Joey Goes to Sea

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.

The Ape and the Sushi Master

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).

Books and Spooks

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 Woodson – an audio book in honor of kids. This was only three discs long.

For fun:

  • The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani because I saw it in a running magazine.

For LibraryThing: nada

Aught to be October

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).

For fun:

  • 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.


Binding Spell

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.

Soul of All Living Creatures

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).