Book Review | Songs of the Baka and other discoveries : travels after age sixty-five by Dennis James

songs of the bakaIgnore the subtitle: though the protagonists are over 65, it has little to no bearing on the content of this book, which would appeal to readers of all ages. In Songs of the Baka, James provides instantly immersive tales from his travels (with his photographer wife Barbara Grossman) to diverse, off the beaten path destinations world-wide. James conveys their travel experiences in ten countries*, sharing insightful observations on various topics from transportation to indigenous cultural practices, architecture, art, politics, and beyond.

This is a great book. It is clear and concise, proceeds at a moderate pace and includes captivating color photographs. Chapters are of appropriate lengths with frequent breaks, making this book a quick read. Songs of the Baka would appeal to aspiring travelers, the well-traveled, people with anthropological or cultural interests, and possibly Fulbright applicants. I’ve recommended my local library purchase this title. Check it out from a library near you!

*Countries visited and included in this text: Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Nepal, Cameroon, Cuba, Mali, Iran, Venezuela, Palestine and Ethiopia. 

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

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Book Review | Wrong about Japan : a father’s journey with his son by Peter Carey

wrong about japan peter carey.jpgCarey and his son travel to Japan and meet with various anime and manga experts, artists/writers and publishers. This delightful little book is a quick read, which highlights the essences of Carey’s “interviews” and thoughts. From meeting Mr. Miyazaki and Mr. Tomino, men behind some of Japan’s most popular anime, to a traditional sword maker and a teenage Mr. Donut, Carey has created a book of interest to pop culture fans and the general Japanophile.

I picked up this book to get in the groove for an upcoming trip to Japan. I laughed aloud as I read about dining experiences and appreciated cultural references that may be helpful during my travel. Having seen most of the referenced animes certainly provided me with a background for better understanding and relating to the text, but one does not have to be an anime nerd to get something from this book. This nonfiction is fun and easy to digest. Check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Wrong About Japan, you may be interested in The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life by Andy Raskin (2009)

Mosi-oa-Tunya, Thunder Smoke, Victoria Falls, Zambia

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Explorer David Livingstone is said to have first seen the splendor of Victoria Falls, a massive waterfall at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa from a tree. This tree has since been outfitted with steps and a platform where visitors can climb up for their own view of the falls. Different seasons yield different views, often only the “smoke” (mist) of the falls can be seen.

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The local name for the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya literally translates to Thunder Smoke. The roar of the falls sounds as loud as thunder and the Zambezi River water that ricochets back looks like a giant smoke cloud. Crossing the Knife Edge bridge at the falls, it can be hard to see from one end to the other with all of the water raining and re-raining back down when water is in high season, February-June.

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The drive from Zambia’s capital Lusaka to Livingstone is about 6-7 hours. This takes you nearly 500km along the T1 two lane highway, which is paved. Speed bumps and potholes are the biggest dangers as you pass through multiple small roadside towns and villages. There are also a few larger cities on the way, Kafue, Mazabuka, Choma, and several random police checkpoints with radar to make sure drivers aren’t flying at twice the posted limit.

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Whether you’re hunting for rainbows or monkeys, you’re likely to find them at Mosi-oa-Tunya. A short hike down to the boiling pot yields a picturesque view of the bridge to Zimbabwe, wildlife and jungle-like green plants thriving in from the mist of the falls. If you forget to bring your raincoat, you can rent a poncho or crocs before exploring because with high waters, you’re sure to get wet.

Book Review | Malafemmena by Louisa Ermelino

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Malafemmena is a collection of Ermelino’s short stories, some previously published, focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations. The sixteen pieces are of varying lengths and take place at different times, on different continents, over the past few decades. From women crossing borders abroad, to drug fueled relaxeés on permanent holiday, to the delusional and victimized, Ermelino has incorporated tales for all depraved readers to relate to.

Ermelino’s distinctive writing style is both easy to read and picturesque. The reader will be able to envision two naked women described sharing a bed in a rented room in India and other scenes. Tastefully written, some of these stories are particularly thought provoking. Though sex, drugs and violence are incorporated into the stories, none of them are overdone. Some of the character’s delusions are quite impressive, and some of the stories are much better than others. This book is a quick read, great for commute or travel. Check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | 100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario by Chris Earley and Tracy C. Read

img_0335For those interested in exploring nature, be it conservation areas for flora and fauna, hiking, camping, biking, canoeing or cross county skiing, this book offers a wealth of information about places worth visiting in Ontario. Divided into geographical sections, Earley and Read give a brief history of the hot spots and their highlights. Photographs from each place are included along with general spot information about dates open and applicable activities. As the book says, it will appeal to “birders, botanists, wildlife lovers, rock hounds and naturalists”.

100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario serves as a great introduction for parties interested in visiting wild Ontario. From seeing the Northern Lights to exploring caves or finding rare species, the authors spell out where to go and when. It would work well as a starting point for trip planning purposes or for Ontarians interested in better exploring their own province. The included photographs are very helpful to get an idea of what one might see in the named hot spot, but in some places photo quality is a bit lacking on enlargements. The book offers a wealth of information, and would be best digested in small chunks or as reference material, though it is very clearly written for all audiences. Helpful area maps are included, but the whole of Ontario with all hot spots is not. Check it out from a library near youI received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Pictorials | Lucknow, India – market month photo 31

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Amrood Walla / Guava Man at Aminabad bazaar. 2015. Lucknow, India.

Pictorials | Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador – market month photo 30

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Tub of berries and Imperfect corn. 2015. Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador.