Zabor, Rafi. The Bear Comes Home. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.
Reason read: May is Music month.
In a nutshell:The Bear Comes Home is a story about a talking, walking, pants-wearing, saxophone-playing bear. Wrap your brain around that for a moment and then consider this: the bear is an avid reader, talks philosophy and emotionally and physically loves a woman. I knew from the inside flap this book was going to be an interesting read, especially when I read, “a vexed, physically passionate and anatomically correct inter-species love affair with a beautiful woman named Iris.” Um. Okay. It’s the “anatomically correct” piece that really puts it into perspective. But! Trust me when I say this is a deep book. I mean deeeep. Zabor is a little long winded when it comes to subjects he is passionate about. There are pages and page about jazz music and the musicians who perfected it, but somehow the entire thing works. The Bear is a little too angsty but considering his circumstances, stuck in the human world, who could blame him?
As an aside, I have two Natalie connections to this book. This time “Dancing Bear” from Leave Your Sleep (of course) and the mention of the song “But Not For Me” which Natalie has covered.
Another aside, I loved, loved, loved the musical references. Mention of Prince’s Black Album made me swoon (been missing him a lot lately).
Line to like, “It had to do with the heaviness of obsession” (p 363).
Author fact: Zabor is a musician as well as an author. Obviously.
Book trivia: Bear Comes Home features a few real life musicians. Obviously. Another piece of trivia: it won the PEN Faulkner award.
Nancy said: Pearl said Bear Comes Home is a “slightly different take on music in fiction” (Book Lust p 164).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Music and Musicians” (p 164).
I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:
- Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.
- Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.
We are nearly one full week into February and I have yet to report what is on the reading list. I have to admit, my other (non-book) life got in the way. I was selected for jury duty for a trial that lasted three days, a friend was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation for three days, an uncle was taken off hospice, and oh yeah, I turned fifty with my family and friends in attendance. The last week of January going into the first week of February was all a bit nutty. And. And! And, I am running again. So, there’s that. But enough of that. Here are the books:
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker (EB)- in honor of Walker’s birth month.
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch (EB & print) – in memory of Busch’s death month.
- Crossers by Philip Caputo (EB & print) – in honor of Arizona becoming a state in February.
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (EB & print) – in honor of Brazil’s festival.
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey (print) in honor of Yates’s birthday.
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (AB) in honor of February being Feed the Birds Month.
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (EB & print) – to continue the series started in honor of January being Mystery Month.
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett (print) – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov (EB) – in honor of Asimov’s birth month being in January.
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow (EB & print) – to continue the series started in January in honor of Alaska becoming a state.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to Be a Patient by Dr. Sana Goldberg (confessional: I started this in January and haven’t finished it yet).
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
Villiers, Alan. Joey Goes to Sea. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport, 2014.
Reason read: a gift from my aunt Jennifer and because I love cats.
This is such a cute story and the fact that is is based on true events makes it even more special. Joey is a little ginger kitten who went to sea aboard the Joseph Conrad with author Alan Villiers. According to Villiers, the events in the story are real. Joey caught flying fish, fought with a bird, and really did fall overboard!
The illustrations are wonderful, too.
de Waal, Frans. The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Reason read: October is gorilla month.
Frans de Waal believes in the possibility that animals have culture. In the beginning of his book he spends some time talking about how we, as humans, apply human emotion to animals. He uses the example of Binti Jua, the ape at the Chicago zoo who “saved” and protected the little boy back in 1996. He couldn’t comment on the incident at the Cincinnati zoo when Harambe was shot dead for fear of purposefully drowning a child. What would he have said about that? As an aside, I admit I am guilty of applying emotion to animal behavior. When my cat Cassidy went missing I swore her “brother” missed her. Do I know that for fact? No. But, he did act strangely for the duration of her absence so I would like to think he did.
But, back to the point. Do animals have cultural instinct that they follow? Do they learn by copying others? Is habit passed down from one generation to another?
My only pet peeve? I felt as if part of The Ape and the Sushi Master was a plug for Bonobo: the Forgotten Ape, another book written by de Waal. He spent a great deal of time in Ape/Sushi referring back to the sexuality of bonobos discussed in Bonobo. As they say, sex sells so I have to wonder how many people looked up this other book after reading Ape.
Lines to grab my attention: “As someone who occasionally forgets where he has parked an item as large and as significant as his car, I am impressed by these peanut-brained birds” (p 58).
Author fact: At the time of publication, Frans de Waal was a professor at Emory University.
Book trivia: The Ape and the Sushi Master has great illustrations as well as photographs.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Our Primates, Ourselves” (p ). As an aside, I think Pearl took the chapter title, “Our Primates, Ourselves” straight from a Ape and the Sushi Master quote. Early on de Waal says his book is “about how we see animals, how we see ourselves, and the nature of culture” (p 6).
If you have been keeping up with me, myself and moi then you know we love Halloween. Odd. Odd because we can’t watch Walking Dead or go to Fright Fest without peeing our pants. What I love about Halloween is the potential for witchcraft, darkness & something intangibly spooky, if that makes sense. I love mysteries and there is no greater mystery than death. Right? Jack-o-Laterns glowing on doorsteps. Ominous crows watching silently from the trees. Candlelight shadows wavering on the wall. Cemeteries shrouded in the fog…I love it all.
In other news, I bailed for the first time ever on a half marathon but made it home-home to put up a ceiling for my mother. And speaking of Monhegan, we almost got caught in Hurricane Matthew! Somehow we managed to get out just in time.
Having said all that, unrelatedly here are the books:
- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to continue the series started last month in honor of Enright’s birth month. Took me two days to read.
- Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started last May in honor of Rocket Day. Took me two days to read.
- Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month. Took me the entire month and I still didn’t finish it.
- A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell – an audio book in honor of Halloween (this was my favorite story).
- Drink to Yesterday by Manning Coles – in honor of Octoberfest in Germany. Another really short book.
- The Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of Gorilla month being in October.
- The Aeneid by Virgil – in honor of Poetry month (celebrated in Great Britain).
- Hush by Jacqueline Woodsen – an audio book in honor of kids. This was only three discs long.
- The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani because I saw it in a running magazine.
For LibraryThing: nada
October is…another half marathon. Maybe another trip to Monhegan (not sure yet thanks to it being hurricane season) but what I’m sure about is definitely reading more, more, more books!
- Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month
- The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
- A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell (AB) – in honor of Halloween
- Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles – in honor of October being the best time to visit Germany. Note: just found out this is the second Tommy Hambledon book in the series so you will probably see A Drink to Yesterday before A Toast to Tomorrow.
- Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of October being Gorilla Month
- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to “continue” the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month (yes, another series read slightly out of order).
- The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. Don’t ask.
If there is time I would like to add Aeneid by Virgil in honor of Great Britain’s poetry month.
Arthur, Elizabeth. Binding Spell. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Binding Spell is another one of those stories where you feel like you have been lifted out of your little life and plopped down in the middle of someone else’s. A lot of someone elses, really. Felicity, Indiana is a community full of interesting characters and Binding Spell has the occasional long rambling commentary on religion and the nuclear arms threat, especially when the Russians come to town. Let me back up. Meet the community of Felicity: Ryland Guthrie is a hypochondriac furniture salesman. His brother Peale has been the county sheriff for all of five months. Ryland was married to April (divorced five years) and they have a son, Clayton. Peale married Amanda but sometimes forgets she’s his wife. Bailey and Howell Bourne are brother and sister. They lost their parents in a car accident. Bailey is twenty years old and a witch in training and Howell is married to Charlene. Ada Esterhaczy is Hungarian and a self proclaimed witch. Maggie, a counselor at Powell College, is her granddaughter. She also dabbles in witchcraft. Billy Bob Watson is the maintenance man at Powell. He likes to try to run over students with his tractor. Mitch Ketchum is a down and out desperate farmer in danger of losing his farm. Murrary Anderson artificially inseminates horses and has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Rosie. Dr. Richard Minot is a professor at Howell and has the hots for Maggie. Ryland starts dating Maggie. Peale has a thing for Bailey. Ada just wants her dog to mate with Ryland’s so that she can breed puppies. Then there are is the weather. Did you get all of that? Now enter the two Russians, come to visit Powell College. Howell, Billy Bob and Mitch hatch a plan to kidnap the Russians in order to save their farms. Thinking Ada will hate the Russians due to her Hungarian heritage they bring the captives to her farm. Only Ada is too busy cooking up love potions to bind certain couples (human and animal)…and that’s when things go a little crazy.
Lines I liked, “She was less trouble than her pet cat” (p 39) and “Now, as the pain – which might, admittedly, have been caused by that ice water he had drunk down so rapidly, with some ice shards inadvertently included – poked him tenderly in the side, he could not decide whether it was pancreatic cancer or Maggie’s being late” (p 217).
Reason read: April is National Dog Month
Author fact: Arthur wrote a memoir, Island Sojourn that is not on my list.
Book trivia: Binding Spell is Arthur’s third novel but the only one I’m reading for the Challenge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Great Dogs in Fiction” (p 105). Chance is my favorite of the dogs.
Virga, Vint. The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human. New York: Crown, 2013.
Don’t think of The Soul of All Living Creatures as something with a plot. It doesn’t have a start, middle or end. Instead, think of it as a series of essays, each with its own theme. Unfortunately, because there was never that “what happens next?” element, I found it easy to put Soul of All Living Creatures down from time to time and not pick it back up for weeks. The premise of Virga’s book is simple. He chooses a behavior or an attitude and applies it to an experience he has had with an animal in his care as a veterinary behaviorist. He then takes that same trait and applies it to the human element, tying the animal world with human thinking. His theory is, by making the animal-human connection, our lives will be enriched.
Reason read: I am always suspicious when I review a book that has been published more than a year earlier. It’s not an “early” review when someone reviewed it 15 months earlier and the book has even won awards. Nevertheless, here am I reviewing Soul of All Living Creatures for LibraryThing.
Author fact: Virga has his own website here.
Book trivia: There should be photographs. That would be cool.
Conant, Susan. Bloodlines. New York: A Perfect Crime Book, 1992.
This is one of those quick reads that you almost feel like reading over again because it goes by so fast. Holly Winter is a writer who has a column about dogs. In her spare time she trains, shows and is obsessed with Alaskan malamutes. Be prepared for overkill. Holly is extremely passionate about dogs of all kinds and loathes puppy mills. When she discovers a malamute for sale at a pet shop she just knows the dog came from a puppy mill. Only going to investigate the malamute, Holly gets caught up in a mystery when the owner of the pet shop is brutally murdered and the malamute goes missing. Holly is straight out of Murder, She Wrote as she tackles solving the crime by tangling with tough guys and other shady characters.
Confessional: I get snagged by repetitiveness. If something occurs too often *in any situation and not just books* it sticks out like a throbbing thumb to me. In this case, Holly Winter’s condescending tone when she is explaining something. Here’s what I mean. These are direct quotes from the book:
- “You know her? If you don’t know what I knew…”
- “Maybe you don’t know the breed.”
- “You may not realize.”
- “Maybe you’ll understand. If not I’d better explain.”
- “Doesn’t everyone know this? Maybe not.”
- “In case you didn’t know…”
- “If you know anything about obedience…”
- “In case you’ve spent the last two years exiled…let me explain.”
- “Before I tell you…I want to make sure that, in case you are a newcomer, you understand something…”
- “In case you aren’t a specialist in AKC regulations, let me explain.”
- “You probably don’t need a translation but just in case…”
- “You do know about that, don’t you?”
- “You do know how to read a pedigree, don’t you?”
- “Stranger around here?”
- “You know what a palindrome is, don’t you?”
- “Have I lost you?”
- “…in case I’ve lost you…”
- “You know what an Elkhound is?”
And the list goes on and on. It happens enough times that it sticks out to me. The more it sticks out, the more I am aware of it…and it drives me crazy.
Reason read: Dog Day is August 26th.
Author fact: Conant won the Maxwell Award for Fiction Writing in 1991. By the titles of her books you can tell she is a huge dog lover.
Book trivia: While I was bogged down by how didactic Holly could be, other people complained about how “preachy” she was about puppy mills. For some reason that was more forgivable to me. People tend to write about what they know. It’s obvious Conant has strong opinions about puppy mills so she’s going to express those opinions through Holly.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “I Love a Mystery” (p 118).
Cresswell, Helen. Absolute Zero. Read by Clive Mantle. North Kingston, Rhode Island: BBC Audio, 2007.
As discovered in Ordinary Jack the Bagthorpe family is highly competitive. When we meet up with them in Absolute Zero they have taken their one-upman-ship to a whole new level by entering as many different contests as possible. Uncle Parker begins it all when he enters a slogan competition and it snowballs from there. As each member begins to win something they become known as celebrities. Their fame grows to the point of commercials and live television. But, who knew Zero the dog would take center stage? As with Ordinary Jack hilarity ensues, especially when little cousin Daisy Parker moves on from pyromania to an obsession with water. I’ll say no more.
Reason read: Absolute Zero continues the Bagthorpe series started in July in honor of National Kids Month
Author fact: Cresswell was involved with writing television scripts and that comes out a little in Absolute Zero.
