Too Much Salt and Pepper (Living Forest #2)

Campbell02Too Much Salt and Pepper: Two Porcupines with Prickly Spines Who Make You Laugh and Think by Sam Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If one porcupine made for a good book then Sam Campbell thought that two would be even better. In the second book of his Living Forest series, Too Much Salt and Pepper, Campbell describes the adventures and lessons surrounding the titular “porkies” Salt and Pepper along with wise ol’ Inky during a year at the Sanctuary of Wegimind.

The events of this book take place a few years after How’s Inky? as Sam and his wife Giny arrive at their animal sanctuary to discover the young porcupines Salt and Pepper eagerly awaiting them. The two “porkies” are friendly, funny, and very mischievous especially when they want to play. But as the year progresses, Pepper answers the call of the wild while Salt continued to want human companionship. Most the book centers around the week-long visit of Carol, a young friend of the Campbells, who wants to experience the nature they describe in their lectures. The experiences, stories, and lessons that Sam and Giny show Carol—along with a dose of porcupine mischievousness—as best they can in a week the lessons nature has taught them over the years.

With this book being twice as long as the previous Living Forest book, Sam Campbell fills it numerous stories of past adventures and misadventures while also detailing Carol’s weeklong stay during which occurs most of his famous philosophy. Campbell uses an older Inky to be the mouthpiece of his lessons and teachings to the intended younger audience of the book, yet Inky’s “woodsy philosophy” can be very instructive to adults as well while not being preachy.

Though a longer read, Too Much Salt and Pepper is wonderful nature read and I highly recommend it readers of all ages.

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Making Money (Discworld #36, Industrial #5)

Making MoneyMaking Money by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The financial sector of Ankh-Morpork is dire trouble and Lord Vetinari looks to his Postmaster General to solve the problem, however he doesn’t want the opportunity but somethings are out of his hands. Making Money is Terry Pratchett’s 36th Discworld novel and the second to follow the conman-turned-civil servant Moist von Lipwig who is beginning to pine for thrills and suddenly finds himself in the midst of them.

With the Post Office running as smoothly as possible and facing plain paperwork every day, Moist von Lipwig is looking for thrills and excitement in a variety of ways including scaling the outside of the Post Office and breaking into his own office. Lord Vetinari attempts to sell Moist on taking over the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the Royal Mint, but Moist is satisfied with his life. However Bank chairwoman Topsy Lavish changes her will to make Moist guardian of her dog, Mr. Fusspot, to whom she leaves her controlling interest in the Bank to. Suddenly Moist is taking care of a dog and running the Bank and Mint much to his annoyance and that of the Lavish family and Mr. Bent, the head cashier. Moist begins thinking about changes to the banking system but then is inundated with numerous challenges first from Mr. Bent, the Lavishes including one that wants to become Lord Vetinari (not Patrician just Vetinari), a former partner blackmailing him about his conman past, missing gold from the bank vault, and finally his fiancée arranging for an army of golems to arrive in Ankh-Morpork. Soon Moist past is exposed, though no one cares, after saving the city from the golems as well as using them to base his new paper currency and is still alive at the end of the book which is the least he wants out of each day.

Moist is one of the most original characters that Pratchett has come up with and like Going Postal, I enjoyed following his story. However, like the previous mentioned book this one is not up to the quality that Pratchett is known for. While Moist, Vetinari, and Adora Belle Dearheart were well written, the overall plot and the numerous subplots just seemed to meander. Pratchett attempted to avoid Moist doing exactly what he did in Going Postal by having him deal with other challenges, but they were a mishmash of ideas that didn’t seem to come together and pages were wasted with the Cosmo Lavish subplot that took up pages without really accomplishing anything.

Honestly, it was hard to rate Making Money because while I enjoyed reading Moist’s point-of-view, the overall plot of the book was just serviceable as it twist and turned based on the questionable subplots intertwined with it. If you are a first time Discworld reader, don’t read this book until you’ve sampled some of Pratchett’s other better quality writing. If you are a veteran Discworld reader then focusing on enjoying the point-of-view of Moist even though the book’s quality is just okay.

Discworld

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation

BeowulfBeowulf by Unknown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The oldest epic poem in English follows the feats of its titular protagonist over the course of days and years that made him a legend among his clan, friends, and even enemies. Beowulf was most likely orally transmitted before finally be written down several centuries later by an unknown Christian hand in Old English that today is readily accessible thanks to the translation by Seamus Heaney.

