Sunday, August 24, 2014

REVIEW: Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature

Wild Comfort: The Solace of NatureWild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2010
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Nature
Series: NA
Awards: NA
Format: eBook
Narrated By: NA

If you have ever experienced really profound grief, you may have found yourself looking for answers. Answers that would be comforting. And even as the grief slowly fades, the questions remain – what is life all about and what is the meaning of death? How will I face mortality when it comes? We are after all, by biology, selfish creatures. It is with some of these feelings and questions that Kathleen Dean Moore approached or at least how she tied together this series of essays about the natural world.

Moore is a Professor of Philosophy married to a wildlife biologist and this I think gives her a unique style or approach to writing about nature. Her writing is, to put it bluntly, astonishing and beautiful. I highlighted so many quotes while reading that I posted them all on tumblr as it would take up too much space to list them here.

Here are a couple just to illustrate.

"Even my own spirits are lifting, as if heavy snow has melted off my shoulders and I am light again. I would not be surprised to see Persephone herself crawl on her elbows from under a mat of dead grass, dirt in her hair and snakes in her hands."
"There is wild comfort in the cycles and the intersecting circles, the rotations and revolutions, the growing and ebbing of this beautiful and strangely trustworthy world."
"I lay for a minute or two on the floor, collecting myself, and thinking of a joke my father used to tell. A man who had fallen off a tall building waved to a friend who was looking out the twelfth-story window. “How ya doin’?” yelled the friend. The man called out an answer as he plummeted past. “Doin’ fine so far.” I don’t know why my father thought that was so funny. It’s absurd. But of course, if the joke is absurd, so is the life of each one of us, plunging directly to our deaths, the only difference among us the height of the structure we’ve fallen from and the length of time we’ve been in the air."

Interestingly, the essays I found the most moving and entrancing are the ones without as much purpose, where Moore is not trying to make meaning or address her grief, the essays where she just observes and soaks in the world around her. Her power of description is mesmerizing. My favorite essays were The Solace of Snakes (about the start of Spring and turning snake boards), Turning Stones (a contemplation on all the various things does with stones at the edge of the water), The Possum in the Plum Tree (reflecting on a night spent outside and the position of humans in the world), The Time for the Singing of the Birds (searching for the sacred in nature). The essays are short making it easy to pick up and read one or two in a spare, contemplative 20 minutes.

FINAL VERDICT: If you have any feeling of connection with the natural world, I think you will enjoy this beautiful collection of essays. You won’t be bored and you may be tempted to highlight the whole book. I will definitely be picking up some of her other works.

This book is on my 100 Books Project list.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturdays in the Garden - I Breed Mosquitoes and Hunt for Butterflies

Saturdays in the Garden is my attempt to reflect on the week just gone and it informally serves as my garden journal.


The garden is pretty depressing for me right now.  We are in the wind down portion of the summer and everything is starting to look a little ragged and overdone.  This "look" is accentuated by my neglect.  The garden does not feel like a pleasant place to be right now; it's stressing me out.

I harvested what is likely the last handful of green beans from the garden. They are a little pock marked and diseased looking but that is entirely my fault.  In fact I am surprised at how well they have done this year considering how scrunched together they were.  This year has solidified my love for this heirloom variety of Empress - very easygoing and tasty bush bean. 

Now we come to the guessing game portion of the post.  Guess what this is?!
If you guessed the saddest tiniest little blueberry, you'd be right!  It may be a sad tiny little blueberry but I picked it off of my bush!  The sum total of the blueberry harvest but exciting nonetheless.  It was tart and tasty (because of course I immediately ate it after taking this picture:).  In other exciting news, this is happening:
There are a total of two lemons on my Meyer Lemon tree that have hung in there and appear to be growing!  The tree is still not looking very happy but I may get a couple lemons off of it.

The final garden happening is that the pimento peppers are starting to ripen so hopefully will be able to harvest some of those in the next couple weeks. 


This has been an incredibly frustrating week because of work.  I'm coordinating an extensive survey project on a couple rare species of butterflies and am getting ready to mostly re-locate for 5 weeks to a cabin in Western Iowa.  This past week was supposed to be a down week of wrapping things up in the office and at home and getting things together for a more field based lifestyle.  Then the target species started flying earlier than I was expecting, and hencethe timetable got moved up so I scrambled to get out in the field mid-week.  It was kind of a disaster.  Wednesday rained all day though the forecast had been vague enough that I couldn't have counted on that, so I spent the day driving forlornly around the countryside hoping for a break in the clouds or huddled in a public library, distractedly trying to get some computer work done.  Thursday was sunny but one of the few hot and humid days this summer and my no-longer-used-to-field-work self wilted rather pathetically.  I got very little done.  Friday I woke with what turned out to be a stye on the inside of my eyelid and by lunch I was feeling sick to my stomach as well probably from two days of on-the-go food.  Rather then getting myself organized at work I spent Friday afternoon at a crazy busy doctor's office.

Okay, so it's all pretty 1st world sort of problems (i.e. not really problems at all) but it emphasized to me how rigid I have become.  I've always been a planner and as I've gotten older, I am less and less able/willing to deal with unexpected changes to those plans.  Unfortunately, adaptability is a major necessity for biological field data collection or really any kind of work in the ourdoors.  For one thing, the schedule is often totally dependent on weather which by it's very nature is mostly unpredictable.  This next five weeks will either be very good for me in helping me to loosen up a bit or it may push me over the edge into nervous breakdown territory.  It's a toss up at this point as to which.

The only non-work related item is that one side effect of staying in a number of hotels the last few weeks is that I have been exposed to some cable TV (which I don't have at home).  I have mostly been obsessed with a number of HGTV shows about house hunting (I just really need an undivided kitchen sink - this was one guys major priority) and renovating fixer uppers and doing all sorts of fabulous things that do seem really awesome but also all the same.  I mean the granite counter top craze is intense - yo.  People are not happy unless they've got granite countertops.  And a kitchen island.  And a master bathroom that "looks like a hotel" which led me to realize I am staying in entirely the wrong type of hotels (i.e. most of the hotel bathrooms I'm used to are cramped and utilitarian)! And open floor plans - OPEN FLOOR PLANS!  You ain't nobody unless you got an open floor plan.   I'd like for them to have a show (if they don't already) about renovating a home using eco-friendly materials and designing it to be more energy efficient and such.  I could become very obsessed with a show like that.  Anybody else have a particular home or cooking show they are obsessed with?

BOOKS and the BLOG

This week I have been participating in Bout of Books 11.  It's been going pretty well despite all the other craziness.  I've finished three books that I was in the middle of and am making good progress on an ARC that I started last Sunday - City of Stairs by Robert Bennett Jackson.  Amongst a bunch of Bout of Book Updates this is what happened on the blog this past week:

SUNDAY:  A review of The Blackhouse by Peter May, a mystery/thriller set on the Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland.  It was pretty good!  3 out of 5 stars.
THURSDAY:  A review of the second book in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo - Siege and Storm. It suffered a little from middle book syndrome but was a solid sequel to the first book in this excellent YA fantasy series.
FRIDAY: Bout of Books Update
SATURDAY: Bout of Books update and Saturdays in the Garden!

This coming week and the ones that follow will be tricky because of what I alluded to above.  I will be mostly living in a cabin without internet access.  I don't know how much I'll be able to post and I've not had much luck with Blogger on scheduling posts.  I'll work on it though. Generally, I will be doing reviews of Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore, Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas and 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  The Top Ten Tuesday topic this week is books I really want to read but don't own yet which I plan to work on.

So what's been up in your life or garden? Had any frustrations you'd like to share?  Any great reads this week?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

REVIEW: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2013
Genre(s): YA, Fantasy
Series: The Grisha #2
Awards: NA
Format: Audio (Audible)
Narrated By: Lauren Fortgang

The problematic middle book of a trilogy! I can imagine it poses a special kind of challenge for authors. How to keep the story moving forward and compelling, when it’s really just the build up to the big finish. Siege and Storm, book 2 in The Grisha series, worked out all right but it does suffer a bit from the middle book doldrums.

Alina and Mal find themselves very quickly thrown back into the thick of the things that they were trying to get away from. Problem is, Mal is really grumpy about this but Alina? Alina is kind of relieved to be back in the game helping out and using her sun summoner powers again. In fact, she’s worried that she’s a little too comfortable to be all powerful and important again. Spectral-ish visits from the Darkling whenever she’s feeling her most lonely and isolated are also leading her to suspect that she may have more in common with the Darkling then is good for her or Ravka.

So book two is a lot of soul-searching and planning and worrying and serious amounts of angst. It’s the lull before the storm, when everybody starts to question everything – themselves, each other, everything they’ve done this far, whether they are doing enough or perhaps too much. I appreciate so much that Alina has this complexity and that her development and doubts are laid bare and believable. But while it never got boring per se, I did not enjoy it quite as much as book one of the series.

There is an attempt to add some excitement to the plot by adding a new important character who started off as fun and interesting but got less interesting for me once his “secret” was revealed. And he can’t really make up for the relative absence of the Darkling who is by far the most interesting character being both sinister and seductive.

Another weakness for me was Alina and Mal’s relationship. I like Mal and I like them together but Bardugo couldn’t just have them be in a happy and settled relationship so we get all kinds of roller coaster. It portrays both the characters in a pretty negative light, with Mal feeling like he’s being shut out and shut down and Alina IN FACT shutting him out and down. But he also makes very little effort to understand what she must be going through. It’s all so angsty. I also found it a little weird that after weeks of being on their own together and living together that they were both still so physically shy and awkward with one another.

The ending of this installment felt a little bleak though that must be the way of middle books. Things have gotta be bad for the appropriate level of come back to occur in the finale.

Final Verdict: Pretty okay sequel in a good, original YA fantasy series. Bring on Ruin and Rising!

