28 October 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 5 Short Book Reviews

5 short book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsI'm going to start this post with the obligatory question/exclamation: How can we be just days away from November? I haven't yet cleaned off my deck, I never did finish weeding the garden . . . Sigh.

I don't have a lot of chitchat this week because I'm still catching up from being away. My hope is that by Friday, life will have settled back down, just in time for me to get ready for my annual fall lace-making getaway. You'll hear more about that later.

This week's reviews are extra short because that's all the energy I have. Here's what I read and listened to over the last couple of weeks.

review of Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places by Craig ChildsVirga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places by Craig Childs (Torrey House Press, Oct. 1): If you like essays about nature and our connections to it, you'll like this slim volume of a half dozen essays of observations about various places in the American Southwest. Childs writes about all kinds of desert things: temperature variations in Death Valley, the juxtaposition of bleached bones (the end of life) with the occasional rain (the beginning of life), and the layers of seashells found on the dry side of the Colorado Rockies. He talks about the people he meets and his observations on animals and insects. He also discusses the way people have changed the desert, from ancient indigenous populations all the way to the atomic bomb tests and on to twenty-first-century hunters and scientists. Childs gives you a lot to think about. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

Review of The Sweetest Fruits by Monique TruongThe Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong (Viking, Sept. 3): This is a fictionalized account of the life of the journalist, author, and teacher Lafcadio Hearn (also known as Koizumi Yakumo), as told through the eyes of the four significant women in his life. I have very mixed feelings about this book, primarily because I didn't realize until I finished it that the novel was based on a real person. Thus I was kind of in the dark and didn't connect at all to the story or to Hearn's extensive travels and relationships. Truong's writing was fine, but without the context, I felt lost. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 9 hr, 25 min), read by Cassandra Campbell, Lisa Flanagan, Adenrele Ojo, and Emily Woo Zeller, for a freelance assignment. I enjoyed all four performances. Note that the book has won wide critical acclaim, presumably by people who knew who Hearn was. (audio copy provided for a freelance assignment)

Review of Royal Flush by Rhys BowenRoyal Flush by Rhys Bowen (Audible Studios; 2010; 8 hr, 31 min), narrated by Katherine Kellgren. After that last book I needed something light and fun so I turned to the third installment in the Royal Spyness cozy mystery series, which takes place in England in the 1930s. Our hero is Lady Georgiana, who is 34th in line to the throne and a cousin to the royal family. As with all good cozies, Georgie never seems to be too far away from a murder or two. In this outing, it appears that someone is targeting the royal family, and Scotland Yard hopes Georgie will help them find the bad guy. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Georgie's brother and sister-in-law find themselves with unexpected American house guests, including that Simpson woman who has caught the eye of Edward, the king to be. Lots of madness and mayhem, good humor, great characters, a touch of romance, and a fun look at the royal family. Kellgren does a marvelous job with the various accents and characterizations. (personal collection)

Review of What I Lick before Your Face by Jamie Coleman What I Lick before Your Face: And Other Haikus by Dogs by Jamie Coleman (Atria, Oct. 8): Attention all dog lovers: Here's the perfect stocking stuffer, hostess/host gift, conversation starter, and feel-good book for you. Coleman presents life from a dog's perspective as told through haiku. I loved pretty much every single one of Coleman's poems. I was laughing and smiling my through this delightful collection. The poems cover such things as taking walks, curling up on the furniture, begging for food, drinking out of the toilet, and fetching slippers.

Your Things
You keep throwing it
I keep on bringing it back
Look. After. Your. Things.
Each poem is accompanied by a photograph of a dog that perfectly complements the sentiment. This book is so much fun to look through and read. You'll be tempted to recite all the haiku out loud to your family and friends. Put this on your gift list! (digital copy provided by the publisher)

