Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Another excellent travel type book from Bryson. This time he "rediscovers America on the Appalachian Trail". Bryson seems to be the type of person who just decides he needs to visit somewhere and goes. For this endeavor, he sees a path that marks an entry point to the AT and decides he needs to hike it. Although no one knows for sure, it's estimated the entire AT is over 2,100 miles long and takes you through all the states between Georgia and Maine. Personally, this would be my idea of hell. But Bryson, along with his old friend Stephen Katz, head down to Georgia and begin their journey.

They are not trying to be thru-hikers, people who hike the entire trail at one time. They are day hikers, people who do the trail in spurts. Several weeks at a time or just day hikes. As with Bryson's other books, he's well read on the AT and gives us all the statistics on how you can die out there. And those don't include the 9 murders that have taken place on the AT.

What starts out as a whim with determination ends with a "yeah, this is enough". Overall Bryson hiked 870 miles of the trail, a pretty awesome feat. He encounters wildlife but not the deadly ones he was hoping for (with a written guarantee of survival, mind you).

Even though I have no desire to ever hike, this book did make me want to head out to some National Parks and appreciate them while they are still here. Acid rain, loggers, developers, lack of funds to the Park Service, all these are threatening what wilderness we have left. It will be good to see them before they are gone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

This was a lovely audio book to listen to. It always makes me happy to come across such excellent readers. What made me happier was later learning that the remarkable women in this book were, in fact, real people. This is historical fiction but the people are real and did live back in the early 19th century.

Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot are the 2 main characters, 2 women who are unlikely friends due to class lines back in those days. Elizabeth is a middle class, educated woman; albeit a spinster. She lives in Lyme Regis with her 2 sisters, Louise and Margaret, also spinsters. I do despise that term but that was the terminology of the times. Mary is a working class girl in Lyme who has a knack for finding fossils. Her finds keep the family with some food on the table.

Mary stumbles across the full fossil of what she believes is a croc. As the story moves on, she discovers more and more crocs that she later dubs monsters. These aren't like any crocodile anyone has ever seen and it begins to bother people that there may be an animal that no longer exists. Does that mean that God let them die? A lot of religious questioning happens in the Lyme community.

The croc became known as the first ichthyosaur ever to be discovered ( Mary later found the first plesiosaur as well ( and went on to discover a great deal more.

The fiction part of the book revolves around Elizabeth's and Mary's friendship and some jealousy between the 2 when it comes to men. The fictional part was a good story as well.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

This book greatly upset me. I'm upset because Bryson has numerous books out and this is the first I've ever heard of him. Upset because he's a very good writer and I've never read his work before! Where have I been??

In this book, travel writer Bryson makes it his mission to chronicle the little paid attention to Australia. I took particular interest because my grandma is from Queensland and I have family there, but have never been there. Sad. After reading this book, well, I'm not sure I ever want to go. How can a country so beautiful want so badly to kill people? Between the horrendous heat and emptiness of the country, the amount of deadly critters in the water (including shells that attack you) and the amount of deadly animals on land (the majority of the world's most deadliest snakes and spiders are Aussies), Australia doesn't seem to want visitors. Despite all this, Bryson depicts an incredible country full of life that cannot thrive elsewhere. Full of history that is rarely acknowledged and full of people that are kind, cheerful and welcome you.

Bryson is enough of a geek that I can relate, finding museum after museum to wander about in, getting giddy joy from rocks and plants and just being in the moment during the days of driving and not seeing another soul. But it's not all fun and games. Bryson gives insight into the plight of the Aborigines, their past of not being real people to the white man, and their present of not being real people to the white man. He ponders over how the Aborigines appeared in Australia at all and elaborates on how Australia was populated (most people know the penal colony history).

I do want to visit Australia now. Even if it does want me dead.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Deathless by Keith R. A. DeCandido

This is an original novel based on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, one of my favorite tv shows ever. The author has written several novelized versions of shows, like Buffy and Firefly. Seeing as how Buffy is off my tv forever, I thought I'd try out a quick fix in book form. It wasn't too bad. Definitely not the show but the author kept to each character's personality pretty well. You did almost think you were back at Sunnydale.

In this story, Buffy and the senior class deal with Ring Day, where the students get their class rings. Who knew that was basically mandatory? Wasn't in my school. Anyways, Buffy can't afford one and Xander works his butt off to afford one, since he believes it will make him part of the cool crowd.

Giles receives word that Koschei the Dealthless is about to be resurrected in Sunnydale. Apparently, he wasn't really deathless. But close. A sorcerer named Baba Yaga claims to have been the one to kill him and wants to make sure he doesn't come back. Enter in all sorts of characters from Russian folklore and it's one little Big Bad.

Good beach read, which is where I read it. Quick and entertaining.