I think was the first foreboding) we are told they would regret not electing a leader for the trip, but there was no major consequence of not having done so. Similarly, Hay frequently alludes to Harry's probable loss of his job, but when it finally happens, he goes on with his life, making some changes but not falling apart.***END SPOILER
Really, I expected there to be more use of the radio station as story line. That setting seemed to be incidental to the tale of obsession, hangups, and relationships.
In her favor, Hay does create nice images, sometimes. A few I noted ended up including the quote on the back cover, describing air. A couple more were good images of camping: "They lay across the floor... like 4 slumbering sardines" and the tent "which sagged like a soft berry picked by the weather and manhandled between its fingers" (both p 284). One I felt I could, at times, identiy with was "He felt attuned not to the God within but to the uncertainty within" (p. 306)
I did like how Gwen blossomed in her new career, learning to add sound effects, edit tape, do in depth interviews. But that is the only memorable characterization.
I felt the ending was too pat. Hay had to jump over 11 years, with a quick summary, in order to give us some kind of "happily ever after". It didn't follow with the rest of the book, we were given no hint of how people grew and changed--in fact it really depended on 1 person dropping an obsession in a way that didn't require any personal growth.
A quibble (and my review becomes as disjointed as the novel): Harry's thoughts on Hornby (an explorer who starved to death along with his 2 companions) "...the way death spared him from having to live with the consequences." (p. 230). What could be more consequential than poor planning leading to running out of food and consequently starving to death?
Category 6: Air unlocking the air
Great collection, tho I haven't figured out what her connecting thread is (she states "subtle interconnections that make a bunch of stories into a book"). Jumped into the first story before I read the jacket--expecting scifi, and it was strange enough to pass, but not that strange (unlike "The Olders" which would work as scifi). That first one, "Half Past Four", I'd rate a 5* for its creative rearrangements of characters in different settings. "Sunday in Summer in Seatown" is creative in a different way, using repetitive sentence structure which caused me to read more slowly, pay attention, look at the images. In the end, tho I wasn't sure what the point was. On the 2nd page of "The Spoons in the Basement", I think I've read this before (only without the spoons), but no, that was Doris Lessing, or maybe it's my own dreams of discovering unknown space--good story.
"Ether or" is another 5* story with a quote that I wanted to remember (perhaps because of my age, or perhaps as something to resist) "But I have made my soul and I don't know what to do with it. Who wants it? All I'll do from now on is the same as what I have done only less of it, while I get weaker and sicker and smaller all the time, shrinking and shrinking around myself, and die....Nobody young can afford to believe in getting old."
I liked how LeGuin identified portions of "Unlocking the Air", an insider's view of a people freeing themselves, as history, fairy tale, stone...making the me see stones in a new way, seeing how things are connected....history that sounds like a fairy tale, fairy tales that are real people's hopes. This story contains another quote I marked--not because I suppor the message, but because I support making us aware of what we are shown--""It was always for love. That's why the camera snout came poking and sucking into this dirty basement room where the lovers meet. It craves love, th sight of love; for if you can't have the real thing you can watch it on TV, and soon you don't know the real thing from the images on the little screen where everything, as he said, can be done in two seconds. But lovers know the difference." (p.136)
"Standing Ground" blares at us with different viewpoints, obviously written to espouse a cause, and draws my pity for Delaware.
I feel smug when I think LeGuin wrote "Limberlost" as homage to Robert Bly (the Poet is not named).
About "The Poacher": the other short story collection I've read in this challenge (Fire Watch) also retold this same fairy tale, and both rewrites changed it completely differently. And then "A Child Bride" retells the Persephone myth--obviously writers must at times look to the past for inspiration.
category 7)Native American Deluge
Loved this book, it's a keeper! Touchstones suggested a different work by McCaffery, tho, that I'll want to follow up with later. I picked this up thinking to fit it in my Water category, then found it's really more about native reality.
Like Sherman Alexie, Strong makes it easy for white people to identify with Native Americans. Her Ojibway characters are so intelligent yet still have struggles with the shape of their lives, aware at certain times that a choice is key and will change the path they are on yet they are compelled to take the plunge. Strong characters, caring for their people. This novel shows us the myth of "The Universality of Anthropology's Western Knowledge Base in Intercultural Context" by showing us what is important in the Ojibwe culture. Notice I said "show" not "tell", an important distinction because we are able to live that difference as we empathize with the characters.
The jacket says "...her evolving identity form this Vision Quest of universal appeal". Was that meant to entice purchasers? There is no way I would say Aja was on a vision quest, tho we do see how she comes to find her story, which her Grandfather says all humans have (sorry, I can't find the right quote for precise word).
Strong managed to write about White Earth and only mention the Pillager name once (see my message 36 above).
If you like this book, read grass dancer, another novel about a native woman coming into her power. Also, tho a little sadder and about indigenous New Zealanders, read the bone people
It looks like you're finding a lot of interesting book. I'll keep my eye on Deluge.
Category 3: Earth Here on Earth
An enjoyable read even tho my opinion about this book kept changing. At first, I noticed the imagery, and enjoyed the way she describes things: "so many orchards circled the village that on some crisp October afternoons the whole world smelled like pie" (p 4), "The sky is so flat and gray Gwen has the urge to put her arms over her head for protection, just in case stones should begin to fall from the clouds." (p40)
The focus of the novel shifts a good way in, and I begin to think we're just being given a standard romance plot and I'm disappointed that I won't learn anything from this book. And after a bit the emotional tone changes, becomes more obsessed, and I'm sure I can see where we'll end up. However, one of the characters has more strength than I gave her credit for, and the ending is not what I expected. The book is divided into 3 parts, which somewhat mesh with the shifts I noticed, but not precisely since the story is a smooth progression, so there is a gradual introduction of the shift before the next part. What with the imagery and the ending, I'm happy that I stuck it out. There really are some insights gained by the characters.
I was pretty bothered by not being able to figure out for quite a long while the when and where of the setting. There is a mix of time, beginning with March as a mother of a teen and frequently jumping us back to her own teen years. Her description of the village seems so old-fashioned, almost 1930's, which would make "now" 1950's or '60s but her daughter Gwen has such a modern tone of voice. I wonder if that just shows the universality of teen resentment of parents? Her clothes & hairstyle seems too modern but there is no mention of ubiquitous cell phones or computers. I finally decide "now" is 1990's when an adult buys a computer. That would make "then" 1965, however, and I still can't figure out how the village social services are run by "the library board" or how orphaned kids can be taken into a home without a lot of Social Service oversight and inspection. And where? Hoffman doesn't write dialect. Obviously east coast, since there are tidal marshes. Because I get a flash of Beans of Egypt, Maine I guess Maine for the setting, as likely being the most different in village structure and the most "keep your nose out of others' business", but it doesn't seem cold enough. The presence of race horses makes me guess Virginia, but midway thru we are told New England.
I also had quibbles with some of her statements but wasn't sure my grasp of facts was all that accurate: spring peepers calling in August (p 20), the horses that were "worth more money than her father would ever manage to earn" (p 27). Later we are told how much a horse can be worth, and I see this could have been a true statement for a teen.
Categories 5)Fire & 9)Biographies/autobiographies
The Firefly Letters
OK, I'm starting to get nervous about finishing the challenge, so I'm double counting. I can always substitute later if I have time. I knew biographies would be a challenge--and I wanted to challenge myself--but haven't made the time to find many.
Altho this book is a series of poems/free verse, they give us a glimpse of the lives of 3 very different women, and how they are changed by knowing each other.
I was deliberately searching for books by Engle after seeing her children's book Summer Birds about Maria Sybilla Merian. Merian's artwork is delicious. Engle's poems are alive. And this wonderful author I would never have read if it weren't for this challenge.
Category 1) Bees: Little Bee
Touchstones are touchy for this.
Powerful & engrossing. It brought up memories of someone I knew in the US from Nigeria during the Biafran war. I also found myself comparing this with How to Read the Air, recently read. Both deal with immigrants stowing away on ship, and having to deal with psychological trauma, but that's about all. Little Bee does not take place in someone's head; we see how people act, the choices they make, and how they feel.
I liked the self-aware writing, Little Bee telling us how she would have to interrupt her story if she were telling it to her friends back home, or warning us that later she will tell us something sad.
Quote to remember: "We must see all our scars as beauty...Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived...Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive." This is an alive book.
edited to fix touchstone
Category 1) Bees: Honeybee
I've enjoyed dipping into this book over the last couple months. Nothing earthshaking, but I like the way she thinks. A mix of poems and brief prose, bees figure in enough of the writing to qualify for my category. It seems as if most of the bee images are sandwiched in a section between bookends of world affairs. US agression is a big concern for Nye, the daughter of a Palestinian, and some of her poems address GWBush's actions. A meditation on a broken glass gives us "A president who doesn't do everything he can to stop war should break his own plates and see how it feels...It is hard to drink lemonade without weeping into the glass...that reminds me of nowhere we dreamed of going. (p.92-3)" Tho it is hard to separate out quotes, since you almost need the whole poem to see the relevance of images, I was struck by"Where is the note of justice tucked into history? A billion pounds of wisdom in this lost note (p 107)."
Some of her poems come from a Zen base "the crickets...saying, Slow down slow down We told you this long ago but you forgot (p.35)."
I like how the titles of some of the poems are really part of the poem.
I'll be looking for other writings by Nye.
Today I went through my TBR pile and pulled out everything I thought would fit into these categories. I can more than fill Biography/Autobio, if I include books that deal with a specific portion of a person's life, rather than full biographies. Which just goes to show that this is a category I think I "should" read, not one I choose for enjoyment or relaxation.
Most of my remaining categories could be filled from my TBR, especially if I accept books related to the category rather than the specific word (e.g. "storm" or "pool" for water) or stretch the meaning of Sustainability to include attitude instead of just technology. I'm still short in the Fire category, and have very few unread SciFi--I tend to get to those right away. I'd be picking up more SciFi anyway.
Category 11) Animals: Shopping for Porcupine
I had intended this book for autobiography category, but see I've got all I need in my TBR. Even tho it isn't specifically about animals, they are entwined in the author's lifestyle.
While I was reading Ordinary Wolves, I wondered how much of Cutuk's unusual life was based own Kantner's own experiences so when I saw this book I snapped it up. Turns out he did grow up in an isolated sod house with the same family structure.
This book is more a collection of stories of his memories of family, friends, and community in the Alaskan outback, and a few ruminescing on the changing lifestyle as big oil and technology takes over. Many double-spread photos taken by Kantner, who is a photographer in addition to writer. I suppose I should be impressed by the tundra, caribou herds, Jade Mountains but find I couldn't find a focal point in them and was more caught up examining the photos with people.
Kantner writes well, and thoughtfully, and his heart is connected with his subject. As an environmentalist, I know many people who feel uncomfortable with hunting in any form. As a practicer of self-sufficiency, I recognize that we are tied in to the food web and believe it is better to accept the responsibility for taking an animal's life rather than letting some distant feedlot and slaughterhouse protect my sensibilities. Yes, he talks about hunting, but he also is looking for how he fits into the world.
There was no quote I needed to mark for a personal guidepost, but include a selection here which typifies his style: "I hear a whimpering in the trees. My hand twitches for a rifle, but I go on, leaning and peeriing forward. Silence lives here in these trees. But what else?...Tucked up in the branches, a porcupine clings...We peer at each other, both with frost around our eyes and puffs of breath dissipating. I consider shaking him down for dinner but decline. Winter porcupine tastes like a spruce slab, and besides, it is nice to have him here....Hunting is installed in my heart, as sacred as eating and breathing. It is a very separate thing from some Outsider's paper regulations...Here on the old froontier the eapproaching modern mesh of law feels like a gill net set too drown our souls. But the truth? We're already hooked. We have swallowed technology and are wriggling to avoid the shackles that make it work: rules and laws...Unfortunately, hunting itself has altered...'He always catch'--half a century ago the difference between life and starvation--is still our region's highest coompliment. But lost along the trail to today are the bulk of the ancestral requisites of hunger-driven hunting, often including tracking the wounded, tanning their hides, reverence for the dead...We are living through big change, hard times in a new way...The dying of subsistence as a lifestyle doesn't negate the importance of food from the land... (p 162-3)"
Isn't it fun to get organized for a challenge. The first year I did auto/biography/memoir I didn't think I'd find enough, but I found myself whining because the category got filled up and I still had some I wanted to read. Now I know it's an easy category for me.
You find some rather unusual books Shopping for Porcupine looks good. Love "winter porcupine tastes like a spruce slab." I'll bet it does! Ick.
>70 Some days its great just to get organized at all. While going thru my TBR, I also sorted enough books to fill new categories for next year, but I think I'll choose something shorter than 12 in 12.
Category 9)Biographies/auto West with the Night
My sister gave me this book over 10 years ago, saying I “must read”, but I’d been letting it slide since I thought it would be all about flying and I’m not particularly interested in flying. I was wrong—it is just as much about Africa. That focus of the book was interesting, as was the childhood freedom Beryl enjoyed. I rated it lower because, like many British authors, there is a deliberateness about the writing style, all intellect, no heartfire showing even when talking about emotional or passionate issues. Beryl’s life seems to have been one of doing, and very little is said about her relationships, so I’m left assuming she never developed close friendships.
After reading her adventures with Blix, I was intrigued to look up info on Karen Blixen, to see why she wasn't mentioned. Since Markham didn't say what year the first event took place (the last event was 1936), it was difficult to be sure, but was likely during the Blixen's separation.
Here is a curious quote, tho I’m not sure what it meant to her in her historical time: “Racial purity, true aristocracy, devolve not from edict, nor from rote, but from the preservation of kinship with the elemental forces and purposes of life…” While racial purity is of no concern to me, I am interested in the results of (and the means whereby) a kinship with nature can be maintained.
I'll add other quotes I liked to CK, if they aren't already there.
Category 11) Animals: Fup
A brief amusing read. Gary Snyder’s blurb states it best as a “nutty novel.” The blurbers who stated “beautiful”, “stupendous”, or “transcendent charm, wisdom” are just blathering nonsense, afraid to say “the emperor has no clothes” about a book presuming to be a philosophical fable. If a fable is a tale about animals with an explicitly stated moral, then, yes, this is a fable. And the oft-repeated moral is “It just ain’t possible to explain some things.”
Having read this just before Beryl Markham’s memoir, I was struck by the similarity of the conclusion “I was immortal until I died” with her musing that “Life goes on until Death stops it (p. 107)”
Category 1) Bees: Buzz Off
Third book in a row that was a take-it-or-leave-it average read. No surprises in this mystery tale. I decided that my inability to follow the meager plot convolutions had more to do with Story, the protagonist, being pretty scattered herself (or perhaps the author). Obviously written for mass market.
I felt a camaraderie toward Story, as an enthusiastic novice beekeeper. I liked Reed’s promotion of bees, local produce and wild foods. And as a Wisconsin native, I had to admire Reed’s marketing of our state’s attractions, which are not inconsiderable tho not monumental. However, she forgot to include the other 5-10 bars in her listing of businesses in her typical small town setting.
>75 What's Wisconsin without beer?
And she didn't mention the gas station-mini marts. But then, that would be competition for the "only grocery store" in town, started by Story.
Category 9)Biographies/auto Reason for Hope
Another British author. Another book checked off the list. What a sad thing to say about a book, especially when the author says she has "laid bare a lot of my mind, heart, and soul" (p. 276). Being a good person doesn't mean one can express their life and motivations in an interesting manner. There are some gems here, mixed in with the pedantry and polemics. My God, so many chapters dragging us thru all the ways humans are destroying the world and harming animals. Well, since people are still doing it, I guess it needs to be said.
Her stated reason for writing, tho, is to answer the question "where do you find hope?" And that, despite her rambling about the importance of Jesus, seems to be "from nature". Which is the same message now being promoted by Louv as the cure for Nature Deficit Disorder (tho I have yet to read Last Child in the Woods). And that is an answer I can understand, since I experience it every time I can break myself away from this computer to actually go outside, in the garden or the woods. I am glad for this message to be spread however it can. Additionally she finds that "Herein lies the real hope for our future--we are moving toward the ultimate destiny of our species--a state of compassion and love." (p. 251) She was stongly influenced by having lived through WWII, in Britain, and by what she heard about the horrors of the concentration camps. These are the horrors which forced her to ponder our humanity, and search out glimmers of hope.
She does her best to show how evolutionary theory fits with Christianity. In some of the chapters it is apparent Goodall is disputing some other labels: Dawkins' selfish gene theory, Erikson's Pseudospeciation (which she relabels cultural speciation).
With her discovery of tool use by chimpanzees, scientists have had to redefine what it means to be humans. Her definition seems to be that we are the language users. "the uniquely human ability to talk about that which is not present, share events of the distant past, plan for the far-off future, and, most important, discuss ideas, bouncing them back and forth to share the accumulated wisdom of an entire group...to aritculate feelings of awe, feelings that would lead to religious belief..." (p.188)
Just as important, I feel, are her observations on parenting by chimpanzees, which meshes with what is experienced by humans. "a secure childhood was likely to lead to self-reliance and independence in adulthood while a disturbed early life might well result in an insecure adult...Mothers whe were...playful, affectionate, tolerant, and above all supportive, seemed to raise offspriing who, as adults, had good relaxed relationships with community members." (p.88-89)
Goodall ends with a challenge for us to each "take responsibility for our own lives" because "Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference" (p.266)
What are some of the gems in this book?
"How sad it would be...if we humans ultimately were to lose all sense of mystery, all sense of awe. If our left brains were utterly to dominate the right so that logic and reason triumphed over intuition and alienated us absolutely from our innermost being, from our hearts, our souls." (p.177)
"...it honestly didn't matter how we humans got to be the way we are, whether evolution or special creation was responsible. What mattered and mattered desperately was our future development...were we going to find ways to live in greater harmony with each other and with the natural world?" (p.179)
"That which is loved...can grow. We had to learn to understand and love this Spirit within in order to find peace within. And only then could we reach out beyond the narrow prison of our own lives..." (p.199)
"We cannot live through a day without impacting the world around us--and we have a choice: What sort of impact do we want to make?" (p.242)
"...there are things which I, with my finite mind, shall never be able to understand. And that, although I can never accept evil...and though I shall always fight it, I do not have to account for its presence among us." (p.260)
This gem is a quote she used from Schweitzer: "A man who possesses a veneration of life will not simply say his prayers. He will throw himself into the battle to preserve life..." (p.251)
Not a gem, so much as an apt description of what I feel is going on in our world "..developing countries that served as playing fields forthe economic games of the superpowers..."(p.186)
Category 2) Gardening: The Beetless' Gardening Book
Why have I not heard of this book before? I'm laughing as I read it...well, OK, as I sing it. Somehow when I saw the title I didn't get the connectin with the Beatles, I assumed it was going to tell me about gardening the unloved vegetables. I actually found this on a WorldCat search using "rutabaga" looking for a half-remembered kids book for the school secretary who asked me to plant her favorite vegetable in the garden I was helping them grow (the book turned out to be Eat Rutabagas by Jerry Apps--you've got to read that too! even if the touchstone never gets connected).
While it doesn't give detailed organic (is there any other kind?) gardening directions, it introduces quite a few techniques and provides references for those who need more specifics. Also has a glossary.
The comments for each song (carefully labelled as "poems" to avoid copyright issues) often raise a chuckle. I can relate to the lifestyle indicated, and wish I lived in Oregon and could hang out in Aprovecho with all these cool gardeners.
I'm going to buy a copy for all my muscial gardening friends. Not many books that inspire me to such generosity.
Category 8) Sustainability: Spent
Better than the average self-help book, addresses multiple facets of wellness: diet, stress, chemicals, exercise, sleep patterns, rhythm, interpersonal connections.
Somewhat of a stretch to fit this into sustainability, but if you follow his suggestions for eating locally and organic, you will have a start to living sustainably. Being healthy as a revolutionary Act (actually is a website w/that motto).
I read straight thru it, since it was a library borrow, but it is really meant to be worked thru, with small daily steps to turning your health around. Since I already eat pretty much as he recommends (well, when I'm not too busy), the part I'm most likely to use is the recommended yoga poses. I was searching for a few simple exercises that would help with tight muscles (too much computer time!) and, while I'm sure there are more comprehensive books on that aspect, it helps that he's picked out about a dozen, which is enough to start with. The one most useful piece of advice that I didn't already know: there is a rhythm to your body's digestive/absorptiive processes--we are primed for major foods in the morning thru midday, and need lighter foods as day winds down.
Lots of good quotes from others in this. I like J. Krishnamurti "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." and Khalil Gibran "You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession."
What I didn't like about the book: often he refers us to his website for further info, and says he'll have recommendations about specific brands (e.g. vitamins & supplements). His website promotes his own products. There is a member forum, tho, that looks like will give advice on other brands, but you have to sign up & be approved by the administrator.
Category 8)sustainability and 2)gardening Bringing Nature Home
Excellent explanation of why we need biodiversity: insects are necessary as the protein source for most of our loved birds and wildlife, and most plant-eating insects have evolved/adapted to specific plants, so that lawns and imported plants are a desert to them. Lots of great photos making his point. Since I've read a lot on this topic, all the rehash of what I already knew did get a bit tedious, but was easy enough to skim thru. My one quibble with his concept is he seems to say that changing our suburban landscape will be sufficient. I know there are some birds and animals that are not that willing to get so close to humans--they need deep woods for their habitat. By acknowledging that our national parks and preserves are not enough and that we need suburbs to harbor wildlife also, we cannot conversely say that we can now dismantle our preserves.
That's the first part of the book. If everyone switched to native plants and decreased lawn size for their landscaping, it would help a lot to make our lifestyle sustainable. Tallamy even includes ideas for fitting in with the neighborhood --native landscaping does not equal neglect & ragged weeds.
The second section describes 22 species that support the most insect life. There is no gardening advice, this is more a planning guide.
The third section describes 52 insect species: "What bird food looks like" (which is a nice way of saying "don't be squeamish" and reminding us that--besides their role as pollinators-- we don't really want to wipe out all insect life). This part was more iinteresting than the entomology class I took, mostly because I knew I wouldn't be tested on them. Tallamy found some interesting fact to share for most species.
Appendices include 1) a list of native plants by region--shade trees, conifers, understory trees & shrubs, vines, ground covers, perennials for dry or wet sites, grasses/sedges/rushes, ferns. 2)list of butterflies/moths and their host plants. 3)references (he is a professor, after all)
So get it, read it, use it--get with the program!
(duplicate category counting if I need to, at year end)
9)Biographies/autobiographies The Phoenix Trip
When I read Jane Goodall's Reason for Hope, I was struck by how important WWII was to her, the importance thru out her life by the concentration camps. I realized that I am probably similarly tied to the Vietnam War, & the needs of the Vietnamese as they rebuild from the destruction and defoliants we reained on them will always tug at me. Therefore it seemed only proper that my next read be this one from my TBR. It was given to me many years ago when I attended Madison Friends Meeting, by a member who wanted to give me this chance to appreciate what a fellow Madisonian had done. Somehow, tho, I never got around to reading it, & continued to see Betty Boardman as just someone from the older generation.
This book is more of a documentary than a drama. It is a bare fleshing out of the diary she kept on her jouney with a Quaker group to bring medical supplies to North Vietnam during the war. But right at the beginning she quotes from Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories--I loved that!
We don't really learn much about why she did this, perhaps she assumed her readers would all come from a Quaker background and would know. I actually learned more about the people involved from another participants brief account, which is included in the appendix. Betty herself usually assigned opinions to "most people" or "the crew"--when there are only 8 or 9 people. Who was she trying to protect? There seemed to be a lot of dissension among the group, & short tempers. But, as she puts it, "It's hard to work cooperatively with people who are essentially as stiff-necked, individualistic, stubborn, and righteous (how I hate to be called that) as I am" (p.59) "Here we were trying to stop a war while harboring within us all the elements needed to make a war." (p.120)
Betty must have been in the forefront of the feminist movement, and writes in a time when women were paying a lot of attention to the limitations placed on them. She writes of her awareness of not being taken seriously as a leader by the group, she does the cooking and typing--tho she does also take a turn at the wheel and negotiates with officials. She writes "The peace movement in the US was badly crippled by male chauvinism, so there is no reason to believe that the good men I was traveling with were not infected by it too." (p.76) She also is impressed with the Vietnamese women she meets, one a mayor, others doing the manufacturing tasks, everyone pitching in to rebuild after bombings.
I know I wouldn't have the energy it took, sailing in a small boat with about 7 other people from Hawaii to Vietnam, negotiating with officials for permission, being a guest in a strange country, strange foods, unknown language. "we had to say to both the Americans and the Vietnamese ...that people are more important than war, that we Americans are brothers and sisters of the Vietnamese, that love will not be turned aside by American warmakers." (p.41)
I did highlight some passages which provided some meager insight into the mission. "We were still unable to grasp the idea that the system itself bred this kind of world-wide imperialism for the good of a minute part of our society and to the detriment of the rest of us...the broad vision that the US system had to change in unimaginably drastic ways. 300 years ago we evolved a new concept of government which was better than anything then known, and we must, said Bob, do it again" (p.38-9) "We believed that in the Quaker way there is no real leader but the guidance of the inner light, that we would come to decisions by group consensus and discussions. If we had to have a spokesman at a particular moment we could appoint one. It didn't have to be the same person all the time." (p.75)
Thru her experiences we learn some of the history of Vietnam, and learn that N Vietnam wasn't an impoverished 3rd world country that was in desperate need of the medicines they were bringing--N. Vietnam had its own pharmaceutical industry, and a high standard of medical care. "It seemed to me that the difference between those women and the often underpaid and underappreciated working women in America was remarkable...We must compete to eat. The Vietnamese cooperate to eat." (p.90) The children they meet were self-confident, happy. "The secret was in the word 'needed'. These kids had a job, a role, they were needed. American kids are an indulgence, an accident, a duty, a joy; but they are not needed." (p.110)
Category 3)Earth The Earth Hums in B Flat
This is such a sweet book, I loved Gwenni's imaginativeness, how she goes about doing things her way despite her mother's attempts to get her to "think what people will say".
Category 6) Air Air Ferrets Aloft
A light read. I think it might be great for my grandson-he's just getting old enough to be wanting a series (his older sister speeds thru series books). Bach does include some of his favorite philosophy in a way that blends with the story, not preachy. And I'd like my grandson to be reinforced in listening to his "higher truth". Although I'm not sure if the romance angle would be boring to him--but, really, 2 ferrets aren't going to get too romantic.
I always enjoy getting reminded of destiny, guidance by angels, and keeping open to love (tho I limit my Bach reading to less than once/yr so I don't get overdosed).
Category 4) Water The Water's Edge
Thankfully the narrator changed with different chapters. I cringed at the meekness of Kristine Ris. There was quite a complexity of people and possible culprits, altho (because of the chapters narrated by the perpetrator) it was also clear that none of them were the perpetrator. The second incident was more complexity--I didn't predict that ending.
I kept confusing the 2 detectives (wish they're last names had started w/different letters). Their speculations as they tried to understand the perpetrator, sometimes on the mark, sometimes astray, were interesting reading.
I wonder if the translator is Scots--wouldn't an American have translated "lake" instead of "loch"?
I will be looking for more books by this author. Despite Google, it is pretty difficult to find out anything about a translator.
Category 5) Fire: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Just finished the last page, so first impressions. The action pulls you along, for the most part. The beginning of Part 2 was kind of slow, & I really got bored with the shopping excursion--how much did IKEA pay for product placement? It wasn't that hard to figure out the main crime the police were working on, but the many subplots came up with unpredictable factors. I haven't read the first book in the series yet, and don't know if I will, since it seemed like this book probably removed some of the mystery of the first. I've got lots of other books I want to read first--adventure novels aren't my top choice, tho entertaining diversion.
Category 5) Fire: Contact: The Battle for America. Fire the Sky
I had read an earlier (forgotten) book by these authors and felt it was basically a romantic novel dressed up in pseudo-native gear, so I didn't really want to read another. I finally succombed, since it matches up with 3 different categories of mine and promised to be an easy read. It did hold my attention, but was also long, so not as quick of a read as I had hoped, for finishing my challenge this month.
It was very engrossing. I think it helped that it was based on historic fact, and I learned much about DeSoto and his rampage. Quite a contrast to the couple of sentences in my grade school history class. Yes, there is a romantic interest, and obviously the protagonists were fictional, but the depiction of daily life, ceremonies, social structure and intrigues carried the book. Of course, much of that is creatively extrapolated from what is known about the tribes since European contact, and from archeological excavations (are we no better than DeSoto's troops, kicking over the burial urns?)
Category 9)Biographies/autobiographies My Double Life
Hamerstrom is a creative writer. I can imagine her telling her kids bedtime stories "when I was a little girl..." Her chapters are short snapshots of her life, from her confining childhood in a rich family to roughing it at an abandoned Wisconsin farm, studying prairie chickens.
In a way, her creative determination to follow her own heart reminds me of Gwenni in "The Earth Hums in B Flat" (or, rather, it should be the other way round).
She is one of my role models, that I wish I had heard about 20 years earlier. She was one of the women pioneers in ecology, studied with Aldo Leopold, and wrote an enormous number of articles.
I came over to look at your thread from something you wrote on another thread and saw you have a "bees" category and thought I'd mention the book Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop. I'm about 3/4 of the way done with it and think it's very interesting. It's more of a history of beekeeping than a "how to", but she has a very interesting way of writing so it doesn't get to dry.
I also saw your categories for earth, air, fire, and water. I was thinking about an "earth elements" category in my 2012 challenge, but I ended up not using it. But maybe in 2013.
Category 10)Alternate Futures Brown Girl in the Ring
Great book. About 1/2 way thru it seemed familiar, as if I had read it a long time ago, but not familiar enough to spoil the plot. I was puzzled why people from Caribiean culture ended up in Toronto ghetto--I'd have expected them to emigrate somewhere warmer. This is the 2nd book I've read touching on voodoo in future cities, competing with novels where celtic spirits have taken to modern cities.
Scary images--I'm glad I'm not seeing any of those spirits! Not something to mess with. I did like how Ti-Jeanne develops courage, stands up for herself. And her feelings about her baby are a familiar ambivalence.
Category 6) Air: A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi
Interesting read; I am a sucker for stories about sick kids and the depth of their mother's love (tho that isn't the main theme). Malladi presents the modern Hindu culture from the POV of a woman at 2 points in her life: young adult and mid-adult, and her progression from traditional expectations (even with her college education) of marriage/homemaker to independence. Their is some questioning of their marriage, by her husband, but there is enough else going on that this doesn't turn into the dragged-out mental rehash that makes me avoid "bad marriage" tales. I admire Anjali's strength and love for her husband, and understand the difficulty of putting up with her sister-in-law Komal's harping. Komal is a sharp contrast to Anjali, caught in the traditional mainstream role of widow's without children being worthless.
This book also points out the long-ranging effects of the Bhopal chemical disaster, which I hadn't realized and which make me ashamed of the American company, Union Carbide, which did so little for those affected. Anjali's decision to not participate in a class action suit was interesting.
Category 10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures The Postman
Not quite dated, but with a flavor of an earlier era, this 1985 scifi describes a post-apocalyptic 2011. For example, Gordon's observation that the only fallen bridges were those destroyed during fighting because "when man built well, it seemed, only time or man himself could bring his things down." If Brin had written after the Bay Bridge and the Minnesota bridge collapses he wouldn't have written that.
The story itself is an interesting read, if you don't think about how Gordon managed to survive on his own for 16 years before the story opens, or about how an 18 yr old (at the time of the Disaster) was so well-read in a number of college-level topics. Brin got on my wrong side at the start, with his references to stiff/thorny/scratchy "bracken". I think "brambles" is the word he wanted, and take umbrage at humble bracken being so defiled.
My interest faded quickly in the last section when Brin tried to incorporate a feminist character. His understanding of feminism is sadly awry--he does better at portraying fights and the survivalist male mentality.
Category 10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures Across the Universe
I had really meant my category to be about futures on Earth, but reviews for this book looked intriguing. Revis did a good job of balancing how much the reader knew compared to the protagonist, Elder, yet providing some hints that we could figure out some of the mystery. Even tho I did pick up on some of the clues, there was enough new information being disclosed that I wasn't bored. I think young adults would identify well with Amy, Elder, and Harley.
Category 9)biographies/autobiog: The Woman Warrior rating 4 and The Road from Coorain rating 3.5
I fortuitiously read these 2 books in immediate succession. As I began Conway's autobiography, I told myself that this couldn't be more different from the other. Kingston jumps right into a story, while Conway leisurely sets the stafe for almost 2 chapters before her birth. She analyzes, from her more mature perspective, the social structure she is a part of. The importance of landscape in the development of her character was important, and more clearly states an intuition I have felt. Kingston keeps us a bit unsure of what is story and what is real--the tale of Fa Mu Lan is told in the first person--which reflects Kinsgton's own difficulty as a child in telling them apart.
However, as I finished the Australian book, I saw similarities between these 2 women's lives: both women were dominated by their mothers, and both used their scholarly skills as a means of escape from the roles laid out for them.
I got the impression that Kingston was younger when she wrote her book. One isn't quite sure if she will be able to make the break, and learn to live in the "ghost" (white people) society. Conway's book, even tho it ends when she is about 26, leaves us assured that she does find her own path because the perspective of her older self is evidient.
Category 11) The Badgers of Summercombe
I'm not sure what age level this novel is intended for. Usually tales where the animals are the main characters, with names, are juvenile, and there is a 12 year old boy making a brief appearance. But there are also adults more prominent than that boy, and we are privy to more of their lives than I would expect in a juvenile novel. I enjoyed reading it. I appreciated how Clarkson was able to intertwine predator/prey relationships, the importance of the different roles or niches each organism fills with a simple tale of the daily routine of a few badgers. He even makes a bit of geology interesting and relevant.
This would be a good book for my grandson, who loves learning about animals, except that it is set in England and may lead him to expect American badgers to act the same even tho it is mentioned that the European badgers have a more "catholic" diet (one of the assorted big words that makes me think this was written for adults). Still...to read of voles as a "prepackaged survival ration"turning indigestible plant cellulose into a plentiful food source is quite delightful.
I know what they mean by "catholic" diet, but I've got this image of a badger swallowing a communion wafer. ??? Yup, not quite written for ten or so year olds. It sounds fun though. Did it have a plot, or did it wander from story to story.
>95 ...I guessed grandson might have the same image so I've stuck definitions in the book--doubt he'll slow down enough to use a dictionary.
Plot is generally how humans misunderstand and harm wildlife, but if we only knew them we would appreciate how each is important in sustaining the enviroment. Story follows a badger family: The father's death by vehicle in first chapter, birth and raising of a cub, Borun, the mother's death in a snare--the theme of badgers vs farmers is prominent. Borun leaves his birthplace when a fox moves in, has incidents with humans, finds a mate, and eventually they both return to his birthplace. That is threatened by highway development, but a geologist finds the ground is too unstable for a roadbed.
I'm finding I like story books about nature, even tho I "shouldn't" enjoy anthropomorphizing animals so much.
Category 4)water: River Cross my Heart
I had a hard time identifying with Johnnie Mae, but felt this novel was a good way to learn some black history. At times it felt like the collection of stories it was based on rather than a cohesively developed plot of the family's response to the drowning of one child.
Category 7)Native American: The Death of Bernadette Lefthand
Did this book win awards as a kind of reverse prejudice because it's by and about Native Americans? This is not "a riveting tale of...the dark magic of the twisted soul", as the cover promo avers, but a flat recitation, step by step, of a woman's murder by a mentally sick acquaintance.
The voice of the narrator was too ingenuous (Gracie is 16) and it is easy to tell this is not the natural voice of the author--nor would it be natural for any person. She describes everything, including things that would be so ordinary they would be an accepted background by the character, e.g. "My sister pushed open the torn screen door"--if Querry wants to impress us with the poverty, he should use descriptive statements not narrated by the characters. Similarly, too often this narrative strays into explanations of Indian culture, powwows or rodeos.
The sections about Rounder and Starr Stubbs are irrelevant to the tale, and don't even add to our understanding of events, except for brief sections where Starr describes some interaction between Bernadette and her husband, or lets us see how placid and good Bernadette was.
>99 BC Tea, I think I'll be spending the first several months of 12 finishing up 11 in 11, since I got a late start. Then I'll either look for a group that doesn't have such a quantity, or one that deals w/books I've got in my TBR--I really have to thin this down. The trouble is that if I like a book I continue to hold onto it, just in a different pile.
Category 3) Earth: Sisters of the Earth
Some of these writings were wonderful, some stilted, some (the chapter about how we abuse the earth) either depressing or old hat--our society has moved on to other abuses. All were written in the US. Of course, I loved LeGuin's "May's Lion"--she's one of my all time favorite authors. And while I was familiar with Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, Anne LaBastille, Paula Gun Allen, Marge Piercy it was nice to read something different by them since by no means do I have all of their writings. There were very few excerpts from longer works which inspire me to search out the original. One exception being McIntyre's Mind in the Waters; I already have Opal Whiteley in my TBR pile.
I was surprised at how many of the author's were born in 1800's or early 1900's. Out of 89 authors, 28 born in 1800's, 8 more before 1910. Surely more young women have written engagingly about nature--but perhaps it was a matter of obtaining copyright permissions.
Here're 2 new-to-me writers:
Josephine Johnson "I live alone in the country. I like it. The big kitchen in winter is full of potatoes and boots and sacks of seed. One can never be lonely in a room with a fifty pound sack of sunflower seed."
Abbie Huston Evans
"I may have stood in need of something bedded
Like the ledge beside me barnacled with lichen,
With a great wave of juniper breaking on it...
If you had told me that I wanted fulness,
Or life, or God, I should have nodded "yes";
But not a bush of berries,--not a mountain!
--Yet so it was: fantastic needs like these,
Blind bottom hungers like the urge in roots,
Elbowed their way out, jostling me aside;
A need of steadiness, that caught at mountains,
A need of straightness, satisfied with cedars,
A need of brightness, cozened with a bush..."
:) always looking for writers on "Juniper"
Category 7)Native American subjects: Gardens in the Dunes
After I started reading this, I realized I'd read it a long while ago. Scenes were familiar, & I feared half-remembered catastrophes that were to come. Funnily enough, tho, things didn't turn out the way I thought I'd remembered. In fact, I was impressed with the pluck and ability of Sister Salt and Indigo to weather whatever came their way. Yes, Indigo was sad & lonely at times, but she also was able to be cheered by her animal friends, and she believed her dreams which brought her the love of her family.
I didn't give it a 5* because the writing style was unusual--kind of dreamy. Half the time I didn't know if the characters were speaking the text to each other or if they were just thinking it--only if another character responded to the text was I sure it had been voiced. I was bothered by some repetition of phrases with slight differences within the same page. It took me most of the book (& a cue from my autistic son) to realize that often people do harp on the same subject when they are just randomly conversing. Or maybe these were times when the character first thought about something and later said it. It didn't happen often enough to be irritating, just enough to make me say "wait a minute". And at first I thought it was a poor editing job, but it was consistent thru the book, so realized it was deliberate.
There was something about the dreamy style that reminded me of some other book I've read about early 1900's--maybe that Edgar Algar biography, or that book about collecting eucalyptus in Australia (you can tell I need LT to help my poor memor for details of books read).
Plot/Scene details: a family from an almost extinct tribe in the southern desert are happy with their daily cycle of simplicity/survival until whites steal the 2 girls sending one to boarding school & the other to learn a trade. This happens when the whites disrupt a native dance inspired by Wovoka to bring the return of the Messiah/Jesus. The youngest girl runs away, is taken in by a wealthy white couple. The chapters develop each person's life and experiences separately, yet we see how the 2 girls continually plan to return to their home.
Category 11)Animals: Ape House
After reading Water for Elephants, I had to read more Gruen. Couldn't put it down, she "set this book on fire" (John's comments on Amanda's 2nd book). But beyond the active plot, I appreciate that she was able to teach us, the general public, something important about great apes, communication, and human-animal interactions.
I also want to say that, even tho this wasn't the main theme, I appreciated how John & Amanda had an enduring love/marriage even tho they also often were angry with each other. They worked thru their misunderstandings. I do have to say that their parents were extreme--such stereotyped in-laws.
Category 7)Native American subjects: Sastun
I've had Sastun for over 10 yr TBR, with high hopes. It didn't quite meet my hopes, as an instructive book, but was a good presentation of a woman's apprenticship with a healer. To gain the apprenticeship, Rosita spent months voluntarily helping Elijio without asking questions. It took that time, and that approach, for him to see that she was serious about learning, willing to work hard, and had the intent of serving those in need. Elijio clearly did not use his power to harm others, but had seen enough of people using the dark side to be cautious in sharing what he knew with strangers. In that aspect, this was certainly a more instructive book than others, such as Woman Who Glows in the Dark, in which it appears that healer and student recognize each other and teaching begins at once. In contrast to that book, which goes into spiritual aspects of healing, Rosita seems to have a very pragmatic approach, and focuses more on physical ailments and cures rather than the spiritual. She had a background in natrapathy, learned in the US, and had moved to Belize with her husband to homestead and to use their training for the healthcare of the local village. Clearly, creating a life in the tropics, if you don't have an outside income, is not a piece of cake. And harvesting the herbs needed for herbal medicine is hot sweaty work that takes a lot of time. This work is not for New Age dabblers.
Category 7)Native American subjects: The Scalpel and the Silver Bear rating 3*
Such a contrast to Sastun, and another book I've had TBR for years which didn't live up to my expectations. This is much more didactic, and was not much of a biography. Alvord does mention several times that it is not the Navajo way to talk about one's self, and she doesn't. Her purpose is more about telling us about the current abyssmal state of healthcare --and life, in general--on the Navajo reservation, and pointing out how the Navajo approach to life, seeking balance and harmony in every aspect, would go a long way to correcting the problems in the US health care system.
There were themes in this book that have come up in other reading I've done recently.
--Feeling like an outsider, not fully accepted by the non-white culture because she was brought up to be modern, yet not sure whether she wants to fit in that dominant white society. Same theme in Woman Warrior and Dreams of Bread and Fire.
--"Historical grief". Defined in this book, is an unspoken thread throughout both Woman Warrior and Dreams of Bread and Fire, and also rings a bell with a recent video I've seen on epigenetics, a new science which is discovering how environmental influences including mother's emotional state during pregnancy switch off the expression of different genes and become inherited by children and grand children for unknown generations.
--Tribes. Lori Alvord begins to "honor and cherish my tribal membership" and defines "A tribe is a community of people connected by blood or heart, by geography and tradition, who help one another and share a belief system" (p 32). I'll refer to this in my review of Kricorian's book.
I suppose I really should say something about the Navajo concept of walking in beauty, but will just say that you should read the book to see what Alvord has to say, and then find another book to learn in more depth. Alvord was not brought up traditionally and is still learning this during the time frame of the book.
Category 5: Fire: Dreams of Bread and Fire
The synopsis on the book jacket is so inadequate at describing this book. This story twines back and forth, wraps around itself, but this structure works. Here we see the world thru a young woman's mind--all her insecurities, memories sparked by events around her, every event evoking some past event, and Ani is swept up in the recall. Sometimes it is even evident that she has spaced out during real time (and not just in the written structure) as someone she is talking to will ask if she heard what they just said. And not just memories, but dreams and imaginations.
One thread tying this together is brought to our attention by the definition of nostalgia which Ani records "an aching in the heart for the homeland" (p.105). Ani has never known her homeland, and her grandparents never speak of the genocide they escaped from there. Ani's father died when she was 4, disowned by his family, and her grandmother only speaks negatively about him. So, yes, as the synopsis states, you could describe this book as a search for identity, but it is much less straightforward than that.
In a way, Ani is a very ordinary college student, and maybe that's why I connected so strongly with this book, it reinforces the shared needs and desires we all have for love and acceptance, for understanding who we are and how we fit into the history of our people--no matter whether we come from a foreign land and culture or whether we are 6th generation Euro-American. I said in message 106 that "tribe" comes up in this book. It's really just an allusion, as Ani talks about a college "secret society" she was initiated into, students desperately trying to create a tribe, the "invisible glue that holds the Establishment together" (p.113), the "enveloping arms of an exclusive community of women" (p.115),
Another theme is Ani's fear of being trapped--despite her attraction to the lifestyle and entitlement (p.111)of the wealthy-- into the kind of life exemplified by the only role models she has for educated women: "a grown woman of reasonable intelligence who spent most of her days shopping, lunching..." (p 23-4)
I like how each chapter heading seems to be a traditional Armenian saying--or at least something that might have been said by Ani's grandfather. She tells us that she brought his sayings to her 3rd grade teacher when they were learning adages--but they weren't quite what the American teacher had in mind (p 160). e.g. "the mouth is the heart's interpreter".
I loved Kricorian's descriptions, strikingly novel, yet so apt for picturing emotions --even when Asa tries to teach her to live in the moment without thought, her automatic response is descriptive (p 94). "The moon sat in the satin sky like a crooked bowl. God ladled sadness into the bowl until it spilled from the heavens like bitter milk. Ani caught the milk in her cup and drank it down" (p.210). "Love was a dandelion growing from a crack in the pavement, with fierce green leaves and an improbable sunshine of a flower " and "sadness welled up inside her like a spring creek flooded by rain. Cold gray water churned over rocks, sweeping along twigs, leaves, and old losses, large and small "(p.161).
what were the dreams of bread and fire? I thought, since the second chapter opens with her dreams about Satan, that the fire was hellfire, but perhaps more accurate to say it is the stove pilot light where Ani imagines the protective hearth angel lives (p.150). And the bread is the food that Ani's grandmother gives to express her love, having lost her family during the starvation at the time of the Armenian genocides. One of the chapter headers is "the hungry dream of bread, the thirsty of water".
Category 8)Sustainability: Animal Vegetable Miracle
I'm disappointed. I thought this was going to be a Story about a family eating locally for a year. Kingsolver is such a good writer (at least, Bean Trees & Pigs in Heaven were; her last 2 novels have been sitting in my TBR stack). She could have made this an interesting subject for the general public. Instead she loads most chapters with the "why" of their choice, and it comes across as a diatribe against our current food system. Well deserved, but still not a story. I've heard all that before (why I grow my own food). She writes about a restaurant that serves only locally grown food--except for a national beer, "The Farmers Diner does not present itself as a classroom, a church service, or a political rally. For many regional farmers it's a living, and for everybody else it's a place to eat." (p 151). Obviously Kingsolver didn't learn from this example--her book is at least a classroom, if not proselytizing.
The book was written by 3 people. Barbara's writing makes up the bulk of the book. Her husband Steven's sections are interspersed throughout the book, set off like footnotes, and detail some the facts and statistics about the American food system. Her daughter Camille's sections come at the end of most chapters and include recipes and a teenager's perspective. Camille's sections are interesting, and show the willingness of older teens to take action on issues that aren't working. If Barbara had eliminated all her reporting on the current system from her section, leaving it Steven's footnotes, it would have made for a much more enjoyable book. She even states "When we first dreamed up our project, we'd expected our hardest task would be to explain in the most basic terms what we were doing and why..." (p336). Yep. They should have shifted their focus. One of the topics they do well on is showing the seasonal change in what they eat--what's ripe when, and what is easily stored for winter use.
I will still recommend this book to people who haven't thought about their food sources, but I'll also mention they should feel free to page past sections that don't interest them. As the book progresses, there are more anecdotes about growing and raising food that will actually create the image that this is possible for the average person.
What she had to say about raising turkeys will actually be useful, and for that I am satisfied that I didn't waste my time with this book.
Hate that you didn't like Kingsolver's book better. It's in my TBR pile. I hope I get to it this year.
>109 Swap it out for Brockman's The Seasons on Henry's Farm. See my next message
Category 2: Gardening: The Seasons on Henry's Farm
This is exactly what I thought Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle should be: a journal of personal experience day-to-day through a year of raising vegetables. Brockman brings farming alive, with all the sweat and aching joints, delight and dismay at the weather, savoring succulent peaches and sweet peas. I want to be there when the Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon bursts open while being loaded on the truck, when the basil harvest fills the air with clouds of licorice-scented aroma, when the toppled oak tree is cut and innoculated with shiitake spawn. As she writes "We place our knees, feet, and hnds in the freshly tilled soil, surrounded by sweet air and hillsides just starting to shimmer with the first buds of brown and gold edging into gray and green" (p. 151), "a good place where birds hearld the sun, which brightens the sky and brings waarmth and life to fields and field hands alike." (p. 269-270), and "The evening brings perspective... Standing on the earth, you know that you are a part of the same something that everything came from, ... and from which you can never be separated." (p. 229-230)
hmmm... I notice I didn't bookmark any of the passages on sweating under the sun or freezing fingers during fall work.
This is the account of her brother's farm, with snippets of her sister's farm on her grandparents' homestead. Family members, apprentices and friends all pitch in to make a go of it, growing and selling their produce at Evanston IL farmers' market and through CSA subscriptions. You learn lots of tips for extending the growing season and for the special needs of different crops. She includes at least one of her sister-in-law, Hiroko's recipes using seasonally harvested foods for every month.
The jacket describes this as "appealing to readers of Michael Pollan, E.B. White, Gretel Ehrlich, and Sandra Steingraber", so now I'll have to read those authors to see why. What else did E.B. White write besides the Wind in the Willows series? Although I can see the description of daily events entwined in the natural world as fitting.
Her English major background shows in her sprinkling of literary quotes, which she integrates into her musings. For example "...in this mote of qquiet time after six nights of snow in a row, the words of Henry James come floating through my mind: 'To take what there is, and use it, without waiting forever in vain for the preconceived--to dig deep into the actual and get something out of that--this doubtless is the right way to live." This is the season for digging deep--not only into your own thoughts but into the earth, or in my case, into the storage pit down in the bottomland." (p. 99). Or, after writing about killing 2 pigs, quoting Euripides' Hecuba "And now you know: Life is held on loan. The price of life is death." (p.114) Or, while writing about harvesting herbs says "I think of Emily, in Thornton Wilder's Our Town, who is asked when she goes up to heaven what she misses most about earth. She answers, 'The smell of parslet.'" (p.253)
A final favorite part: learning about the culture & etymology of Wassail (p. 95),
@96 the home made dictionary sounds like just the thing! You've been reading a ton!
Ah, I never found the farmer's market in Evanston. I was thinking The Seasons of Henry's Farm sounded like a book that shouldn't be read too far away from a farmer's market. Just your descriptions make me want to eat.
>112 I'm trying to cram in all the books before my vacation. Wait, aren't vacations supposed to be the time for reading?
Seasons was a great inspiration for this year's garden. I'm deep in garden catalogs, & mapping beds of compatible plants, but know I'm nowhere near as productive as Henry.
Category 4) Water: The True Power of Water
I don't know what to think about this book. I'd heard about Emoto's work years ago & had always planned to read about it. And while I support the idea of the power of words, the power of intention to affect substances around us, the need to respect and honor water, and the world's impending disaster due to our modern disregard for the purity of water, by the end of the book it felt like Emoto was interpreting everything in terms of its "hado" or vibration. Might be true, but still seems a stretch when he has a machine which only he or people he has trained can read hado & he can impress a vibration on water which will correct a sick person' illness.
Category 4) Water: Running Water by Abraham Louis Clark
Self-published. I'll try to see if I can add this book to touchstones.