Book trivia: the audio is read by Clive Mantle and I have to admit, he had me laughing with his accents.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21). I should note that Pearl suggested reading all of the Bagthorpe books in the series, but since they weren’t individually indexed, per my rules, I am skipping them.
Galaxy, Jackson. Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean.New York: Tarcher, 2013
If you have seen Jackson Galaxy on Animal Planet you know how he talks and how he thinks, for the most part. Reading his book is more of the same. More or less. He has a way of wrapping words around a deeper meaning and in the end you more than know what he is talking about. You get it and hopefully, you get your cat, too. Because that’s the whole point. But, watching “My Cat From Hell” is no substitute for reading Cat Daddy. Jackson bares his soul and lays his demons to rest as he recounts how a broken cat named Benny came into his deeply scarred life. Just as the title hints Jackson abused drugs and alcohol while struggling to find his way as a musician in Boulder, Colorado. Finding work in a shelter was the beginning to his saving grace. He found solace among the animals, more so than with his human counterparts. As Jackson learned to understand animals he began to sort out his own life. Identifying with addiction with the first step in recovery.
Reason read: I have been watching Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell” and was intrigued by Mr. Galaxy. He seemed to have a story all his own lurking beneath the strange exterior of piercings, shaved head and piercings.
Author fact: According to Jackson’s memoir he used to weight 400 lbs. I can’t picture it at all.
Book trivia: there are no pictures in Galaxy’s book which was sad. I would have like to have seen the dreads with various things woven in them. Or better yet, the cats! Most people reading his book are cat people to be sure. They would definitely want to see the cats!
Braun, Lilian Jackson. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern. Read by George Guidall. New York: Recorded Books, LLC, 1990.
Jim Qwilleran is a reporter for “The Daily Fluxon.” He has led a simple life until he is asked to write for “Gracious Abodes,” a magazine specializing in interior decorating of lavish homes. Qwilleran is paired with David Lyke, an interior designer who leads him to all the fashionable homes he has put on his designer touch. Oddly enough after each cover story is published something terrible happens at the featured home. First, there is the home of George Tait. His expensive jade collection is stolen and his wife dies of an apparent heart attack. Then, house number two is raided for being a brothel after it is featured on the cover of “Gracious Abodes.” At the third residence there is a murder…Qwilleran keenly watches the behavior of his Siamese Cat, Koko, to figure out the mystery.
“Reason read: June is National Cat Month…or something like it.
Book Trivia: Get the audio version and listen to George Guidall read the character of David Lyke. It’s hysterical.
Author fact: Braun passed away two years ago which is a shame because I really think I would have gotten along with her. Her descriptions of cat behavior are spot on!
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cat Crazy ” (p 52). Incidentally, Pearl says this particular “Cat” book is her favorite.
Lawson, Robert. Rabbit Hill. New york: Dell Publishing, 1975.
This is a kids book an adult could easily read in an hour or so. It’s simple but extremely cute. It’s the story of a family of rabbits excited by the possibility of a new family moving into their neighborhood. New residents mean gardens full of food, sheds full of hay, houses full of warmth.
One of the best things about Rabbit Hill is how human Lawson makes these animals. For example, Father Rabbit is constantly bringing up his Kentucky Bluegrass days and Mother Rabbit is always fretting about one thing or another. The animals around Father know to quickly change the subject or else they will be talking about the southern good ‘ole days all afternoon and the animals around Mother know to avoid certain subjects like pesky little boys and noxious car fumes.
Favorite quotations, (from the letter from Mother Rabbit to her uncle after she invites him to visit them) “…and maybe you shouldn’t risk your life although you haven’t much of it left but we will be looking forward to seeing you anyway” (p 49).
Reason read: The television show “All Creatures Great & Small” aired in the month of January and since Rabbit Hill has so many different animal characters I decided to read in honor of the show.
Author fact: Lawson was a gifted artist and illustrated his own books, including Rabbit Hill. I guess I can blame Lawson for my being deathly afraid of the cover when I was a kid. Just look at that rabbit! His expression is positively creepy!
Book trivia: Rabbit Hill is a Newbery Award winner.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).
Doty, Mark. “Golden Retrievals.” Sweet Machine: Poems. New York: Harper Collins, 1998.
This is such a great poem to read out loud. Read it to a child in a really funny voice and watch him laugh with his imagination running wild. It’s not hard to see the golden retriever waiting for the ball to be thrown, eyes watching his master anxiously. Short attention span: the breeze, another animal, his owner’s distracted mood. Everything captivates and yet, he’s still waiting to play fetch. Love it.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Great Dogs in Fiction” (p 105).