Redwings Round the World
Redwings Reviews --- Books We Loved and Those We Tossed Over
NOTE: THIS PAGE DISCONTINUED AFTER THE INDIAN OCEAN DUE TO EXTREME LAZINESS
to the literary reviews of the Redwings crew.
Our library is small, and half its content is of a
nautical nature. But, with few other forms of
entertainment available, we are demanding readers, greedy
consumers of the written word, and confident when it
comes to our likes and dislikes.
This Review is completely opinionated in nature and may not be based on fact or the reality the author tried to present in the book. If you want to learn about the content of a book, get yourself to the local library. If you want to find out what we thought of a book, keep reading.
We, of course, welcome comments on our comments.
The rating system is as follows: 1) Yup, It's a Keeper. (a book so absolutely gripping that a crew member forgets to sleep before going on night watch and then later, in a state of fatigue, stays up to argue the merits of the book) 2) Don't Bug Me, I'm Reading (a book interesting enough that food or shower isn't a distraction. 3) Hmmm, Kit Kat? (a book that is okay and probably worth reading, but not so good that the reader wouldn't trade it away for the right snack. 4). ZZZZREADZZZZREAD (you get the idea, a bit of a snoozer, but not deadly. 5)Heave-Ho (toss it over the side and watch it get soggy and then sink.)
P.S. There may be an occasional movie thrown in, depending on what's playing when we get to port.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Reviewer: Laura.Gave it a 2 largely because it was pretty entertaining and it kept me sucked in. On the other hand, with only 20 pages left I had to put it down for two weeks while I went travelling. For the first few days, I kept wondering what happened at the end. But then I decided that I could pretty well guess and then I didn't think about it anymore. When I got back to the boat, it was actually another two weeks before I bothered to pick up Wicked and read the end. While I loved the premise of the story and first part in which the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda are growing up, I felt the ending was contrived to steer the story to meet the beginning of the Wizard of Oz.
Reviewer: Sybil. Only a 4. I resent the treatment of animals in this book. No central (or fringe!) cat roles made for boring reading. Chase scenes could not hold the excitement I thrive on from a good novel. Too much dialogue. Poor character development.
Reviewer: Colleen. A 3 from me. I'm afraid my expectations were way too high following the hype I heard about Wicked - ultimately I was left disappointed. The first quarter shows lots of promise; Maguire weaves a wonderful fantasyland, up in the reaches of the greats. However, the pace is not held up consistently throughout the novel. Colloquialisms, while somewhat appreciated, are probably taken too far. Typecasting of characters is an issue as well. Perhaps my largest gripe is merely a personal peeve - I hate reading novels where you know the protagonists are doomed from the beginning....
Reviewer: Kerry. Definitely a 1 from me. I think Laura and Colleen aren't giving enough credit to the author for creating such a magical book. The book could stand on its own, separate from the Wizard of Oz - though the connections are interesting and even captivating if you are a Wizard of Oz fan. The story unravels many themes from the nature of good and evil (a little similar to JRR Tolkien) to loyalties and friendships to capitalism and industrialization. It can be read simultaneously for the pleasure provided by the fantasy as well as the deeper meanings filling most of the pages.
Reviewer: Aaron. What started out as a one for me ended as a two. The idea is great - one of the cleverest themes I have run into in a long time. The satire is great. But the book loses itself towards the end and the climatic twist in the final pages does not really link well to the rest of the novel.
Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
Reviewer: Laura. This I gave a 2. The book I valued it for both the personal story and the window into modern Chinese history it provided. Parts of it are very moving and sections are outrageous. I found myself tempted to give it a 1, but then I realized that temptation was more out of respect for what the author has survived rather than for the book itself. I found myself moving with the author much of the time, through her torments during imprisonment and through the pain and frustration of losing her daughter. At other times, I felt I was being led through a story without being given time to feel and understand what may have been deserved. The writing didn't always demand it of me. Sometimes I found the approach to life a bit pious for my tastes as well. I think the author has much about which to be righteous, but at times the book was a bit...too-too.
Reviewer: Colleen. A 2 from me. Laura summarizes the experience perfectly.
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
Reviewer: Laura. This baby gets a 3. I chose it from a shelf of slim pickings in Asia Books in Bangkok because it had gotten a positive review by Michael Dorris in the LA Times. This one started off sloooow and I might have dropped it had I not been spending a lot of time on buses. In the end I was quite glad I stuck it out because Trudi the dwarf came into her own. And the author focused on Trudi, and stopped giving intricate details of every character who ever walked through her home town. The book was also successful in giving a sympathetic, indeed almost pitiful, view of a small German town during World War II without being sympathetic to Naziism. A patient person who reads enough to be able to appreciate a book that isn't entirely on all the time might really like this one. I think I'd recommend it to my sister Annie.
Reviewer: Kerry. I would give this book a 2 as it is successful in drawing you into Trudy's life and, as a result, enables you to empathize with her personal pains growing up as someone who is different and an outsider, even in her small, supportive community. The slow development of her character also sets up with perfect clarity an understanding of how natural it was for her to become part of the resistance and hold together as best she could many of her friends lives and save those of others.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess
Reviewer: Sybil. MMMRROW! Give it a 1. This is one of the best books I have ever read. The illustrations! The rhyme! The reason! The alliteration! I think I'm in love! This knocks the sox (hey isn't that Bill Clinton's cat?) off Old Yeller, which I had to suffer through during group reading at the pound. Truly, my own life is a bit more adventurous than that lanky cat's, but hats off to this Dr. Suess fellow for finally writing a fine feline fable. (Anyone seen mousy?).
Reviewer: Kerry. I have to give it a 3. Complex characters and a confusing plot make it difficult to follow. However, nice pictures of the cat and the fish.
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Suess
Reviewer: Sybil. A feast for the soul! I give it a one plus! Suess has managed the unthinkable, he has outdone the masterpiece of The Cat in the Hat. Finally an author that can touch the heart of the feline experience. Hats off to Seuss again!
Love, Enter by Paul Kafka
Reviewer: Kerry. Overall, this book rates at about a 3. The story unfolds as a young medical intern decides to write to his three, long-lost friends from a year spent in France after college while taking breaks on rounds. Only worth reading if you are a medical student and are interested in the author's frequent musings on the endeavor, or really miss college, and want to read about another group of friend's antics which may have been slightly crazier than your own (or the third draw, if you are a Yale alum and want to read mention of the school as often as possible). The author is a distant relative of Franz Kafka, and uses that to sell interest in the book - though the connection doesn't merit a reading of the book.
Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane
Reviewer: Kerry. Another 1. Told by the third oldest son in a family of nine from 1945-1971, the lives of the the main characters are explored and their secrets revealed through many small and innocent events. There are many colorful characters interwoven throughout the chapters, who play larger roles as the plot develops. Beautifully written and engaging with many Irish myths and local legends interspersed throughout the book.
Reviewer: Sybil. A 1! However, I remained puzzled by the town evacuation of the rats - and why the Irish used dogs instead of cats. Basil and I were captivated by the description and can only hope to make our own marks in such a meaningful event.
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
Reviewer: Aaron. After we're done reading in the dark (something frequently done on nightwatches) its time to laugh in the dark....
The first paragraph says it all, and gives the reader a taste of Nabokov's brilliance:
Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a young mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.
My first O-N-E #1. Tight, entertaining, tragic, comic, and incredibly well written. Nabokov describes people, places, things and feelings twice as well as most authors and with half the verbage. He does not simply break out the thesaurus and hit us with large and little used words to develop his ideas and or descriptions like many modern writers do in my opinion.
Just a simple example:
At length the guests were caught in that wave which, beginning as low murmur, swells until in a whirl of foamy farewells, it has swept them out of the house.
Simple. Perfect. That's how it is.
This was my first Nabakov but it will not be my last. The writing and its beautiful simplicity reminded me of Hemmingway or Stienbeck, but like other Russian greats such as Dostoevsky, Nabokov is better able to bring the reader inside the heads of his infatuated, fated, cruel, and calculating characters.
Reviewer: Laura. I give Laughter in the Dark a 2. It's a good, tight story. And I loved the end, the torturous next-to-final scene of a blind man desperately listening to find out if someone is with him. As expected from a literary great, the writing was clear and simple, while telling a story with complex emotions. What held me back from delivering a 1 is that I read Lolita and I found the characters and story line in Laughter in the Dark a bit redundant. I mean, once again we have an older man who is swept away by a young girl who is portrayed by Nabakov as a seductress who, despite her age, could not be innocent of luring the man on. Then, she leaves him for another older man and the first man falls apart. Laughter in the Dark could be a condensed Lolita without as much sex.
Reviewer: Kerry. I would give this novel a 1.5. It was so terrible and tragic that it was difficult to read on, wondering what else could possibly befall the main character. The depths of each individual's true nature shows through at the end - and that of his brother-in-law in the final scenes was touching enough to rival the evil nature of his mistress and her lover (mentioned above in Laura's review). The goodness in the abandoned wife and the brother-in-law balance out the evil presented in the other characters - at least lending some redeeming qualities to humanity.
Jack Gance by Ward Just
Reviewer: Kerry. This novel receives a well-deserved 2. Told by Jack Gance, eventual political pollster and politician, he begins with memories of his childhood and his powerful grandfather who maintained a deeply held respect and amount of power in the old boys network in Chicago. He brings you through various stages in his life and his familial and social relationships, all interwoven with politics and his own career and ethics (or struggle to maintain them) which accompany it. A picture of a life that rushes by, in an all-consuming career, and the nostalgia which later is released in an attempt to remember it and make sense of it all.
Reviewer: Laura. Far and away, this is the best book I have read for some time. I give it a 1 and would give it more if the rating scale allowed. Just's economy in writing is an art. Like Fitzgerald manages to do, he makes his point about the fading American dream through the strength of his characters. I love a story that is not over-told.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Reviewer: Laura. Definitely a 1 for this lurid, slightly depressing story of people on twisted missions, the crazy politics and policies of early American involvement in the Vietnam War, and men who can't go home again. Lying beneath it all is that the cover is blown on the innocent image of American youth.
Reviewer: Aaron. One, one, ONE! Pegs perfectly the all too often misdirected "compassion" of America. Great story, great characters, a true classic.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Reviewer: Kerry. Margaret Atwood's latest novel was a great surprise - and is somewhere between a 1 and a 2. Based on the true story of a nineteenth century Canadian murderess, Atwood creates a wonderful play between fiction and non-fiction while the tale is told between Grace, accused murderess, and the fledgling Dr. Jordan. The suspense and interest builds throughout the psychological journey into Grace's life as well throughout the implications of power and emotional intensity developed through master/servant, doctor/client relationships. My favorite Margaret Atwood book by far.
Reviewer: Laura. I give this novel a 1. I imagine that Atwood had a wonderful time developing a life for Grace Marks based on her research of the infamous woman. I liked too that Atwood was not tempted to try to resolve concretely the murders. The peek into the insane asylums of the past and the look at the development of theories concerning split personality was also interesting.
Incidents on the Rue Laugier by Anita Baker
Reviewer: Laura. Gets a high 3 for a sad story about people who cut their losses in love only to really lose through this settlement.
Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
Reviewer: Kerry. Unfortunately, a 4-. I resist the 5 rating only because I did really like two of her other books, The Glass Lake and Circle of Friends, but this is really not a good book. A couple clever plot twists, but not enough to make a book of almost 800 pages. The ending was too fast for the events which happened within about 5 pages - and not worth even reaching. We came by the book from another boat who was nice enough to share provisions they no longer needed, and then they gave us a number of books which I didn't think we would read, but felt too badly turning down. I kept this one out of fondness for the author's other works, and the others now live at the Boat Lagoon library. If you are interested in lengthy romances, you can now find plenty there.
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
Reviewer: Laura. This one gets a strong two for the pleasant, surprise of a sadly told tale in a style that seemed to flow from another era. I was so sure that the protagonist would be a success and that even if he did suffer the tragedy that might befall him (I won't say what it is and give it away) his life might go on okay. I was still struggling to see exactly why he fell in love anyway. So I was pained when I reached the sudden end of the novel and too many people were dead. See, there were two completely separate stories in the same book, but I hadn't realized this and though the first one would just keep going. It was a bit of a shock. I mean, when reading the most obvious indicator that the author will wrap things up somehow is that there are only two pages left. I thought I had 100 or so to go and it ended and went on to a story called The Book Shop, which I give a respectable 3.
