Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Coyote (book review)

I want to see them. I want to find their outlines when I scan the edges of the meadow. I want to know if I'm being watched while I work in the garden or mow the field. I want to know where they sleep and spend their days, where they go when the neighboring dogs race through or when November arrives after the leaves here have blown free and hunters slip into the newly naked woods.

So says Catherine Reid, author of Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in our Midst. Living in an old Massachusetts farmhouse, Reid has heard the howls of the coyotes, the adaptable, unstoppable hunters that live among humans. She wants to see one. Reid has tracked the history of the coyote back to when it first turned from the scrawny, sneaky animal in old Western cartoons to the elusive eastern creature that we often mistake for a wolf. She finds their tracks and scat in the woods near her house, hears them howling at night when we are asleep. She wonders, how is it that each hunting season, their numbers increase instead of decline? Is it extreme adaptability, or something else? Reid wants to dig deeper into the life of the coyote, to find out how it thrives among the humans who drove its larger cousin, the wolf, to near extinction. Reid takes you on an unforgettable journey into the lore and past of her home state on a quest to discover the secret behind this mysterious canid.

First of all, this wasn't only a book about wildlife. It was also a narrative about love and hate and family. It shows us how, as part of human nature, we want things to be totally predictable. We want to be in control, and we don't want to live among animals that reflect us in them, both the aspects we like about ourselves, and those we don't like so much. That was partly why we drove the wolf out. This was a great book about both people and animals, and I found it both enjoyable and educational.

This was my final book for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Haiku Book Review

Do you want to check out a fun contest? Head over to Fyrefly's Book Blog. To enter, you have to write a haiku review of a book that you have read recently.

Here is mine:

by Peter S. Beagle

Two feline lovers
Ghostly girl with a dark past
Left me wanting more

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Seer of Shadows (book review)

The Seer of Shadows is yet another book by the renowned author Avi. It takes place in post-Civil War New York, where fourteen-year-old Horace Carpentine works as an apprentice to a lazy photographer by the name of Enoch Middleditch. When Middleditch comes up with the idea to make a "spirit photograph" for his latest customer, a wealthy lady named Mrs. Von Macht who has just lost her daughter, Horace reluctantly agrees. But when he befriends their servant, Pegg, she tells him a tale of deceit and horror that he won't forget. The Von Machts are hiding a dark secret about their "daughter", a girl named Eleanora. And Horace soon discovers that as a "seer of shadows" he can spy the ghost of Eleanora hovering about. She wants revenge, and she won't stop at anything to get it.

This book went very fast. It was perhaps the best of Avi's books that I have ever read! Unlike most ghost stories, where friendly people turn into friendly ghosts, kindly Eleanora has turned into a wicked spirit intent on murder. This book was genuinely spooky, and fans of this genre will eat it up!

Thank you, Carl, for such a wonderful book! I had a hard time saving it for RIP, but I'm glad I did because it was the perfect read for the season!

Triskellion (book review)

Triskellion, the first in a brand-new trilogy by Will Peterson, is the story of two twins, Adam and Rachel. They are heading to the picturesque English village of Triskellion for their vacation, and they find it an unsettling place. Deep, dark forests, unfriendly hermits, and hostile punks don't do anything to improve the mood. But Rachel, Adam, and their new friend Gabriel know the villagers are hiding something, and despite all the danger, they want to find out what it is. The mysterious three-bladed symbol of Triskellion will take them on an adventure that no one in the village will ever forget.

This was a perfect archaeological adventure with a bit of a paranormal twist to it. The mystery was complex and fascinating, and will give fans of the genre a lot to ponder over. The author wrote in such a fashion that one could almost believe that his story was really happening! Mystery-lovers will adore this book, as will fans of creepy stories. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment of the series.

Monday, September 08, 2008

For Love of Insects (book review)

For Love of Insects, by entomologist Thomas Eisner, is a book devoted to his discoveries about the lives of arthropods. Although the title uses the word insects, Eisner's research isn't limited to them. He also talks about whipscorpions, spiders, and millipedes. The book mainly discusses chemical defenses, but it also has a chapter mainly devoted to the mating and reproduction of a certain kind of moth, and one devoted to insect camouflage.

I found the chapter about orb weavers especially interesting, because it talked about the web structure and how the spider decides when something is safe to eat and when it isn't. But honestly, I really enjoyed the whole book. I was glad for the full-color photographs, because they helped me see what he was talking about even better. I also learned a ton of new facts about insects and other arthropods, and it wasn't at all hard to understand because of the author's easygoing style. This is a must-have for any bug-lover's collection!

This is a substitute for the Nonfiction Five Challenge. It also fills in the slot for my "E" author in the A-Z Challenge.

11,000 Years Lost (book review)

11,000 Years Lost, by Peni R. Griffin, is the story of 11-year-old Esther's journey back to the Pleistocene era. When Esther finds two ancient spear points on her school playground, they lead her to a doorway into the past. Esther steps 11,000 years back in time, not knowing that after she does, the doorway will disappear. She intends to stay for a few minutes exploring, then return home. But soon she finds herself stuck in Ice Age Texas, and she doesn't know when she will find another doorway. Soon Esther meets two girls who belong to a tribe of mammoth hunters, Ahrva and Tekinit. They bring her to their family, who adopts her thinking she is a child from the stars. When traveling with them, she finds herself face to face with dire wolves, scimitar cats, long legged bears, and mammoths, but never another doorway. Will Esther ever see her family again?

Although this book was a slow reader, it wasn't because it lacked excitement. It let the reader glimpse into the life of a person living in the Pleistocene. I was sad when this book ended, and eager to read more about Esther's adventures. I will definitely search for more books by this author!

This book was a substitute for the "Back to History Challenge and my "G" author for the A-Z Reading Challenge.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Red Badge of Courage (book review)

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, is one of the most famous Civil War stories ever published. Unlike most novels about this subject written at the time, it focused on the life of a common foot soldier, not a famous general or hero.

The book begins when the main character, Henry, joins the army with one goal in mind: to become a hero. At first he enjoys this new life, but as the day of battle draws near Henry begins to form a doubt in his mind. Is he really capable of becoming a hero, or will he turn and run when he finally gets a chance to fight? When the day of battle comes, he is at first calmed by his spectacular performance in the fight, but when the enemy forms a furious counter-charge, Henry can't help himself--he runs.

After the battle is over and the young man is lost, he feels a deep sense of shame. He yearns to rejoin his regiment and prove himself worthy of the rank of hero. But first, Henry joins up with a group of wounded soldiers heading off to the hospital. Seeing all these brave men, he feels even more ashamed of himself. Why couldn't he have stayed and fought?

Eventually Henry finds his regiment, who, fortunately, didn't notice his shameful act. But there is another battle coming up. Will Henry finally set his mind at ease and earn his place among the other brave men?

I greatly enjoyed this superb Civil War novel. I really connected with Henry, who I got to know a lot while I read. When he proved himself in battle, I felt proud. By reading this book, you can really get a sense of what a grueling ordeal these poor men went through. But there were also the moments of joy, like winning a battle. I truly felt like one of these men when I read this book! I absolutely loved it!