Monday, August 18, 2014

BOUT of BOOKS 11 - Updates

Bout of Books
This is the update post to keep track of my reading for Bout of Books 11.

What is Bout of Books?
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

If all goes well, I will add my daily updates to this one post.  

Time Spent Reading:  4.5 hours

Books Read: (links to Goodreads)
Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas (audio)
11/22/63 by Stephen King (audio)
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (20% read)
Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore (Page 155, 79% read)

Books Finished: 0

Comments: Feeling happy about lots of reading time and in all 4 of my current reads despite it being a pretty crazy day.  I may need to my goals adjust midway because I think I may surpass them.  If I didn't just jinx myself with the cockiness:).

Favorite quote of the day came somewhat obviously from Wild Comfort.  I feel like I highlight something on every other page of this beautiful book of essays:
The sound of wind bringing rain, the rattle of surf-driven stones—didn’t these tell him what he needed to know? That he is alive in this place, at this time, alive in the midst of all this life. That he is aware in the midst of all that is mysterious, every fact that might not have been and yet is. Stinging sand, the storm-driven waves, the swirling gulls—they are all cause for surprise and celebration.

Time Spent Reading: 4.25 hours

Books Read: (links to Goodreads)
Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas (audio) - DONE
11/22/63 by Stephen King (audio)
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (30% read)
Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore (Page 169, 85% read)

Books Finished: 1

Comments:  Finished Throne of Glass! I have mixed feelings about it which I will sit with for a bit before trying to get my thoughts down on paper. It is definitely worth reading.

Will be on the road starting early tomorrow morning through Friday so may throw my reading schedule off a bit.

Favorite Quote of the Day:  I could put another from Wild Comfort but instead will highlight some words about one of my favorite characters in City of Stairs, Sigrud:

"Well we are in some danger," she admits. "But we just... We just need to wait." The two attackers she notes are growing increasingly uncertain, so when Vohannes says "For what?" they look a little relieved he asked.  "For Sigrud." "What? What are you talking about?" "We just have to wait," Shara says, "for him to do what he does best." .... "Who is... Sigrud?" asks Vohannes.  There is a horrific scream from nearby and a burst of breaking glass.  "That is Sigrud." says Shara.

Time Spent Reading: 4 Hours

Books Read: (links to Goodreads)
11/22/63 by Stephen King (audio) - DONE
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (39% read)
Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore  - DONE
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (audio)

Books Finished: 2!  That's a total of three so far for the read-a-thon.  I was in the middle of all of them going in so it may be cheating but it's good to get them read.

Despite the traveling I got a decent amount of reading done mostly because everything kind of went horribly wrong and I ended up with some unexpected time on my hands.  Nice to turn a crappy work day into a good read-a-thon day!

Finishing both of these books was significant for me.  I have struggled to finish two other  Stephen King books with no success so I was super excited to finish this one.  It's long but good.  I have been wanting to read Wild Comfort, my first Kathleen Dean Moore book, for years now and I am so glad I finally did.  It is such a beautiful book.  My review I think will consist mostly of quotes. If you enjoy nature writing and haven't read her, I recommend you do so asap.  Now to Bed!

Time Spent Reading: 2 hours

Books Read: (links to Goodreads)

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (42% read)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (audio)
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (audio)

Books Finished: 0

This was a harder day for reading and didn't really get much accomplished.  I am really enjoying City of Stairs and do hope to be able to finish before the end of the read-a-thon.  Just got started on the two audio books so not sure what I think of them yet. 

Time Spent Reading: 2.5 hours

Books Read:
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (48% read)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (audio)
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (audio)

Books Finished: 0

NOTES: Very frustrating reading day but managed to make some progress.  In Cold Blood has the oddest tone to it and I can't decide if it's Capote's writing or the narrator's reading.  Probably a little bit of both.  It's almost farcical and teasing which is odd considering the subject matter (true story of the random seeming murder of an entire family). City of Stairs continues to be great!

Time Spent Reading: 3.5 hours

Books Read: (Links to Goodreads)
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (63% read)
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (audio)
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (audio, on part 6 of 8)

Books Finished: 0

NOTES:  It's getting down to the wire so I don't know if I will be able to finish any more books before the end of the read-a-thon tonight but I should finish a couple very soon thereafter!  The Vae of the Missing Marquess is a middle-grade/YA mystery series focused on Sherlock Holmes' fictitious 14 year old sister.  It's very fun!

Time Spent Reading: 7 hours

Books Read:
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett  - DONE
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (audio)
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer  - DONE

Books Finished: 2!

NOTES:  Found sometime for some marathon reading and finished two more books both of which were pretty great!  The really exciting thing is that both of these were books I started during the read-a-thon!


# Books Read: 6
Total  # Books Finished:  5

This was a much more successful Bout of Books than the last and I am pleased with the amount of reading I was able to do!  I'm still 2 books behind my Goodreads goal which is a bummer but I'm closer than I was.  All is all it was success!  Thanks to the organizers!