This was a fairly short book, and as a devoted dog parent, I found that it went quickly. This audiobook was narrated by Hilary Swank which added a lot to the listening experience. Pack of Two is a very personal account of the author's relationship with her dog, Lucille, and how it enriched and deepened her life. However, it provides both sides of the dog/human bond, including some of the very special benefits as well as darker aspects that, in some unfortunate cases, became pathological.
There were times when I honestly felt sorry for Caroline Knapp because she seemed so needy and isolated. I really love our three dogs and spend a great deal of time working and playing with them, but this author was truly obsessed with Lucille, her only close connection in the world. I was glad she had this wonderful being in her life, a dog she had rescued from probable euthanasia in a shelter, but she seemed so concerned with the possible abnormality of their relationship that I pitied her a little. She gave examples of friends with similar issues, a few of whom were pretty scary. Her own background was quite tragic, involving a lonely childhood, struggles with anorexia, and alcoholism. Her relationship with her dog in her mid-thirties was the first in her life that felt authentic and satisfying.
As a pretty fanatic animal lover myself, I identified with her devotion to her dog, and I enjoyed the book mostly. I only wish her life had been happier in other ways. She died several years after writing this book of lung cancer, and I can't help wondering what happened to Lucille when Caroline was no longer there to care for her. I can only hope a family member or friend has adopted the dog and continued to provide her with the love and devotion she had come to depend upon. We owe our animals that for the many gifts they give us.
I’ve read quite extensively on the Tudors, especially Elizabeth I. She has always fascinated me. I found The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir one of the best, perhaps my favorite so far. The book covers the period from Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne at the age of 25 until her death as an old woman at 69 with just a brief overview of her earlier life to provide context. The major events of the period were woven into background information on the culture and society of England during the later part of the 16th century. The book was an excellent narrative that never bogged down, at least not for me. The narrator, Davina Porter was perfect.
Alison Weir is a highly respected historian of the Tudors as well as an accomplished writer. I enjoy her books and learn from them, but this one stood out for me. I recommend it highly as an introduction to Elizabeth I or as a pleasant way to revisit the life of this remarkable woman for those already acquainted with her from previous study.
The Eighty-Dollar Champion is a book for anyone who loves horses or enjoys a true story of improbable success in the face of tremendous odds. I spent my summers as a child on my grandparents’ pony farm and was simply wild about horses so I expected to enjoy this book. I wasn’t prepared to love it so much and recommend it to nearly everyone! (Except perhaps people who REALLY hate animals.) After completing the book I doubted its veracity and assumed that the author had selectively chosen and embellished her facts for effect. However, when I checked, I found that indeed most, if not all, of it actually happened as related. If this were a fiction book, it would be considered something of a fairy tale or fantasy, but as nonfiction, it appears to hold up.
Harry do Leyer, who immigrated from Holland after World War II with is wife and a single suitcase of belongings, purchased a broken-down gray horse from a truck headed for the slaughter house. His children named the gelding Snowman and Harry cleaned him up, fed him well, and began using him to teach girls in a local private school to ride. Through a fluke observation, Harry discovered that Snowman could jump, and jump very well. He and the horse trained rigorously, and with the support of his family, they eventually achieved the highest honors of the Show Jumping World in 1958 and beyond.
But that is not what makes this story such a memorable one. The greatness of Harry and Snowball is the unique bond that formed between this man and this horse: the nearly silent communication, complete trust, and intense loyalty that existed between them. In addition, I learned a great deal about horses, the sport of jumping, and the culture of the 1950s and ‘60s when this all happened. I was compelled to listen, even knowing the final outcome. I can only credit Elizabeth Letts and her excellent craftsmanship with bringing this story back to life in 2011. I’d give it 10 stars if I could. I understand that a documentary movie will be coming out in 2014. I can hardly wait!
I loved The Genius of Dogs. It provided a wonderful overview of the latest research on dogs--their evolution, intelligence, training, and status in human societies. I am interested in evolutionary biology so I enjoyed Brian Hare’s discussion of dogs and humans from his perspective as an evolutionary anthropologist. I was familiar with a lot of the material from other sources, but this book presented it in a unified format and created an updated image of dogs and our relationship with them.
The author credits an observation of his his boyhood dog, Oreo, with deciding the course of his academic and professional career. Yet he avoids the pitfalls of anthropomorphism common with many authors of dog books. He adored Oreo and his other dogs, but he loved them as dogs, not as furry human beings. He discusses canine talents, but also explains some of the shortcomings of their unique cognitive abilities. For example, dogs are excellent at reading our intentions, and “a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” But dogs are not capable of feeling guilt when they steal food or mess in the house. We humans often perceive their affect and behavior as guilt, but experiments have shown that is not the case; they are sensing our displeasure and reacting in a submissive way to it. It is important in living and working with dogs that we understand what they are and what they are not.This book is helpful in providing that insight.
