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review 2018-02-18 01:56
A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too (Living Forest #4)
A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too - Sam Campbell

Sometime over the years an inanimate object becomes something more than it is, whether it is a car or in the case of Sam Campbell a canoe. A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too is the fourth book of Campbell’s Living Forest ranges from the Sanctuary of Wegimind to the wilds of Canada’s canoe country featuring not only animal adventures but also the last year of the Campbell’s durable canoe, Buddie. Sam and Giny Campbell return to their animal sanctuary in early spring 1945 and find their durable canoe, Buddie, in bad shape and because a concern throughout the book even though they’re able to repair it well enough. Recovering from the bad news of their canoe, they are happily surprised to find Still-Mo with a family only because they thought she was a male. Soon they learn their island home’s resident woodchuck has also become a mother. As they enjoy the new residents of the island, Sam and Giny have another new young neighbor boy, Hi-Bud, who met Sam in St. Louis years before and has moved close by. Throughout the spring and summer, Hi-Bud becomes a welcome guest and nature-enthusiast-in-training that the couple enjoys having over. Late in the summer they welcome their friend Sandy on leave from V-E Day injury before his deployment to the Pacific only for the war to end, suddenly allowing the three of them to take their long awaited journey to Canadian canoe country to find an isolated lake to observe and research animals without hardly any human interference. Unfortunately this is Buddie’s last trip as it’s damaged so much that after their return they decide to burn the canoe in a pyre at the end of the book. Although the book is the a little longer than the previous two books, Campbell packs a lot of stuff in this book though in his usual engaging and easy reading prose. Like the last book, a war-experience soldier brings some of philosophical thought to the front especially as he now is looking towards his future post-combat. With young Hi-Bud, youthful exuberance brings out another kind of philosophical thought from Campbell that is very enlightening especially in connection with the imaginative youngster. There is religious faith is written about, though not as prominent as the previous book. A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too while very much like the previous three books of Sam Campbell’s series, it is also different as it gives the reader an impression about how things changed for people after World War II ended as compared to when it was going on. If you enjoyed the previous books that Campbell has written you’d enjoy this as well.

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text 2018-02-16 18:51
Landmarks - Robert Macfarlane,Roy McMillan,Penguin Books Ltd

Why did I read it?  When first published, several people recommended this book to me, and it was recommended more than once by some.  I imagine those recommendations came because of my like of the natural world, and of language.  I have no idea why, but I put it on my 'wish list' and then my 'to be read</i>' pile, but never actually started it; these decisions I now regret.

What's it about? With the Oxford Children's Dictionary removing words relating to nature, e.g. acorn, in favour of technological terms, Robert Macfarlane explores the United Kingdom in search of those words to describe, and connect us to the natural world.  Connection.  That is the key to this book.  In a time, and place which seems to breed disconnection, this book seeks to reunite us with a deep love for landscape, and language.


What did I like? Every single word, and most especially the glossaries.  Rich in words and landscape, there is so much to enjoy, and explore in this book.  I listened to the audio book, which is rather nicely done.  I did query a few of the Gaelic pronunciations - being a learner of the language, not a native speaker, I may not completely comprehend the dialectal nuances.  I am very pleased I opted to purchase the Kindle edition, too, so I can explore those glossaries at my leisure.

Oh, the joy I found in this book: learning new words for phenomenon I had no idea might even exist; remembering 'childish' the way children use language to describe their surroundings; and discovering new Gaelic words I wanted to include in my (ever-expanding) vocabulary.  

The narrator, Roy McMillan|, did a splendid job.  I'm afraid I have no idea of the name of other gentleman whose voice was used to read out various words, but his voice gave  luscious contrast to Mr McMillan's smooth tones.

What didn't I like?  I could find no fault with this book.  I find fault with myself for not reading it sooner.

Would I recommend it? Yes! Yes! Yes!  Not necessarily the audio version though - not because it is not well read, but because once you've read the book, I'm pretty sure you'll want to keep it to hand to pore over the word glossaries, and then add to your own.