Easy to read. It's not often someone tells so many embarrasing stories on himself, usually memoirs gloss over them. Abe is a 20-something who makes a commitment to run across America to raise money for a non-profit which builds and repairs wells in 3rd world countries. This is the story of his run, pushing a pink jogging stroller with all he'll have to survive the days and nights. He tells of freezing nights in the desert, where there weren't any trees for supporting his tent-hammock, dealing with a chafing rash, digging a snow cave when caught at night in a bllizzard, boredom across the flat plains, and glorious sunrises. He recounts interactions with people he meets across the way, some of them planned supporters, most of them strangers, some giving random acts of kindness, some gruffly refusing aid. He does refer to his christian beliefs, which sometimes helps him push on, but not in a way that's too obnoxious for non-christians, I think. In the epilogue, we learn he's going on to do more volunteer fundraisers. It makes me wonder what he's living on, what kind of a relationship he has with his new wife.
There are a number of typographical errors, and some run-on sentences. But I'd still recommend buying this book from Amazon or his website (which probably provides a greater percent to the author) www.abrahamlouis.com . I picked up a copy locally, since his family llives in a nearby town. (I do not know them, I bought it purely on the enthusiasm of the Gillett librarian.)
I'm sure I should tidy up my recent postings, but I've been too busy in daily life and feel I can barely string 2 words together.
Category 4) Water The Well and the Mine (tho it could be 5) Earth, for the mine)
Set in 1930's coal mining town (I didn't know Alabama had coal!), this is written from the point of view of each of the 5 members of a family. When I first began, I was disappointed that Tess was given so much self-awareness--too much for a 9 yr old. It was only as I progressed thru the book that I realized this is all being told as remembrances from some future time, and then it became intriguing to pick up the hints about how their lives turned out. The story itself mainly covers part of one year. As the family deals with their reactions to a baby having been thrown into their well, they also deal with the depression, interracial relationships, and the beginning of workers' unions. You get as much insight into each character from hearing what the others think about them as you get from their own thoughts and tellings of the story.
Now that I've finished, I find myself wondering how ever did Albert get to own enough land to have a sharecropper. We hear how he was determined not to be in a position where he could be thrown out of a company house but not what it took to get his own. Or maybe the hard work and bullheadedness he shows throughout the book is explanation enough.
There's quite a bit of coal in parts of Alabama. I remember the mines from when we would go camping or go visiting relatives in Alabama when I was pre-adolescent.
The Well and the Mine sounds like an interesting bit of historic fiction. Did you feel it gave you a good sense of the time?
Yes (as far as I can tell, not having lived then). e.g. Albert having one of the few cars in town, gives a ride to anyone he passes on his way to work, and having to stand firm when a white co-worker challenges him for giving a black worker a ride. e.g. everyone lives pretty much in the same town--going to the train station to meet Granny who was visiting her son in another town is a big deal. Some conversation involves people's different opinions of presidential candidates. And that's just a sampling, remembered over a month later! Guess the book impressed me.
Category 5) Fire Dies the Fire
Second chapter starts with a celtic music singer, & I was thrilled to see a couple of my favorite genres/topics combined--Charles deLint style & post-apocalyptic. But this book really switches back & forth between styles which might appeal to the urban fantasy group & those appealing to macho fighters--I didn't pick up on that from the first chapter, which was basically a description of a plane crash (& introducing characters). There are a lot of gruesome details I wish I hadn't read. It is well written, tho, even if I can't imagine any single reader appreciating the whole. Wicca & Marine Special Ops?
This does seem to be a good time to start imagininig what skill sets might be needed when everything changes. Stirling thinks strong leadership is one of them, also being a good judge of character (willing to help others who deserve it, but wiping out those who harm others) & strong attachment to taking care of members of your group.
The 2 leaders each self-comment on not wanting the mythic titles they are given, but I don't see them taking any action to stop how other people call them. Mike Havel knows he is lucky to be alive thru all that has happens, but knows "the dice have no memory" and his luck could change at any moment. Juniper Mackenzie (OK, I really picked up the book because of her name--and Stirling had no right to give her the nickname Juney. Anyone who has chosen the name Juniper wants to be known by the full name.) is proactive in creating positive outcomes, through her prayers to the God & Goddess, knowing that any action is returned 3 fold, whether good or bad.
Category 6) Air Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting
I was happy to find this book based on Wisconsin locations and seasons. She does a good job of presenting interactions with a teenage boy, the tug and pull of relating to teens.
She says "I was uneasy about every sight and experience turning into a lecture" (p. 94). I wish she'd controlled herself more, since there was quite a bit of lecturing going on. I did wonder where she got her knowledge of ecology, bird identification, etc, given that her upbringing seemed more urban and "a single parent without an education" (p 113). It would have been helpful to parents to know how we can prepare ourselves in order to help our children learn about nature. She did mention gratitude for the "gift" her parents gave her in punishing her if she wasn't quiet, which she here rephrases as " They taught me to sit upon my throne of silence and learn the comfort and wonders found in stillness."
My main beef with this book is that there was no indication that this was going to be a therapy session. Right off in the first chapter she talks about workplace inequities for women, her history of failed relationships, the power struggles between men and women. I was looking for more of a guide on what to do outdoors with kids, more along the lines of No Child Left Inside, or Last Child In The Woods, or an adult version of Walk When The Moon Is Full (inspired me when my kids were little).
Instead of this, I'd recommend Laurie Lawlor's This Tender Place, for those looking for a Wisconsin nature book.
I learned a new word, which doesn't often happen. Brumal. But I can't think of any reason for using that word instead of it's synonym.
There were a few typos, e.g. p 92 "the wildlife had brought substance to the Ho-Chunk of old" made me pause to consider what she meant: what kind of substance? ah--subsistence?
Category 4) Water Singer from the Sea
I didn't recognize the title, but love what I've read by Tepper, so ordered this from the library. Surprise--I'd already read it, but figured it was good for another read-through for this challenge. I rarely re-read novels. Now I see that I am much more picky about the writing when I'm not focused on keeping up with the plot. Can't remember my quibbles now. It was still a good book. And I love the ecological basis: each world has a song which all creatures are a part of, & when the song is forgotten, the spirit departs, the world dies.
Maori as the original colonizers. 2nd wave of colonizers are greedy, rigid patriarchs, where women are subservient.
Great details in The Well and the Mine. Wicca & Special Ops??? My brain just can't get around that. Sounds like a curious book, but a bit jarring.
Category 9)Auto/Biographies Momma Zen
I'm counting it as an autobio. Tho she doesn't go thru her whole life, we get enough of a sense of who she is, & some childhood background in this collection of essays about being a new mother and learning to parent from the heart.
I don't have much more to add to my review here. I was going to give this book away, now I think I might have to keep it.
Category 9)Auto/Biographies Stargazing
Well, this is certainly a culture I was unfamiliar with: young male art student, Scottish, in the 1970's. Plus all the different idiosyncratic characters he met while learning to be a lighthouse keeper. Full of dialog, & Hill seems to poke fun at himself at times, as being a stereotypic young student, intense about rock music and poetry, and longing for a girlfriend. But there was always an interesting conversation going on--at shiftchange in the night, the keeper ending work would help the on duty person wake up with tales from their life. Very readable, tho my unfamiliarity with names of obscure modern artists and British rock bands caused me to glaze over at times. One, of many, amusing parts was the night he gave his own names to constellations: Rita the Meter Maid, or Electric Guitar.
Hill seems to have done a good job of recreating his attitude and interests in this memoir of one summer in his life. I don't think this is meant to be just about lighthouses (as one reviewer on LT says), but a memoir of the full range of Hill's life at that period. Which is why we hear about his student days and episodes when he was on leave--tho those are not the most interesting part of the book.
For some reason, I thought this would be similar to The Starship and the Canoe, probably based on the cover illustration of my copy. Not nearly as serious.
Not a life-changing book (tho the experience obviously was for Hill), but an enjoyable read.
Category 4) Water: The Sound of Water
A nice companion to The Well and the Mine, set in a different country, more modern times (tho dates are not provided), different situation. This describes events and reactions in the night and day of a mining disaster in India, in a played out mine that the company is trying to get the final amount of coal out. I guess I'm rating it lower because I didn't like the characters as much. The amount of greed displayed by Dolly, the amount of political manuevering by the mining administration and unions left a dirty taste in my mouth. Tho does this mean I Would rather not hear about how the world works? Are we to be so impressed by the last paragraph, where the government official, after a hard day's "work" approving a report someone else wrote for him, leans back to enjoy a CD titled "The Sound of Water"?
I did find Raimoti's thoughts to be very interesting, how he saw the mine as alive (which his co-workers thought of as foolish superstition). Somewhat of a pensive mood runs through the book, beneath the surface action, as the characters muse on their personal history.
I didn't notice the glossary at the end of the book until I had finished. I was doing my best at guessing the meanings of the foreign words frequent in the text. Since this book is not translated, I must assume Bahadur had a reason for making his color descriptions compound words, e.g. "murkyellow" "angryred"
Category 4) Water: The Drowning Man
I needed something predictable after the previous book (the Sound of Water), and that is exactly what this book is. A "good" mystery, not to blatantly formulaic, with enough mix of an unfamiliar culture (Western Native Americans) to be interesting. There actually wasn't any water conenction in the book--The Drowning Man refers to a petroglyph which appears to be of a man swimming in water, but which the Arapaho describe as moving into a new life. Coel's series hopes to hold our interest with a (thus far) unexpressed attraction between a priest, Father John, and Vicky Holden, an Arapaho lawyer.
Category 3) Earth: Little Earthquakes
The problem with picking books randomly by their title for this challenge means I end up with some unhappy surprises. As the first chapter started, I was sure I was going to regret this. I really have no sympathy for tales of the rich & Beautiful People, and I thought I was the wrong demographic for a story of pregnancy & new motherhood. But Weiner deftly interests us in the developing friendship and the emotional struggles of 4 new mothers. For a good part of the book I was scolding Kelly to just talk about what's really happening, what she's feeling, with her friends and her husband. Becky was the one I admired the most, for her warmth and perception of other people's needs, tho I think I'm supposed to admire her for her positive self image. It does have a fairy tale ending, which was too pat, but I like this book enough to consider recommending it to my daughter.
Would Weiner's book have sold as well if she had made the same characters middle class instead of actor's, sports-star's-wife, and entrepreneurs?
I just got a contract for summer botany work. Yay!! ...but, Yikes! when am I ever going to find the time? I don't expect to be able to check this website until fall, & will have to just make paper notes of any books I manage to read, until then. If you want any response from me, please send me a message to my email.
Good question - would middle class people sell as well as actors, celebs etc. No!
Congrats on the botany work! See ya when we see ya.
but an author writing about middle/working class could always count on me to buy the book...secondhand... or at least borrow it from a library. :)
Category 4) A Deeper Sea
Really pretty boring. The main character is Ilya Stasov, a Russian military scientist researching dolphin intelligence. Basically the story is the war that happens, & Ilya;s internal turmoil about the consequences of how he's used the dolphins. I think this was written for male readers--yes, there is a female scientist, but she spends a lot of time sleeping around. Would it give away too much of the plot if I mention how whales making contact with Jupiter ties in at the end? Or if I criticize Jablokov for making the dolphins lowclass characters, just interested in food, sex, and power struggles?
Category 4) Water: At the Scent of Water
Maybe I should have rated this lower. I liked the writing in the first half of the book, but got frustrated with the way the characters became flat at the end where every problem is solved by turning it all over to God.
The beginning is a very engrossing story told from several points of view:a woman whose daughter has died and her consequent estrangement from her husband; the husband, a cardiac surgeon, who has blocked off all feeling because of this death & his concurrent botching of a surgery; an elderly woman who has watched the husband lose hope over the years; an elderly missionary who feels he has missed something important in his life by following God's leading instead of marrying and staying in the states. Nichols skillfully ties their lives together.
Category 3) Earth: Earthly Justice
What a contrast to Round Mountain, which I have also just read! (Is Mountain close enough to Earth to count for this challenge?)
Both short story collections are about a New England place, but Goldman focuses on human foibles, how foolish and stubborn we are, the bad choices we make, while Freeman makes us feel that people are good at heart--see my review. Only in "Good Works"do we meet a character who is generous and sensitive to others' needs--I like the choice she makes in the end. "Lion Wagon" reminds me of Lord of the Flies.
Goldman describes what seems to be his ideal writing style in a couple of places: in the story "Running Well," "He wrote in a low key, one sentence after another, the way he covered a meeting of the Board of Selectmen." In "Yellow Jackets" "It isn't quite dry enough for my taste and I never said it again..."
Ooooo!!! Sounds like A Deeper Sea earned a 2.5 Ick! Thanks for tacking the hit on that one. Sounds like you've had a string of mediocre books. Here's wishing you a 5 star read soon!
Category 9)Auto/Biography: The Wheel of Life: a Memoir
This is a great book--finally. Maybe a 5*--I seem to have lost track of how I rate my books. It's totally subjective for me anyway. Her writing reminds me of My Double Life--strong women of the same era who pursue an interest in nature despite social expectations, who write forthrightly.