Reviewer: Kerry. The first of the two stories in this book I thought was extremely bizarre - I liked it very much, though couldn't understand some of it either as Laura mentions above. I preferred the second story - though it was pretty sad as well. Told through the perspective of an older woman who decides to open a bookstore but is later driven out of business by a woman who leads a strong, socialite power in town, it is an interesting tale of small town life with social and political pressures which can be found in any type of town, city or country. My favorite character, Edmund Brundish, who befriends the main character, Florence Green, unfortunately has an untimely and tragic death, somewhat at the hands of Florence's unscrupulous opponent, Violet Gamart which exposes her true character at the end. Overall, I think both stories are unique and deserve a 2.
The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt
Reviewer: Laura. Give this a 2 for being a captivating, quick moving story about love and honesty and how deceit and fear can destroy lives and make people miserable. The author managed to somehow make the painful process of two men, a father and son, each coming to terms with their sexuality not depressing by the close of the book. An excellent read, as they say. (Don't ask me who "they" are).
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
Reviewer: Laura. This utter piece of trash gets a 5. It was worse than the Bridges of Madison County. The romance was ridiculous. The plot as obviously constructed. You can see from 300 pages away that the hero has to die in order to remain a hero and for the other characters to go on with their lives in order (and getting their lives in order is the mission of the book). Yes, it is so awful that I don't feel bad about giving the end away.
Boat People by James Eckard
Reviewer: Aaron. From the man who brought us Waylaid by the Bimbos and Running with the Sharks, Boat People marks Eckard's first attempt to "get serious". I say "brought us" in the loosest of terms - only about 500 people have probably read Eckard, most of whom are his fellow ex-pat friends from Thailand - which includes us! Boat People gives an account of Vietnamese refugees fleeing Southern Vietnam for the refugee camps in Songklah Province, Thailand. Relative to the other books I have read recently, this was the best page turner. However, it is more an amalgamation of "fictionalized" real life experiences of the author and often the main story line is lost. Characters are beautifully developed, and then dumped for no apparent reason. Overall, I give it a three.
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Reviewer: Aaron. What started out as a solid four ended up as a three on average. Still, a disappointment from the man who brought us Garp and Owen Meany - two of my favorite books of all time. If not for the fact that the story is based in Maine, and as I have so much respect for Irving as an author and former schoolboy wrestler, I would have dumped this one over after about 50 pages. It takes a while to figure out where the story is going or who the main character actually is. The first 200 pages or so are more like a Mitchener historical fiction account of early 20th century obstetrical practice. Irving has obviously done a lot of research on the medical and social aspects of abortion during this time period and feels he must get it down on paper. Even though it is interesting, the anecdotes and detail sort of tromp over the thread of the novel losing the reader who is not obsessed with the subject. Ultimately the abortion issue is well addressed and as the novel turns more towards the characters themselves and the story in the last 200 pages, Irving partially redeems himself.
Basil devoured Cider House Rules - literally!!!
Moo by Jane Smiley
Reviewer: Kerry. This was a really entertaining, funny book about the life of a mid-western university and the lives of those running and attending the institution. Smiley begins with many chapters devoted to descriptions of each of the individuals who play into the many different levels of university life under a microscope. Students, faculty, staff, large corporate donors, and the town locals all play a part in the predicament the university finds itself in during the 1990's; under close scrutiny from the adverbial state government and resulting budget cuts which serve to unravel the intricate connections between all of the parties mentioned above. I would give this book about a 2.25.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormic McCarthy
Reviewer: Aaron. A solid two, but certainly not National Book Award stuff (which it received - this ain't no Shipping News). In my opinion, the book is simply an entertaining Western. Nothing new here. The characters are unrealistically tough, lots of horse riding and fighting, there is a girl and unrequited love, the hero rides sadly off into the sunset alone.
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Reviewer : Colleen. Hey a 1! A must read for any fan of historical novels. Who would think the lives of old first families could be so salacious? Live in lesbian lover of Eleanor in the White house? Fascinating window into the life and times of FDR and cronies. Goodwin interweaves the complexities of personal relationships and their impact on public policy with a sensitive eye. A backroom view of the decision making process during a very extraordinary time in history. Her research appears thorough, and for the most part unbiased. If the history texts were written this well, we all would have chosen history majors.
Reviewer: Sybil. Only a 2. Great novel, but Roosevelt should have had a cat, not a dog. For this fatal error in history, a tribute to his times can only receive a 2, no matter how good the book is.