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review 2018-02-15 10:22
Force of Nature: A Novel - Jane Harper

Five women set out on a trek through the Bush, part of a corporate retreat. Only four of them return. AFP officer Aaron Falk has to find out what happened to Alice, and whether it’s linked to his latest case, a case where Alice was the whistleblower and chief witness.

 

Force of Nature is a welcome return for Aaron Falk, introduced in The Dry. I liked Aaron even more in this novel, there is a little more about his relationship with his father revealed but he still has an air of mystery surrounding him.

 

There is something claustrophobic about the story, despite it being set in the Girlang Ranges of Australia. The bush and the peaks close ranks on the women, making them and the reader feel more contained that would be expected. This sense of claustrophobia is also enhanced by the limited cast of characters.

 

The story alternates between the five women and their trek into the Ranges and to the present day and Falk and his colleague Carmen’s investigations into Alice’s disappearance.   I liked this style of narration and thought it worked well, building up the layers of the story. There were some strands of the story I would have liked to see develop more, but enough took place to keep me interested.

 

All of the women have issues and facets of their personality to dislike. Alice in particular is not portrayed as a nice person and this obviously reflects on the story as her interaction with the others unfolds. As the story progresses we see the relationships and social structure of the group break down, and the effect such a breakdown has on the situation the women find themselves in.

 

An entertaining read. I look forward to reading more from Jane Harper in the future.

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text 2018-02-13 22:17
"Force Of Nature - Aaron Falk #2" by Jane Harper
Force of Nature: A Novel - Jane Harper

"Force Of Nature" takes place some months after the events in "The Dry". Aaron Falk is back working in Financial Crimes in Melbourne, tracking down contracts to make a money laundering case against a family firm. The firm has an "Executive Adventure" retreat in the mountains which involves a team of five men and a team of five women navigating through the bush over the course of a weekend. At the end of the weekend, only four of the women make it out. The missing woman is the contact Falke has been pressuring to steal copies of contracts for him. Falk and his partner go to investigate.

 

This is very cleverly told tale, moving along two timelines in parallel. The main timeline, the search for the missing woman and the investigation of the circumstance of her disappearance, is interspersed with the details of what happened in each day in the women's team as the hiked the trail.

 

Without ever making me feel like I was being cheated, Jane Harper fed me bits and pieces of information about the women on the hike that kept changing my assessment of them as individuals and of their relationships to each other. Naturally, I was also kept guessing about what happened to the missing woman. The resolution was satisfying and plausible.

 

Unlike in "The Dry", Falk is not the focal point of this investigation. We continue to learn more about him and he behaves in a way that is consistent with the man we met in "The Dry" but he is instrumental rather than central this time. I thought the book was stronger for that.

 

I liked the way this book presented women. It's quite rare to read crime books that pass the Bechdel Test of having at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man. "Force Of Nature" is MAINLY about women talking to each other.

 

We see the power of the bond between mothers and daughters and between (twin) sisters and the conflicts that arise from hierarchy and dominance. These women are clearly drawn and very believable. The verbal fights and physical violence that these women get into are tough and harsh but still different from the same kind of conflicts between men. My impressions of the women kept shifting as I learned more about them and they emerged as individuals with very different views of the same events.

 

It seems to me that the title refers to two forces of nature: the power of the bush to threaten our well-being and trigger survival behaviours that conflict with how we present ourselves back in the city and the power of family to summon sacrifice and guilt as well as love.

 

The book also looks at the pressure the Internet puts young girls under and what they do to themselves and each other to deal with that pressure.

 

This is a good, page-turning, mystery that is made richer by strong characters behaving realistically in a difficult situation.

 

I liked Falk and enjoyed seeing his view of events. There was just enough development of him to build a basis for a great series here.

 

I listened to the audiobook version. Although it had the same narrator as "The Dry", it didn't work quite so well this time. Partly this was because it's a challenge to have a narrator do so many different women's voices and partly because the editing was a little sloppy with a couple of sections with repeated sentences of mispronounced words. It was still a comfortable listen but adding a second narrator for the second timeline would have made for a better listening experience.