Much of her life is so inspiring--& it's not just because I have some Swiss heritage! All I knew of her was that she did the 5 stages of dying/grief. So important to see this bit within the context of her life and value system. She was full of love for those in need, not afraid of hard work, and was intuitive about how to meet the needs of her patients. She includes many interesting tales of different patients she had, and what she learned from them. I was surprised to read of her interest in spirits, but then felt that the ending was such an abrupt change in direction. Of course, she did suffer several strokes, and have to move under the care of her son. And I can't really expect her autobio to include her thoughts up to the moment of her death (well, given her belief in life after death, she could have contacted someone to add in the ending).
Some good lessons: Live every day to the fullest. Learn how to discern and discriminate. We are here on Earth to learn a lesson and we won't die until we get it.
I'm not sure if I agree on her stance against assisted death. I really don't want to think of lingering on in severe pain, or as a vegetable--even after reading Kubler-Ross's chapter on her mother's vegetative state. But I have always intuitively felt that leaving this life early does consign you to doing it all again, only harder.
Category 6) Air: Thin Air
A pretty thin tale, and a title that has no relationship to the story within. I thought I'd have better luck using my key words instead of something that's just sort-of Air/Fire/Earth/Water. And I like wildlife ecologists. What could be a better book than this? Hah. I should have looked twice at the publisher.
I've flipped thru a few boilerplate romances in my day, but this is the first time I've read a boilerplate christian book. Just like a romance, our intrepid heroine is trapped with a man who sometimes threatens her and sometimes seems so gentle. However our christian woman is honestly married (to a minister, of course) so instead of romance being kindled she gets to "save" him from his demons.
After the first few chapters I had decided my review was going to call this one as modeled after documentarys--just the facts, ma'am. But it went downhill from there. Our heroine is incredibly brave and determined, considering the amount of pain she's in, but that's not enough for a story. Funny thing is, I think there should be a sequel in which Beth finds out how much of a wuss her husband really is. She's sitting in a crashed plane in a remoted snowy mountain and gaining courage from the surety that her husband is being so supportive and caring of their children when in reality he has abandoned them to their grandma while he spends the days fretting and dithering at the airport.
Category 6) Air: The Haunted Air
Now this is more like it! This book engaged me from the get-go. Jack is quite a character--maybe he wouldn't be quite as mysterious if I had read the earlier books in the series, but I doubt it. He seems to have made his career out of walking on the shady edge while still maintaining a strong moral sense. I don't usually go in for demonic books, but I didn't know where this one was going to go until it was too late to back out. I think my formerly-Goth neices would enjoy this, if they haven't already discovered Wilson on their own.
So what hooked me, if it's not my usual style? Maybe the conversation-driven chapters. Maybe it's occasional complex thoughts, or the thought that this is a complex man. Maybe this quote, that I marked: "I'm wondering if maybe people sense this darkness approaching. Not consciously, but on a primitive, subconscious level. Maybe that explains why so many people are turning to fundmentalist and orthodox religions--ones that offer a clear and simple answer for everything. Maybe that's why conspiracy theories are so popular. These people sense something awful coming but can't put their finger on what it is, so they look for a belief system that will give them an answer and a solution." "What about us poor schmucks who don't have a belief system to lean on?" Jack sighed. "We'll probably be the ones stuck in the trenches dealing with the real thing when it comes along." (p. 69)
Glad you've hit some better books. So when you call this a "demonic" book, do you mean "the real thing" threw your characters into the trenches? It sounds kind of fun. For "Repairman Jack" I'm envisioning Robert DeNiro's character in Brazil.
142 "demonic" was a loose association for me: horror stories might have been a better term. I was thinking of the current popularity of vampire books, other back-from-the-dead, & an earlier popularity of humans being possessed by evil spirits or aliens. I'm just not willing to fill my head with so much evil/fear/negativity. It's not that I think any contact with non-material is necessarily demonic. And this book was sooooo mild compared to, say, Blood of the Lamb (which I haven't read, just watched the movie after my adult daughter had nightmares from it & I wanted to see why).
The characters were actually able to deal with "the real thing", because it wasn't inherently evil, just focused on getting its needs met. Kind of interesting how spirits could be redirected once you psych out what they really want.
Now I'll have to check out Brazil.
Category 1) Bees: A Recipe for Bees
Back to drudgery. This novel bounces between current time & Augusta's early life.
I had no sympathy for the main character: Augusta was such a querulous woman. I know I'm supposed to see how rural women had no choices 80 or so years ago, & I'm supposed to see how people can create a good marriage out of a bad one if they just stick with it long enough. But even when she's thinking how much she loves her husband (as an old woman), she has a flash of anger at what she considers being slighted. I'm supposed to see how her attitude towards First Nations people changed from her grade school taunting to her elderly appreciation of the First Nations woman who sat next to her on a train ride. I'm supposed to see how hard women had to fight to get some respect in their family, yet Augusta also made choices which undermined her respectability. I'm suppposed to see how small town gossip can ruin lives.
The first chapter opens with a conversation between Augusta & Rose. I was all primed to expect Rose to have an important role in the book, & at first felt confused as to who was talking. Rose is actually just a foil for Augusta's thoughts & has no life of her own that we are told.
Some of the Canadian local terms threw me off: 'salish' was considered a derogatory name for First Nations--I thought it was just the name of a US tribe. 'sluts wool' is what I call 'dust bunnies'. I never thought that an english-speaking nation so close would have such different terminology.
And the bees? From the start, Augusta is throwing out novel facts about bees, as she talks w/her friend/husband. But the facts seem randomly placed in the book. Are we to interpret them as part of her obsession with sex? I do want to follow up on her quote from Virgil: this is obviously a reference to maggots, so has the original Greek misinterpreted some word as Bees instead of Fly? Or were the Greeks really so unaware that what hatches from maggots was a different insect?
I did get 1 quote that I'm thinking of sending to a friend who is going thru an unhappy marriage now & had just mentioned how small her kitchen seems. Just don't think this is representative of the quality of the book as a whole. "Somewhere along the road something knocked the life breath from the marriage...Oh, it struggled on for a while, but anyone looking at a couple at that stage could see that the marriage was dying. The partners' movements seemed at odds with one another. Suddenly they were crashing into each other in the kitchen, steppping on each other's toes. The dance they had once done effortlessly became a chore that left them both irritable and hateful. But after that stage, after the kicking was over and the breath was gone, they passed by each other like strangers on the street; there was an agreement there, all right, but of another kind. But that was where the magic, the recipe for bees, came in. Because occasionally something fermented inside the lifeless carcass of a marriage, something began to stir, limbless at first, then with wings whirring, trying out the thin air, till suddenly, like rain from a summer cloud, it burst out with a force that drove old lovers to do things no one, not even they themselves, thought they were capable of." (p. 253)
Category 4) Water: The Nature of Water and Air
The start of the book was pretty tedious for me, partly because I can never believe that anyone remembers as much detail about their early childhood as McBride puts in, so it doesn't feel real. Also because it isn't pleasant to read about the guilt tripping, social rules, and such that pervade Irish Catholic society (or is it all Catholic societies?) Such an impoverished childhood--in friendship, in love, if not in money. The switch in her abilities, after her sister's death, is supposed to be significant of how tied she was to her, but just doesn't seem real that she could gain so much prowess as to win a prized position at school. Perhaps I'm not familiar enough in my own life with the results of such focused determination.
McBride belabors the importance of the symbolism water & air of her title. I don't interpret my life in terms of the nature of air & water, & I don't agree with her interpretation. It could be interesting, but it is so wrought with meaning. Here's an example: "Air blew things in and away and water exiled its creatures onto dry land and rushed away from them. It seemed the nature of water and air, to be random, heartless." (p.113)
There was 1 quote that I connect with: "'How little hold we have on things, Clodagh,' he said. 'How easily the world leaves us with nothing.'" Rather than see this as depressing or forlorn, as the character seems to, I see this as basic & a guide to travel thru life lightly, holdiing on to nothing for long.
Category 6)Air: The Air We Breathe
The whole reason for challenging myself to read unfamiliar books is that I get to meet new authors to add to my TBR! This challenge reminds me of the year long ago when I thought I would read every book in our small rural library. At least, it seemed small until I started from Z: I barely made it through 3 shelves, & then only because I gave myself permission to skip additional books by the same auther if I didn't like the first.
Reading this book is like living history. And I don't mean boring textbooks. History came alive in this book. Scientific discoveries and WWI are so intertwined in the characters' lives that I got a sense of the times without dreary facts. Well, some of the exerpts from a chemistry text were skimmed over. And you don't see the big picture, such as the reason for our delayed entry in the war. You just see how all this affected individual lives. On a superficial level, this is a story of what happened to an adult male immigrant who developed TB & was assigned to a sanatorium for the poor. There is a developing love interest, but mostly we get a sense of class differences in treatment options.
This could be called a book of the proletariat: we see how working class people have a craving for learning, have a history of teaching circles, feel a responsibility to each other. In fact, her comment about circles is one of the things I love about this book: "Everything here existed in lines...isn't it natural we'd forget what it was like to gather as equals and teach ourselves? For weeks we'd been like students peering up at a teacher, but now we entered as a group into the experience of one of us. For the first time we felt ourselves both inside and outside, here and there." (p.78) The book is written in the first person plural, and fortunately we learn who the antiphonal "we" is in the final chapter.
She makes connections that were new to me. For example, as her characters hear about Einstein's new Theory of Relativity, (which we all think we know now, because we've heard the term, but we really never consider what it means) they think "Time...is not something out there, something beyond us that flows serenely like a river, without any reference to us or our doings...All of us grew up thinking that if everything around us disappeared, our world and even the stars in the sky, time and space would still continue on. Einstein says that time and space would disappear together with the things." (p.180)
I am looking forward to reading more of Barrett's books. It sounds like she focuses on science in her fiction.
Glad you hit a good book after those few duds! The Air We Breathe sounds good. I have a collection of her short stories on the shelf. From you're review, I think I'll like her writing.
Category 3)Earth: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth
Maybe deserves a higher rating--the stories were well written, but a little too "young" for me: mostly focusing on coming of age issues (which I do read & enjoy at times, but as a collection of short stories it was just too much). Other than the theme, the stories were varied enough that they didn't feel formulaic.
What I loved is the weird jobs so many of his characters had: working in a noise factory (where they put the sounds into talking dolls etc), working in the scrabble factory (letters come mixed together & the workers are assigned to finding specific ones), a job of identifying probability of all the unusual calamities that could happen, working as a "rent-a-Grandma". The Rent-a-Grandma was the first story, & I found it hilarious--and one I could relate to better. I could see using these job ideas as a brainstorming tool for helping kids think about what they want to do after school. So many kids have no idea what their options are, other than what is seen on TV. Society says "get a degree", but then what? How do you want to spend your life? Actually, the title story does deal with this issue.
This book comes with an author interview & references to the stories he'd read that inspired each specific short story.
Since my son ripped the cover off my library copy, I may end up with this. I think it'll be a good one to send to my older son, who has finally agreed with his partner to try for a baby. I think he might identify with the learning to trust the future in Worst Case Scenario.
Interesting review of Tunneling. It sounds like perhaps a book to dip into, rather than one to read all the stories in it. Id take a job as rent-a-grandma. Those families wouldn't know what had hit them. ;)
What? You wouldn't just spend your time baking fresh bread & cookies for the "grandkids"?
Category 6) Air: Fresh Air
This book had no depth--OK for a light summer read, but I'm too busy to appreciate that. The storyline sounded interesting, but was not believably developed. The beginning of the book was interesting enough, reading about this woman's agoraphobia, but it falls apart when we Allen tells us why.
1)A few months after her mother's death from breast cancer--& the strong possibility that she has inherited the genes--Lucinda discovers that her mother had been married & that her father was Black. She has a preventative breast removal. That could be a topic of relevance to the reader. But, no, we are to believe that Lucinda's sense of shame & avoidance of others is solely because she doesn't know who she is as a mixed race woman. Other than the chapter where the surgery is mentioned, the topic is basically avoided. If the author meant for us to see how Lucinda has displaced her anxiety about her self-image from the breast removal onto her racial identity, she should have developed the connection further.
2) Lucinda makes a friendship with a visiting inner city black girl, calling her "intelligent", yet after that first visit all her "intelligence" seems to be knowing how to be a caretaker of this needy adult: definitely not appropriate behavior for a 9 year old. Tho you could say it is very clever, as it resulted in gifts of new clothes, laptop computer, and cell phone. That's one way out of poverty.
3) When Lucinda finally meets her dead father's family, they are very rich. Well, you couldn't have our heroine be the child of a ghetto man, could you? I hate stories that promote displays of opulence, that we are nothing if we don't have bling.
I see someone gave this the tag "realistic fiction". I wonder why. No reviews yet--appropriate for the superficial quality of the book.
Category 4) Water: Carry Me Like Water
As I started this, I remembered I had read it before but couldn't remember anything about it so it was as good as new.
