Book Review: The Way Home

wayhome

The Way Home
By Mark Boyle

Review

The Way Home is an interesting book about how one man decided to leave behind technology and all modern conveniences and live a more simple life. Mark Boyle lives on a smallholding in Ireland. He goes to great lengths to remove technology completely from his life, so it makes for a thought-provoking read.

Boyle decided to live without money first and that led him to also decide to live in a way that our ancestors did. Throughout the book, he documents the lives of the Blasket Islanders, who lived on the Great Blasket Island in a very similar manner to Boyle’s life on the smallholding. They had to be completely self-reliant and they learned to survive in a harsh environment.

Boyle begins as a vegan, but he finds that it cannot be sustained in the type of life he has made for himself, so he does eat fish, which he catches himself in nearby waterways. He walks or rides a bike everywhere and refuses to use mass transportation. He hauls wood, manure, building supplies, and just about everything else in wheelbarrows or other human-powered devices. He does not use tractors to work his farm, preferring human power to gasoline power. He writes with pencil and paper and agonizes over having to type the book manuscript at the end.

Part of his farm is a hostel at which people of similar mind can stay. They make their own food, grow their own herbs, harvest wild plants, and eat meat that they hunt or fish. The neighbors are all supportive of his endeavors and some donate items that he uses for building, etc. But, these folks that live in this rural lifestyle also see their way of life disappearing. Large-scale farms and technology are replacing it. Their local pubs and post offices are being closed, as often happens in rural areas. So, Boyle’s book is, in a way, documenting the kind of life that most of us will never get to experience as it is swallowed by the larger tech world.

The pacing of the writing is slow, as befits the fact that it was written with paper and pencil by candlelight. It seems to be more of an exploration of his daily experiences and similar to a diary account in that way. But is it also an account, in real time, of how he gave thought to each step along the way. How he decided what to use in place of the modern technology for each item or project that he completed on his farm. He also explores how these compromises change his life and his outlook on things in general. How doing everything by manual labor improved his overall health. How he felt physically affected by actually spending 12 hours a day for 7 days typing up the manuscript. He noticed the negative effects right away after having become more accustomed to a totally different way of life.

The book is sad as well. I found the times when the forests were clearcut around him, or his favorite wild spot on the river got cut down and turned into a fenced farm, very sad. It’s disturbing to see how nature is slowly being destroyed to make way for humans and our high-tech way of life. I wanted to cry when that beautiful spot on the river was plowed under. It supported so much wildlife and they had nowhere to go.

This book may not be for everyone, because it does move slowly at times. But it is interesting to those of us who would like to try this way of life. It gives you an idea what might be required to do so. It would be a lot of physical work and require some sacrifices for sure. But it would be nice to try it. It can only make positive changes in our outlook. Slowing down is not all that bad an idea after all. We live in such a fast-paced world now that slowing down actually requires us to unplug and deliberately turn away from that pace. In my opinion, this would be a good thing, not only for us, but for our planet as well.

Find at Amazon

Advertisements

Book Review: The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America

cover155227-medium

Book Review: The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America
By Matt Kracht

Hilarious and totally irreverent! An absolute must-read for any birder with a cheeky sense of humor!

This book is not your usual bird guide. It’s totally off the charts with a uniquely humorous, profane, and completely different look at birds. All those birds whose names we know and whose calls we struggle to learn are here. The author seems to have had some bad experiences with birds at some point, because he goes off the on birds, giving them new and profane names, drawing them with heavy and angry scrawls. But, it’s funny as heck! I found myself laughing out loud at so many inappropriate times when I was reading this book. Seriously, this is some hilarious stuff.

I love birds, but I really appreciate the offbeat humor and the over-the-top way this book was written. It’s got some details about the birds, but the author totally injects a sense of frustration with the little feathered jerks. Apparently, they wake him up super early when he’d rather be sleeping. They are loud and annoying when he wants them to be quiet. You get a sense that he’s taking his frustrations out by drawing the little sketches of the birds and giving them alternate names. How many birders can count the hoodlum merganser, cactus wretch, western meadowjerk, or white-breasted butt-nugget on their life list? How many of us think the birds who visit our feeders are freeloaders?

The end notes include migration maps that are unlike any you will ever see. All the illustrations are colorful and drawn in a style that makes it look like they were done quickly and sloppily, but the details are fairly accurate despite the sarcastic tone overall. Field marks are there, just not in the usual way. However, this is not meant to be a serious field guide. It’s all in fun, totally spoofing the seriousness of birding and birders in general. I think it would make an awesome gag gift for your favorite birder, but make sure they have a snarky sense of humor.