 

Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/365491235" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

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review 2018-02-05 00:49
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer

I'm pretty sure I bought my copy of Annihilation sometime late last year. I probably wouldn't have read it until months or even years later, except I saw a preview of the movie and was intrigued. I wanted to read the book before the movie came out.

The book begins with the start of the latest expedition into the mysterious Area X. The twelfth expedition is made entirely up of women: a psychologist (their leader), a biologist (the book's narrator), a surveyor, and an anthropologist. There was also supposed to be a linguist, but she opted not to go the Area X, or was prevented from going.

Unexpected things happen right at the very start of the expedition. Prior to going into Area X, everyone was rigorously trained in topics relating to their field of study, as well as the known geography of Area X. However, one of the first things they come across is a tower that was most definitely not on the map they were shown. They have a choice: they can either explore the tower, or they can forge ahead and check out whatever the previous expedition left behind at the lighthouse (which was on the map) and the surrounding area. They opt to go to the tower, which turns out to have writing on its walls, made out of some kind of plants. After their first trip into the tower, the expedition begins to rapidly fall apart.

I'm not sure what to make of Annihilation. It was a compelling read, but fairly early on I realized it reminded me strongly of a book that I disliked and that, on the surface at least, was completely different. In Kobo Abe's The Box Man, a man (or multiple men - it's unclear) decides to exist inside a box that covers him from his head to his hips. Abe starts off by describing everything in excruciating detail, from the way in which the Box Man constructed his box to what it's like to live as a Box Man. As the Box Man encounters other people, the story becomes increasingly surreal, to the point that it's difficult to tell which of the things he describes have any connection at all to reality.

I could see the Box Man in the way the biologist described the world around her. The first half of the book was devoted to the tower, which, due to an accident, the biologist was able to see in ways that others in her expedition, except maybe the psychologist, couldn't. It was tough to tell whether the text written on the walls and the other things she saw would ever actually mean something, but I was intrigued enough to keep reading. As the expedition began to fall apart, I wanted to know what the psychologist knew that the others didn't, and what the expedition's goal was.

I could also see the Box Man in the things the biologist discovered in the tower and later, during her trip to the lighthouse. Thankfully, Annihilation was less surreal than The Box Man, but I still wasn't happy when it turned out to have almost as ambiguous an ending.

I don't want to say too much for fear of including major spoilers, but a few things popped into my head as I was reading. First, considering what the biologist's husband was like after he came back from Area X (he was part of the eleventh expedition - not too much of a spoiler, I think) and what eventually happened to him, I don't understand why the biologist never asked what the little black boxes the expedition members had been given were measuring. You'd think someone would have demanded to know, unless anyone with a healthy level of concern about things that could kill them was rejected from becoming part of an expedition.

Second, cross-disciplinary knowledge would have been helpful, and yet the members of the expedition seemed to know very little that wasn't directly related to their fields of study. It was a frustrating. I could believe that the biologist was that hyper-focused, but I'd have thought one of the others would have branched out a bit more. The closest we got was the surveyor, who had a bit of military knowledge.

Third, the biologist tended to spin elaborate theories out of very little. For example, her observation of a slime trail that led downward into the tower, plus evidence that the writing in the tower was fresher further down, prompted her to come up with elaborate theories about the creature she believed was doing the writing. To be fair, even she eventually realized that she was ignoring the possibility that the creature was intelligent and that there might be meaning behind the words. Of course, even that theory assumed that the creature, which she hadn't even seen yet, was writing those words.

In the end, this book left me feeling underwhelmed, and just a little annoyed that the ending held almost no answers. Area X intrigued me, so I might continue on, but I'm a little worried that the next two books will be just as ambiguous as the first. There are quite a few questions I'd like some answers to (like why a couple different beings could have killed the biologist and yet were somehow forced not to), but I'm not sure I trust the rest of the trilogy to give me those answers.

 

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

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