Reviewer: Kerry. I am with Colleen, sorry Sybil, and give this book a 1. A good introduction to learning more about FDR and his time - incites a desire to learn more and to continue reading more historical non-fiction which is not usually my first choice in books. It provides an interesting backdrop to the current political battles wherein one's personal life tends to be what people vote or don't vote for - and demonstrates how little it actually matters based on FDR's living situation alone (with many additional permanent guests at the White House) which enabled him to get by day to day, but would never survive under today's level of scrutiny. A great deal of information is also provided in the way of Eleanor's work and accomplishments, of which I had previously known little.
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
Reviewer: Laura. Okay, I cried. This made me feel very guilty about every professor with whom I have lost touch and I now plan to make a trip to Maine as soon as I get off this boat to visit some of my old favorites (you know who you are!). To continue with my self-focused critique, Morrie also reminded me of an old high school teacher and made me glad I climbed a mountain with him over the summer. Okay, enough about me. I give this book a 2 and say that anyone who is in the mood to feel sentimental, but not gushy, in a quick read should do it. While I forget many books and the characters, I will definitely remember Morrie. Albom was lucky to have such a teacher, or friend I should say. The only thing that was a bit much was the way in which Albom sometimes delivered Morrie's view of life with such punction to close out a chapter. I bet that in real life, Morrie didn't sound nearly as know-it-all-about-life-ish. The way it reads is a bit how Carol and Mike Brady wind up an episode in which the kids learned a lesson well. But, the book is testimony to Albom's flexibility and talent as a writer. .
Reviewer: Kerry. I would agree with Laura's review, however, I would only add that I didn't find any pretension to Morrie's perspectives and Albom's presentation of them. I also have never read another book like this one, and think that it is the type of book you can read over and over ever couple of years. I think it merits a 1 for its unique qualities and its engaging format. A substantial book in a small number of pages.
Reviewer: Aaron. Yes its good, but only averagely so in my view and I give it a 3. It did bring back memories of influential teachers /coaches - of whom at least two I credit with really "changing my life" (for the better), but it certainly did not move me to tears nor really tread on any new ground not covered by the myriad of "Chicken Soup"-type books out there. I believe that Albom was, and is, genuine in his efforts to the best of his ability, but am not convinced that Albom was completely "changed" by his experience - though he certainly did gain some new perspectives on his life and it helped him to reestablish his relationship with his dying brother. It's interesting that he did his Tuesdays with Morrie and wrote the book while he was temporarily, and not by choice, out of work. I would be willing to bet he is back working fanatically as a sports writer while also enjoying the royalty stream from Tuesdays.
Having said all that, one little tidbit that I thought was pretty original and a good way to look at one's life / death (and with a nautical twist) was this excerpt:
"I heard a nice little story the other day" Morrie says. He closes his eyes for a moment and I wait.
"Okay. The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He's enjoying the wind and the fresh air - until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore.
" ' My god, this is terrible', the wave says 'Look what's going to happen to me!'
"Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and says to him, ' why do you look so sad?'
"The first wave says, 'you don't understand! We're all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn't it terrible?'
"The second wave says, 'No, you don't understand. You're not a wave, you're part of the ocean.' "
Dangerous Marine Mammals, Third Edition by Bruce W. Halstead, M.D.
Reviewer: Kerry. Though this is really the type of book one might use as a reference, especially for trying to diagnose any unusual illnesses potentially brought on by a fish bite, a scrape with a certain type of coral, or a sting from a number of different animals, I couldn't stop reading it once I started. I think this is because of the fact I realized we were seeing close to 50% of what I was reading about, and that another 25% would be added on once we reached the Red Sea. I found it really fascinating as well as important reading. There are also lots of pictures and diagrams of the venomous apparatus of the animals which helped get me through a lot of the scientific explanations offered by the author. While you may not be interested in reading this book all the way through at once, I think it is a worthwhile book for anyone to have who will be spending a large amount of time in the water - even as a recreational swimmer in certain parts of the world - and therefore give it a 1.
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
Reviewer: Kerry. I am not certain whether or not this book should be in the fiction category as it reads like a novel, but it is really an account of the author's life growing up in Africa in the early 1900's on her father's horse ranch. It is one of the best adventure books I have ever read, and the fact that she writes so well enhances each passage that much more. The book chronicles different times of her life, up through her record setting flight across the Atlantic in 1936. Beryl Markham had obtained her pilot's license in Africa, and for years ran her own charter business, as well as services for people on safaris. Later, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic alone. Aside from the pure pleasure of her writing, I learned a lot about Africa and a certain era there long gone. The back cover doesn't list various reviews, only a segment of a letter written by Ernest Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins describing the book. He writes to his friend, "Did you read Beryl Markham's book, West With the Night? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories, are absolutely true... I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book." Coincidentally, my friend Jen Miller had recommended and given it to me before leaving home earlier this year, so the essence of suggesting such a well-loved book to friends continues. It probably goes without saying, but I give this book a 1.
Investment Biker by Jim Rogers
Reviewer: Kerry. Though I only began reading this book as I had finished another one during my night watch and I needed something to keep me going (and this was the first book I pulled out of the book shelf in the main cabin), I really enjoyed it for what it was. Jim Rogers, a successful and,from what he writes, extremely well known figure in the world of investment banking, leaves it all behind to travel around the world for two years on his motorcycle. Accompanying him is his companion, Tabitha Estabrook who manages to remain throughout the entire trip despite some experiences which almost sent her back to New York. The book combines their travel experiences around the world, his financial analyses of each country they visit (particularly developing countries as they are all potential places for him to invest), and some historical and political background to many of their destinations. It is an unusual book, and and unusual way to travel - having to figure out how to ship, fly, or sail the motorcycles across certain parts of the world, as well as crossing countries with practically no paved roads - mixed with many amusing anecdotes as well. I rate this book about a 2.75.
History of Modern Times by Paul Johnson
Well Colleen, this is all set and ready for you to fill in when you finish that wretched book!
First You Have to Row a Little Boat, Reflections on Life & Living by Richard Bode
Reviewer: Kerry. I first read this book about four years ago, and found it again right before I was leaving to meet Aaron and Colleen in Hong Kong. Given that the focus of the book is about approaching life through an analogy to sailing, I thought it might be interesting to bring it along and read it again. Bode offers many different perspectives on life and life's events which are presented beginning with his childhood and his desire to learn how to sail. Finally gaining the courage to approach a well-known local sailor and character in his hometown in Long Island, he was at first dismayed at his new friend's suggestion to get in a dinghy and row back and forth across the channel. This was the start of a life-long passion coupled with lessons learned which he later realized he could apply to most everything that happened in his life. A good, light book which encourages new ways of thinking and approaching both good and bad situations. It is difficult to rate this type of book, but given the assignment and the rating system, it falls somewhere between a 2 and a 3.
My Old Man and The Sea by David Hays & Daniel Hays
Reviewer: Kerry. I give this book a 2. An interesting account this father and son team delivers about the building of their boat Sparrow and their passage around "The Horn" (Cape Horn). I enjoyed the way the story is told alternatively between their two voices and can now certainly appreciate all of their efforts and obstacles they encountered along the way. The writing is a little hokey here and there, but otherwise an interesting read, especially for anyone interested in taking a long, open-water passage.
Reviewer: Aaron. I've got to go with a 3. It was fine for what it was, but lets face it its not one of the classics and was pretty average overall. It almost seems like they tried to do something a bit different just so they could get an angle to write a book on. Still, pretty good on the sailing bits and there was a fair amount of tell-it-like-it-is honesty. The length (short) and font size (big) were appropriate as well - at least they did not drone on and on and it was fairly easy to keep moving through the story.
Reviewer: Laura. I give it 3 because it was a bit too lovey-dovey. I also got tired of the son's insecurities and hearing about how he was always such a loser, but now he's not because he sailed around the Horn. I wanted to hear more about the adventure and less about how they were feeeeling about one another. They seemed more like a married couple in for counseling than father and son sometimes. I liked hearing about Tiger (the cat).
Reviewer: Sybil. An ocean-going cat's dream of a book, and nightmare too. A 1. I can sympathize with all of poor Tiger's trials and tribulations while undertaking such a big venture. I can't sleep at night thinking of Tiger's ultimate destiny, and will watch my steps from here on in before I go chasing anymore of those delicious flying fish.
