Monday, March 18, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

By the way, I love this cover:

Title: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate
Jacqueline Kelly
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, 2015. 315 pages (hardback)
Publisher’s Blurb:
Callie’s younger brother Travis keeps bringing home strays. And Callie has her hands full keeping the animals—Travis included—away from her mother’s critical eye.

When a storm blows change into town in the form of a visiting veterinarian, Callie discovers a life and a vocation she desperately wants. But with societal expectations as they are, she will need all her wits and courage to realize her dreams.

Whether it’s wrangling a rogue armadillo or stray dog, a guileless younger brother or standoffish cousin, the trials and tribulations of Callie Vee will have readers cheering for this most endearing heroine.

My Review:
As a sequel to a Newbery nominee and winner of multiple awards (see review), this book had quite a bit to live up to. To my mind, it did it, though it left me looking for another sequel, which I do hope Jacqueline Kelly will write. The story continues to show Calpurnia as a girl who has a sharp intellect and the kind of curiousity that leads to either trouble or a good education.

Calpurnia manages to do both. Thanks to her grandfather, who is almost as marginalized in the family as Callie Vee is, she is getting a solid scientific education. But there’s a lot to overcome, even besides the tendecy of her younger brother to try to make pets of the most inappropriate animals. No one besides Grandfather takes Callie’s desire for an education seriously, and I kept getting frustrated on her behalf (not that she needed my help—Callie is perhaps unrealistically aware of the unfairness of the social limitations of her position).

It’s not that so much really happens in the story. It’s that every step of the way she is getting closer to needing to break out and insist on having her own way, and the process is fascinating to watch. I hope that there will be more books, and that Callie will get to go to school in defiance of everything that her parents assume about her future.

My Recommendation: 
This is a worthy sequel to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and a good book to remind us that the “normal” thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do, and social expectations can be a prison.

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."   

Friday, March 15, 2019

Photo Friday: The Hollyford Track

Time for another photo essay! This time, we're heading out on the Hollyford Track, in the second week of January. 

Background: My husband and I and our 21-year-old son are spending several months traveling and tramping in New Zealand. We arrived on the South Island Dec. 28, 2018, and spent January hiking like crazy with Dave’s brother and his wife, before sending them home and settling into a home base in Christchurch, allowing me a bit more time between adventures to get some blogging and writing done!

The Hollyford is an interesting track, because you have two choices: you can do an out-and-back, including a 10-mile stretch along Lake McKerrow which is reported to be awful, with no views to redeem it, or you can get a flight in to Martin's Beach from Milford Sound and hike one way (there's another cheat, which we used, as you will see). Naturally, we chose the flight, and as we had two cars, we managed to set up a shuttle, leaving one at the Hollyford Trailhead and driving the other to Milford Sound

We had to make an early start to meet the pilot's schedule. We were on the tarmack on schedule, ready to board... that little thing? We thought it was tough getting five people, our packs and food into one car, but the plane looked even smaller! Fortunately, it was bigger than it looked, and we all fit, including the pilot.
Even at the airport, Mitre Peak is an ever-present feature.
The flight was fantastic, even if it was just "transport," not a "scenic flight." We flew the length of Milford Sound, then north along the coast several miles to Martin's Bay.

Once deposited--very smoothly--on the grass runway, we had to find the track (harder than you'd think) and walk about 3 miles to the Martin's Bay hut, in and out of beech forests.
Creek beds were the only open spaces, and we had to be glad it hadn't been raining the last couple of days.
The hut gave us access to the beach, where we spent the afternoon exploring quite happily.
Millions of shells! I resisted the urge to collect any, knowing I'd have to carry them.
One of the major attractions was the seal colony a half mile away. The rocks were crowded with seals, including many adorable babies.
All alone. The mothers leave the babies to go hunt, and with so many seals around, it seems to be a safe practice. We kept our distance, but occasionally drew their attention anyway.
The second day we had several miles to hike--but first cheat #2: a jet boat that took us up the 10-mile lake, plus a few miles up the river, saving us 2 full days of slogging. It was also both a scenic ride and a fun one, as the wind was brisk and by the upper end of the lake, we were slapping through a substantial chop while admiring the towering peaks.
Our driver, or maybe his assistant, who got out at the entrance to the river and settled in to fish for an hour or so.
For the next two days, we walked a wide and easy path up the Hollyford River, which at this point was a pretty flat stream. There was only one point where we had to climb a bluff to deal with a narrow part of the river valley. The forest is pure Fiordland--rain forest, beech trees, giant tree ferns, moss, and birds.*
I really like tree ferns :)
Big or little, ferns make fiddleheads.
We overnighted at the scenic Hidden Falls Hut, where there were only 3 other people (there had been a half a dozen besides us at Martin's Bay). 
Messing around outside requires either diligent slapping at sand flies, or a good application of DEET. The sand flies aren't a problem when hiking, but they love to hang around the huts!
After a long day hiking, we enjoyed sitting indoors, looking out at the view while reading and writing (thanks to my husband, Dave, for the photo of me, our son, and our sister-in-law [hiding under a hood]).

