April, May, June, July 2018 Book Report

Eek! I didn’t mean to go four months without a Book Report here! Soooo, obviously that means I have a lot to catch up on…here we go!

I’ve decided to start adding some books from the library (or our own library) that Forest and I enjoy. I’m starting to try to go at least once a month with him. The trick I’m employing is to renew the books online immediately after we get them so that we have them for that full month instead of two weeks. So far it is working!

Forest Books:
Box Turtle by John Himmelman: This was an ARC from Net Galley and Forest loved(s) reading this on the Kindle. It tells the tale of a box turtle born in the 1880s or 1890s as it lives through present day. It starts out and there are passenger pigeons and ends with the woodland it lives in becoming a protected space, after development has swooped in. You kind of have to explain the story a bit as you go along and point out important things in the story as otherwise little ones might not catch the context.

T-Veg: The Story of a Carrot-Crunching Dinosaur by Smriti Prasadam-Halls: This library find tells the story of a vegetarian T-Rex, who is made fun of for being into vegetables and goes off on his own to explore what being a vegetarian T-Rex means. It ends with his friends and family coming together to find him and accept him for his veggie ways! Cute and bright book!

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert: We have some other Lois Ehlert books and they are stunningly and uniquely illustrated. This one was no exception and Forest loved it! It’s about a Leaf Man who blows along the wind and goes through various leaf illustrations. I may have to get this book for him to have he enjoyed it so much.

The Raft by Jim LaMarche:
This was a sweet book about a boy who goes to his grandmother’s on a river for the summer and after he complains about having to do chores he ends up finding a raft on the river that he uses to have adventures. It’s one of those books that you wish was your own childhood, lazing about rivers, running wild with the animals.

The Other Ducks by Ellen Yeomans: A somewhat silly book but also educational at the same time, The Other Ducks focuses on two ducks, presumably a male and female—the male seems to be a bit of a dunce—who live on a pond up north and wonder about “The Other Ducks”. They find the other ducks in reflections of themselves on the pond and eventually realize that they can fly and follow the other birds migrating south for the winter. When they return they’ve brought their brood of baby ducks back with them. It’s a cute book!


North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott and Jenny Jurek: In 2015, ultra-runner Scott Jurek set out to break the Appalachian Trail overall FKT with his wife Jenny as support. The last time it had been set was in 2011 by Jennifer Pharr Davis with her husband Brew as support. I was excited for this book because I had enjoyed Eat and Run by Scott and likes his writing style—plus Appalachian Trail! A loved this book! A couple of things—it alternates between Jenny and Scott’s perspectives. And because of this it gets confusing at times, with jumps in time. They aren’t big jumps, but while Scott’s chapter may have been taking place in West Virginia and Maryland, the next chapter of Jenny’s would drop back down into northern Virginia and I’d be thrown. This was an ARC from NetGalley so I can only hope that they cleaned this up for the final.

I have to say, I’m glad we hiked in the era on the cusp of social media. It was there but not many people had smart phones. There were no constant updates. The nature of the FKT is a bit trickier because of the need to document the journey and it has gotten more public as time has gone on, with people wanting to meet up with these folks attempting FKTs to hike with them. And Scott is already super well-known that this made it even more of a problem. Jenny ran into some creepy people—even people who may not have been meaning to be creepy but were definitely intruding and not knowing boundaries.

I enjoyed the thrill despite knowing the outcome—that he’d barely beaten Davis’ record. And now Jurek’s record has been beaten in 2017 by Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughy who did it unsupported. Which is an amazing feat because the unsupported recorded was 54 days and held by Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson.

Highly recommend reading this if you are into hiking!

Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers by Leslie Halleck: This was an ARC from NetGalley and I’m a follower of Leslie’s on social media so I’ve been seeing her progress and general information on growing with lights on social media for the last year or so. This is definitely a book for serious indoor gardeners, with an in-depth look at the science behind light and how it affects plant growth for different kinds of plants. Honestly, it was a bit beyond what I was interested in and I ended up skimming through a lot of the book. We use grow lights in the late winter to get a jump start on some seeds for spring, and Chris does use some lights for some of the tropicals when he keeps them in the man cave, but we’re not into the massive indoor gardening #plantparent type ethos that is popular right now. Definitely a book for people interested in a comprehensive look at lights and growing plants indoors.

Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home by Boyd Varty: This was an audiobook choice back when I was really deep into a project at work and needed something other than podcasts. I loved this book, especially as an audiobook because it’s read by the author and he has a wonderful South African accent. I knew nothing about the author or his family but I did do some Wikipedia-ing and Googling after to catch up—they are well known in the eco-tourism world. And as I learned in the book, had a tv show on Disney back in the 80s or early 90s. It would have been something I would have watched!

The book covers the Varty family through the generations as they establish the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, covering the trials and triumphs that came with establishing this reserve, living in the bush, working with various tribal people in the region, and what it was like growing up in a remote part of Africa on this reserve. I definitely recommend this book, particularly as an audiobook!

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: I started this book over a year ago and put it down at some point because other books were capturing my attention, however I knew I wanted to come back to it and finish it. A collection of short stories, this was part of the reason I couldn’t read it straight through. Once you read a story it was easy to put the book down and meander back to it later. That said, Gay is a great writer, though maybe not quite my style. I did enjoy Bad Feminist and Hunger is on my to-read list, but Difficult Women as a set of stories really produced a theme: sex, abuse, and some really bizarre stories. At first these themes were fine to read with interesting characters but as the book continued on I couldn’t help but think, “Is this all this book is about?” It seemed like to be a ‘Difficult Woman’ you needed to have these issues when there are plenty of so-called ‘Difficult Women’ with other themes in their life. And the ‘Difficult Women’ part is that women are treated as being difficult for going against any kind of mainstream thought process on how a woman should be.

The book fell short. I think I gave it 3 stars. Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking this.

A Year of Forest School: Outdoor Play and Skill-building Fun for Every Season by Jane Worrell: Another ARC from NetGalley. It had a UK bend towards it based on some of the plants and language. I’ve been intrigued with the idea of forest schools over the last few years for Forest but we don’t have any of these options near us, maybe in downtown Houston. Not a trek I want to make. The book had some great ideas on incorporating the forest school themes into say a homeschool or unschooling experience. I will probably flip through it on occasion to get more ideas.

The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War by Jane Rosenberg LaForge: An ARC from NetGalley—I struggled with this book. I almost didn’t finish it. It really could have used a re-write and some editing. The theme was intriguing, magical realism set at the end of WWI in England. But it was too forced and sometimes incoherent to understand. There’s an American teacher and a “Hawkman” in this town in England. The Hawkman is a destitute and shunned former soldier from the war and through a variety of flashbacks, which partly make it confusing, we find out he’d left his troop to find some food and do some scouting without permission but then gets captured by the Germans and is a POW for a few years. When he returns after the war he’s basically considered a deserter and treated as such. The American woman befriends him and shelters him in her house on the grounds of the college she’s teaching at, despite the upper class not liking this. They form a bond and love but not necessarily marital love, and she comes down with consumption (and there’s some confusing flashbacks with her family) and then supposedly dies and turns into a bird. There was too much metaphor and again, incoherent sections that it just never made sense.

Seed, Grow, Love, Write by John Markowski: John was on my garden podcast back in 2017 and he’s since published two books, this being one of them. He sent me a draft to review before it went to press and I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the book! John is a gardener in New Jersey and known as The Obsessive Neurotic Gardener and this book chronicles a lot of his beginnings of gardening, sharing with how he got his start which is how many people start learning to garden–by taking care of the lawn. He brings a lot of great humor to the book and the essays are all something you can relate to as a gardener. I hope that he’s able to get a ‘real’ publisher some day or maybe a column in a newspaper because he brings a fantastic wit and humor to garden writing.

Hummingbird by Kimberly Angle: I picked this up at the library while Forest was playing in the kid section. This is a juvenile book but could tinker into the YA set for some readers. The cover is what enticed me and it has been a long time since I’ve read an juvenile novel. For a good portion of the book I thought it was set in the 1970s Georgia on a farm but later they mention Rollerblades and that jetted that time frame up to late 80s or early 90s.

