Review: One Night Wilderness: Portland by Doug Lorain

One Night Wilderness: Portland: Quick and Convenient Backcountry Getaways within Three Hours of the City
by Doug Lorain
Rating: ***
Read 8/6/2013

I found several hikes in this book that I didn’t know about before, and that I am eager to try out. The maps/trail descriptions are nice and clear, and the book gives a person lots of fun options. A short introduction covers the essentials of backpacking, but steers you toward more thorough resources before advising you to go out into the wilds.

Review: Pay Dirt: How To Make $10,000 A Year From Your Backyard Garden by John Tullock

Pay Dirt: How To Make $10,000 A Year From Your Backyard Garden
by John Tullock
Rating ***
Read 8/1/2013
Solid enough information, but nothing new. If you already know how to run a small business and you already garden, there’s little here for you in the way of fresh ideas, but it is a cheer-you-on sort of book. I like Tullock’s commitment to organic gardening, and his knowledge of all things veggie is impressive. Making any money at all from a garden strikes me as a hard, dirty, thankless task which is no doubt why I didn’t love this book so much.

Review: Oregon’s Wilderness Areas: The Complete Guide by George Wuerthner

Oregon’s Wilderness Areas: The Complete Guide
by George Wuerthner
Rating: ***
Read 8/1/2013

Lovely photos, lots of good information. But Oregon’s wilderness is huge, and the scope of this book such that I didn’t get the exhaustive information I wanted. I wanted way more detail than I got here. To be fair, there are lots of books on smaller areas- and this book certainly helped me narrow my focus and track down the books that will help me.

Review: The Willamette River Field Guide by Travis Williams

The Willamette River Field Guide
by Travis Williams
Rating ***
Read 7/26/2013

While this book was good, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. It had a lot of conservation/ecology stuff in it, and though I’m a die-hard conservation/ecology proponent, I don’t need it in a field guide. Yes, I know we suck at rivers. We have always sucked at rivers, and even though we are trying to be better, we STILL suck at rivers. Got it. I liked the little wildlife call-outs, and the pictures were lovely. But as a field guide qua field guide, this left me wanting more, more about where to camp and where to pull out, more about where the private property starts and ends and less about how chemical runoff from agriculture threatens wildlife.

Review: Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

by Cheryl Strayed
Rating ****
Read 7/25/2013

This book made me want to run right out and hike the PCT. But not, you know, barefoot. Or broke. I was very involved throughout, and though much of the non-trail stuff made me cringe, the on-trail stuff kept me reading. I’m glad I read it, because it made me think that if she did okay on the trail, as woefully unprepared as she so clearly was, maybe I can do okay on it too.

Review: Sea by Mark Laita

by Mark Laita
Rating: ****
Read 7/23/2013

Technically brilliant, full of beautiful aquatic animal photographs. If I’d seen this book before Serpentine¬†I’d probably have given it five stars. However, I did see Serpentine first, and I love it best. It’s undoubtedly harder to pose fish than serpents. And snakes, to my eye, are far more lovely than fish.

Still, absolutely gorgeous. Laita’s eye is something very special.

Review: Serpentine by Mark Laita

by Mark Laita
Rating: *****
Read 7/14/2013

Absolutely beautiful. Provided, of course, that you like snakes. Which I do.

Snakes, all photographed in achingly clear detail, each jewel-like scale highlighted. Very little text, but what there is is perfect. There were lots of varieties of snake that I’d never heard of, and I raised a reptile fanatic.

Words fail me, trying to describe this book. Just: if you like snakes, even a little, you should get this.

Review: The Layered Garden by David L.Culp

The Layered Garden
by David Culp
Rating: ****
Read 7/8/2013

Um, I… I don’t know how to say this, but Culp’s garden is almost too unstructured for me. Those of you who have walked through my garden, stop laughing already.

The photos are stellar, and seeing how his borders change from month to month is a real high point of the book. I only wish he’d set a mark to photograph from, so that the perspective was exactly the same in each shot. Which is persnickety, but still what I would prefer.

His plant selection is brilliant and eclectic and I was feverishly taking notes the whole time I was reading. His writing style is a touch breathless, but his essential love and reverence for his subject matter shines through.

Highly recommended for those of us who try to keep a garden and find ourselves kept by same.

Review: Out Here by Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Dorband

Out Here: Poems and Images from Steens Mountain Country
Poems and Drawings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Photography by Roger Dorband
Rating: ****
Read 5/13/2013

I’ve been dipping into a fair bit of poetry lately, mostly revisiting favorites here and there, but rarely reading a books straight through. This book is the exception. I went last year to see Le Guin and Dorband at Powell’s books when this first came out, and Le Guin read several of the poems, which were stellar. Her poetry has resonated only intermittently with me throughout the years, and this collection works better for me than the ones which have come before. Or perhaps I’m older now. With Le Guin, it’s always safer to assume that the fault lies with the self rather than the writing.

Dorband’s photos are lovely. I would that the book were much larger format so I might examine them more minutely. I can’t wait to go to see this country with my own eyes.

Here’s my favorite poem from the book:


The hawk
I see you but I do not notice you,
a little dusky scurrying of fur.
I ply a hard trade, and I take my due.

The vole
To me you are a shadow from the blue,
and I am gone before you can appear.
I see it, but I do not notice you.

The hawk
I see my shadow flying as I do
but on the ground; sky is my kingdom, where
I soar and only stoop to take my due.

The vole
Rich with the gathered grain, I tunnel through
a darkness kinder than the light by far,
those shadows where there is no trace of you.

The hawk
Owl owns the shadows, for I never flew
but in the shining of the sunlit air.
I live by light and blood, and pay my due:
I am your death. It will be quick and true.

The vole
I am your life, and your immortal share.

We are and shape each other, I and you.
We ply a hard trade, and we take our due.

-Ursula K. Le Guin

Review: Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien


Wesley the Owl

by Stacey O’Brien

Rating: *

Read 4/19/2013

I loved the premise inherent in the subtitle, “The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl” and the blurb sucked me in. I checked out the audio version from my library and found the narrator’s voice to be pleasant enough. I was immediately sucked in to the story, only to be spat out again in relatively short order. For someone who works in a lab full of owls, the author seemed unduly surprised about some of the basic facts regarding their characteristics. I have never lived with an owl, so everything I say about this book is from a standpoint of profound ignorance. I really felt like O’Brien anthropomorphized Wesley- not so much when she ascribed reason ¬†to him, but more when she talked about his feelings and emotions. Also, the fact that she called herself ‘Mommy’ when talking to him was nausea-inducing. The writing was not even unexceptional, it was flat out bad. The story meandered all over and was full of discursive asides (which, to be fair, were for me the most interesting bits). I wanted to like this. I expected to like this. I hated it, from about the 3rd chapter on.