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review 2018-09-30 04:04
The Wild Robot (audiobook) by Peter Brown, narrated by Kate Atwater
The Wild Robot - Peter Brown

The Wild Robot is a Middle Grade sci-fi/survival/talking animal book. I had seen it before and considered getting it, but I have too many books as it is. When I saw that my local public library had added it to their Overdrive audiobook collection, I pounced on it. I believe my checkout included access to accompanying files with illustrations, but I didn't attempt to find and open those files.

The Wild Robot begins with a terrible shipwreck during a hurricane (although the words "climate change" are never used, this is definitely a vision of the near future that includes some of the effects of climate change). The ship's cargo included several robots, only one of which survived the wreck. That robot, Roz, is activated by a group of curious otters. Over the next few months, Roz gradually learns how to survive in the wild and communicate with the animals around her. Can a robot somehow make friends and find a home in such a wild place?

I really enjoyed how this audiobook started. The beginning seemed very much like a robot survival book, as Roz attempted to figure out how to protect herself from the elements and from animals. She was programmed to be nonviolent and was therefore incapable of fighting back against any animals that attacked her. She was also programmed to keep herself clean and shiny, a serious drawback in outdoor survival, where her shininess drew attention to her and prevented her from properly hiding from dangers.

I was a bit disappointed when Roz learned to communicate with animals and this suddenly morphed from an outdoor adventure into a talking animal book. Somehow, Roz's newfound animal communication skills allowed her to talk to all animals she came across in full sentences, and allowed them to talk to her in full sentences. I had some trouble accepting that Roz and a beaver were somehow using beaver language to discuss the specifics of building a lodge. The beaver even suggested that Roz grow a garden with some help from local deer. Meanwhile, I was sitting there wondering how a beaver and deer were supposed to know anything about gardening.

Eventually, I managed to stop thinking of the book's animals as true animals so much and was able to think of them more as talking animals, which helped me enjoy the story more. (I'm guessing that the author really did intend for them to be true animals, based on details later on in the book. But animal communication doesn't work like that, so I'm just going to go with my "talking animals with a few true animal characteristics" interpretation.)

Roz's efforts to find a place for herself and make friends were nice, although the lengths she had to go to before the animals stopped considering her a monster and started considering her a friend occasionally bothered me. I mean, what if she hadn't been able to build all those lodges?

At any rate, I particularly liked her efforts to figure out motherhood after she accidentally became the mother of a gosling. I worried about where Brown planned to go with that. In theory, Roz could outlive Brightbill, her son. If you, like me, worry about fictional animals, I can tell you that

there were a few animal deaths here and there but that, as far as I can remember, none of the animals readers are likely to be most attached to die.

(spoiler show)


I did start to worry that Roz wasn't going to make it, though. It's amazing the amount of damage she sustained in only a few months living in a forest. With no humans around, there was no way for her to acquire new parts or get any kind of maintenance. It was a relief to know that a sequel already existed. If Roz was the main character of that book as well, surely she wouldn't be destroyed at some point in The Wild Robot.

Kate Atwater's narration was wonderful. I liked most of the voices she chose for the various animals, and her robotic Roz voice somehow managed to be appealing. She was accompanied by various sound effects, such as otter squeaks and button clicks, which I thought was nicely done.

All in all, I enjoyed this and will probably read (or listen to) the next book at some point.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-09-29 05:55
Mark of Cain
Mark of Cain - Kate Sherwood

It was just bad luck that I ended up reading this at the same time I was listening to Brothers of the Wild North Sea. The two books, despite being different genres and different time periods, deal with the same themes: enemies to lovers, a man of the cloth struggling with his faith and church, a wild man learning a new way to live his life. One of these books is successful at exploring these complex themes, the other...not so much. 

 

Brothers of the Wild North Sea is like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Mark of Cain is like a finger painting by a three-year old. Brothers of the Wild North Sea is like eating freshly ripe strawberries dipped in cream on a breezy, mild summer day. Mark of Cain is like an ice cream sandwich that's been out of the freezer too long. You know it'll still taste the same, but the texture's all wrong and the sandwich part sticks to your fingers and it's just not as satisfying as it could've been.

 

But anyway, enough with the unfair comparisons! Let's talk about the Mark of Cain!

