Pretty-Shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows by Frank B. Linderman

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I love reading about American Indian history, particularly historical fiction or memoir told by or about women. I’m surprised that I have not come across this book earlier.

The story is basically a series of interviews that the author had with Pretty-shield. He even tells you right there in the book and he goes on to describe each interview in detail to recount what she has told him. This is not a biography, but rather an outsider-lead memoir. During each interview Frank prompts a topic or Pretty-shield comes in with a story she remembered and wants to share with him. You get the feel for the reservation school house they are using and snippets about life for Pretty-shield at the reservation. However, the bulk of the information comes from the various stories Pretty-shield conveys to Frank through sign talk and an interpreter. The topics vary greatly and don’t follow any particular order. You learn about women’s jobs in the Crow nation, various ceremonies, cultural fears and beliefs, daily routines, buffalo hunts, marriage ceremonies, the importance of war between the tribes, mourning, family relationships, traditions, and even about the the Crows joining with General Custer and fighting with him at the Little Bighorn. There is a wealth of information in this relatively short book, conveyed by a very enthusiastic and likable woman. I wasn’t a big fan of the interview format or the disjointed story telling, but you did learn a lot. I think if he would have taken her stories and put them in chronological order it would have been a little better. However, he was staying true to his craft and intended to portray his information and source in the most authentic way possible.  You really got a feeling for the type of woman Pretty-shield was and got a strong sense of her personality and sense of humor. She is a fascinating woman and really brings to life the Crow nation and its lost lifestyle. I’m surprised there aren’t any historical fiction books based around her life and stories.

If you are at all interested in American Indian history, way of life, or an interesting woman, I would highly recommend this book for you. Like I said, you have to expect to read it as an interview and not really a story. She tells different tales within each chapter and varies between present day and when she was younger. You learn a mass amount of information about the Crows and their lifestyle and get a deeper understanding of their culture and belief system. I can’t say I’ll probably read it again, but I am definitely glad I read it now.

My rating:

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The Lost Girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner

Lost Girls Book Cover

This book follows the around-the-world (ATW) trip of the three authors. The women were friends living in New York that greatly enjoyed traveling. On one backpacking trip in Argentina, the talked about how much they wanted to take a year off and back pack around the world. When they got back to the city, all their lives began to show signs of strain and the need for drastic change – changing jobs, boyfriend issues, not performing well at work. So they follow through on their plan and book their trip. They travel through Peru, Brasil, Kenya, India, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. Throughout their trip they hike the Inca trail, volunteer, train to be yogis, bungee jump, and surf, just to name a few activities.

The book is a series of remembrances (I don’t really want to say journal entries because they aren’t) of the different places they visit. Each chapter is written by a different woman, sometimes in the same place as the previous chapter or in a different one. Each chapter focuses on the experiences the girls had and the emotional journey each went through on the trip. They talk about funny accidents, depressed spirits, cultural awakenings, fighting among themselves, and the influence each place had on them. Through it all you connect with the women on a personal level. It’s a little hard to tell the difference between them at first as you read, but as you move through the book, you are able to tell who’s writing the chapter based on the emotions, fears, loves, and desires of the writer. You learn bits about each country they travel to, but the bulk of the story focuses on how their experiences changed, influenced, or validated themselves and their feelings in some way.

For a travel novel, I would have liked to learn more about the countries they visited. They move through countries quite quickly, but spending at least a week in a country would give you plenty to discuss about the culture. They, unfortunately, only give bits and pieces that link to the story they are telling. Some of the emotional issues they were working through got a little old to hear about after a while because it was the same issue over and over. For the most part, however, they kept the drama and over-use of emotion to a minimum. There was a lot of emotional discovery and decision making that women in their twenties are going to have an easy time relating to. Also, the variety in personalities makes it easy to connect with at least one of the women. For me, I was able to connect with Holly the best.

You learn quite a bit about working as a writer in New York, as well as living in New York from the book. You learn about the emotional struggles women face. You learn interesting tidbits about backpacking, hostels, and traveling for an extended period of time. You pick up small things about the different countries they visit. You discover the kindness of strangers and joy in embracing differences.

For a travel memoir, it was really good. For a book about culture and traveling, eh, I know there are better books. For a book about women, it’s very good without being filled with drama, drama, drama. I can say that I enjoyed reading it, but will probably not read it again. I would recommend though to anyone looking for a light book on travel or an interesting book for a change of pace. Also, anyone interested in travel or culture would most likely enjoy it. Probably, not a great read for a guy though, they’d most likely find it boring.

My rating:

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Caged Bird B.C.

I’m pretty sure this is the first book I’ve read by a Black author. I decided I wanted to read something in honor of Black History Month and asked the library to recommend some authors to read. When Maya Angelou came up, I remembered I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was on my TBR list and decided that would be the one I was reading.

I cannot say I was blown away by the book, but I found it to be a very interesting cultural study. Having grown up after desegregation and the civil rights movement, a lot of the information and events in the book weren’t surprising. However, it was still fascinating and moving to see the world through the eyes of a young black girl.

I thought the most powerful part was her graduation from eighth grade. She discussed how the speaker was talking about the white school getting new microscopes and such but the black school was going to get a paved field. She explained that to a black girl she felt he was telling they could only have athletes as heroes, they could only hope to work in the trades but that was all – there was no hope for them to get into any other field. I found that very interesting. I had never seen words from that point of view before.

