Monday, January 9, 2012

100 Book Challenge Weeks 12 & 13

Book Review #24: Unlikely Friendships
Author: Jennifer S Holland
Genre: Non-Fiction: Animals

The author is a National Geographic journalist, and it shows in this charming collection of stories of unusual interspecies friendships. The stories are short, and very “news article” in style, which spoiled the book for me, just a tad. I would have preferred less “reporting” and more personality, but that’s just my sorry little opinion. Please don’t let that deter you, though, this is an “awwwww” read to be enjoyed.

From a wild rhinoceros and its warthog pal, to a homely cat with its best-bud rat, this book has a wide range of phenomenal, unexplainable, but heartwarming friendships between two animals that would normally never look at each other. Except, perhaps, as lunch.

Some “friendships” were deliberate introductions by game- or zookeepers trying to provide a companion for a lonely inmate. Others were natural progressions of animals that found themselves in each others' company. I found the wild, non-human-interference friendships were the most intriguing. Like the leopard who befriended a cow, or the lioness and the baby Oryx. Explanations are attempted, but who knows, really?

Each story is accompanied by beautiful color photographs, which add to the overall pleasure of reading the book.

Whilst not strictly “animal” friendships, Holland has included a few animal-man interactions that are quite remarkable. Lucky folks, these, to have experienced wildlife so personally.

Book Review #25: Maigret Loses His Temper
Author: Georges Simenon, Translated by Robert Eglesfield
Genre: Crime

A quaint little book with rather an odd ending.

It is obvious from the writing that this is an old book. Which I checked the publication date, it was printed in the early sixties. It certainly didn’t feel that old, but perhaps, like Paris, the city in which it is set, it is timeless and can be enjoyed in any decade.

Chief Superintendent Maigret gets involved in a crime with no bad guy and no motive. The more he investigates the murdered, the less he finds reason for him to be killed. He is an upstanding citizen, a faithful husband, a good father, a respected businessman, he even pays his taxes.

While Maigret manages to identify the killer, he still cannot find proof or a motive, and this annoys him, like a personal insult.

The book is not fast-paced, as modern novels often are, but plods along like a good detective, working its way from one clue to another logically and determinedly. It doesn’t let you become bored with too much information or unnecessary drivel, but it reveals to you the information the Chief gathers, pulling you along relentlessly until, at the end, you know the truth as he does.

I enjoyed the book and may have looked for more titles by the same author (the name of the book suggesting this is part of a series), except for the very odd ending.

Now, I’ve been told I give away too many spoilers in my reviews, although I try really hard not to, so I’m not going to tell you any more than that.

But I would love to hear your opinion on the ending. If you read it, make a comment?

Book Review #26: The Captain and the Enemy
Author: Graham Greene
Genre: Human Drama

This must be my week of strange stories.

Victor Baxter is an unhappy boy at an English boarding school, who is taken away by "the Captain", who claims he won the lad from his father in a backgammon game. Victor gets a new name, Jim, and a new life with Liza, the woman who always wanted a baby of her own.

What follows is the eccentric account by the youngster as he grows up of his experiences with the Captain, who appears and disappears throughout his young life. Dispassionate in parts, confused in others, Jim recounts his memories, discusses his confusion, and works through his feelings about his imposed family, to whom he refers as his adopted family.

The tone of the book is one of reminiscence, in the sense of looking back over a part of your life that you never understood, didn’t really care for one way or another, and recall only because you’ve been asked about it. Overall, it held my fascination the same way a snake fascinates a rabbit, with some sort of sense of impending doom you are powerless to avoid.

And yet, while it is not remarkable enough that I shall remember it, it’s not so bad that I regret reading it.

I guess this is one of the books critics love to rave over as “an indepth exploration into the angst of the teenage soul and children with detached parents” or some such. I’m afraid to admit that I’ve never had much time for that sort of verbal diarrhea, and I’m not about to start with it now.

Suffice to say, if you like human drama-ish stuff, have at it.

Book Review #27: Pacific Vortex!
Author: Clive Cussler
Genre: Private Eye

The front cover bills this as the “first Dirk Pitt adventure”. The back cover describes Mr. Pitt as being a “death-defying adventurer”. Hmm, ambitious, this author.

When America’s newest uber-fancy submarine goes down in an area known as the Pacific Vortex (a Bermuda-triangle-esque disappearing ships spot), the authorities call on Dirk Pitt to help them find it.

Unlike the Bermuda Triangle, however, the Pacific Vortex is discovered to be far less arcane than originally thought, and Pitt discovers he has to deal more with genius and lunacy than ghosts and aliens.

While I do think Cussler was somewhat ambitious, the story was interesting and made a good afternoon read. If I stumbled across another Dirk Pitt adventure I wouldn’t turn it down, it’s easy reading and an entertaining means to while away some spare time. 

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