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Reviews Written by
R. Gray "Ridgetown Rick" (Ridgetown, Ontario Canada)
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Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast
Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast
by Michael Wojtech
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 25.60
26 used & new from CDN$ 17.97

5.0 out of 5 stars A very useful guide, May 29 2014
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Who knew that you could create a field guide for identifying trees by their bark that even a lay person could use? The first 5 chapters of the book (86 pages worth) include: How to use this book; Bark Structure; Bark Types;Secondary Identification Keys (for when the bark doesn't tell the whole story); and a chapter on Bark Ecology. The next 160 pages or so cover the main trees of northeastern North America, with excellent photos of bark at multiple stages of maturity - all with the ubiquitous quarter placed on the tree for scale (for bark ridges, plates, etc.). Each tree description includes a silhouette of the leaf, the branching pattern of the tree, and a range map (unfortunately it only covers the US states and, as with so many American books, does not acknowledge that we share many of the same plants here in Canada!).

If you already have a number of field guides to trees, this would make a great addition. However, it is for the more "serious" naturalist - it would not be a good first text on tree identification.

Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers 2: A Field Guide to Common Wildflowers and Plants of the Prairie Midwest
Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers 2: A Field Guide to Common Wildflowers and Plants of the Prairie Midwest
by Doug Ladd
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.64
25 used & new from CDN$ 15.64

5.0 out of 5 stars My new prairie wildflower bible, May 29 2014
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I borrowed the first edition from my local library and found it an excellent field guide to prairie plants, but was disappointed that natives and non-natives were lumped together. This edition fixes that. The book is chock-full of exceptionally clear photos and well worded descriptions, including the bloom season and habitat/range. The flowers are divided by colour: blue and purple; pink; yellow; etc. The introduction of the book describes the various habitat types, and includes a section on prairie restoration. This book is a great addition to any library (in fact I convinced our local college librarian to add a copy to her collection, too!).

Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada
Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada
by David L. Spahr
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.64
29 used & new from CDN$ 12.76

5.0 out of 5 stars Clearly written, great images, May 29 2014
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I bought this as a birthday gift for a friend, but couldn't resist perusing its pages before wrapping it. This is not your typical "field guide to mushrooms". It is a well written treatise more in the vein of the old fashioned narrative field guides. The author goes to great lengths to describe what to look for, what to look out for, and makes it easy to distinguish one mushroom from the next.

As this is a guide to edible and medicinal mushrooms, there are not hundreds of species listed, but Spahr does include pictures and descriptions of easily confusable look-alikes. The day my friend opened her gift, we took a hike and came across a large crop of young Dryad's saddles. Sure enough, the book had advice on how to prepare it, and it was delicious. We even tried the author's suggestion and dried some for soup at a later date. This book would be a great addition to your library.

Collecting Wild Bog Plants For Your Pond
Collecting Wild Bog Plants For Your Pond
Price: CDN$ 3.14

1.0 out of 5 stars haven't read it but..., April 27 2014
I can't believe, in this day and age of natural habit destruction around the world and dwindling species, that anyone would still advocate wild harvesting of native plants for garden use. The book description says "They are free for the taking" and "All parts of the World have bog plants that haven't entered the bog plant market and probably never will" - and so it should be. If the author is advocating collecting seed and starting plants that way, that is a reasonably sustainable method, but to remove native plants from their natural habitat is unconscionable. The plants will, perhaps, survive in their new place - if conditions are appropriate. However, human interference and the introduction of many non-native invasives means that, often, wild harvested plants simply open a space for an invasive species to take hold. So, do not listen to the author who says "When you are walking along that favorite creek or lake, keep your eyes open, you may find a worthwhile bog plant. Hopefully this book will get you interested in collecting wild bog plants". Leave them where they are for others to enjoy. Instead, encourage native plant gardeners to ethically collect seeds, and grow only greenhouse propagated native plants.

Trickster: Native American Tales
Trickster: Native American Tales
37 used & new from CDN$ 16.71

3.0 out of 5 stars not a bad book, March 24 2014
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This is a graphic novel format - and has many stories from many traditions. I was disappointed, though, when I received it (I read it then passed it on as a gift) because I felt that the styles of the stories and the artwork were so different that there was no continuity. It seemed like a book that was put together with whatever could be found simply because no one had done this before. I don't know if that is really the case - but it sure felt that way.

The stories were interesting, but I have no idea who the intended audience is for this book.

If you like graphic novels (I do) and if you like native American stories (I do) then maybe it's worth checking out. Just don't expect coherence or even a GOOD story. I'm sure there has to be better out there (at least I would hope so).