This is a book of hope, of compassion. A good book to read. A book that's not afraid to include the lives of spirits, that is often classified as "magical realism" as is another book I just finished (Songcatcher--reviewed on this site). "Magical realism", as if that is second class. I'll only accept that category if all the other books are labelled "mundane realism". I'd rather not live in a mundane world, this world that is falling apart. I need a little magic to keep on going.
How can people who have been through so much abuse, neglect, and pain have hope, have love? We are slowly led out of our attachment to our pain into small changes, into finding the strength to take a stand, to open our hearts, to accept our bodies.
Synopsis: a deaf Chicano boy, the sister who escaped to find a good life, a Chicana nurse who receives a gift from her lost brother on his deathbed, a gay man still angry at the sexual abuse from his father, a gang member, a bitter maid... all lives linked.
Category 2) Gardening: The Faithful Gardener
A wonderful companion to the above book, in it's story within a story showinghow we heal from great pain, the life force that is within each person just waiting for a spell of fire and barrenness to blossom forth.
Quick enough to read, it should be on every person's bookshelf (unless you happen to be that perfect person who has never had insult, tragedy, pain or disaster).
You mean all I have to do to be a rent-a-grandma is provide milk & cookies? I'm in! Way easier way to make a living than what I do now.
Carry Me Like Water goes on the WL. Love it, mundane realism. I'll have to use that phrase some time!
I actually stole the idea for mundance realism from a Robin Williams version of Pecos Bill. I'll have to listen to my son's CD again--he doesn't use the word 'realism', but he does say something would be "just plain mundane...."(whatever word I'm forgetting).
Category 2) Gardening: Cultivating Delight
How can I give it such a low rating? I've read other work by her & thought she was impressive.
First: this book is disorganized, she jumps from thought to thought. I suppose we're supposed to think we are following her as she rambles through her garden & talks about what she passes. Her chapters perhaps represent different days rather than different themes. It would help the reader if there were some graphic divider (I think they are called "ornamentals") between the sections to let us know this is a new topic.
Second: I'm a food gardener. I also love wild plants. This book is about a designed ornamental garden, which is neither. I thought a naturalist would be all about native species. I have little patience with people who can afford to tear out one planting because they want a new look, who can hire other people to do their planning & their gardening for them, or who can spend the whole day sitting in their bay window gazing in admiration at their planned flower bed. (My apologies, maybe she is handicapped & this is the best access to the outdoor world she can manage at this point. I still don't like the book.)
Third: I could care less about named varieties of cultivated plants.
Category 5) Fire: It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It
Light weight collection, but not bad reading. It's not going to inspire me to change my life, just think about the funny things people do. I like that his outlook on life is very accepting of others & willing to make a fool of himself in his pursuit of finding meaning & connecting with others.
OK, yes I chose it because I could read it quickly & finish another entry for the category. But it was also in my TBR pile. Only thing is, I didn't not like it enough to put in my get-rid-of-it pile, just shuffled to my already-read-and might-want-to-look-at-again shelf, so I'm not helping my shelf space any.
Category 9)Biographies/autobiographies Pastures of Plenty
Took me a looong time to finish this, & I don't even need it for my category! But it's been in my TBR for ages. A compilation of writings, saved in archives. Gave me a different perspective of a singer-activist I've long known through his music. It's not that I disagree with his politics so much as that he was pretty long-winded. And, as his Huntington's Chorea progressed, getting chaotic.
But I still think This Land Is Your Land is a great song (all the verses).
And he has some absolutely great poems and thoughts scattered throughout. As a poem to give for a wedding, you can't beat his "I Say to You Woman and Man" (I'll quote a few lines):
I'll say to you, woman, come out from your home and be the wild dancer of my breed.
I'll say to my man come out of your walls and move in your space as free and as wild as my woman...
Dance out to sing equal.
Dance up and be pretty
Dance around and be free
And if I just had this one thing to say to a husband it would be these words
...Dance in our own way.
Sing your own song...
Mammy of nature gave birth to you in her body and hills. You give birth now to old female mommy nature in the male feelings and rivers.
Category 10)ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures Ill Wind
I was going to compare this with another book, but find I didn't enter it in LT & don't remember the title. Darn--that was my main purpose for joining LT!
Well, suffice it to say that the characters were flat caricatures, it was too easy to tell who the Bad Guys & Good Guys were going to be. Women were either ugly & too smart, or enticing (even if smart). Couldn't really call it post-apocalyptic, since half the book describes how the environmental meltdown occurs--all the regulations & safety features (that of course major corporations have in place) are useless in the face of human error & malfeasance. And the scenario isn't well thought out---months after the destruction of petroleum-based products, with no transport of goods, people stilll haven't run out of food, or paper towels, or...hey, how are they cooking food? Out in the desert areas of NM, still have plenty of wood for fires?
Without wantiing to appear sexist, I'd still have to say it was written for men: lots of military action, hierchical decision-making, to say nothing of the (above) portrayal of women.
eta: Found it--Dies the Fire portions of which matched up the macho scene pretty well. See my comments message 121 above.
10) ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures: White Horse by Alex Adams ISBN 1451642997
Much much better than the last book in this category. Scary, how humans can treat each other when things fall apart. I really liked Zoe, protagonist. She keeps in mind that "We don't have to be monsters. We still can choose."
Premise: a pharmaceutical company's research project gets out of hand. The action jumps between before & after, clearly marked, & give us a fully developed portrayal of Zoe's character--so much more than her menial job--to explain her behavior in the grisly present.
The information we are given at the end about Koch's identity doesn't have any foreshadowing, & comes across as something the author pulled out of her hat because she didn't know how to resolve the problem.
Random quote: "We are a parody of normality."
Category 1)Bees: Chalice by Robin McKinley
Rating 4 1/2*
The bees have almost as much of a major role in this as the Chalice. What a marvelous imagined world, where a Circle is responsible for the harmony, balance, productivity of the land. The recent Master and Chalice have died, with no heirs or apprentices to their positions. The divining rods inform the rest of the Circle that Mirasol is the next Chalice--and, indeed, she has recently been struggling to keep up with unprecedented productivity from her goats and bees. Now she must leave her simple life as a beekeeper & woodskeeper to learn her new duties, read the earthlines, and help the people (& the land) accept the new Master. The bees' honey has healing effects, and the bees also guide her and protect her from the elements, to say nothing of their penultimate role in protecting the demesne.
I downgraded the rating because I was disappointed in the ending. Talk about deus ex machina! And there was no call for Mirasol to say "I think I had better marry you anyway"--there was no hint of that type of attraction between them, no reason to think they couldn't work together as good friends w/o marriage or that they wouldn't find other partners now that the major crisis was over.
10) ScienceFiction/Alternate Futures: Life as We Knew It
I originally got this to give to my granddaughter, because I thought it would be good for her to think about what you would need in preparation for disaster. But on second thought I don't think I can give it to her yet. She's not quite 13, & has enough fears & anxieties. I don't think she needs her Grandma to tell her to start worrying about apocalyptic times, even if I think they really are coming. If she found the book on her own, great. Or maybe in another 3 years, if the world holds togeter as it is that long.
It's actually a good book, the author thought about a lot of ways in which our lives would be affected. And she was pretty descriptive about running out of food & people starving. People holing up, as winter hits, with a lack of heating fuel (cutting wood is a daily task & most of house is closed off), water from melting snow (& she knew that you only get a little water from a full kettle of snow) or cutting ice from pond. Roads closed by snow since no plows running therefore no school. What didn't make sense to me was buying a lot of cat food & litter as preparation--pets should fend for themselves if it's a matter of them or your children (but then I'm not a cat lover). Actually, most of the townsfolks were pretty civilized, when you consider how out of control some post-apocalyptic books present humans--guess that's why it's a YA book.
I can't believe I haven't finished this list yet--can I blame it on the economy?
I'm not sure if I'll drag it out to the bitter end, or call it quits. I've started reading a lot that don't fit in my categories, so it's not as if I'm just sitting on my hands. I do like the talk feature, which allows me to make comments about what I've read that I feel are too personal to put in a review--and which I may want to remember in the future.
Category 4) Water: Carry On Mr Bowditch rated 4* and Stowaway rated 3*
Don't really fit the category as I imagined it, but both are about sailing & you can't get much more water than an ocean.
I intended to get these for my grandson, whose father is into the ocean (maybe foster a shared interest, tho it's pretty hard for a midwestener to get a good sense of ocean), and of course had to read them first to see if they were worthwhile.
I actually had picked up the storytape fo Bowditch about 10 yr ago for my blind son, but I'm not sure he ever listened to it then (he's autistic, & just doesn't initiate much). So first I played the tape when we both could listen, figuring I would follow along in the book to see how they matched. Well, the tape was a great enactment of the condensed story (how it could fit on a single tape) but I think I liked the full book just as well.
Latham gives us full flavor of life in 1700's New England. Nathaniel is forced to become an apprentice because his family is too poor to allow him to continue in school. Fortunately his master is good-hearted--or perhaps just sees an advantage in encouraging Nathaniel's intelligence. We learn shipping terms along with Nathaniel. We see him being persistent in the face of adversity. He finally gets a chance to go on a shipping voyage. There is excitement & danger. He is fascinated by all he learns, & shares his love of learning w/other crew members which helps them get ahead in life. He's so smart & obssessive about math that he develops a more precise way to navigate. So there is a good moral to this story tho it never shoves it in your face. Definitely a book to pass on to boys.
Stowaway pales in comparison. And reading it right after Bowditch sure makes it sound like Hesse ripped off some storyline. But while I felt Latham really researched her historical setting, Hesse sounds like she picked up some terms (i.e. from Latham) & pasted them into a kids adventure. She drops the theme of persistence & hard work--her protagonist has run away from his apprenticeship, which he was put into because he didn't want to go to school. And he has protectors onboard the ship. >>Aside: I didn't think of it when reading, since as a juvenile book there is no mention of sexuality, but you've got to wonder why a couple of sailors would be helping out a young boy when he couldn't pay his way
Ah, maybe it's time for the 75ers - it will let you talk but you won't be tied to categories. Actually, it looks like you're doing pretty well on the challenge - and I've found the key is to have stretchy categories, and if they don't stretch enough to fit your books, cheat!
good idea. I'll start a fresh 75 in 2013. Meanwhile ekeing a few more books on my list...
Category 7)Native American subjects: The Education of Little Tree
4 1/2* rating
One of those books I've heard about for years but never got around to reading.
The ending made me cry. I could have rated it higher but the dialect sometimes felt too much. I can see how it was needed, to illustrate Grampa's lack of education & allow for the times when he confused words' meanings.
After his parents die, a young boy lives with his grandparents somewhere in southeastern hill country. They are Cherokee, and foster his love of nature, knowledge of plants and animal ways, and moral values. Even tho it is told in a fairly simplistic style, and could be read to children of a young age, the values are important for those of us of any age.
It could also serve as a good introduction to the history of White-Indian relations, as we meet Willow John and learn he's had "dead eyes" since coming back from the long walk to Oklahoma, and as Little Tree stays strong through the abuse dealt him at the orphanage. Little Tree is such a loving hearted child, he brightened the lives of these old folks he lived with.
Category 7)Native American subjects: Roots of Survival
Rating 3 1/2*
Recommended reading for anyone wishing to understand Native American way of life.
A collection of essays, basically about the ethics of taking Native American stories and using them yourself. We learn that there is a power in some of the stories (of course, some are just stories, just as, for example, an owl flying by is just an owl) and the necessity of getting permission, learning any constraints, and seeing the lesson contained before telling them.
Since these essays were originally published separately, there is some overlap in them. On the otherhand, repetition is one of the Native American teaching methods, so Bruchac may have deliberately let the duplicative scenes remain.
Bruchac goes beyond just talking about storytelling. He writes also about indigenous values, and does so by first telling a story and then explaining it for White people who don't have the background to understand the whole picture.
Category 5) Fire: Fire
Rating 4 1/2*
Fire is a human variant, called Monsters by all the other humans. Her power is the ability to control minds--& to have a strong effect on all who see her, either intense love or intense hate. Her father killed all the other human Monsters and was ruthless in his control of the events in the kingdom. Fire would do anything to not be like him, yet she also strongly loves him as the only person who doesn't make her feel like a freak. Fire is a strong woman with a caring heart, haunted by nightmares of Monsters.
I haven't yet read Graceling, but Cashore gave enough info that I understood that country. Most of the novel takes place in another kingdom, & it is the Graceling Prologue that helps us feel "I know who that mystery person is" as Fire's story progresses.
Cashore's writing pulls me into the story, and contains many gems. The only one I was alert enough to note is "From the warmth of her fondness for her horse she constructed a fragile and changeable thing that almost resembled courage. She hoped it would be enough." (p.175)
The book is billed as YA, probably due to the rather young characters (Prince Brigan is 22, Fire is younger, tho I didn't note her age), and has free sexual behavior, tho not explicit, which all parents might not approve for their younger YA. I like that there are references to Fire's monthly bleeding, which I haven't read in many other books and which I see as affirming for youing women to read.