I listened to the audiobook, but I intend to take a very close look at the print version as well. There are studies cited that I want to read and points made that will require additional reflection than is possible with audio alone. Clearly I found this book very worthwhile. It presents recent scholarly information on domestic dogs clearly and in a manner easily accessible to the layperson. However, for readers seeking a feel-good, happy pet dog story, this is probably not the one to pick up. For all others, I highly recommend it!
I love dogs and also a good dog tale so I really enjoyed this book. It’s the story of Maggie, German shepherd and former Military Working Dog and her new handler, Scott James, an LAPD police officer who has recently transferred to the K9 division. Both dog and man have recently lost their partners in “battle” and are suffering from the physical and emotional results of these traumas along with multiple gun shot wounds. The two bond into a “pack” as they search for the people who killed Scott’s partner.
What most impressed me about this book is the accuracy of Robert Crasis’ description of dogs, working dogs especially. He is clearly familiar not only with German Shepherds but also with Belgian Malinois, the other primary breed used for military and police work. He knew the similarities as well as the significant differences between the breeds. Maggie's physical, intellectual, and psychological gifts unfold with the plot, and training methods are correctly incorporated. I am somewhat familiar with these amazing animals since we have been fostering Military Working Dog puppies from the DoD Breeding Program at Lackland and presently live with two gorgeous adopted Mals. I know little about police procedures and cannot judge the validity of these in the book, but what pertained to dogs rang true.
This was my first Robert Crasis book. I’m not a fan of police or crime novels, and purchased this one only because of the working dog/law enforcement connection--and the audiobook was on special sale. However, it was a good choice for me. I had difficulty putting it down and consider my time listening to this novel well-spent. For me Suspect turned out to be far more engaging than other books I have read in this genre. The relationship that developed between Maggie and Scott elevated this from a typical thriller to something significantly more.
This was a useful book for me. I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, but it was useful. Andrew Mellen clearly presented an organized, elaborate set of steps for getting rid of excess “stuff” and organizing the rest so that it can be useful again, no longer lost in the jumble of daily living. This is not something I have ever been good at, and my husband is at least as bad, so having a blueprint of ideas to follow will be helpful to both of us. It took me longer to complete this audiobook than most of the same length because I stopped to actually work on some of the tasks recommended. I also downloaded lists of tasks from his website.
Mellen makes an excellent case for unloading many of our belongings and then putting what remains in order; while I will not follow his plan to the letter, I do intend to incorporate a lot of it into my life. I will definitely listen to specific chapters again as I attack each room of the house, the car, the carport, etc. I may even buy the print version of this book as we progress, if that seems like a good idea.
This book has caused me to change my behavior for the better already. This morning, for example, I found some Pre-Cambrian pizza in the freezer. I had been saving it for “some day” even though we didn’t like it when we choked down the first two in a package of three. Instead of putting it back in the freezer (as I had previously done a number of times), I decided to get it out of our lives forever. I cooked and cut it up to be used as dog training treats. As I put the containers into the refrigerator, I actually labeled each so they could be found and used before they spoil. I know it’s a small step, but I felt good about it, which means I will continue to work on the detritus in my life in small steps and larger ones. (And the dogs thoroughly approve!)
Considering the positive influence Unstuff Your Life has already had on us, why did I give it 4 stars rather than 5? It’s because I nearly stopped listening to this audiobook during the first two chapters when Mellen insisted that I answer a huge list of probing questions clearly aimed at getting to the bottom of my slovenliness. It was truly tiresome, and I would never have continued past page 10 of the print book. I know what my problem is: I have too many interests that interfere with maintaining order, and once things get out of control, it is too enormous a job to undertake--considering how much I truly hate this kind of thing. Some of his lecturing was needed in order to get me going, to make it OK for me to throw out or repurpose broken or useless items (old pizza, for example). But for me, at least, all that introspection was overdone.
Still, I highly recommend this book if you can’t always find your car keys or if there are times you spend way too much time looking through packed closets for something to wear that actually fits. It’s all common sense, and we’ve heard most of it before, but having a workable plan laid out just might make it easier to tackle “unstuffing” your life.
Fair and Tender Ladies was pure pleasure to listen to as an audiobook. The mountain dialect and soft tones performed exquisitely by narrator, Kate Forbes, brought this gentle, captivating story to life, literally transporting me to a world that existed from early 20th century Appalachia through the 1970s. I vicariously experienced some of the immense changes in American society during this time period and was able to glimpse the profound impacts that two major wars and the growth of the coal industry had on these proud mountain people. Their life was hard, but for the first time I began to understand their fierce loyalty to this beautiful but inhospitable land. I watched as their unique culture was disrupted and ultimately destroyed by “progress.”
This is a character-driven novel. It flows lazily through the long life of Ivy Rowe and is written entirely in her letters to various family members and friends. Her tone and language develop as she grows from a very young child into an old “mountain woman.” Yet throughout it all, Ivy retains her deep love of home and family. She never loses that basic core of who she is and what Sugar Fork and its people mean to her. I respected her tremendously, and listening to her story enriched me.