The hut sat in one of the few large clearings we saw on the hike, and we appreciated the views of the peaks that offered us.

We didn't hike long the next morning before finding the hidden falls that gave the hut their name. The creek makes a 90-degree turn at the bottom of the falls, and it took a bit of prying to get a view!
The author, enjoying the cool mist from the falls.
There were no creeks to ford on this tramp, but not every bridge gave the fullest sense of confidence. It seemed stable, but the angled support, not to mention the rocks on top of it, made me think the thing had seen some fierce high water.

By mid-day on the last day, I was looking at the end of the trail. Nice to see the cars and cross one last bridge to get to a clean shirt and some potato chips!
Swing bridges are a super-common thing around New Zealand. I have yet to encounter the minimalist version found on some less-developed tracks, the 3-wire bridge, which is just what it sounds like.
*About the birds of New Zealand. New Zealand birds evolved with no land-based predators--no land-based mammals, in fact. As a result, many are flightless, and nest on the ground, or in holes in trees. Unfortunately, when humans came, first the Maori brought rats, then the Europeans brought more rats, then rabbits, possums and various deer-like critters in order to have things to hunt. When the rabbits got out of control (duh!), against all advice, stoats, ferrets and weasels were imported. As a result, in the last hundred years many endemic species have gone extinct, and many more are endangered. The forests that were deafening to Captain Cook are nearly silent. Even the difference between our 1996 visit and now is noticeable.

The good news is that a nation-wide campaign to eradicate the predators is underway, and in some areas, including the Hollyford Valley, the progress is audible. Extensive trapping has reduced the number of predators enough to allow fantails, riflemen, tuis, and bell birds to come back to the the forests, though other, rarer birds are confined to certain off-shore islands that have no predators.We are grateful to those--including Air New Zealand--who come up with the funds and put in the hard work to make this happen.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Cozy Mystery Review: Murder Between the Pages

Time for another review with Great Escapes Tours!

Murder Between the Pages (The Nina Foster Mystery Series)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
The Wild Rose Press, Inc. (Crimson Rose) (December 19, 2018)
Paperback: 264 pages
ISBN-10: 1509223673
ISBN-13: 978-1509223671
Digital Print Length: 190 pages

Publisher's Blurb:
It’s a sad day for librarian Nina Foster when she discovers her good friend, bookstore owner Wildeen Bergman, dead on her office floor. Worse yet, another friend, romance writer Zelma Duke, becomes the police’s prime suspect. Nina knows Wildeen had something on Zelma. Was it enough to warrant murder? Handsome Stephen Kraslow, owner of the local newspaper, joins forces with Nina to find out the truth. The quest takes them on a dangerous journey of twists and turns before they reach the final outcome.

My Review: 
This was a quick, fun beach read, perfect for my southern-hemisphere summer holiday. It starts off strong, catching the reader’s attention without being over-dramatic, though the line-up of suspects is a little obvious. I can forgive that in a book that makes it easy to zip right through in 2 days!

Nina, the main character, is the head librarian in her fictional town just north of Seattle, WA, and I loved the library details. She seems like a good boss, too, which I can appreciate. In general, the author does a great job of creating a sense of place, and I enjoyed trying to line up her fictional places with the real thing.

I was somewhat less impressed by some of the details of the writing. I felt at times like another edit was needed to make the prose a little smoother, the dialogue a little more real. These issues, however, never rose to the level of preventing me from enjoying the story. At times I thought the romance element was working too easily, and the author forgetting Nina’s issues, but she fixed that complaint within pages of me thinking it!

A few other things I greatly appreciated about the book were that Nina is given a compelling reason to do her sleuthing, and that she doesn’t withhold evidence from the police. She cooperates with the investigating officer as much as she can, and accepts that the flow of information is pretty much one-way. I really appreciate that, as I get twitchy about stories where the sleuth hides things from the cops, something that can get you in real trouble!

My Recommendation: 

While I wouldn’t call this one of the best I’ve read, I will say that it was no chore at all to read it, and I can recommend it for times when you just want an easy read.

About the Author:
Linda Hope Lee has written contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and mysteries. Other pursuits include watercolor painting, photography, collecting children’s books and anything to do with wire-haired fox terriers. She makes her home in the Pacific Northwest.
Author Links
Twitter: @lindahopelee
Purchase Links
Amazon    B&N
There's a give-away, too! Enter the Rafflecopter to win a $10 Amazon gift card. But if you want a copy of the e-book, I have one to give away on my terms. My terms are: leave a comment, and I'll enter you in a random drawing for it unless you say you don't don't it.