I thought the book was going to be more emotional for some reason. There was quite a bit of emotion and there were several heart-rending events, but it always felt somewhat detached. I’m not quite sure why. I almost wanted to get further in her head and see more of her thoughts than was in the book. It did give me insight into African American traditions (not sure that’s quite the right word…maybe habits?) and mindset. It was also a glimpse into a different era in a way you don’t often get to see (a child’s view as opposed to an adult view).

For anyone interested in a cultural study or African American history, this is a great read. For someone looking for an interesting book or memoir, this is also a good read. As for someone looking just for a book to read, I’d have to say you need to either be interested in memoirs, history, or culture in order to fully enjoy it.

My rating:

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Nurse, Come You Here! by Mary J. MacLeod

I found this book in the Kindle store on sale a few months ago. I hadn’t really read anything from Scotland, but I really like books based in Ireland so I thought I’d give it a shot. Also, I thought the idea of reading the memories of a country nurse would be interesting as I live in the country.

I was not disappointed by the book. It was in turns hilarious, heartbreakingly sad, full of life, and honoring death. The characters were very real, the landscape and weather had a life and spirit of their own. You actually could picture yourself in the places she describes with the people she talks about. This is one of the rare books that actually made me weep. It is a powerful book that teaches you all about life on an older Scottish isle.

The core of the book takes place on Papavray Island off the Scottish coast in the late 70s. It is actually the second book by MacLeod. The first book covers Mary, her husband, and their two sons moving to the island and Mary taking up the job as the county nurse for the island. In this book, she is settled into her position and you hear the love she has for her patients through the stories she tells of her visits and exploits with them. Her love for the people and animals shines through the whole book. Her different struggles and entertainments she takes in stride and you get a true feel for her personality. Cows in the kitchen, missing children, the local vegetable cart, and broken down cars are only a couple things described and talked about in living, breathing color.

Her writing is elegant and full of rarely used words (in my opinion) and several Scottish terms. I loved reading it because of her writing and the vocabulary she used. You could also hear the Scottish brogue as she wrote by the why she phrased and spelled different words. I think it would be a fabulous book to listen to if you could get a Scottish voice actor.

The only part I was disappointed by (SPOILER ALERT!) was when the family moved to the states at the very end of the book for her husband’s job. However, you still find her love for her family in those pages as well. As it is a memoir, of course there is not a settled ending as I would have made it.

I would recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about Scotland or Ireland. Also, anyone who enjoys a good memoir or even lovers of fiction. It is not a fictional story, but it keeps you entertained just as a fictional book would. It is an enjoyable read that gives you a new outlook on life and a greater appreciation for nurses.

My rating:

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Seriously Mum, Where’s that Donkey? by Alan Parks

 

I don’t know why, but I did not like this book as much as the first book of his. Mostly, it was a telling of the events of the next few years of the Parks living in Spain and raising their alpacas. You actually don’t hear a whole lot about the alpacas, they are only the focus of about two or three chapters in the book. However, life is not dull at the Olive Mill. Spanish bingo, camera crews, travelers, stray dogs, and numerous animals fill the pages here. The tightness of their finances is a prevalent theme throughout, describing their various endeavors to earn more money. Lorna goes back to teaching dance, they rent out rooms to travelers, and think of different ways to save money.

You do meet a lot of new characters. I liked learning about the different people because you got to see a variety of cultural differences and personality types. Meeting neighbors, a new alpaca breeder, and various random encounters lead to new friendships and events. They try out Spanish lessons (they don’t go well) and learn where to take the stray dogs that turn up all the time. Lorna gains a following of local women as the local Zumba instructor. They join with other alpaca breeders to show animals in the local farm shows. They attend more of the local festivals than they have done in previous years and provide descriptions.

I’m not entirely sure why, but this book just had more of a serious feel to it. The events and things that took place didn’t get the humorous light they did in the first book. Also, there were more sad events and hard times than in the first book. His writing style was the same and I liked the candid way he describes everything, however, I don’t think I will be reading this book again though.

My rating:

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Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? by Alan Parks

 

I found this book for free through the Kindle store one day and it sounded amusing. I am really glad I picked it up. It is a refreshing story of a couple in their mid-years, maybe 40s or 50s, I’m not really sure, giving up their current life and relocating somewhere else to pursue a dream.

Alan and Lorna Park lived in England, but when Lorna began to experience health issues and could not continue work as a dance teacher, Alan suggested they pack up, move to Spain, and raise alpacas. They had fallen in love with the alpacas at the local park and felt they would be happy living in the country raising and breeding the animals, and there was a good bit of money to be had in the business as well. They went for it – and here is there story. It is full of hilarious humor and terrible heartache as you listen to Alan describe the first five years in their endeavor. The animals make guest appearances with little written notes at the end of a few chapters. You meet the interesting individuals they meet as they search for a home, learn about alpacas from another breeder, and meet their new neighbors. The antics and events are completely real and believable. It doesn’t feel forced or exaggerated. You feel for Lorna and Alan and the animals at their farm. You can sympathize and laugh at their predicaments, celebrations, and random happenings. I was very much amused by the animal count at the beginning of the different chapters. Through Alan you could feel their passion and love for all the animals and why they chose to do what they did. You learn a lot about country living, solar power, Spanish farmers, Spain, and particularly alpacas. The writing is smooth and it is an easy read. Since the couple is British, the references to distances, heights, and weights use the metric system, which is a little difficult for American readers. Some of their lingo is a little different too, but it’s fairly easy to understand.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is a great story about taking that leap of faith and pursuing a dream. It will definitely not go as planned. It will not be pretty or easy. There will be things you hadn’t even thought of which will make you rethink your decision. But at the end of the day, you stay. Why? Because you are finally happy.

My rating:

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