Tag: "review"

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.

Product review: AllergEase

I’ll keep my review fairly short and then post a list of ingredients and stuff in case some of you want to try this product. I took Allergease because I’m allergic to cats, dust, and pollen. I think pollen is the biggest threat at the moment. Some days I’m not really bothered but other days I sneeze like crazy. I’ve tried Allergease about three times, taking one to three drops whenever my allergies were bothering. All three times, I thought I felt some relief. Also, at the moment, you can enter their contest if you have a picture of yourself holding some Allergease, so it’s not a bad time to try it out.

Here are most of the ingredients, the ones that are supposed to do something for you:

Eyebright – A wild plant native to Europe’s open meadows, eyebright has been used since the 12th Century to provide natural relief for itchy, irritated eyes associated with hay fever.

Menthol – This organic compound occurs naturally in peppermint and other mint oils, and has been used for centuries to provide soothing relief for itching and burns.

Elderflower – Ancient Romans used Elderflower for medicinal purposes, boiling the leaves to create a tea for treating coughs, colds and hay fever.

Vitamin C – For centuries, sailors suffered from scurvy, a Vitamin C deficiency, until discoveries were made connecting a diet rich in citrus fruits with scurvy prevention. It was not until the 20th Century, however, that affordable, mass production of Vitamin C was able to boost the immune systems of millions.

Plantain – Not to be confused with banana plantains, this plant is a common weed that is indigenous to Eurasia. Europeans settlers brought it to New Zealand, where it was nicknames
“English Man’s Foot” because it spread easily wherever the settler’s went.

Nettle – Native to Europe, North American and some parts of Asia, this popular herb has been used since the Middle Ages to manage inflammation and combat allergy symptoms.

Book Review – Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth by J.D. Smith

J.D. Smith, world traveler and award-winning writer, entertains readers with an outsider’s view of people, places, and life on Planet Earth. He reminds us that there is a funny side to the most obvious things we take for granted, but have never found humor in them before. We learn new and different acceptable names for food, marketing slogans, movies, and bands, as well as names that were rejected for ice cream and cigar brands. He writes about politics and elections where words count and suggests changing the Count your Vote slogan to Count your Goat. Based on his theory, goats as a group actually resemble America since they are white, black, brown, and other combinations. In fact, he says, goats and people all want the same things, food, water, and freedom. J.D. Smith provides answers to many questions you never asked; admittedly some are absurd and quirky but always amusing.

Who would ever think of ethanol as a person, consider the possibility of other origins for greenhouse gases, or recognize the real significance of the hoodie phenomenon. Did you know, for example, that a new method of measurement based on Joe Mantegna from “Criminal Minds” could replace the conventional metric system? Who would consider meeting a dominatrix at any time, or even want to experience the complete humiliation that follows? Yet, have you ever wondered or laughed at the mysterious, usually foreign names given to these unsavory people such as Brunhilde, Dominique, and Natasha. Why, you may ask, are none of them named Amy, Betsy, Ruth, or Gail? Then, you will find information on how to be a male flower girl, what to expect from a management counseling session, and how to write fan mail to a Michelin tire.

Are you aware that dogs suffer from insomnia? According to the author, they do, but you can’t let dogs that don’t sleep just lie there. He suggests some solutions for this ailment such as after midnight snacks, better television programming, or a ruff love session with a romp outdoors. Watching the dog for hours on end may be the only answer, however.

At one time or another, we have all experienced the frustrations of airline travel, which Smith explores in depth and offers a new name, Cramped Cabin and Crying Babies Airline. He explains that because it is actually a mutual money making agreement among CEOs, high-ranking government officials, and celebrities, you should have no high expectations. If you are assigned seats with the ordinary people in the economy section, you are unofficially designated an “untouchable.” Remember that service and comfort are reserved for first class, which you probably can’t afford unless of course you’re a celebrity. According to Smith, “being a celebrity means never having to say you’re sorry. Being anyone else means apologizing for the fact that you’re not a celebrity.”

His off-the-wall approach to termination of life, which most of us don’t want to or ever think about, can make the inevitable a little less troublesome than before. You have the option for nice accommodations at the Bath and Blade Suicide Suites Hotel where you will receive personal attention. The hotel has 24-hour concierge service to assist you with their extensive knowledge of places to go such as clubs, bars, and restaurants. Perhaps you are a guest who has never called an escort service – well that too can be arranged. If you like to gamble, the hotel shuttles will take you to the Native American casinos on reservations nearby where you can spend a little of your savings or throw it all away like high rollers do. Of course, you certainly can’t predict the length of your stay, but the hotel will accept an early departure with no refunds.

This is a very unusual book, written in a refreshing, unconventional style with common, familiar language, a lot of metaphors, and considerable satirical wit. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and read it in one sitting. Every page of clever, creative writing by J.D. Smith is guaranteed to make you laugh. The book will be appreciated by anyone who may have forgotten what it is to laugh at the ordinary, unavoidable events in life. It may have been a while since you found anything funny in everyday happenings, but you will discover that some people are indeed comical as they go about their daily routine. The variety in the author’s collection of prose, poetry, and personal observations gives readers an opportunity to escape the mundane and at times boring experiences that frequently occur in their lives. It is quite possible that you will gain a whole new perspective after reading this entertaining book and discover that Planet Earth can be an amusing place after all.

Cassowary Press (publishing arm of Cassowary Creative)
First Edition Paperback: 2013
Amazon $9.93
U.S. $10.29
$9.30 NOOK Book – e-book

Sharon L Slayton
May 2013

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

Review: Cornwall with Caroline Quentin DVDs

Hosted by two-time British Comedy Award winner Caroline Quentin (Blue Murder, Men Behaving Badly), Cornwall offers a lighthearted look at the Cornish coast, akin to the programs of Rick Steves and Samantha Brown. The Cornish peninsula stretches into the Atlantic Ocean for hundreds of miles of gorgeous coastline, where aristocrats live in centuries-old manors and beachcombers barbecue lobster by the water. At every turn, Quentin dives headlong into the summer festivities, joining the locals at a quaint village pub and cheering on a regatta composed of not-so-seaworthy vessels.

I’ve only watched the first two episodes and I’ve been saving the review for a while because I figured I should watch them all or at least more of them before writing this. After a few months though, I’m fairly sure I won’t be watching any more episodes unless I actually plan to spend a summer in Cornwall.

And that may be who this series is designed for, people who are going to spend a summer in Cornwall and want to know a few of the people who live there. For example I got to know the chef at a restaurant and a family that fishes. I guess they’re interesting people, but if this is a documentary about the people of Cornwall, it has to be a limited audience. I don’t plan on watching a whole series about fisherwomen and cooks I’m never going to meet.

There is some information for travelers. The cook I mentioned above gets his restaurant advertised a bunch. One of the shows talked about Cornwall cottages and offered a look at one particular company that seems to handle more expensive properties. The website I link to above seems to have more advice than the show did, which looked at one property as the owners tried to get it listed by this one company. Their effort to get their property accepted doesn’t really help travelers though.

Overall, the show is for people going to Cornwall. It might help persuade you if you’re thinking about a trip to Cornwall – lots of looks at the nice scenery and some talk about the relaxing lifestyle and food that vacationers can look forward to. If you’ve already made up your mind, the show might get you excited about the upcoming trip, and it will give you the names of a few local business you might want to try out. For me, though, it just wasn’t that exciting.