The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest
The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest
by Dave Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.03
19 used & new from CDN$ 6.46

5.0 out of 5 stars For the serious grower of native plants, March 24 2014
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If you are growing native tallgrass prairie species in a greenhouse, or if you just want to know if you should pull that weed or leave it, this book is excellent. The author grew a number of forbs and grasses in the greenhouse for several weeks and photographed them at various stages. They then point out the key characteristics at each stage of development. They provide photos of the seeds, too. All pictures are clear and unambiguous and the descriptors include germination and growth notes, as well as a section on look-alikes. An excellent guide.

Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan
Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan
by Lynn M. Steiner
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.24
29 used & new from CDN$ 15.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Great information, March 24 2014
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An excellent book for anyone wanting to incorporate native plants into your gardens. It has loads of ideas on which species to use, and why. It covers all the basics from soil types to climate zones. One very strong element is the chapters describing each of the vegetation zones - pine barrens, southern deciduous forests, grasslands, etc. - with descriptions of what grows in each and why.

Rare in native plant gardening books, this one even discusses how to go "part native" by including non-aggressive non-natives to round out your planting, or to make your gardens more acceptable with the neighbours. The end of the book is good, clear descriptions of many native flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees that includes information on its native habitat, a description of the plant, suggested landscape uses, site and culture info, and even a section on cultivars (for the non-purists).

I have a growing collection of books on native plants and gardening and this one is a valued addition. My only complaint (and the reason it only got 4 stars) is the very poor quality images. Many are not clear, small, and because it is printed on low quality paper, it further blurs the images. You cannot rely on this book's pictures to know what many of the plants look like. When combined with a good field guide, though, this book is very good.

Successful Business Writing. How to Write Business Letters, Emails, Reports, Minutes and for Social Media. Improve Your English Writing and Grammar. I
Successful Business Writing. How to Write Business Letters, Emails, Reports, Minutes and for Social Media. Improve Your English Writing and Grammar. I
by Heather Baker
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.63
17 used & new from CDN$ 10.82

2.0 out of 5 stars Probably useful if you've never taken an English course in your life, Feb. 4 2014
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I started to read the book, but soon gave up in frustration. It seemed very repetitive and at such a basic level that anyone who has graduated from high school SHOULD know how to do this stuff.

Perhaps I got off to a bad start with it. The author gave, as an example of incomprehensible gibberish, what I thought was a clearly expressed statement: "The government calls insistently for more innovation. But doing things in a new way will not necessarily lead to better outcomes. So, what do we mean by innovation? We share the thinking of, for example, the Work Foundation, which sees innovation not “as a set of discrete and singular moments of change” but rather as “a culture or process in which drivers of change are embedded in and facilitated by the strategic outlook of the organisation.” To draw an analogy from nature, innovation may be thought of as ‘the new season’s growth’ rather than a series of isolated ‘bright ideas’."

A little bit later in the text she makes this incomprehensible statement: "If sentences are not clear through incorrect grammar or misuse of punctuation then confusion can arise. Spelling mistakes just show a lack of care – which your reader may anticipate filters into the work you do." I've read that second sentence several times, and I still don't know what she is trying to say.

Also, Ms. Baker tells us to keep asking "why" till we get to the actual reason for writing. However, this point is belaboured and exaggerated to the point of being nonsensical. It's easy to ask why - even at the point where the author suggests the real reason has been found.

There may be some valuable info hidden in the book, but you have to work awfully hard to find it. If you can get it cheap enough, and your English business correspondence skills are very rusty, then maybe it will be worth it.

Paul
Paul
DVD ~ Simon Pegg
Price: CDN$ 6.98
38 used & new from CDN$ 2.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, Jan. 31 2014
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This review is from: Paul (DVD)
I've rented this movie a few times and just had to add it to my collection.
Two British sci-fi buffs go to America to attend Comic-Con. They rent a motorhome and decide to visit Area 51 and a number of other sci-fi sites. After a mishap with a couple of red-necks, they end up on a dark highway where they witness a car crash. If you don't know the rest of the plot, read it on Wikipedia. Or better yet, just buy the movie on spec - you won't be disappointed.
The premise of the film is great. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the modern day Abbot and Costello - they play so well off each other. Paul, the computer generated alien that foists himself onto the pair, is hilarious. Sigourney Weaver was a great choice as the "bad guy". There are lots of references to many other sci-fi films for those into the genre, but the film works just as well as a comedy.
One of my favourite flicks.

The President's Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama
The President's Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama
by Joshua Dubois
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.44
41 used & new from CDN$ 13.44

3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful reading, Jan. 31 2014
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I bought this as a Christmas gift for a friend after hearing the author interviewed on BBC radio. Before I wrapped it, I browsed through the book and found that Dubois had a lot of insight to offer. As a non-Christian, the book didn't have as much impact on me as it likely would for a Christian, and many of the prayers he offered were fairly specific to events in the US. Hence only 3 stars from my perspective. If you are looking for a daily meditation or inspiration, and especially if you are one who believes in God, then you may find this book far more relevant than I did.

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