There are some good tips included as well. How and when to feed birds, etc. How to make your own bird journal. The author’s pages are so funny!

If you are looking for an entertaining book, this might be for you. But don’t expect it to be a real or serious field guide to birds. The title should be warning enough that it’s a spoof book. If you want to laugh hysterically at some humor that you really think you should be too mature to laugh at, you will totally enjoy this one.

 

Find at Amazon

 

Book Review: Great Bear Rainforest: A Giant-Screen Adventure in the Land of the Spirit Bear

Book Review:

bear

Great Bear Rainforest: A Giant-Screen Adventure in the Land of the Spirit Bear
By Ian McAllister and Alex Van Tol

Review:

The Great Bear Rainforest is a book that would be great for any age reader. It is appropriate for young readers, who will enjoy all the stunning wildlife photos throughout. Adults will appreciate the scenery and the text that tells about the difficulties of making a film in a rainforest environment.

The Great Bear Rainforest is home to the spirit bear, which is a black bear with a recessive gene that causes some cubs to be born with white fur. It also helps these bears to hunt salmon since the white fur helps them blend in better with the open sky when they are standing in a stream trying to catch a fish.

The book is packed full of the most beautiful photography imaginable. There are some underwater shots that took the filmmakers enormous effort to get. Then, there are the wildlife photos. Wow! All I can say is wow, these are amazing. If you love wildlife, you simply have to get this book.

The book documents the efforts of the film crew to make an IMAX movie. Filming took place over three years in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable. The rainforest environment was tough on the equipment, and storms could cancel filming for days. Not to mention the obstacles to overcome in hauling heavy camera gear through a densely forested environment. The filmmakers invented some very creative devices to accomplish their goals and it’s all documented in this book.

There is a film that goes with the book and I hope to be able to see it one day. There is, sadly, no IMAX theater near me, so maybe I’ll get to see it. I can’t wait to see the film that came out of the work that these folks did. If the photography in this book is any example, I expect the film will be a feast for the eyes unlike any other. This book is highly recommended.

Find at Amazon

Book Review: The A List

The A List
by J.A. Jance

Review:

J.A. Jance has some entertaining books out there. This one is a good addition to the collection. It is suspenseful and follows a storyline that is all tied up neatly by the end.

The story follows the deeds of a Dr. Edward Gilchrist, who was a popular doctor providing artificial insemination procedures in the L.A. area before the days of DNA tests. He was also somewhat cheap and saved money by being the sperm donor for his clinic, which meant that he ended up with many offspring. Unfortunately for those offspring, he had a genetic kidney problem passed down from his father. Some of the offspring inherited that defect. This led the parents to come looking for medical history for their supposed “donor” which the doctor could not provide them. He destroyed all the falsified files and tried to cover his tracks. That included murdering his ex, which is what landed him in prison.

He was not a nice character and was quite vengeful, blaming others for his downfall. He decided he would, with the help of others, get even by murdering all the people he assumed were responsible for his demise. He gets help from his wealthy mother, who has no other children and just wants to help her only child (a very misguided woman), and a fellow inmate who runs a criminal enterprise from inside the prison. Unfortunately for Ali Reynolds, she is on his list. Will she figure it out in time?

I found the story to have plenty of suspense and intrigue. The plot goes back and forth through time to tell the story from back in the early days, through 2017. The reader learns the entire story through a look at each character’s involvement in the whole picture. There are some interesting things going on in Ali’s workplace with an AI (artificial intelligence) too, and that was probably the highlight of the book for me. I won’t give spoilers, but I hope to see more of the AI character in future novels from this author. I think that is a unique and interesting angle for a novel and it has some great possibilities.

If you haven’t read any novels by J.A. Jance, what are you waiting for? The writing is top-notch and the stories are intriguing and interesting. Jance is one of the best suspense writers out there and this novel continues that tradition. I recommend it highly.

 

alisy

Find at Amazon

Book Review: Family Foraging

Family Foraging
by David Hamilton

Review:

Family Foraging is an interesting book designed to encourage families to get outdoors together and forage for edible plants. It is clearly written and has good advice on how to make sure of your identification. It would make an excellent addition to any family bookshelf.

I love books about edible and useful plants and this one is no exception. It covers plants found both in the UK and the USA, so it can be used on either continent. I did wish that it had more photos included and covered more species. But it’s a great book to get you started on your foraging journey. You can learn more after you master the skills in this book.

