Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names, by Matthew Murrie and Steve Murrie

I loved this book, which was aimed at kids but enjoyable for adults 

Great subject matter:  interesting animals and their even more interesting names. 

Short but fascinating descriptions

Brightly colored pages, great illustrations and photos.  Overall a very attractive book, physically.

Scientific and common names, along with great scientific vocabulary, usually defined well within the text.

"Your turn" interactive bits.

Cool appendices, including a glossary, further reading, and the best thing ever:  a weird name generator, where you can create cool names like the frilly jumping lake slug or the headless howling volcano shark. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

This was amazing.  It's hard to pinpoint what I thought was so good:  the beautifully drawn characters who drove the plot?  The interesting premise?  The settings and time periods?  The utterly engaging writing?  

I'm not sure.  All I know is that it worked.  It REALLY worked.

The pacing was gentle in that deep, fascinating way that pulls you into the story even when there's not much "exciting" going on.  I don't usually sit and read for 45 minutes or an hour at a stretch anymore.  But I did with this.  

If you're a reader who needs a lot of action, this might not be your favorite book, but if you're a reader like me, you'll love it.

I did question how realistic some of the (major) details were surrounding Reese.  

Overall, highly recommended.  Five stars…and I rarely give 5 stars to novels.

Warning:  some profanity and explicit scenes, but not over the top. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Making a Story your Own

It's really funny, because I don't read romances very often, but because of a strange set of circumstances, I ended up reading two concurrently.  I just finished, and was amazed at some of the similar details.

In one book, a woman moves from a big city to a small town.  She's accompanied by her mother figure (a grandmother who pretty much raised her) and the nieces and nephews she's just adopted after her sister died.  She's very good at her job and ends up helping save the police force through elaborate outreach and community participation.  The house needs repairs, which the love interest is happy to do.  The love interest is also very good with the newly adopted children.  He happens to be the police chief.  

In the other, a woman moves from the big city to a small town.  She's accompanied by her mother figure (the foster mother who pretty much raised her) and the niece she has just adopted after her sister died.  She's very good at her job and ends up helping save the town through elaborate outreach and community participation.  The house needs repairs, which the love interest is happy to do.  The love interest is also very good with the newly adopted child.  The other main character's love interests happens to be the sheriff.   

And… in the first book, the main character is Daisy and one of her adopted daughters is Grace.  In the second book, the main character is Grace and her adopted daughter is Daisy.


They were published close enough together that I don't see how this could be anything but total coincidence.  

But despite the similarities, these were very different books, so it just goes to show that you can make a premise (or even an entire story) your own. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo

 I enjoyed this a lot.

Most of the parts about race, identity, prejudice, etc. were eloquent and thought-provoking, especially when it came to Emoni's Puerto Rican background.

There wasn't a whole lot of plot conflict, and the solutions came a bit too easily, but that didn't bother me much because I was enjoying the good writing and the slice-of-life feel of the story.

Speaking of the writing itself, there were some very poetic and insightful lines here. I loved the Spanish and the words like "jawn," all woven in so well.  It was smooth, engaging writing that carried me happily along through the whole book.

I wish we'd seen more interaction with Emma, but I loved the interaction with 'Buela.  Malachi and Angelica seemed a bit too perfect, but sometimes I enjoy that.  Though Emoni could be judgy (did she ALWAYS have to call Leslie "pretty Leslie?"), I liked her, and enjoyed being in her head, hearing the way she thought about the world around her and her own self.  I also liked that she learned and grew. 

And I loved the cooking parts. 

Overall a nice, positive, multicultural YA book.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

This book was really good—though quite dark.

Our main character, Adunni, speaks English only as a second language, and the book is written in her flawed—but beautiful—English.  As I was reading the first few pages, I thought, "This is going to be annoying if the whole book's like this."  But it wasn't annoying.  In fact, I grew to like it more and more.  It shows her lack of English and formal education while letting her intelligence and creativity shine through.  That takes some serious skill.    

The characters were interesting, a few quite complex.

The story was often heartbreaking but laced with bits of joy and hope. 

I'm interested to see what else Abi Daré writes.

Stars:  4.5

Friday, April 23, 2021

"The Symbolic Cemetery," My Newest Published Work

 Head on over to the Baltimore Review to read my non-fiction piece about mountain climbing and the sometimes-deadly lure of the mountains.  

But first, some pictures.  Memorial plaques at the Symbolic Cemetery in the High Tatra mountains:

Me at Kôprovský štít, which I mention in the piece:

That lake you see in the picture above is a glacial tarn, Veľké Hincovo pleso,  Here's a shot from its banks:  

Near the Symbolic Cemetery in winter:

Want to know more?  Read The Symbolic Cemetery 

Friday, April 16, 2021

More Birdwatching at Hassayampa River Preserve

 So, my novice birdwatching continues.

Note: pictures taken mid February at Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenburg, Arizona.

Some cool raptor (Cooper's hawk maybe???)

Great Egret:

Ladder-backed woodpecker?

What a great day, even if I'm not sure what I saw.