Sue is our resident ‘bird person’. If you know the colors or the sound or the place you saw a bird, I’ll bet Sue can tell you its name and all about the birds’ habits and habitats. Sue is also our resident ‘mystery reader’. Actually, Sue is an avid reader who just enjoys trying to figure out “who done it”. It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone, but Sue played the flute in an orchestra and once sang at Carnegie Hall.
Four young women are rowing on a river in Cornwall on a warm fall day. As they are heading back the landing, a young man standing in a boat that appears to be sinking beneath him, waves to get their attention. They come to his aid, struggling to haul him into their boat, when a local farmer sees what is going on and swims out to assist. There is the issue of an oar, a head wound, and accusations of by the farmer, of, at first, attempted murder and later murder, against the women. And therein lies the mystery that Inspector Rutledge is sent down from London to solve. Four young women from upstanding families, the victim, the farmer, the townspeople, and the most significant character of all, WWI. Everyone is still reeling from the Great War, including Rutledge, and it affects his investigation at every turn. A true psychological mystery with great atmosphere, it kept me glued to the pages as I tried to figure out what in the world was going on! I didn't, but Inspector Rutledge did!
I got hooked on the Inspector Van Veeteren mysteries a few years ago and have looked forward to each new US release. Nesser is a Swedish author and the Van Veeteren (and subsequent Insp. Munster) mysteries have slowly trickled into the US market after being translated from Swedish. Hour of the Wolf is very much a psychological mystery, darkish elements with flashes of humor, and no extraneous subplots that veer away from the story at hand. Each element is essential.Van Veeteren is now the retired Chief Inspector of the Maardam police force, but when someone says "Chief Inspector" everyone immediately thinks of him, not his successor. It was a dark and stormy night (or at least dark and foggy) when a teenage boy, walking along side a highway, is struck and killed by a passing motorist. This one death, the cover-up of the crime, the subsequent blackmail and additional deaths, really had me puzzling how in the world ANY of this would be solved! Although retired, this is one case that the former Chief Inspector cannot ignore: His estranged son is one of the victims. Van Veeteren's loyal colleagues, with so little to go on, struggle with each passing murder to make sense of it all. But with their former boss's help, the pieces fall together. An intense, very atmospheric mystery, skillfully rendered by Nesser. I can't wait for the next one!
Ever been called a bird brain or called someone that? After reading this thoroughly researched book,
you will find that is actually a compliment rather than an insult. Birds have amazing brains and talents
that will leave you in awe. Ackerman writes engagingly on various aspects of bird behavior, including
the intricacies of social behavior, their ability to learn and remember, communication, nest building,
foraging, adaptability to a changing world/climate (or not), and one of things I found most intriguing,
migration and the various cues that allow them to perform amazing feats of long distance travel. A
really remarkable examination of creatures most people dismiss as being dumb and unsophisticated in
their brainwork. As she travels the globe in researching the book, Ackerman includes personal
observations/experiences, which add to the scope of this beautifully written book about how smartthese winged marvels really are.
Heinrich is one the finest nature writers around. Heinrich is a professor emeritus of Biology at the U of Vermont and author of a wide variety of books. I have read several in the past and his latest caught my eye right away. Using his keen observational skills, honed over many years of field work, his, as the NYT Review of Books phrased it, "...passionate observations superbly mix science and memoir." Each chapter of this book is just that: writings on some observation of bird activity that he observed while at his cabin in the Maine woods. He would hear something, observe something that would lead him to wonder why or where or how, and off he'd go! For example, one of my favorite chapters was the one where, to get a closer look at the Northern Flickers that had begun excavating a nest cavity in the wall of his cabin, Heinrich actually cut a section out of the wall with his chainsaw, and added a "floor" in the interior so they had a platform on which to lay their eggs. He eventually put in a pane of glass which was covered by the wall panel, and from his bedroom he would darken the windows, remove the covering wall panel and watch the progress of the young through the glass! Curiosity as the mother of invention! Each chapter finds him making an observation, asking a question, and trying to find an answer, one wild bird at a time. A book that both informs and delights!