Review of In Oceans Deep by Bill StreeverIn Oceans Deep: Courage, Innovation, and Adventure beneath the Waves by Bill Streever (Little, Brown, July 2): Streever, a lifelong diver, examines the history, science, and technology of humankind's journey to explore the depths of the ocean. Streever takes a personal approach to this book, telling the story of underwater exploration by introducing us to the people involved. We learn about the various types of submersibles, the discovery of what causes the bends and how to prevent them, the effects of being under pressure, and the different kinds of diving (with and without tanks). I never thought about why space exploration seemed to capture the attention of the government and of people's imaginations more than the exploration of the ocean bottom--even with Jacques Cousteau and the later discovery of The Titanic. Streever has thoughts about this. He not only looks at history but also discusses the future, such as the development of underwater robots. Humans are drawn to the ocean depths for a lot of reasons beyond recreation, and Streever explores many questions, including these: Could we someday have underwater colonies? How can we make it safer for underwater work (for example for building bridges)? What are the consequences of underwater drilling? What's the status of underwater robots or drones? All in all this is an interesting and entertaining book. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 9 hr, 3 min) read by Jay Snyder, who is quickly becoming one of my go-to narrators for nonfiction. He totally blurs that line between performer and author, drawing me solidly into the book. (audio copy provided by the publisher)


shelleyrae @ book'd out 10/28/19, 6:11 AM  

All of these books are new to me.

Good luck getting back on track, and wishing you a great reading week

Mae Travels 10/28/19, 7:29 AM  

The writings of Lafcadio Hearn are themselves very interesting and wonderful. Now that you have met him in fiction, I hope you get to know him in person!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

rhapsodyinbooks 10/28/19, 7:48 AM  

I love the name of the book of haikus about dogs and the one you included. It sounds very cute.

I'm afraid I too have never heard of Lafcadio Hearn. I always appreciate when authors using real people or events let you know what is going on in a *preface* so you don't have to be lost while reading. It's very annoying when they don't!

bermudaonion 10/28/19, 8:31 AM  

What I Lick Before I Lick Your Face sounds like so much fun!

Susie | Novel Visits 10/28/19, 8:50 AM  

I'm always happy to see October end. It's a long month for teachers! You have an incredibly eclectic group of books you're sharing this week. They all sound interesting, but in rather unique ways.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 10/28/19, 9:16 AM  

I'm always interested in nature stories. I shall look for Virga and Bone.

Laurel-Rain Snow 10/28/19, 9:23 AM  

The Rhys Bowen book looks so good. Enjoy them all, and have a great week.

Tina 10/28/19, 12:07 PM  

Thank you again for some great suggestions on new books. I am a dog lover and that book spoke to me already. Must have it! I think I'd like the book about oceans as well.

sherry fundin 10/28/19, 12:53 PM  

you sound like me. i have been trying to get my yard cleaned up all summer. now i'm thinking...well...i'll let the things die back and it will be easier. LOL
sherry @ fundinmental

Kathy Martin 10/28/19, 2:40 PM  

Nice variety of new to me books. I took advantage of the glorious weather on Sunday to do some shrub trimming. That is as much getting ready for winter as I plan to do. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Harvee 10/28/19, 2:49 PM  

I'm in the mood for haiku by a dog! Looks lovely!

Yvonne 10/28/19, 2:53 PM  

Royal Flush looks really good. I only read one book in that series, but I enjoyed it. I hope you have a great week!

JoAnn 10/28/19, 3:52 PM  

The first Royal Spyness book was such an enjoyable audiobook! It would be a perfect change of pace while I'm reading nonfiction this month... thanks for reminding me about the series.

Vicki 10/28/19, 4:15 PM  

What I Lick Before I Lick Your Face & In Oceans Deep are going on my list to read.

pussreboots 10/28/19, 4:24 PM  

Virga & Bone has caught my eye. Have a good week. My weekly update

Girl Who Reads 10/28/19, 9:05 PM  

I love that Rhys Bowen series. I'm all caught up on it so now I have to wait for the next one. A lace-making retreat sounds fun - and a cool skill.

Greg 10/29/19, 2:23 AM  

I love the look of the Rhys Bowen one. I read the Christmas- themed one a few years back and thought it was a lot of fun.

Les in Oregon 10/30/19, 10:12 PM  

Thanks for helping me with a birthday gift idea. What I Lick Before Your Face will be perfect for my son-in-law!

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/10/19, 5:39 PM  

I know so many people who would love that dog book!

Daryl 11/18/19, 9:08 AM  

finally a break when i can sit read/comment ... the dog book sounds like such fun

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