An impressive coffee-table book brimming with a couple’s beautiful photographs of exotic wildlife.
The Lynns, a husband-and-wife team, have traveled the world indulging their loves of wildlife, adventure, and photography. Although they began taking pictures some decades ago, most of the work in this book, their debut, was done over the last decade, in their retirement. They traveled to all seven continents, sometimes suffering in the bush, uncomplaining. The photography—sometimes spectacular, always enjoyable—is solid work featuring almost every animal imaginable, always in its natural habitat. There are the usual suspects—lions, tigers, bears, elephants, whales, gorillas, as well as lemurs, anteaters, macaws, all sorts of wading and fishing birds, butterflies, and frogs. There’s also the elusive tamandua and the confounding fauna the Lynns found Down Under, including echidnas, which seem straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. (A proficient index serves as a helpful tour guide.) Interesting factoids abound; for instance, did you know hippos kill more people in Africa than any other beast? The casual, engaging text invites readers in, though the title is somewhat misleading, since the commentary is gently humorous but hardly sarcastic:“The common moorhead is a cousin of the purple gallinule. I am not sure how birds even become cousins.”Production values are impressively high: the hardback book is printed on heavy stock, and the colorful photographs burst with detail. The Lynns prove to be wonderful guides, primarily because every page so clearly shares their enthusiasm. Readers might start plotting their own picture-taking adventures. You’ll need more than an iPhone, though.
Zoological eye candy captured with a keen eye and adventurous spirit.
In this first volume of a planned trilogy, a Southern businesswoman puts her ships to use as privateer blockade runners in the early days of the American Civil War.
In early 1861, Joanna Davis runs Davis & Grey, a successful trading company in Richmond, Virginia. Her main partner is her younger cousin, Trent Grey, but they’ve lately taken on an additional, limited partner, Robert Hamilton—a black Bahamian who was educated in England and has experience as a merchant-ship captain. Though she’s no abolitionist, Davis is a no-nonsense capitalist who “disliked economic inefficiency more than she disliked black people.” Trent, meanwhile, is anti-slavery but pro–states’ rights. In April, when rebels shell Fort Sumter, it’s clear that war is imminent, but the South has no navy. The Confederate government says that it will issue letters of marque for privateers to attack Yankee shipping. Trent convinces Davis to convert one of their two paddle-wheelers into a privateer—not for glory but for profit. Trent has spent time at sea, but he still has much to learn. His first effort is lucky, and he bags a prize; his second is less fortunate, as he loses his ship and his crew—and nearly his life. After he recovers from his injuries, he tries again, this time under Hamilton’s tutelage. His success on this voyage sets the stage for an expansion of their efforts, and for the next volume in the series. Debut author Wonnell has produced a wonderfully compelling story about a seldom-seen aspect of the Civil War: its naval battles. His research is impeccable and his characters, distinct and well-drawn. The scenes are marvels of historical detail (“These, he deduced, were smaller-gauge weapons, perhaps portable field artillery pieces of the kind they called Napoleons”) and period-true dialogue.But this is not a run-of-the-mill Civil War yarn; as the South creates a navy out of nothing, the effort is saturated with intrigue. Hidden motives and political machinations surface and submerge as various characters jostle for position. This is historical fiction at its best—a first-rate tale that wonderfully captures an era and its people.
A superb historical novel that’s not just for Civil War buffs.
This lovely book shows children how different cultures and times have depicted simple concepts—rain, cat, chair, etc.—in works of art.
The idea behind this book is simple but powerful: take several dozen basic images, mostly but not entirely of animals, and illustrate each with five or six artworks, one per page, from a wide range of cultures. For example, “hare” is illustrated with full-colorexamples from Dürer, an ancient Grecian pottery vase, an ancient Islamic bestiary, a Japanese woodblock print, a medieval Italian watercolor, and an Iranian pottery tile. Next to each photograph is a one-word caption in English, German, French, Spanish, and Chinese, giving children a chance to learn some foreign vocabulary. The final section—simply titled “?”—shows uncaptioned works featuring the same basic images, giving readers a chance to make their own connections. Hovaguimian (Henry’s Dragon Dream, 2013, etc.) explains that the book is primarily meant to be read by an adult and child together, but adults will also enjoy solo gazing at these evocative pages. The well-chosen artworks are thoughtfully arranged for similarity in scale and composition, which allows viewers to compare and contrast more fruitfully. Techniques and materials shown include fabric appliqué, ceramic, wood, tile, and oil, watercolor, and ink paint. (Captions give full provenance, and the images have been used with permission.) The works depicted reveal culture in thought-provoking ways: “house,” for instance, can mean a sturdy brick edifice, a teepee, or a beehivelike hut. Fodder for discussion lies in comparing artistic styles and effects—the haughty Chinese camel has little in common with the Henry Moore–ish camel, also Chinese. The book goes well beyond nice pictures of museum pieces; its juxtapositions create an unexpectedly magical effect. Under “cow,” it’s captivating to see the same gracefully upswept horns meeting each other across the millennia: on one page, a painted American buffalo-hide shield from 1850; on the other, an African wall painting circa 2,500 B.C.E. The artists’ fellowship of vision across time and place is simple, striking, and surprisingly moving.
Delightful, magical, and beautiful—should be a classic.
An investigator uncovers a conspiracy to launch a viral attack in Claburn’s (Reflecting Fires, 2001) sci-fi thriller.
In 2050, Capt. Luis Cisco brings in “data speculator” Sam Crane to investigate the murder of scientist Dr. Xian Mako. Sam takes Mako’s peculiar rose-colored glasses to his friend Jacob to find out how much they might be worth. The case quickly becomes personal when Jacob is found dead and the glasses go missing. Sam looks further into Mako’s purchase of the specs and, because the scientist was poisoned with tetrodotoxin, he pays a visit to a restaurant that serves fugu. It seems, however, that some people don’t want the murder solved: Luis warns Sam off the case, and a mysterious, “sharply dressed man” follows Sam around. Before long, the feds are accusing the investigator of ties to terrorists. Meanwhile, a biological attack that causes blindness prompts another investigation. The novel is a chic fusion of the sci-fi and detective genres. For example, Sam is roughed up by FBI agents who forcibly hook him up to a device to read his mind; he also converses, via helmet mic, with a network agent who has Marilyn Monroe’s voice. Sam is a solid protagonist who’s always ready to employ a snappy line or his fists when the situation calls for it. But he’s also sympathetic: he’s unquestionably upset over Jacob’s death, for example, and regularly sees his comatose 5-year-old daughter, Fiona, who needs constant medical care. The story piles on the mysteries; at one point, for example, the affluent Harris Cayman, whom Sam has never met, bumps Fiona to the top of the list for a drug trial. Claburn also injects a notable satirical theme involving advertising—the network agent endlessly pitches products, depending on what Sam’s doing, and even ominously suggests life insurance. (Sam can only temporarily silence Marilyn by paying.) The narrative is self-contained, ultimately answering every question it raises, but it leaves the door open just a crack for a potential sequel.
An invigorating sci-fi mystery that’s so plugged in it may leave readers’ brains buzzing.