Book Review | Wolf Haven by Brenda Peterson & Annie Marie Musselman

wolf haven cover.jpegPartially funded by a Getty Images grant, Wolf Haven : Sanctuary and the Future of Wolves in North America‘s collaboration between photographer Annie Marie Musselman and writer Brenda Peterson yields an informative and striking book about the history and ongoing battle of North America’s endangered wolves and offers readers a comprehensive introduction to Washington’s Wolf Haven sanctuary. In addition to being a lovely coffee table photo book, scientific and political backstory are woven in to help readers understand the hot topics of the wolves endangerment and conservation efforts. Individual wolves from the sanctuary are also introduced, some with more troubled pasts than others.

Overall, this book is very well done and would be palatable to a wide range of audience. The writing is clear and easy to follow without being overly scientific or poetic. This said, a few sentences are slightly embellished and a tad flowery. Most of the photos are truly gorgeous and appropriately captioned with only a few exceptions. Wolf Haven would serve as a great introduction to anyone looking to find out more regarding the story of endangered wolves in North America. Photography fans will also not be disappointed with this gem. Check it out from a library near you.

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

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Book Review | The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

sunlight-pilgrims-cover Set in the near future, The Sunlight Pilgrims shares the story of a young man who has just lost his mother and grandmother and is about to face the worst winter ever. Dylan takes the ashes of his dead relatives and heads from London to a caravan his mother has left him in Scotland, near where his gram’s family lived. As the temperature quickly plummets, he befriends his trailer park neighbors, a lovely independent woman and her transsexual teenage daughter, Stella. Told with focus alternating between Stella and Dylan, it is an interesting coming of age tale as well as a story of family discovery and a battle against the elements.

This book was better than expected. The story jumped right in and was clearly written with a chronological plot. Foul language is included, but didn’t feel forced. The coming of age story of the transsexual character was done very tastefully and would serve as a good introduction to leery readers. Short chapters were appreciated and allowed the book to easily be picked up and put down. Check it out from a library near you.

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

Best & Worst of the 23 books I read during 2016

My reading selection for 2016 contained 11 novels, three memoirs, four other various non-fiction works, three picture books, a novella and a play. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books based on my overall enjoyment of the texts. Most, but not all of the books I read during 2016 were released in 2016. The overall selection was heavily influenced by copies I received freely from publishers through Goodreads giveaways. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My four favorite books:

Native Fashion Now* – Accompanies the art exhibition Native Fashion Now and honors contemporary Native American fashion throughout the past sixty-five years.

Paradime* – Doppelgänger story about two men trading lives.

Stepmother– A down-to-earth memoir describing the ups and downs of stepmothering.

The Hating Game* – A romantic comedy about two coworkers who make games of mentally torturing each other before entering a relationship.

After those four, my next five favorite books:

Imagine Me Gone* – Uses multiple narrators to trace the story of a family of five dealing with depression in its members.

The Mountains of Parnassus* – A philosophical dystopian novel about a future society without traditional government or religion by a Nobel Prize winner. To be published 2017.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things – A psychological thriller following a schizophrenic who suffers a breakdown.

The Best Possible Answer* – A YA novel about a high schooler dealing with family issues, first love and panic attacks while trying to prepare for college.

The Journey* – An illustrated book for children dealing with the adult theme of emigration caused by war.

Four books that should have been better:

Ajax Penumbra 1969 – The prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, this short book details the search for an ancient lost text.

How to Ruin Everything – A collection of essays by rapper and poet Watsky about various life experiences.

Tram 83 – Deals with two very different men trying to make it in a country resembling the DR Congo.

Sunless – A novel showing a family’s decline as they deal with a large prescription drug company.

Four books that I wouldn’t recommend to an enemy:

Mr. Bunny’s Adventure* – A picture book with poor grammar about a bunny meeting a giant.

The Mermaid Girl* – A lady who used to be a mermaid in a tank at the circus leaves her transient life to pursue a family of her own.

