Tag: "book"

Book Review: Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly

When they invited me to review Cosmos Screen, I agreed because there were a few things I thought would be interesting.

Since this is a travel site, I first flipped to page 115 and the description of a tour through Europe in 1958. Travel by ship was normal then and at least on the Greek Queen Frederica, the parties on the lower levels went all night long (kind of like in the Titanic movie I guess where the richer people on the higher floors go to bed early).

Another interesting note is that people took time to tour 12 countries in six weeks. These days you wonder how many people would make time for a six-week tour. And how much would it cost if they did make the time? Here is one trip’s itinerary:

New York, Barcelona, Genoa by ship. Then Rapallo (day trip to Portofino), Grosseto, Naples (day trip to Capri and the Blue Grotto), Rome, Florence, Bologna, Ferrara, Padua, Venice (day trip to Lido Beach), Trieste.

And then on to Austria: Klagenfurt, Valden, Portachach, Vienna (day trip to Vienna Woods), Salzburg.

Then Germany and Switzerland: Munich, Zurich, Baden-Baden (Germany), Assmannshausen (for a Rhine River cruise to Bonn), Cologne.

And to save me from listing countries, the rest of Western Europe: Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (day trip to North Zealand, Elsinore castle, Danish Riviera), Stockholm, Oslo, Newcastle, London, Paris, Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Gibraltar.

Then back to New York by ship.

While reading about the travel experience is enjoyable, the book seems to be a memoir first and some of the details may not interest everyone – the college boy who wants to dump his girlfriend on tour, the woman who sees the ship doctor for menstrual pains, etc.

There are other travel experiences too, like China in 1988 and Brazil in 1989. But the travel experiences may not be the most interesting part of the story. The author grew up on a farm in Alabama in the 1930s. He “gave up” on being heterosexual in 1968. In the end, I decided to save some of the travel experiences for later and learn more about a kid’s experiences growing up during the Great Depression.

In conclusion, if you like memoirs and travel, then Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly may be a good book for you. The writing seems matter-of-fact to me. I never laughed but I did sometimes nod my head and think to myself that this detail or that detail was interesting. Not all of the author’s memories resonated with me, but Cosmos Screen did give me a glimpse of a world that I had never seen before and never could have glimpsed on my own.

Book Review – Gold Rush in the Jungle: The Race to Discover and Defend the Rarest Animals of Vietnam’s “Lost World” by Dan Drollette Jr.

Dan Drollette Jr, award-winning Science and Environmental journalist, writes of a different Vietnam, where conservation, preservation, and protection of wildlife and their environment take precedence over the ugliness of war. This is the “Lost World” of Vietnam, the area bordering on Laos and Cambodia where rare animals such as the muntjac (deer that barks), the langur (leaf-eating monkey), the kouprey (forest ox), and the unique saola (antelope/unicorn) can be found. The valleys, karsts, and caves of the Annamese Cordillera offer safe refuge for these animals away from people and outside influences. They escaped the devastation of the Vietnam War and the effects of Agent Orange and Agent Blue to survive in their natural habitats free of toxic dioxins and herbicides.

Drollette has written a fascinating book detailing the past, the present, and the future of wildlife rescue with emphasis on the importance of saving their environment. He provides excellent descriptions of the rare animals in the “Lost World,” and relates his personal experiences while traveling through Vietnam on the back of a motorcycle, the familiar “bike’s hug” local transportation. We learn about biodiversity and conservation of ecosystems in Vietnam, as well as the projects for captive breeding of rare and endangered species in his visits to Tilo Nadler’s EPRC (Endangered Primate Rescue Center) and Cuc Phuong National Park. The author tells us the history of the turtle reserve at Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi and the future of the turtle as the venerable protector and one of four sacred animals of Vietnam.

The rush for gold, a race for money, is a worldwide phenomenon and one that seems to have no end. It is an ongoing contest between the lucrative, but illegal black market trade and the diligence of the conservationists. Vietnam constantly works to improve their economy, but economic development must be regulated to maintain a balance between the rush for money and the preservation of the natural beauty of the land. Rare animals, whether in cages, parks, or on nature reserves, are big tourist attractions which boost the economy, but often leave negative effects on the environment. People rush to see and purchase all types of things taken from these rare animals who live in distant, mysterious worlds. Some buy in huge quantities to sell or trade and before long the supply is depleted. Unless these rare animals are saved, the various species will soon become extinct (rhino horns are a good example). Others buy these animals for trophies or status symbols to bring home from their journey, much like those captured on an African safari. Many visit Vietnam to purchase rare items such as bear bile for medicinal uses, claiming they perform miracles.

Although a little difficult to begin because of the rather lengthy prologue, I read further and found the book contains a wealth of information based on extensive research, facts, and historical background. Drollette has presented this information in an interesting narrative fashion, with a few pictures adding to the content (more would be beneficial, but photography may have been limited.) I had a tendency to skim through the chapters on Linnaeus and the Hawaii conservation efforts used for comparison, which seemed to digress from the focus on Vietnam. In contrast, however, the innovative plan of Costa Rica’s government to pay landowners to maintain the forest rather than cut it down definitely caught my attention.

I thoroughly enjoyed Drollette’s story of personal experiences on his journey of adventure and discovery in which he emphasizes the importance of educating the people and requiring stricter enforcement of regulations by the government to promote wildlife rescue and environmental protection. Drollette believes that Vietnam has been given a “second chance” to survive and preserve its natural resources. He reminds us that new species often disappear before they are even discovered. Readers who were probably unfamiliar with the “Lost World,” as I was, will be intrigued by its history, its future, and its significance for Vietnam and the rest of the world.

It will definitely appeal to every scientist, environmentalist, educator, and journalist, as well as to people who are always curious about new discoveries of rare and unusual animals. The reader may be encouraged enough by the book to follow and perhaps participate in conservation efforts and wildlife rescues in their own part of the world. I think most of us will agree with Drollette’s quote from the renowned biologist George Schaller who said “Everything we want, need, and use is dependent on nature.”

Crown Publishers – Division of Random House
April 16, 2013
U.S. $25.00
Amazon – $17.23 Hard Cover, $12.99 Kindle

Sharon L Slayton