It's been a number of years since Letts' wonderful book about Snowman, the champion show jumper, "The Eighty-Dollar Champion." I was excited to see she had again chosen horses as the focus of her next book. Both horse enthusiasts and non-horse enthusiasts alike have heard of the Lipizzaner horses of Austria, famed for their "airs above the ground." Their classical technique takes years to achieve and each stallion is paired with a rider for life. The Austrians also had a rich tradition of breeding high quality Arabian horses. The military advance of the Germans late in the war put the lives of these well-bred horses and the traditions of the Spanish Riding School in great peril, for not only did the Nazi's have a plan to create the perfect human race through their barbaric practices, but also the perfect horse. Letts sets the stage first in Austria with the development of the bloodlines there, the key people involved in the training, health and welfare of the highly valued horses, to their fleeing the coming onslaught, the decimation of the stock, to the arrival of the Americans in Europe, the bravery and determination of a former US Cavalryman, and the role his unit played recovering the horses that were stolen by the Nazis. While not dwelled upon, it was at times difficult to read, and always difficult to comprehend, what are the oft reported atrocities committed by the Nazis. I had no idea they had this grand plan to create a perfect horse breed and to that end exterminated a lot those they considered inferior, either through conscripting them for wartime service (and a probable death) or slaughtering them for food. Like a good thriller, there is high tension as a rescue plan is set into motion and the prized horses liberated. A fascinating and thoroughly-researched story well-told.
I am sort of a loss to describe this absolutely wonderful book, there is so much going on in it. Where to start! Elsa is a 7-year old girl (Brad would say she's 7 going on 21) who has a very close relationship with her irascible granny. Elsa, her mom and step-dad, granny, and a multitude of odd people all live together in a large house. Growing up, Elsa's granny has told her stories of a magical kingdom, weaving intricate tales peopled with mythical characters and beasts. When her granny dies, Elsa, as a knight of this mythical kingdom, is tasked in delivering letters of apology from her granny to various people she felt she had hurt or offended somehow. As Elsa delivers these letters and talks with the recipients, she begins to discover the truth about the kingdom and people her granny told her about, that instead of fantasy, the tales were all rooted in reality. It's a book about love, forgiveness, about finding yourself and accepting that it's ok to be different, and above all, family in whatever form it might take. I laughed, I cried, and was entranced by Backman's writing and character development. First "A Man Called Ove," "Britt-Marie was Here," and now "My Grandmother.." The Backman staff pick triumvirate is complete! Highly recommended.
Former chief-inspector Gamache, late of the Quebec Surete, didn't stay retired long. In this, #12 in Penny's splendid mystery series, Gamache starts a new job as head of what is basically the Surete's police academy. The Surete had been rife with corruption for so long, here, at last, is Gamache's chance to guide the incoming cadets in a much more honorable direction. Back in Three Pines, where Gamache and his wife moved after his retirement, a very odd map of the area is found within the walls of the village's Bistro, one that will require some adroit sleuthing to suss out. The start of the new academy year, a disparate crop of new cadets, a murdered professor, rancor against Gamache that threatens to derail his new position, the puzzling map and the collective memories of the residents of Three Pines, all come together in this masterfully crafted mystery. Penny's mysteries are very much character-driven and she has such a way WITH those characters. Gamache is one of the most intelligent and compassionate protagonists I have ever found. I look forward each year to see where Penny leads him and the quirky inhabitants of Three Pines. LOVED this book!
First let me say, though while not a Luddite per se, reading books electronically is anathema to me, and children's books in particular. Who among us hasn't gone back to books we read or had read to us as children, to revel in the stories, words and pictures, and had wonderful memories flood back? And then as adults wanting to share those same stories with the children in our lives? "Gulliver's Travels," "The Wind in the Willows," "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and SO many more. "A Child of Books" brings that to bear in an evocative way. She comes from "a world of stories" and as you follow along, she takes you on a journey through her imagination. When she floats on waves, the waves themselves are words from adventure stories, the titles in bold. The sidewalk she walks is words, the mountains she climbs are formed of words; my favorite are the branches of the trees which are sentences and titles of books, complete with tiny green leaves, the trunks themselves books on edge. As Jeffers so beautifully writes, our world is made from stories. Books allow us to use our imagination and anyone can do so. The very last page puts a fine point on it in just one sentence, but I won't tell you what it is! Really, this is SUCH a special book for those who love books and know their potential to inspire and enrich young minds. It's truly a love story about children and reading. Don't pass it by!
Full disclosure here. I am the owner of two Irish wolfhounds. Considered sighthounds, they have excellent eyesight and are wired to chase things that run. But, being dogs, they also have great senses of smell, as I observe on our daily forays. Horowitz's fascinating new book gives me great insight into the myriad aspects of how/what/where of my dogs' sense of smell. From the structure of a dog's nose to the how's and why's of scenting, Horowitz explores the science of smell. What they can smell and how long they can smell things is absolutely fascinating to me. We puny humans pale in comparison, as I also found out. Horowitz writes about a smell-mapping walk she went on, organized by a British scientist visiting in Brooklyn, to try and open up her own world of smell. Dogs that can smell cancer, track missing people, find dead bodies, Horowitz delves into these intriguing subjects, and more. I find I pay more attention to my dogs on our walks now, why are they stopping, what could they be smelling, and why they stop at the same places each time. Even if you don't have a dog, this is cool stuff!
From the get-go, know that Leif is the son of vaunted mountaineer, Jim Whittaker, as Leif himself is reminded of on almost a daily basis growing up. Back in 1963, his father became the first American to summit Mt. Everest. In this disarming, honest memoir, Leif writes of his growing up in the shadow of his famous dad, of being drawn into the world of mountaineering. At first it may have been because it was what was expected of a son of Jim Whittaker, but in time, it also becomes his own passion. He writes movingly of his trekking to the Khumbu base camp on Everest with both his mom and dad, seeing his father both as an old man on this trek and the young man he was when he first summited Everest. Leif shares his own journey up Everest with reflections back to his father's writings on HIS journey to the top of the world. It was refreshing to read Leif's journey personal journey, of him finding his own way in the mountaineering world, and coming to fully realize the feat his father accomplished, not with resentment but with love and admiration. One reviewer referred to this memoir as "deliciously irreverent" and I think that is a perfect way to describe it. A most enjoyable read!
I have rather eclectic tastes in history books, drawn to singular events or individuals that I've had no prior knowledge of, rather than those of a broader historical scope. Oregon writer Bruning brings to life the story of P.I." Pappy" Gunn, an aviator whose skills as a pilot/mechanic/engineer in the Pacific theater of WWII is the stuff of legends. Born in 1899 in rural Arkansas, Gunn had a hard scrabble life. He honed his aviator skills while in the Navy and afterward he retired to the Philippines (while still in his late 30's) where he co-founded Philippine airlines. Gunn was a man whose life was devoted to his country and to his family: his wife, two daughters and two sons. Caught in Manilla at the outbreak of WWII, Gunn rejoined the military, this time in the Army Air Force. His skills as both a pilot and mechanic were already legendary, and they continued to grow as the war raged on. Separated from his family for three years (they were interred in a facility in Manilla), Gunn focused his rage at not being there for his family, the ineptitude of the military he worked for, and his hatred for the Japanese, into working to build better, faster, more lethal fighter planes. His Naval experience gave him insights that he also used rethink/revolutionize HOW air battles would come to be fought. I was amazed at every turn at the genius of this man, his single-mindedness: make better planes, fight more strategically, win the war, rescue his family. The world may not have heard of "Pappy" Gunn, but hopefully this explosive book will rectify that. Gunn was a hero beyond measure and truly, nearly indestructible.
Bannick, author of The Owl and the Woodpecker, has hit a home run with his newest book on NA Owls. Author/photographer, Bannick's book is filled with absolutely stunning photographs of these often elusive birds. In addition to his gorgeous photos, Bannick details the natural history of owls in general, and more specifically, the four species of NA owls that exemplify the scope and range of the 19 NA species. Those four include the Northern-Pygmy Owl, Burrowing Owl, Great Gray Owl, and the Snowy Owl. Bannick spent countless days and hours in the field and in a blind, photo-documenting the owls presented in this book, and the accompanying text details his observations along with notes on their natural history. His patience is richly rewarded with both photographs and behavioral observations. Also included are separate in-book chapters on the various habitats owls inhabit in general, predators, competitors, and other factors which influence their survival. A rich and informative read and totally AMAZING photographs. This one to savor.
I have to admit I was drawn to this book by the gentle illustrations on the cover; once opened, the story pulled me along. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles has one job and one job only: to find message-laden bottles cast into the sea and deliver the bottle to its intended recipient. Day in and day out he retrieves the bottles and delivers them, summer, fall, winter, spring. His is a lonely life, one shared with his cat (who travels with him on his "pick-up" and deliveries). He has never himself gotten a message in a bottle, but he's always hopeful! One day he finds a message in a bottle but no name to go with it. There's a party to be attended! Someone needs to be know! And so the story unfolds. A sweet, sweet book, with such loving illustrations. I was charmed!
British mystery writer,Val McDermid, has written a fascinating book bringing to real life some of the very techniques she employs in her mysteries. This was a unique book that piqued my interest on a couple of levels: as a biologist, the science aspect was most interesting, and as a mystery lover, the crime solving aspect. Ok, I might as well admit I do love watching true crime procedurals on TV. As the title suggests, McDermid tackles each of the topics in the subtitle and delves into both their history and their use in solving crimes. Each chapter has a couple crimes to illustrate how it was used to solve a real crime, from using facial reconstruction, then presence of insect larvae to help determine time of death, the role of the pathologist, fingerprinting, the use of DNA left behind, and more. Each is an important tool in the detective's tool box. This was a book that was both informative and entertaining, and not really in a macabre sort of way at all!
People are probably most familiar with the Peterson system of field guides for identifying everything from birds to plants to insects and much more. The reference guide series is a more in-depth approach to a particular group of animals, in a larger, hardcover format, truly meant to be used as a reference and not something you carry with you in the field. The latest addition to the reference guide series was written by Bend author/conservationist/bird tour leader Steve Shunk and it is a fabulous addition to the series. Central Oregon is a "woodpecker wonderland," home to 11 species of woodpeckers. Everything you would want to know about them and the other 12 species of woodpeckers found in the U.S., can be found within these pages. From their specialized structures (tongue, feathers, toes, to name a few), foraging, flight, and the special relationship between woodpeckers and fire, to their life histories, habitats, distribution, and conservation issues, it's all here. The over 250 photographs and accompanying illustrations are top-notch and really help the reader key in on the characteristics of each species. A more technical book than a field guide, it is a most welcome addition to the pantheon of bird literature and a must for the library of anyone remotely interested in these fascinating birds. A really excellent and thorough reference guide.
It's been a few years between books by one of my favorite mystery writers, but it was worth the wait. Scotland Yard detectives Gemma James and her husband Duncan Kincaid are back, both solving crimes that hit close to home. After his last case, Duncan was reassigned to another district and was never quite sure why. His old "super" returns from a time away and begins to fill in the blanks, while also sowing further seeds of suspicion about goings on in his old department. When the "super" is nearly beaten to death, it's up to Kincaid to dig even deeper to find out what is going on, potentially putting both himself and his family at risk of retaliation. Meanwhile, Gemma becomes involved in a murder of a young nanny whose charge is a gifted and promising ballet dancer, a path Gemma's own son is newly pursuing. Tensions arise within the household as Duncan, who usually shares information about his cases with Gemma, is behaving very secretively and close-mouthed about what he is currently working on. Crombie has a deft hand with her characters, whom I have come to know over the many years she has written the Kincaid/James mysteries. Well-plotted and intriguing mysteries, interesting and diverse characters, make these "moody psychological" mysteries some of my favorites. Can't wait for the next one in the series!
Imagine you are a writer and you just can't think of anything to write about. What do you do? You take your dog for a walk through the neighborhood, of course! And wouldn't you know, by the end of this quiet, unassuming book, Philip Stead has found a lot to write about without even thinking about it. It's an ordinary day as Stead and his dog Wednesday set out, and along the way they greet old friends, a turtle named Frank, his friend Barbara, people on the street who stop to pet Wednesday, a variety of birds and a sky full of clouds. By the end, the "ghosts" of the things they saw and talked about that day follow them home and together they "take a walk on the page." I just loved this book, the simplicity of the story, the idea that there ARE ideas all around us even if we don't see them at first, plus the lovely illustrations interspersed with photos that help tell the story. We should all have a day like this one!
This is one of the most original children's books I have ever read! Told in rhyme, The Alphabet Thief works through the alphabet, stealing letters, starting with A's. Just to give you an example of one I particularly liked: "The Alphabet Thief stole all of the R's, and beer became bee, we assume. All horses were hoses and closets exploded, as every broom became boom." Such fun! Each "letter theft" is illustrated with silly and very theft-appropriate drawings that will make readers laugh out loud. There is a detective on the case, who, with her dog, tracks the "Alphabet Thief" all the way through the alphabet. A really fun read and one that might lead you to create your OWN examples of what happens when a letter is removed from one word to become something completely different! Fun, fun, fun.