Only in Naples* – A memoir by a rich girl about her time spent in Italy for an internship.

The Devil’s Dancer* – A play about the production of a play which mocks everything from pop culture to capitalism.

All titles appear below in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links above and below are to book reviews I’ve written. Sloan is the only author I’ve read before this year. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you’ve particularly enjoyed.

The Story of a Brief Marriage* – Anuk Arudpragasm
A Cure for Suicide – Jesse Ball
Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook – Mary Bergin
The Devil’s Dancer* – Victor Bertocchi
Sunless – Gerard Donovan
100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario* – Chris Earley and Tracy C. Read
Paradime* – Alan Glynn
Imagine Me Gone* – Adam Haslett
Happy Hooker – Xaviera Hollander
The Best Possible Answer* – E. Katherine Kottaras

Native Fashion Now* – Karen Kramer
Stepmother* – Marianne Lile
The Mountains of Parnassus* – Czeslaw Milosz
The Storm* – Akiko Miyakoshi
Tram 83 – Fiston Mwanza Mujila
I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid
Mr. Bunny’s Adventure* – Alisha Ricks
The Journey* – Francesca Sanna
Ajax Penumbra 1969 – Robin Sloan
The Mermaid Girl* – Erika Swyler
The Hating Game* – Sally Thorne
How to Ruin Everything – George Watsky
Only in Naples* – Katherine Wilson

*These titles were given to me in exchange for my honest review.

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.

Book Review | I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

reid-ending-things-coverReid’s debut novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, is a fast paced psychological thriller. This entertaining book introduces a female narrator / protagonist who is traveling into the countryside with her boyfriend to meet his parents on their farm where he grew up. She seems to be on edge as a result of ongoing mysterious phone calls and dinner with the parents just seems a bit off. When a blizzard closes in, things get tense with the young couple becoming separated in the middle of nowhere.

I was impressed with Reid’s writing and appreciated mostly concise narration, a quickly moving plot and a minimal number of characters. The book was interesting from the start and enough chapter breaks allowed it to be easily read and put down. It is a quick read, could be finished on a longer flight or such. Recommended for fans of psychological fiction, schizophrenia literature or fast reads. There are several books and films that have been produced which follow a similar story theme. Contrary to other reviewers, I don’t think this one will leave me thinking about it later. That said, check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | Imagine Me Gone : A novel by Adam Haslett

imagine-me-gone-book-coverThe critically acclaimed new novel by Haslett, Imagine Me Gone, certainly lives up to standards. The story focuses on a family of five who move between the east coast and England as the children grow from small to adult. The father and eldest son are affected by depression, which at times renders them unable to function in traditional roles. The novel traces their struggle, as well as the reactions and effects on the lives of the mother and siblings.

Told using alternating narration from each family member’s point of view, the book spans decades and provides a unique perspective in examining a familial struggle. Each character narrator has a distinct voice and thought process that has been well developed. Some passages were thought provoking and reflective, really allowing for the quality of writing to shine through. A few sections were a bit long in their details, but as a whole, well done. This book will appeal to those dealing with a depressed family member or partner, those interested in social work or psychology and fans of literature revolving around family issues. Check it out from a library near you!

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

Exhibition | Wisconsin Triennial 2016 at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Several weeks ago, after attending the last outdoor Farmers’ Market on the capitol square, I ventured into MMoCA and was pleasantly surprised by the Wisconsin Triennial exhibit. Featuring only local state artist, it opened on September 23 and will be on display through January 8, 2017. The exhibit aims to give an idea of the diverse types of art that are being created within Wisconsin. Below are a selection of photos from the exhibit, which I hope motivate you to go and see this free exhibit!

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Fern Stations : On Invisibility by Meg Mitchell

Beads, Birds and Bombs series by John Hitchcock

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Selections from the project Transmission Networks by Brendan Baylor

Selections from Remnants series by Amy Fichter

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Blue Little Red Barn by Michael Kautzer