Cruising in Seraffyn, by Lin and Larry Pardey
Reviewer: Aaron. Supposedly one of the classics, but this is a four bordering on a five for me. Lin and Larry are immensely impressed by the fact that they were able to go cruising on a shoestring budget and don't need an engine or any "high-tech" equipment. Thirty years after writing Cruising in Seraffyn, their first book, they still write articles in yachting magazines about how great they are and insinuate how cruising has been ruined by the fact that any old joe can now get a boat and a GPS and sail around the world. Well if they don't want other people to go cruising, why write the books, the royalties from which sustain their cruising existence? Cruising in Seraffyn is pretty la de da and Larry is always doing the right thing on deck while Lin whips up a lobster soufflé down below on their kerosene stove. Our log is much more interesting by far. In my opinion, the best cruising account is Blown Away by Herb Payson closely followed by Tania Abei's Maiden Voyage. (Lorraine from La Scala told me that they were cruising in the Pacific at the same time as the Pardeys and that they [the Paradeys] would call on the VHF at every anchorage to other yachts for a tow in!!!!)
Always a Distant Anchorage, by Hal Roth
Reviewer: Aaron. A solid five. The Roth's have the same view on cruising as the Paradeys (its for people like us and not for people like you) but Hal's writing style is substantially worse than Lin Paradey's making for unbelievably boring reading. They never do anything wrong and are 100% perfect. I glanced in another Roth book, two against Cape Horn, and noticed with glee that they were ship wrecked down there. However, of course they did everything perfectly and most of the chapter dedicated to the shipwreck was spent commenting on how their "crew" (a cameraman who they brought along - they knew he was not a seaman) was a total loser and unable to cope with the situation. Hal, you've got a lot of misplaced anger mate.
You Can't Blow Home Again, by Herb Payson
Reviewer: Aaron. Not Blown Away, but Herb is still my favorite regular cruising fold writer. Lots of good anecdotes and self depreciating humor which we on Redwings can all relate to.
Albatross, Edited by Meg Noonan
Reviewer: Aaron. A two. Albatross is the story of a woman who was one of two (out of five) survivors of the sinking of Trashman, an Alden built Boothbay Challanger (50 or 60 feet) off of Cap Hatteras. I forget the name of the woman who actually "wrote" the book. Anyway, for this type of book, its a reasonably good read and I found it particularly interesting as a lot of it took place in Maine. In addition, it turns out that Paul from Asteroid used to work on the sister ship to Trahsman and after the sinking, he had been asked to skipper the owners new Trashman.
The Perfect Storm, by I Forget
Reviewer: Aaron. A three. The true story of a massive story that wreaked havoc on the North Atlantic sword fish fleet in 1991. I appreciated the details about the New England fishery, but coverage of the storm itself was a bit weak. More true stories (rather than a lot of conjecture of what happened on the one boat that sank) would have been more interesting. Also, I was expecting more technical information and pictures (weather maps etc) of how and why the storm actually developed.
Marine Weather by William P. Crawford
Reviewer: Laura. Cumulous? Cirrus? Stratus? Shoot, it just looks like a cloud to me....Fret no more, this book will clear up cloud confusion. This practical book packed with solid information on weather gets a 1 from me. I read it like I would any book (okay, well, a bit more slowly) because this guy knows his stuff, he writes well and he has a sense of humor that may be as weird as mine. Some of the basics have been review of previous weather information I have studied, but Crawford takes a marine view, which is new to me. It has some great pictures too. My favorite is of lightning striking the ocean. KAPOW! The fog photos are kinda boring.
Isotherm Refrigerator Manual by Sven Svenson
Reviewer: Aaron. Isotherm definitely a 5 and I quote: "....if the battery charger is strong enough, the may be too cold in you refrigerator, because the ISOTHERM all the time then will keep the holding plate fully charged and the freeser cold". One would have though that a refrigeration company would at least know how to spell Freezer correctly...
First Time Crew by David Nicolle
Reviewer: Kerry. Months ago, I gave this book a thorough read, and have since flipped through it about another 2-3 times to check myself on some of the vocabulary offered, as well as different simple explanations provided for various sailing maneuvers. Simply written, and information simply presented, this 100 or so page book provides a good, superficial overview of most facets involved with long-term, ocean voyages. The sections are divided into information about 1)living aboard a boat, 2) how all the rigging, sails, ropes, lines halyards, etc. fit together, and 3)the actual act of sailing and all that is entailed such as tacking, jibing, anchoring, steering, reefing, etc. Most definitely a book for beginners though also a nice, easy reference book to have on board. For either use, I think it deserves a 1, especially as so many of these types of books tend to be boring, dry, and confusing.
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