Category 5) Fire: Eating Fire, Tasting Blood
Rating: mixed, but at least 3*
Any topical collection is going to have mix of appreciative quality since the focus is the subject rather than any literary merit. The history of a subjugated people is never easy to read, and I felt I knew enough of the general history that I really didn't want to read particulars. But I did. And learned some new history. For example, I had never heard of the Tongva people.
The contributions I most appreciated were those which were personal stories:
Blackbear & Roppolo's "Washita", told in the structure of traditional Cheyenne language.
Hogan's "Fire" and Hernandez-Avila's "In Each Trace of Footstep", family histories
Dandurand's "When the True Ending Began", merging poetry and prose in his journey "to make sense of where I am and where I am going as a survivor" as does Moore's "Remembering".
Several of the writers also combine poetry and prose, and a number of contributions are solely poems.
Steve Russell starts "How to Succeed as an Indain Poet" with "Don't say 'hunger.' Write of the plump red strawberries...rather than rodents fried in lard..." Oops, guess that isn't a pleasant exerpt guaranteed to get you reading, but trust me, it's good.
Sutler'Cohen's poem "All my Ancestors Have Blisters on their Toes" refers to the WWII holocaust of her Polish-Jewish ancestors. I wonder if it's inclusion was to reinforce the theme given in the title, to help the reader make the connection between that acknowledged horror and the buried horror the Native Americans experienced.
Category 5) fire: The Fire
I began reading this, to finish the category, but gave up 1/3 of the way thru. It wasn't any worse than others I've read, and I was kind of curious about the hidden mysteries, but right now I just don't have patience for an author who creates a sense of urgency by having events happen too fast for the protagonist to come to grips with, yet who has to be so smart about problem solving because her life just may be on the line. I don't need created problems, having enough of my own.
Category 5) fire: Fire From Heaven
Instead, I'm starting one of my TBR, actually pulled out for this challenge early on, but always postponing it because my copy looks so frousty & I'm not really a big biography fan. Yet I should have remembered that I like Mary Renault's books, because she makes her subject come alive (& I can feel like I am improving my mind with high-browed reading about Alexander the Great & the Greeks).
...12/31 finished this last night. I'm impressed by the psychological study, how Renault ties in clues found in historic writings e.g. creating an episode where Demosthenes assumes he is a servant/kept boy, Alexander's hero worship for Demosthenes (based on his writings) gets shredded by this meeting, and he plans a silent confrontation during an important public event which causes Demosthenes to lose track of his oration: this last fact is in written history. I've got a lot of sympathy for the way Alexander was raised, caught in the power struggle between his mother & father. Thel development of his character from relatively happy precocious child to repressed and driven man is clearly explained by the unfolding of events.
I can't say I ended up learning more. I tended to skim over details of people's names and places without bothering to remember their historical context. About halfway thru I finally pulled out my copy of Hammond's Historical Atlas so I could figure out where all these kingdoms and countries stood in relation to each other & in relation to the former Greek Empire and the current Persian Empire. City groups, e.g. Amphissa, were undifferentiated in my mind from larger country groups, e.g. Chalcidiceans. And I still don't have a sense of it all, but did enjoy the telling.
Category 1)Bees Like Bees to Honey
Rating 2 1/2*
I read it in a day, not because I was so engrossed, but because it was so lightweight. Like another reviewer said, it's really bothersome to see the way sounds are laid out on the page (drip, click, etc), especially with hyphens in them, which suggest the sound is prolonged. Might be true for dr-i-p, but I think of click(and flip flop bash cough clatters ...) as quick sounds. I ended up skipping my eyes over those words. I can't imagine what she thought she was trying to accomplish. Less bothersome was her repetition e.g my bones were cold, shiver, shiver, shiver, shiver. Those words were included within the text, not set apart, & I can actually imagine continual shivers. At the beginning of the book, I thought the translations (smaller font, in a separated line below the text) of Maltese words were helpful. About 1/4 way thru I thought it was irritating that the same frequently repeated word ("my heart") was still being translated, and that the same precise lengthy translation was given for other words ("Cisk lager was first available in Malta in 1928. It has an alcohol content of 4.2 per cent", "ta is a tag that seeks confirmation"). Again, they were skipped over, but irritatingly. It would have been more helpful to provide a glossary and let us decide for ourselves when we remember the word. Even more helpful would have been a pronunciation guide for Malti, but I'd think her purpose was not so much to teach us the language as some other esoteric design issue.
OK, so the design of the book was irritating. Was the content worth it? Maybe if you are a Catholic (or ex-Catholic) wallowing in guilt. I just couldn't relate. Six years after her son's death & she still can't get her act together? Maybe I'd believe this if it was 1 year later...at most 2 yr. All this Jesus posturing as a heavy beer drinker...I started thinking that she was the one doing all the drinking, (why she kept smelling stale alcohol). And by the end, when she gets her act together & is ready to go back to her husband & daughter, does she really think she can go back to that life? I'll bet her husband is about ready to ditch her, have an affair, anything to get rid of this flake who got pregnant when they were young & shouldered him with responsibility he wasn't ready for & the disaffection of his own family.
All right, I did like the image of Malta as a honeypot, & all the lost souls heading for it, for healing before they can move on to the next stage. I liked the sense of history she portrays in the dust, the buildings: "...each building breathes through history, space and time...blending into the story of invasion, of desire to control. The buildings are proud, they exist; they speak their own words into an island that carries the story of my family....Each building breathes out the same dust that forms my heart." Yeah, I get the life after death part, cycle continues, live life now to the fullest, blah blah. There are more inspiring tales telling this.
Category 3) Earth: Hope of Earth
Great reading, another one to make me feel "cultured", with it's focus on making actual history come alive. I had always skipped over Anthony's books, remembering him as a witty light-fantasy author, & I got tired of his plays on words. But for this series he has done some real research & attempted to get it right, based on what we know (or anthropologists assume). I especially liked his chapters on early man, because of the speculation on how we evolved.
I did feel like some of the chapters read more like hot & heavy romance novels, & by the end of the book I was just rushing to finish. Or maybe the end wasn't as good as the beginning because he was also rushing to finish. Actually the last 2 chapters were intriguing, since they were dealing w/an imagined future, tho too much cramming in of environmental background facts.
I'm sure I'll be reading the others in the series--after a break, to make his writing fresh to me again.
Category 1) Bees: Natural Beekeeping
I special ordered this, based on recommendation by a friend who said it would talk about how to handle problems associated with frameless top bar hives. Not. There must be another book with a similar title, I shall just have to search further.
Which is not to say that this book is without merit, just not what I need at the moment.
I like his style of writing, intermingling his philosophy/outlook on life with his information. He does best in discussing pests & diseases--something I keep pretending I don't need to worry about, but given my lack of success in keeping a hive alive thru a winter the preventive tips given may be just what I need. Actually, I wish I had read about how easily bees clean up moldy comb from abandoned hives before I spent hours cutting out the moldy bits. So, all you want to know about controlling Varroa mites (almost 1/4 of the book), wax moths, small hive beetles & diseases without the use of hard chemicals.
This is not a beginner's book. His overview of equipment & working the hive is pretty minimal and scattered. I can't tell what his rationale was for including some things & not others. For example, he makes an issue of using a specific type of "frame rest protector" which is "not the kind sold by most beekeeping supply companies". I had never heard of one, & my search of Dadant came up negative. Better to say he has something useful to try & not mention something faulty that isn't standard anyway.
I just skipped over the parts saying why we should be organic--already got that, don't need to hear it again. But probably good for newcomers to hear. I know I always assumed honey was naturally organic because the bees would die if you used any chemicals on them. Well guess what, mega-beekeepers do use honey & now they are screaming because their bees are dying & they don't know why. Go figure.
I really liked Gary Nabhan's forward..but then I like Nabhan's ethnobotanical writing also.
Category 9)Bio/Autobiographies: The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
Rating 4 1/2*
Yes, inspiring, as the cover states. She has some wisdom to share. Yet somehow the power of the book faded toward the end. Gaines does say that after a while in his interviews she seemed to get tired. Or perhaps her most vital experiences occurred early on and as she got older and life settled into a routine there was just a lot of daily sameness.
Category 8)Sustainability: Farming and the Fate of Wild Nature
Rating 3 1/2*
The subject really should have top star rating, but I guess I'm judging based on readability, with a preference for fiction. Actually, since it's a collection, the entries vary considerably. One point I'm taking from it is that losses to predators can be seen as a "tithe" to nature--and one that is more cost effective, sustainable and healthier than the chemicals, traps, and poisons it would take to completely eliminate any predator presence.
I really enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver's "A Forest's Last Stand" which makes us see the Mayans as a living culture, not just abandoned Mexican ruins, and presents a creative solution to providing homes for refugees while protecting wilderness.
Scott McMillan's "Wild Work Crew" is brief and enjoyable presentation of learning how to live with beavers, and benefit from their dambuilding, rather than exterminating them.
Actually haven't finished it yet, but writing this note while I'm logged in.
ETA: OK, I'm finished. Admittedly skimmed thru lots of chapters which just rehash the current situation in our American standard of living/production/consumerism.
Brian Halweil's "Can Organic Farming Feed us All?" answers that often asked question in the affirmative. He cites studies supporting this, and critiques the assumptions previous pundits have used to prove that organic farming is just a fad of hippies.
Luba Vangelova's chapter "Living with Wolves" was very readable description of protecting their sheep with trained dogs and the need to educate people to be accepting of some wolf presence: starting with school children where games teach the role of predators in the ecosystem.
Aldo Leopold's chapter (from a 1991 essay) goes over ecosystem cycles, and introduces the idea of a resilient biota--an idea I've seen expanded elsewhere--where biodiversity helps an ecosystem rebound from stressors such as drought, pest infestation. He encourages farmers to think of ways to move the energy the plants store from sun up the food pyramid before returning it to the soil (currently rodent populations are the top trophic level on modern farms). "A good farm must be one where the wild fauna and flora has lost acreage without losing its existence.
Reed Noss, in "Context Matters", reminds us to look at the larger area within which exists the piece of property we manage. Rather than trying to maintain a wide diversity of habitats, each of them quite small, see if there is some type that is rather unique to your property. Or see if there are ways you can maintain corridors and connections between other wild area. Often, nowadays, degraded lands may have quite a biodiversity of species but they are all opportunistic, or edge species which can get along quite well almost anywhere. More concerning is maintaining habitat for those species with limited range, or requirements for inner woods, wide prairies, expansive wetlands.
Rick Bass, in "Keeping Track", describes a winter walk with a forester & tracker in VT. He quotes Sue Morse: "Only by doing this sort of homework--literally keeping track of wildlife use--can we know a given habitat's true value." This is the kind of work I'd like to be able to do.
John Davis, in "Rebuilding After Collapse", being pessimistic about our ability to stop the destruction that is steamrolling over our American landscape, advises thinking about how to keep some pieces of habitat functioning, so they can act as arcs, expanding and restoring after humans finally change their ways (because we've suffered our own epidemics? or "survivors of industrial collapse"?). I'm not sure his advice on using computers now (while we still have an infrastructure) to make plans that identify the carrying capacity of each ecosystem has any utility. Who's going to know where to find these analyses? What about climate change upsetting current habitats? But I do like his advice that all life-affirming groups should build allilances which will fruitfully support each other during the "coming chaos". He suggests the value of self-restraint needs to be re-inculcated in humans so future generations will survive.
Category 8)Sustainability: Making Home: Adapting our Homes and our lives to settle in Place
This book is just what I needed to nudge me from my indecision and take action. Actually, I was able to make a decision right after reading the review in Permaculture Magazine, while I was still waiting for my ordered copy to arrive.
As I read it, I kept thinking "Yes! Someone else thinks this is important. I'm not crazy." Astyk nicely verbalizes reasons why we should make lifestyle changes, without going into excrutiating detail proving that climate change/economic collapse/name-your-favorite-doomsday-scenario is actually going to happen. If the scenario does happen, you are already prepared with the skills and tools you need. If it doesn't happen, Astyk shows how our changes make our lives stress free and happy living closer to our roots.
I've always loved hanging clothes outside, the fresh small when I bring them in. Why not arrange my life so I do that all the time, meanwhile saving on energy costs?
Astyk leads us in strategizing how to deal with probable scenarios. She encourages us to consider shared housing, sharing expenses during economic hard times, sharing the workload of a low-purchased-energy household, adding more skills for household support. But she doesn't suggest this purely for economic reasons, because community and caring for others are necessary values to see us thru hard times. She walks her talk: her home included 2 elderly grandparents and continually has foster children.
She doesn't go into all the details of HOW to have a sufficient lifestyle. She implies her previous book Independence Days does that, but see my review--I think you'd be better off getting some specific reference books for your area of need (e.g. canning, gardening). But she does the enormous service of helping us get our brains around all the things we need to do to plan our lives, to choose and then to settle in the place we belong.
edited to change last paragraph
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