The epic tale of Beowulf begins in the mead hall of King Hrothgar of the Danes which is attacked by the monster Grendel for years. Beowulf, upon hearing of Hrothgar’s plight, gathers fourteen companions and sails from Geatland to the land of the Danes. Hrothgar welcomes the Geats and feasts them, attracting the attention of Grendel who attacks. One of the Geats is killed before the monster and Beowulf battle hand-to-hand which ends with Beowulf ripping off Grendel’s arm. The monster flees and bleeds out in the swamp-like lair shared with his mother. Grendel’s mother attacks the mead hall looking for revenge and kills one of Hrothgar’s long-time friends. Beowulf, his companions, Hrothgar, and others ride to the lair and Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother with a giant’s sword. After another feast, the Geats return home and fifty years later, Beowulf is King when a dragon guarding a hoard of treasure is awakened by a thief and goes on a rampage. Beowulf and younger chosen companions go to face the fiery serpent, but all but one of his companions flees after the King goes to face the foe. However, the one young warrior who stays is able to help the old King defeat the dragon though he his mortally wounded. It is this young warrior who supervises the dying Beowulf’s last wishes.

This is just a rough summary of a 3000 line poem that not only deals with Beowulf’s deeds but also the warrior culture and surprisingly the political insightfulness that many secondary characters talk about throughout the poem. The poem begins and ends with funerals with warrior kings giving look at pagan worldview even as the unknown Christian poet tried to his best to hide it with references to Christian religiosity. Although some say that any translation deprived the poem of the Old English rhyme and rhythm, the evolution of English in the thousand years since the poem was first put down in words means that unless one reads the original with a dictionary on hand, this poem would not be read. Heaney’s translation gives the poem its original epicness while also allowing present day readers a chance to “hear” the story in their own language thus giving it new life.

Beowulf is one of the many epic poems that have influenced storytelling over the centuries. Yet with its Scandinavian pagan oral roots and Christian authorship it is also a melding of two traditions that seem at odds yet together still create a power tale. Unlike some high school or college course force students to read the Old England or so-so translated excerpts from the poem, Seamus Heaney’s book gives the reader something that will keep their attention and greatly entertain.

Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron

EvitaEvita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having only lived 33 years and been in the public spotlight for the last six, one woman has become in the 60+ years since her death the most iconic and polarizing woman in her country without even holding political office. Nicholas Fraser in his work, Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron, navigates between the fantastical versions of her life to find the real woman and put her into the context of the Argentina of her time before during and after her life.

Given the multitude of circumstances that Fraser faced to get an accurate portrait of Eva Peron, including her attempts to cover up her family’s illegitimacy, the fact that he was able to give a full account of her is noteworthy. Because of her short lifespan, the book was never going to be long but Fraser also had to contend with explaining the political atmosphere through Eva’s life especially after she became the First Lady of Argentina. Along with all of that, Fraser had to contend with the legendary versions of Eva’s life from both pro- and anti-Peronist sources. Yet the last 30 pages of the book are some of the most fascinating because it details the myth-creating journey that her corpse endured for almost 20 years through several governmental changes before finally being securely laid to rest in Buenos Aires.

Although the sensational accounts of Eva Peron’s life make for the ideal basis for musicals and films, the truth is just as fascinating. Nicholas Fraser’s biography of the most iconic Argentine political figure of the 20th-century is as close to the truth of her life as one is going to get and still understand the political atmosphere without getting bogged down in minutiae that would have enlarged the book and drifted away from the subject of the book.

How’s Inky? (Living Forest #1)

Campbell01How’s Inky? by Sam Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When a little porcupine becomes the topic of conversation people want to talk to you about, you either accept it or become annoyed. Nature writer Sam Campbell though thought the question, How’s Inky? the perfect title to title the first book of what would eventually become the Living Forest series.

Campbell wrote about the adventures of Inky the porcupine around his home in the animal sanctuary of Wegimind that he along with two other men supervised through spring, summer, and fall every year. Inky was one of five orphaned baby animals that the sanctuary cared for and helped to survive before releasing them into the wild. Although Campbell does talk about the other four animals, it’s Inky that is the one Campbell focuses on because of Inky’s view of life and what it can teach people.

How’s Inky? was not the first book Campbell wrote nor his first public exposure, which was a nature radio program first aired in Chicago in the 1930s. Known as the ‘philosopher of the forest’, this book shows why Campbell was given that moniker as his lessons from nature are written in a down-to-earth style that readers of all ages will enjoy. Campbell does speak of God as part of his lessons, but the book is does not ooze religion.

At a quick 127 pages, How’s Inky? is a fun read for all ages and highly recommended if you enjoy nature books and for a nice read for a rainy day.

Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past

MythsFounding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The story of the American Revolution is well known and thought of as gospel by average Americans, but is that story more myth than history? Ray Raphael in his book, Founding Myths, aims to tell the true patriotic history behind the stories told about the American Revolution.

Investigating thirteen prominent stories surrounding the Revolutionary era, Raphael attempts to put the actual people and events in context of their time while demythologizing the past. Some of the stories are that of individuals like Paul Revere, Molly Pitcher, and Sam Adams or such events like Yorktown ending the war, the Continental Army surviving Valley Forge, and the events before Lexington and Concord. While a few myths that Raphael covered have been demystified by some pop-history documentaries since before and after the publishing of this book and others that a well-read history enthusiast already knows are false, there was one that completely surprised me and that was the events of 1774 that led up to the Lexington and Concord.

Although I knew the actual history behind the myths Raphael covered, this book was still a pleasant read if you can persevere through the repetitious references to films like The Patriot and Raphael’s continual hyping of the Massachusetts revolution of 1774. While I understood the reference to The Patriot given its prominence around the time of the book’s writing but it could have been toned down. Raphael’s description of the events in Massachusetts in 1774 are really eye-opening but he keeps on bringing them up throughout the book and given he already written a book about the subject before this one it makes it feel like he’s attempting to use one book to sell another. Finally, Raphael’s brings up how the mythical stories he is writing about are in today’s textbooks in each chapter and while I think this was book information, it might have been better if he had moved that into his concluding chapter alone.

Founding Myths is fascinating reading for both general and knowledgeable history readers which is a credit to Ray Raphael’s research, yet there are pitfalls that take some of the joy out of reading this book. While I recommend this book, just be weary of the repetitious nature that I described above.

Similar Book(s)
Scars of Independence

2018 Reading Plan

Hi everyone and Happy New Year!

I went over my stats for 2017 yesterday, so this post is “previewing” the year ahead.

First and foremost this blog is dedicated more to READING more than anything else. So this year I’m aiming to AT LEAST read 45 books, which is 5 more than I’ve aimed to the past several years in which I more than surpassed each time. You’ll see at the end of this post my “planned” reading list.

BUT in addition to the books below I plan on reading several books at home throughout the year in small increments (10 pages apiece), first and foremost I plan on completing Leaves of Grass: First and “Death-Bed” Editions by Walt Whitman that I began last year and petered out during the fall. Beginning today, I’ll also begin reading The Rise of the West by W.H. McNeill. Once I finish each, I’ll begin another book. AND on the weekends, I’ll be reading “tame” or religious books again this year focusing on Sam Campbell’s Living Forest series. My mother read these books to me when I was young and now ~30 years later I want to read them for myself.

During the last few months of last year, I began posting more film reviews and I plan to continue that this year. I still have 19 James Bond films to review, all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many Godzilla films, and still both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My goal is to review at least one film per week.

So that’s my plan for this year, of course it’s just January 1 so who know’s what will happen.  But that’s enough for today.

Talk to you later…

Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael
Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser
Beowulf
Making Money (Discworld #36) by Terry Pratchett
Mirror Image (Op-Center #2) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George R. Knight
Foundation (Foundation #1) by Isaac Asimov
Unseen Academicals (Discworld #37) by Terry Pratchett
The Wars of Gods and Men (Earth Chronicles #3) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Politics by Aristotle
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2) by Isaac Asimov
I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) by Terry Pratchett
Games of State (Op-Center #3) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Wonder That Was India by Arthur Llewellyn Basham
Second Foundation (Foundation #3) by Isaac Asimov
Snuff (Discworld #39) by Terry Pratchett
The Lost Realms (Earth Chronicles #4) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight
The Martian by Andy Weir
Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett
Acts of War (Op-Center #4) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Political Writings by St. Augustine
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life by Herman Melville
The Sheperd’s Crown (Discworld #41) by Terry Pratchett
Genesis Revisited by Zecharia Sitchin
The Stuart Age by Barry Coward
Ulysses by James Joyce
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Balance of Power (Op-Center #5) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism by George R. Knight
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
The Major Works of Anselm of Canterbury
Pacific Vortex! (Dirk Pitt #1) by Clive Cussler
When Time Began (Earth Chronicles #5) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party by Michael F. Holt
The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2) by Clive Cussler
Light Beareres: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwartz
State of Siege (Op-Center #6) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides
Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
Iceberg (Dirk Pitt #3) by Clive Cussler
Divine Encounters by Zecharia Sitchin
Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown