Monthly Archives: November, 2013

The Last Savanna

The Last Savanna by Mike Bond

Rating:  *

Ian MacAdam, a white man who has lived most of his adult life in Kenya, joins a group to hunt down ivory poachers.  Learning that the poachers have kidnapped an archaeologist with whom he had been involved several years prior, he strives to save her as well as capture the poachers.  Meanwhile, the poachers’ story – their clan relationships, the circumstances that led them to poaching, what they hope to gain – is told in alternating chapters.

Bond touches on the “beauty of [Africa’s] perilous deserts, jungles, and savannas” (from the publisher’s description).  The poachers and their pursuers travel vast distances through a multitude of ecosystems, encountering wildlife as varied as hyenas, elephants, and scorpions.  And don’t forget the domesticated camels.  These elements are fascinating.

Despite that, I did not enjoy this book.  The publisher indicates this is a story of “the deep, abiding power of love.”  I find no indication of abiding love, or in fact even fleeting love.  Instead, it’s a story of men squabbling over women they want to own; jealousy that the other might be the first to rape a woman of the wrong skin color; and the ingrained belief that women are entirely evil and that their only worth is in providing service and children to men.  The two women in this book (Dottie, MacAdam’s wife; and Rebecca, MacAdam’s mistress) bow to the narrative of the men in this book.  MacAdam views the poacher-hunting as a way to re-capture love (or perhaps purpose) in his life, but to do so he spurns his wife who has begged him to re-engage with her.

Slap any label on it that you wish:  freedom, religion, the urge to live life to the fullest.  In the end, it boils down to pure selfishness.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

Pluses Instead of Minuses

Today's Author

Finishing up this fall semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is about writing that makes some students want to bend the rules. I should set some context. I teach basic composition and research writing. In both these classes, but especially with research writing, there are a lot of rules to follow. There are rules of grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and then of course rules associated with the dreaded APA and MLA formats. There are rules about margins and fonts. There are rules about page numbers and running heads. There are rules about titles and in-text citations and references pages and works cited pages. I get it. There are a lot of rules. But they are, unavoidably, rules that must be followed.

So, why the pushback from students?

Let’s spin this and consider it from another angle. Let’s say I’m a mathematician. Let’s say I’ve just asked a student…

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A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart by Barbara Longley (Perfect, Indiana #3)

Rating:  * * * *

Hope.

Cory, battling PTSD, broke, unable to access veterans benefits, living in a trailer home with her mother, somewhat reluctantly accepts the push to start over with a new job in a new town, surrounded by other veterans dealing with PTSD.  Although she learns to trust all those she works with, her strongest bond is with Ted, the only non-veteran in the bunch, a man struggling with his own identity issues, being seen as a kid and feeling like an outsider in the business he dreamed up and co-founded.

For every bit of progress Cory makes, she also experiences horrifying nightmares.  Although she recognizes the progress, she also notes that “one notch above miserable can feel like relief.”  I recently saw an episode of Star Trek:  DS9 that sums up what Cory finally understands:  “Running may help for a little while, but sooner or later the pain catches up with you, and the only way to get rid of it is to stand your ground and face it.”  And so Cory faces it.

This book brims with hope.  And pain, yes, but always the hope that a better, fuller life is possible and that the characters can achieve that by facing down their pain.  Periods of hopelessness do not equal giving up.  And that is why I will read this book again and again.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

Fertilizer, gym, ransom, and sunglasses

The white board topic was to write a sentence using the four words above.  Here’s my submission:  “Don decided the gym smelled like fresh fertilizer so he opted to hold Pepe’s sunglasses (Ray-Bans, his pride and joy) for ransom until the place was fumigated.”

Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast

Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast by Bill Richardson

Rating:  * * * * *

Bachelor twins Hector and Virgil run a bed and breakfast visited by bookworms.  At once utterly practical and blithely imaginative (in a fashion that only the truly independent can manage), the brothers describe their haven, their community, their observations and insights.  Guests also offer tidbits.

This book tickles my sense of the ridiculous!  Sometimes so breathtakingly odd I burst into helpless laughter.  My favorite description is of the cemetery/golf course (read that again:  cemetery/golf course):  “There is no fence, hedge, or other line of demarcation to indicate where a hole in one ends and one in a hole begins.”

I have read this book several times and always find it delightful.

Dead Anyway

Dead Anyway by Chris Knopf, read by Donald Corren

Rating:  * * * * *

Being dead allows a man to investigate his own murder.

This book kept me absolutely riveted.  Each twist and turn was more fascinating than the last.  Consider it a primer on fraud, intrigue, identity theft, and erasing oneself.  To say more would spoil the story.  I highly recommend this book.

Daily Prompt: About Page of the Future

What a fun blog topic!  In 10 years, my About page will say essentially the same thing it says now:  I’m interested in almost everything and want to share.

Lucky Stiff

Lucky Stiff (Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure Series #2) by Deborah Coonts, read by Renee Raudman

Rating:  * * * *

We begin with the buzz of a tractor-trailer load of honeybees overturning on the Vegas Strip.  Then the really bizarre things start happening!

Lucky, head of customer service at a glitzy Vegas casino/hotel, handily deals with the honeybee crisis, then moves on to save hunky P.I. Jeremy Whitlock from a murder rap when local bookmaker Numbers Neidermeyer is discovered in the shark tank.

Blessed with an abundance of eye-pleasing men in her life, Lucky has also earned the friendship, loyalty, and cooperation of a number of colorful characters including her cross-dressing (but only when on stage) boyfriend; flamboyant and effervescent mother, a brothel madam; a local mob boss; and The Big Boss at her own casino, who is currently dating her mother.

Renee Raudman’s narrative style and voice are uniquely suited to stories such as this:  quirky, off-beat, over-the-top, full of backhanded wit.  Few readers could bring this story to colorful life the way she can, exactly what I would have pictured were I reading the written word.

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