Fair and Tender Ladies is not an adventure story, and it will be a disappointment to readers expecting fast-moving plot. I’m not sure how most men will relate to it since this story is told entirely through Ivy’s unabashed perspective, and she is most definitely a woman; there is no narrator to filter and objectify Ivy’s observations and remarks. But for me that was the charm of this book; Ivy is wonderful if the reader can accept her as she is. She is funny, foolish, courageous, and wise--a delightful combination of them all. I wish she were a real person so I could spend more time listening to her and learning from her. I am extremely happy that I purchased this audiobook and took the time to hear Ivy’s story. I am better for the experience and somehow feel uplifted.
I just loved this book! I’ve read quite a number of dog books: books about individual dogs, novels about them, and canine informational texts. This is probably my favorite from the lot. I was given the print hardcover version as a gift and really wanted to read it but hadn’t gotten far when the audiobook became available. We live with three large dogs and a military working dog foster puppy, all of whom need daily training, care, and handling. I honestly have no time for anything that requires much sitting--including writing book reviews. It took me only two days to finish the audiobook, and because I liked it so much, I am writing a brief review. I will retain the print version of What’s a Dog For? for reference. It is well-organized and contains useful information worth having available through an index.
John Homans writes well, and he has managed to skillfully weave the personal story of his rescued lab mix, Stella, into the larger “history, philosophy, and politics” of the dog world, past and present. He clearly loves his dog and all dogs in general, but he was able to present a reasonably balanced view of our relationship with this wonderful enigmatic creature that so many of us live with intimately. He covered theories on the evolution of dogs, dogs throughout history, the origin or pedigree dogs (as well as their serious genetic deficiencies brought about through by man’s attempt to engineer them), and the issues of dogs in our present society. I was surprised and pleased with how much information was condensed into this relatively short volume.
For me this book flowed smoothly from one topic to the next. In addition, the use of grown-up sentence structure and vocabulary enhanced my enjoyment of it. The narrator made it easy to listen to and absorb, although I will want to go back and review several sections in print. I’m surprised this book doesn’t have a higher overall rating. I suppose a reader , looking either for a personal memoir of a dog or a rigorous scientific treatise on dogs, might be disappointed. For me, however, What’s a Dog For? combines the two genre and does it well. I certainly recommend it to anyone with a dog or who might be thinking about brining one into their life.
I enjoyed this book more for its historical background than the plot-line. It was not a 5-star book for me, but I will probably read the next in the series and see how that goes. I won't rehash the content since others have done that thoroughly in previous reviews.
Dissolution presents an excellent view of the period of Henry VIII's reign from 1536-1540 when the monasteries of England were dissolved. C.J. Sansom provides an unsympathetic portrait of Thomas Cromwell in contrast to that of Hilary Mantel in Wolf Hall and . The facts were similar but the tone taken by these authors was significantly different.
Dissolution was worth the time I invested listening to this well-produced audiobook.
I actually liked this book a little better than The Rose Garden by the same author. It was a more serious book, and the historical elements were integrated closely to the plot. I was therefore able to painlessly learn about a period in British history that had been hazy to me before. By having the events of a planned Jabobite invasion in 1708 serve as the backdrop for her characters, Susanna Kearsley made this time and place vivid and real for me where purely academic accounts of the period had not.
I also found the author’s use of “genetic memory” as a device to place her characters back in time less disruptive to the plot than “time travel” had been in The Rose Garden. Both require a willingness to go along with the story and not question too closely how a window into the past, 300 years ago, was opened to the reader, but The Winter Sea was somewhat more plausible. I was able to comfortably flow back and forth between the present world and that of the early 1700s.
I personally found the ending of The Winter Sea satisfying. I enjoyed the language and descriptive passages throughout, and found it difficult to interrupt my listening when real-life commitments intervened. The romantic elements of this story were handled tastefully and were not heavy-handed or blatant. At the end I was sorry to leave these characters even though the story was clearly over. For me these are hallmarks of a worthwhile book, and I have recommended this one to my daughter and a very close friend. I enjoyed it and learned something in the process.
For the most part this was a well done account of the lives of a selected group of Titanic survivors after this tragic event. However, I rated the book only as 3 stars because of the liberties the author took in providing the final thoughts of some individuals at the ends of their lives. I found it especially egregious when he described the dying thoughts of several suicides as if he were working from a transcript of their last musings. This is not a novel; it is a work of nonfiction. As such, the author had the responsibility to his subjects and his readers to at least offer some disclaimer explaining that he was taking license based on his understanding of these people from his research.
The sinking of the Titanic has fascinated people of all ages for more than a hundred years. As a child, I remember watching the TV production of "A Night to Remember" and then reading the book. Years later, my young students loved the section of their reading anthology that described this historical event. There are so many books and movies about the Titanic that have continued to be immensely popular. "Shadow of the Titanic" is unique in continuing this tragic story past the horrific events of that cold night in April of 1912, past the headlines and shock around the world. It carefully probed the effects this event had on the future lives of a broad array of survivors. I found it worth reading and carefully researched. The book forced me to think about the actual people involved, and I cared about them. Perhaps that is why was I was offended when the author attempted to read their minds as they died. To me this was a serious flaw in an otherwise excellent book.
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