Book briefs.

I’m a bit crunched for time and can’t devote a full post for each title…but here are a few thoughts about a handful of books I’ve been reading over the past month:

Kissing Kilimanjaro:   Leaving it All on Top of Africa – Daniel Dorr (2010, The Mountaineers Books, Seattle)

Climbing “everyman’s Everest” isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be – just ask author and newbie mountaineer Daniel Dorr.  This breezy, affable account of his attempts to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is a testament to perserverence and an interesting travel journal about Africa.  And, yeah, when he’s talking about “leaving it all,” he just might be talking about bodily fluids.  You’ve been warned….

Empire of the Beetle:  How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug are Killing North America’s Great Forests – Andrew Nikiforuk (2011, Greystone Books, Vancouver)

This brilliant piece of writing details current and historical infestations of bark beetles in North America, and discusses possible causes and outcomes of the outbreaks.  Whether or not you believe in the conclusions that Nikoforuk draws – that factors such as climate change, the (mis)management of forests, poor government policies, and fire suppression are to blame – you should give this one a read to decide for yourself.  An important book about a controversial subject.

The Girl With Glass Feet – Ali Shaw (2009, Atlantic Books)

I so wanted to love this book!  It has such a fabulous premise:  a young woman named Ida Maclaird returns to the mysterious island of St. Hauda’s Land, an isolated place full of cold and snow and weird, unnatural creatures.  Since her first visit to the island the previous summer, her body has been slowly turning to glass, and she’s (understandably) desperate to find a cure.  See what I mean?  Cool, right?  Unfortunately, I can’t get anywhere close to halfway finished this one – I can’t seem to respond to any of the characters with any emotion, and even the fantasy elements fail to inspire excitement. I simply do not care about Ida or anyone else or anything at this point.  The writing is suitably descriptive, but I can’t feel the poetry in it – it seems too clinically perfect (contrived?) and contributes to the feelings of remoteness I have for the book in general.  Perhaps it gets better…if you’ve read The Girl With Glass Feet and you’d recommend that I hang on and finish it, let me know and I’ll give it a shot.  Right now, it’s been relegated to the bottom of my “To-Read…Maybe” pile and not even the promise of a good love story is going to make me drag it out anytime soon.

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