I always advise that you make thoroughly certain of your identification before trying any wild plants. Some out there do have poisonous look-alikes, as indicated in this book. The author does a good job of pointing this out. If there is one change I’d wish for in this book it would be a section showing the poisonous plants you are likely to find, so that you can avoid them.

If you stick with the safer plants, which are easier to identify and are less likely to have poisonous look-alikes, you should have tons of fun out there foraging as a family. That’s what I like about this book – that it emphasizes those types of plants. It’s a good way to get outdoors together and learn more about nature. If you want to get your kids away from screens and indoor games, take them outside and try foraging. Take this book with you. You will be glad you did. It’s even got recipes that look absolutely delicious!

 

Book Review: The End of Ice

wor

The End of Ice
by Dahr Jamail

Review:

 

Climate disruption. That’s the word used by journalist Dahr Jamail in the new book, The End of Ice. This book should be required reading for everyone who lives on planet Earth.

Read this book, but do so in short sessions to give yourself time to digest what you’ve just read. You will want to think deeply about it. It’s that moving. We have done some serious damage to our planet and our climate is suffering. It makes for very emotionally taxing reading, but it is so important that the word gets out. I found myself sobbing with heartbreak after some chapters. The writing is that good. The story told is that sad.

Jamail offers numerous statistics to back up the story of how the ice is melting, the oceans warming, the water rising, the coral reefs dying and more. It is incredibly disturbing to realize that we are at a point where we may not be able to reverse the damage and the consequences for survival of the human race are severe. Jamail interviews countless people who live or work on the front lines of this crisis. Their stories share a common theme and message, one that we desperately need to hear. The interviewees are scientists, fishermen, people in the tourism industry, city planners, and more. People who have seen firsthand how the disruption of the climate is wreaking havoc on the planet we call home.

Our ecosystems are in peril. Glaciers are melting. Permafrost is disappearing. And the warming of the oceans and melting of the ice could lead to a catastrophic and sudden release of large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. We are facing the end of Earth as we know it. What will be left for our children and grandchildren?

I cannot recommend this book enough. Read it and take action to try to slow the destruction of our planet. The need to make changes is urgent and we are the generation who needs to do it. Yes, we can grieve for what has been lost, but we need to turn that into action as well. To try to save what’s left.

 

Find at Amazon

Book Review: Surviving the City

survigthecity

Surviving the City
by Tasha Spillett (Author), Natasha Donovan (Illustrator)

Review:

Surviving the City is an interesting graphic novel that comes with a message. The story focuses around two friends, Dez and Miikwan, who are First Nations girls. They are in school together and the best of friends. Dez lives with her grandmother.

The two girls are inseparable. So, when Dez fails to show up for school, Miikwan is worried. Dez had been given some bad news – that her grandmother was getting sicker and that Dez might have to go live in a group home. Miikwan worries because she thinks that Dez could have disappeared, as have other indigenous women and girls, including her own mother. Many of them turn up murdered.

This is a book that addresses a real-life issue that indigenous women and girls face daily. There is an epidemic of missing women and girls and you see some indications of that in the book. Everywhere the girls go, there are people who have shadowy ghost figures following them, the evil spirits. People watch them, and you know that not everyone has good intentions toward them. The girls are not really safe anywhere, as is graphically portrayed with very well-done artwork. There are threats everywhere, even from people who they should be able to trust. This is the reality that they face daily. This novel brings home that message so well. It brings attention to a very real issue while presenting characters in a situation that anyone of their age might find themselves in.

The novel also shows bright spots. The center where the girls can go to connect with others of their culture. The people that join together to march in protest of all the missing women who have not been found. There are places the girls can go to feel safe and to be with like-minded people. That is a message that many young people should hear.

This novel would make a great addition to a classroom reading or social studies program. There are many opportunities for lessons and class discussions that center around the story in the book and the larger issues it represents. This could be an important book to show students this reality. The issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is, sadly, not going away. We need to work on finding the missing ones. This book is great for raising awareness of this issue. There are other lessons here as well. The fact that Dez might be removed from her home, living with a blood relative, and placed in a group home, shows that government interference in the lives of indigenous people is still an ongoing issue. These are things that are not at the forefront of the knowledge or experience of the general public. If people learned of these things going on, maybe they could be changed. For those reasons, I think this, and books like it, are so important to get out there.

It is written in an easy-to-read graphic format. The illustrations are top-notch. The graphics contribute much to the storyline. I find graphic novels are an interesting art form. The words and illustrations work together to bring a story to life in ways that plain text cannot. This one was very well done and I recommend it highly, not only for its message, but for the excellent artwork as well.