Twelve year-old March Anne lives on the farm with her brother, father, and grandmother. She’s got a good set of friends and living a great life on the farm, helping out where she can, when her grandmother falls ill. The book is about learning the truth behind some of the adult’s stories, deciphering what is held as lore and figuring out the kernels of truth behind it, and then learning to adjust as her grandmother’s illness progresses.

If you’ve got a late elementary of middle schooler, I would recommend this book. Even an adult would enjoy it—I did!

The Romanov Empress by CW Gortner: If you enjoy Allison Weir or Philippa Gregory novels and like reading fictionalized stories about royal houses over the centuries, you will enjoy this book. An ARC from NetGalley, this tells the story of the Romanov dynasty from the perspective of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna aka: Dagmar of Denmark who was the mother of Nicholas II. Nicholas the II as you may recall was murdered along with his family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. The 100th anniversary of their murder was last week.

Now, I did know some of the history surrounding Nicholas II and his family having watched some of the documentaries regarding the search for their burial site after their murder. I didn’t realize there was more controversy surrounding that until I started looking up information as I was reading the book. I also didn’t really know much else about the family prior to Nicholas II so this book was an interesting and informative story to read.

Dagmar came from a poorer royal household in Denmark and of course she and her sisters and brothers all went off to become part of other royal houses. Her older sister married King Edward VII of England, before he was king of course. I did a ton of information look ups as I read along, trying to figure out the links between all of the royals and aristocracy and to figure out who survived the Russian Revolution. All I kept thinking was that if the attempt at a constitutional monarchy (instead of the autocratic/absolute monarchy that was going on) that was being made by Alexander II (Dagmar’s FIL) had gone through, man, what a different world Russia might be today.

Loved this book!

The Power by Naomi Alderman: This has been a digital hold for months and it finally came in so I knew I had a limited amount of time to read it. Raved about online from many venues, I had a love/hate relationship with this book.

Told from the perspective of several different characters, both male and female, it is a sort of history of present day for those five thousand years in the future. One day, girls of a certain age, around their teens, develop this power to project electricity from their hands. Eventually they figure out how to share it between other women, mostly older ones who hadn’t developed the power, and of course there are some anomalies with some males being able to develop this but by far it is a female power. You can imagine what would happen if women were able to have a power stronger than a man’s…they begin to slowly revolt for all of the wrong-doings done to them.

There’s one main character, Ally/’Eve’, who has a stronger power than others and is also hearing the voice of God/Goddess, who leads her to basically reconfigure Christianity and other religions into a female centric dynamic. There’s war, blatant murder, chaos, some story lines that involve a man who had been working to chronicle all of these uprisings and political/social changes, and has to go into hiding. He’s been sending his work to a woman he trusts and of course, she publishes everything of his as if it were her own. He feels the anger and frustration that all too many women feel today in our patriarchal society when they don’t get the credit for their work. But where these kind of allegories go right, so much else just falls apart with this book.

There are loose ends, conflicting story lines, and a point in which makes no sense that women would take the power like that into the direction it went. Of course at the end of the book the main narrator, Ally/Eve is left realizing some of her mistakes and that it is better to start over. We’re lead to believe a large cataclysm occurs and thus, five thousand years in the future they are learning how the world was before the power came into being and they are lead to believe that men have always been subordinate and in the home.

It’s an odd book. I feel like it could be cleaned up and streamlined a bit and turned into an interesting movie or Netflix series. I was definitely disappointed I didn’t enjoy it was much as I had wanted.

Currently Reading:
Fascism: A Warning by Madeline K. Albright: Just picked this hold up from the library—a timely read.

Fannye Cook: Mississippi’s Pioneering Conservationist by Dorothy Shawhan: An ARC from NetGalley—so far so good!

One Comment

  • Patrice La Vigne

    We have North cued up on Audible for our drive from Alaska to California in a few weeks! Excited for it!! (Scott was at OR, but I didn’t stop by his book signing since I had the digital edition).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.