Category Archives: nature

tell it slant

In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss 2007 (284 pgs)

Magical realism at it’s best: witches, flying cities, talking bears and all of it oh-so-real-seeming. Enjoyable author, with an old-world flavor updated by modern fantasy sensibilites.

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even educated fleas do it

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex  by Mary Roach 2008 (319 pgs)

Roach writes the best kind of science- compulsively compelling and delightfully accessible. In her third book, she delves into the history and current state of sex research. With short sections ranging from artificial insemination of farm animals to the study of rats in polyester pants (really!). Extremely informative, occasionally shocking, often hilarious, and always entertaining, Roach knows how to present science in a way that keeps you coming back for more.

no woman is an island

Winter Haven by Athol Dickson 2008 (333 pgs)

Vera is called to a remote island off the coast of Maine when her brother’s body is discovered on the shore. He’s been missing for 13 years, and Vera has out of necessity blocked all thoughts of his fate.  But when she arrives, a hard duty becomes nearly impossible. Her older brother looks like a teenager, unchanged from the day he disappeared. And that’s not the only mystery on the island.

I was keeping a wary eye on this one, in case it turned sappy and life-affirming. (The author won a Christian fiction award for a previous book.) It did, but not until the very end. The bulk of the novel was an easy and enjoyable gothic-light (in the traditional “wife in the attic/bleeding wallpaper” sense) suspense story. I was disappointed in the too pat “it all happens for a reason” tie-up, but otherwise it was fairly entertaining.

sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters

The Sister by Poppy Adams 2008 (273 pgs)

Two sisters, inseparable in childhood, reunite for the first time in fifty years. Ginny has stayed in the family home, pursuing the multi-generational vocation of moth collection and study. Vivian escaped as soon as possible to a freeing life in London. They’ve pursued completely separate lives for decades, never speaking to each other. As the book opens, Ginny awaits Vivian homecoming. And as she waits, she thinks back on their childhood and the secrets, shared and solitary, that bind and separate them.

A riveting book with exceptional writing and masterful grasp of the slow reveal. I devoured it in two sittings.

row, row, row your boat

Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff  by Rosemary Mahoney 2007 (273 pgs)

 Enjoyable travelogue of a woman’s frustrated efforts to row solo from Aswan to Luxor. She wants to experience the Nile they way ordinary people have for milennia: by self-powered rowboat. It’s an interesting shift in focus; she’s not preoccupied with the architecture and historical sites. She’s looking to connect with the everyday people who make their livings within reach of the Nile as well as make her own connection to the river. Along her journey, she ruminates on the epic force of this life-enabling river throughout history and touches on historical travellers experiences, which makes for an interesting read.

days of future passed

The Brief History of the Dead  by Kevin Brockmeier 2006 (252 pgs)

A global illness is wiping out humanity. Isolated in Antarctica, a single survivor remains. As she tracks across the brutal landscape, Laura Byrd plumbs the depths of her memories to distract herself from the harsh conditions. In an afterlife city, the longtime residents begin to notice the population changing drastically. As the pandemic takes hold, the recently departed funnel into a city, and even more rapidly disappear, until mere thousand are left from billions. For the inhabitants can only dwell there for as long as they live in the memory of the living.  

In this haunting (or shall we say haunted?) narrative, Brockmeier illustrates the power of memory and the connections we form throughout our lives. Both portions of the story are separately compelling and it’s fun to see how they connect.  And I always appreciate a book that doesn’t tie everything up in a pat little fluffy bow- but rather leaves the ending open to interpretation and imagined possibilities.

 

what would buddha do?

Twenty Jataka Tales  retold by Noor Inayat Khan, illustrations by H. Willebeek Le Mair, orig pub 1939 (152 pgs)

A collection of short Aesop-esque legends of the former incarnations of the Buddha that relates tales of wisdom and kindness. Here he’s a lion, kindly correcting a panicking hare who thinks the world is ending. There he’s an stag convincing the king through his willingness to sacrifice himself for any of his fellow creature that all animals are worthy of respect. The tales are simple and fun & the morals subtle enough to compliment and not overpower the sweet nature of the book.