 

 

A man struggling with his faith and church - There were good bones here. I did find most of Mark's storyline here to be superficial at best, but I did like how it highlighted the struggle that many fundamental churches have when trying to move forward with the times. They can talk the talk, but they trip and stumble when they try to walk the walk. Unfortunately, much of the meat of this was pushed to the back burner because of the Twu Wuv taking center stage halfway through. *sigh*

 

I mostly liked Mark. Except when he was being an ass. He loves his church but slowly comes to realize how much of himself he's given up for it and that it doesn't love him back. This could have been really intense, but in the end there wasn't all that much depth to these sections and they're breezed over for the Tru Wuv.

 

 

An excon trying to make amends and be better - I really liked Lucas. His story here is sad. Yes, he killed a guy, but he spent his stint in prison doing what he could to become a better person, one who doesn't drink too much and doesn't get into pointless bar fights because he's bored with his life. He was only 19 when this stupid thing happened, and it'll haunt him the rest of his life. When he's released, he tries to hold onto what the therapist taught him, but his friends are determined to pull him back into his old ways. And his friends are, for the most part, caricatures with no real nuance of their own, the exception of Sean.

 

Between Mark and Lucas, his actions made the most sense throughout the book and I was most interested to see where his story would go. 

 

So what happens when these two "enemies" get together?

 

 

Well...not much. First, Lucas is placed in the half-way house that Mark supervises because his parole officer is terrible at his job - and despite Lucas's case being very high profile, to the point that random strangers know who Lucas is and what he did, none of the other ex-cons in this place have any clue about the connection between Mark and Lucas. Or maybe they do, but we just don't get to see it because we never actually meet any of the other guys in the house except when they're needed to play bit parts. But since even Lucas is unaware of this connection, I can only assume the other guys in the house don't know either. Yeah. Suuuure they don't.

 

Anyway, that ridiculous coinkydink aside, Mark's a jerk to Lucas, and he's completely unprofessional with his job. Like, on so many levels. And Lucas just takes everything that's thrown at him - from Mark and every other random person - because he knows he deserves it.

 

And then this thing happens with Alex, a teen boy that Mark is counseling at the church. Alex starts off as a character in his own right, and he's a mirror to Mark. Mark is constrained, careful. Alex is bold and upfront. And of course he's got the big crush on Lucas. But turns out his character is mostly just a bridge to Mark and Lucas burying the hatchet and forming a friendship of sorts, because Alex needed help and they're both willing to help him. Which is all great! I was ready to see where this went!

 

But then it kind of fizzles out. Alex fades into the background for awhile and Mark pretty much ignores him because of Tru Wuv. *sigh*

 

 

In the end, I needed a lot more time spent with these two as hesitant acquaintances/quasi-friends before they jumped into bed together. Years worth. Not just months, which are really more like a couple of weeks once they really start spending time together. The moment they started lusting is the moment this book became just another M/M Romance (™) and stopped being anything interesting. I just couldn't buy it. I was pretty much yelling (in my head) at Mark "Dude, he killed your brother, what are you doing?!" every other page. And I like Lucas! But seriously. He killed your brother. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!

 

Random stuff:

 

We meet Will in chapter two when he takes Mark to a bar to unwind after the news that Lucas got released on early parole. Will and Mark seem like good friends, so he should have shown up again at any point in this story to help out Mark or be a sounding board for him when his life was falling apart, but it's like Sherwood forgot this character even existed.

 

I thought we'd see a lot more of Mark's parents, since such a big deal was made over how upset they were about Lucas's release, but they're barely mentioned at all in the first half of the book, and we never even actually meet his dad. And his mom...okay, I'm going to keep this rant super short, but I really resent that Mark's mom was made to look like a villain at the end. This poor woman has lost everything, and to try to make her the mustache-twirling bad guy just felt disingenuous. Was that there to allow the reader to feel better about Mark being with Lucas? If so, that is beyond the pale. She has every right to be upset and want nothing to do with Lucas, and I frankly have to agree with her that Mark wasn't making wise decisions at this point.

 

There's also this weird subplot with Lucas's friend Sean towards the end that doesn't really go anywhere. Was this supposed to be a series at one point and she changed her mind? That's the only reason it makes sense to include all this stuff that really just takes time away from other things that should be getting more focus.

 

Anyway, there's good stuff here, good bones, but a lot of it felt haphazard and didn't go as in depth with the material as I wanted it to. This could have been glorious

 

 

but ended up just being kind of frumpy.

 

 

(Sorry, Chuck.) :D

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review 2018-09-19 03:42
Tinsel Fish (Tyack & Frayne #2) (Audiobook)
Tinsel Fish - Harper Fox

I seem to be having trouble connecting with this series, and I honestly don't know if it's the length of the stories or if it's the narrator. 

