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review 2017-08-19 16:13
The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart
The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms - Amy Stewart

The Earth Moved is an overly chatty book that takes a superficial look at the uses of earthworms.  I felt the author spent too much page space regurgitating what Darwin had to say about earthworms and going on about her worm bin and her garden.  There wasn't nearly as much information about earthworms as I had hoped, just generally the stuff one learns in junior high-school biology class and the odd factoid, and no diagrams.  I did however find the chapters on land reclamation and sewage treatment informative.




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review 2017-08-07 20:07
Review: Chaucer's Major Tales by Michael Hoy and Michael Stevens
Chaucer's Major Tales - Michael Hoy

This book justified my decision to major in history and not English or literature. Literature criticisms and analysis bore me to tears. I read deeply the introduction, the section on the prologue to Canterbury Tales, and the conclusion. I skimmed a lot of the middle book, just trying to pick up on the major theme(s) of each of the featured tales. The two authors really dig Chaucer and praised him often. I had a hard time reading the English of the medieval world, so I just guessed at what the words were when lines from the Canterbury Tales were quoted. Michael Hoy's work (chapters are written by individuals, this was not a group effort) was much more accessible to me than Stevens; it seems Stevens was trying to write for a Masters or PhD level essay and not the lay person.


I basically picked this up to fill a Pop Sugar prompt and it did its job but did not convince me to read the full work.

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review 2017-08-04 13:42
Good character development
The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper - Ph... The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper - Phaedra Patrick

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a whimsical story about a man who has recently lost his wife and finds a mysterious charm bracelet while clearing out her belongings.


Arthur is a man of routine and habit and finds the discovery odd because he thought he knew everything about his wife, including the jewellery she owned. A phone number engraved on one of the charms begins a journey that takes Arthur through adventures while he discovers the life his wife had led before they met, one filled with exotic travels and interesting people.


The clues that link one charm to another were done in a believable way and the characters he encounters are each interesting in individual ways, though not always what you might expect. One of the strengths of the book is Arthur's development as a character himself and how it affects the dynamics with the people closest to him.


The end was a surprise, but I liked the way it was done. This was a very entertaining read and I'll look for more stories from this author.

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review 2017-07-31 02:10
Take the Cannoli
Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World - Sarah Vowell

A collection of Vowell's essays culled from several magazine/newspaper columns and This American Life, this is one of those books that is difficult for me to rate.


On the one hand, I found her dry humour entertaining, but on the other, I'm not a fan of cynicism in general, and Vowell's weaponised form often taxed my patience.  


She and I are the same age, but our childhoods did not share much in the way of common experiences, and we definitely don't share a common political view.  I was, in fact, incredulous that she referred to perjury on the part of a president as a "fib".  But we do share a deep, abiding love for our country even when it disappoints and horrifies us.


The essays I connected with, or enjoyed most were the ones where she was able to put her disaffected persona to the side (or at least mute it) and talk about those experiences common to most everybody: battles with insomnia, her experiences at the rock and roll camp, learning to drive.  There's an essay about Chicago that is brilliant and even though I think she let herself get in her own way, her piece on the Trail of Tears was devastating and moving.


So even though I can't say I loved this work, it's only because I was unable to find enough common ground to do so.  But I do think Vowell is an excellent writer and I'd happily read more of her work; she has a book on famous assassinations I've had my eye on for some time now that I'm definitely going to hunt down.


I read this book for my final Free Friday read; it was 209 pages.

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review 2017-07-27 21:45
Review: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson

Read this for Pop Sugar Challenge prompt "set in wilderness".


I had never read a Bryson book before, so the beginning chapters took me longer to read as I was trying to get into the groove of his writing. I will admit that it took me more chapters to find that groove than my usual and I almost DNF'd it. But today I decided, with 16 chapters left, to work through as much as possible before the end of the month. The beginning chapters made Bill out to be very impulsive - the decision to hike all 2100 miles, the money spent on equipment, the books he read. It seemed gimmicky, like he knew he was going to write a memoir out of this experience without thinking through what this experience was going to be like.


Luckily, I hit my stride when Bill and Katz decided to leave the trail in Gatlinburg and drive up a little into Virginia and finish the first leg of their trip somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley. The best part of the book for me was Bill's solo journeys into Pennsylvania and New Jersey; the Delawere Water Gap is on the outskirts of where I grew up (Matamoras, Pike County - if you use Google maps to try and find that tiny speck of dirt, you will need to zoom in....a lot). The section on Centralia reminded me of an episode of Disaster Area podcast about that coal fire; reading a first hand account of someone who was there years after the evacuation and bulldozing added greatly to my knowledge of the disaster.


I also really enjoyed his day hikes in the New England region, except for the last march through Maine (mainly because of Katz). Katz got on my last nerve and the time spent in Maine I was just done with him when he admitted to drinking again. I did enjoy the natural and social history that is found throughout the book. I almost DNF'd after another Mary Ellen story and could not have been happier to see she left the trail early and I wouldn't have to read about her clearing her ears through her nose again.


This isn't really a book about hiking or very introspective; it is much more an outsider's perspective on what he finds along the trail that catches his attention. I am not one for camping, but I do enjoy the occasional day hike (when it is started and finished at a hotel with running water). I was amused by Bill's humor, but didn't really laugh.

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