Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I've read a lot of animal books, including several by veterinarians. However, Bradford Brown's While You're Here, Doc: Farmyard Adventures of a Maine Veterinarian is the first one to make me think, "I'm surprised the vet is still alive after all that." Brown's practice was in rural Maine in the 1950s and 1960s, meaning that first, a large number of his patients were farm animals, and second, the weather could cause major problems getting to and from the farms, and third, the roads were not necessarily up to ideal standards. This book is not for the faint of heart, because not only does it deal bluntly with the medical problems the animals encountered, but the damage done to Dr. Brown by stubborn patients, winter weather, and being in a hurry to get to the site of an emergency. It's kind of amazing that bruised ribs are the worst individual injury Dr. Brown mentions suffering, but he does point out that the general stress of the work caused him to retire early when his own doctors said he would probably not live to fifty if he didn't slow down. Despite all that difficulty, Dr. Brown really seems to have loved his work and the help he could give animals and their owners; the title comes from the many additional tasks he was asked to perform for other animals on the farm, or even the neighbors' farm, after having already made a call for some specific reason, and he seems to have retained a wry sense of humor about all those extras and all the other things that could happen. The book is full of entertaining characters, not all of them human, and gives an interesting look at farm life when it was still a family endeavor.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More Penguin book excerpts from BzzAgent (who were cool enough to send me a full copy of Beneath A Marble Sky, which I liked best out of the last batch of excerpts).

The first one in this batch is Goodbye Lemon by Adam Davies. The excerpt was sort of horribly fascinating in its introduction to Jack Tennant, his two brothers, one of whom drowned in childhood, his mother, his father, from whom Jack is estranged, and Jack's girlfriend, who can't understand why Jack would even hesitate to go home (for the first time in 15 years) when the news arrives that Jack's father has had a stroke. A family this twisted is hard to look away from, like a train wreck. An Amazon reviewer comments that "You want to simultaneouly hug all of the characters and also shake them and kick them for their terrible decisions," and I agree. It's difficult to imagine what will happen in the rest of the book but I am kinda curious, though it might turn out to be the sort of book I have to put down because how stupid people are sometimes really gets to me.

I never read The Da Vinci Code (out of a sort of snobbishness that if so many people who aren't big readers liked it, I probably wouldn't, as well as a general lack of interest in Christian-oriented books). So I can't judge the comparison to that book that The Begotten: A Novel of the Gifted seems to invite. The BzzAgent site says that author Lisa T. Bergren wrote this The Begotten because of the "heretical 'truths' the author set forward" in The Da Vinci Code. I'm also not a Christian, so I can't vouch for heresy or lack of it, but a historical novel set in 14th-century Europe has to deal with Christianity to be accurate, and in the five chapters given in this excerpt I didn't find this book to be preaching to the reader. There are supernatural powers clearly related to the Christian God and Satan, though, so it's probably not a book for the sort of atheist who doesn't wish to read of something they'll consider fantasy. But as a fantasy novel, it seems pretty interesting.

I've also never been in a book club, and so my thoughts on The Book Club Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Reading Experience may not be the best quide. But I think this book would be a huge help to anyone wanting to start a book discussion group; it not only lists books and questions to prompt conversation on them, but issues like whether or not knitting during the group meeting is appropriate, and what to do about pets when meeting in a home they occupy, and it offers recipes for meeting foods and beverages. This wide range of suggestions and thought-provokers seems like just about everything a person would need to get a book club running and keep it going, rather than petering out as so many good intentions do.