 

This is really too short to go in-depth with the material or the characters, and things and other characters keep getting introduced, on top of the mystery of sorts that Lee and Gideon are working on. I did love Gideon's mom, and it was nice to see Gideon going out on a limb relationship-wise, planning time off from his job when he knows that Lee will be home from his own job. 

 

I didn't understand why Lee, a psychic, didn't believe in spirits off the bat. His job is going out, documenting monsters and such, and reading energies and people's minds and other random mojo to find things and people. But spirits? That's crazy talk! Atheism in paranormal settings just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. He doesn't have to be religious or anything, but he does have use basic common sense. It reminded me of those idiots in that godawful The Boys on the Mountain, going out to investigate a haunted house but none of them believe in ghosts. *headdesk* Thankfully, Lee does prove to be smarter than that lot. Not that that would've been a hard thing to do.

 

Tim Gilbert is a great narrator, and he's easy to follow, but he's got this gravelly, gruff voice that just doesn't really seem to fit. Well, that's not quite right. It fits Gideon perfectly, but everything else? Not so much. He is able to clear his voice up for Lee, but the variation in his voices for the various characters shows a limited range. And I still feel like he should be reading something much more serious, like one of those classic Russian authors with names I can't pronounce. :D

 

There is promise here, and I've loved nearly everything else I've read by Ms. Fox, so I'm going to try the next one eventually, but I I'll be reading it. This'll be it for me with the audiobooks. 

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review 2018-09-18 16:59
When Elephants Fly
When Elephants Fly - Nancy Richardson Fischer
Tiger Lilly Decker is hoping to make it through the next twelve years.  Her genetics have predicted her future and it doesn't look good.  Lilly's mom had schizophrenia and attempted to kill Lilly and herself by jumping off the top of a building when Lilly was seven years old.  Now, as a senior in high school, the danger zone for the onset of schizophrenia is approaching.  Lilly follows a strict regiment to ensure that she will not trigger any of the symptoms including reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding certain foods.  Lilly's handsome, rich, popular and not yet out of the closet, best friend, Sawyer supports her through.  With Lilly's internship at the local paper, she has been reporting on the birth of an Asian Elephant Calf, Swifty.  After the calf is born however, the mom rejects Swifty and Lilly is triggered to run in front of the charging elephant mother to protect Swifty.  With a strong bond to the calf, Lilly is invited to follow Swifty as she is sent to the circus to be with the father that sired her.  Lilly continues to report on Swifty and the circus conditions and digs until she uncovers the cruelty that happens there.  With Swifty slowly dying, Lilly decides to break all of her rules and the law to get Swifty to safety.
 
When Elephants Fly is a powerful story of one person's journey with schizophrenia. If that weren't enough, the story also focuses on animal rights and sexuality.  Lilly's story is an important one, putting into focus that people with a mental illness are people first and should not be characterized by their illness.  Lilly is careful, guarded, and has an amazing heart.  Her fear of inheriting schizophrenia is understandable, but rules her life.  Lilly's journey to accept that she can not change her genetics is very meaningful especially when it is tied into the story of saving the life of Swifty.  With Swifty's story Lilly learns that there are bigger things in life than herself.  Swifty brings to light the plight that all elephants are facing now in the wild and the role of zoos in animal conservation along with the difficult decisions that people make on the elephant's behalf.  Along with that, Lilly learns that some people aren't what they seem as she uncovers that hidden animal abuse at the zoo.  The writing does a wonderful job of showing the complex emotions that elephants have as well as the complicated nature of a mental illness. As Swifty's life is endangered, Lilly's symptoms also begin to show, although it doesn't seem like anything that Lilly can't deal with.  Inspiring and hopeful, When Elephants Fly beautifully takes difficult subjects and weaves them into an intricate and enjoyable story. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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review 2018-09-10 03:17
Are You My Mother? - P.D. Eastman

 

Brief Review:

Are you my mother is about a little bird who is just born but his mother is not there when he comes out of it egg and gets confused where or who his mother is.

Idea of how it can be used in a classroom:

Are you my mother could be used to learn the different types of species of animals and what their babies and moms would look alike and what makes each one different.

Reading Level & Leveling System:

Direct Reading Assessment

16

Pre-K to K

Book Rating:

I would rate this book a 4 because it shows students/children the differences between the types of species and what makes them different.

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