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.

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 | Stepmother : a memoir by Marianne Lile

image1As the title suggests, Stepmother is a memoir about Marianne Lile’s experience marrying an older man with two children from a previous marriage and raising their family together. The book takes place mostly during the early 1990’s in Washington state and focuses mainly on Lile’s first few years as a stepparent – trials, tribulations and anecdotes.

As other reviewers have noted, stepparents or live-in partners will easily relate to Lile’s account. This book is recommended to partners who are considering taking on the role of a stepparent. It does a thorough job of examining many of the daily challenges involved in being a part of a blended family. The first half of the book reads as a very entertaining, chronological piece. After that, there is a slight organizational breakdown. Lile tries to address certain themes with the remaining chapters, and succeeds, but in a disjointed and sometimes slightly repetitive fashion. Overall, the book is a good read with valuable insights. It was published in September, so may not be at your library yet, but you can check current national holdings here.

I 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 | How to Ruin Everything: Essays by George Watsky

how to ruin everything cover watskyI was late in hearing about this release from one of my favorite Hip-Hop artists. How to Ruin Everything is a collection of 13 essays by Watsky. These essays are not reminiscent of traditional essays and the book reads more like a collection of true short stories about events in Watsky’s life. The stories are all around 20 pages and fairly easy to digest. The topics range from Watsky’s childhood education, to his travels in Spain and India, through epileptic episodes and to his poetry and hip-hop tours in the US. Some essays are more interesting and memorable than others, but all are well written.

Due to the varied topics of the essays, readers should be able to find something of interest in this book. Watsky fans will enjoy personal details the author shares during the stories. This said, the book took me longer than expected to get through. I found myself wanting to take a nap during a few of the pieces. Though I was glad to finally finish it, I’d give it a solid 3/5 stars and recommend it as a way to pass time during public transit. Check it out from a library near you! It is dedicated to librarians =] A special thanks to Goodreads Giveaways for bringing this book to my attention, even though I wasn’t fortunate enough to win a copy.

Book Review | Franklin Barbecue : A Meat-Smoking Manifesto by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay


IMG_6233.JPGAs a James Beard award winning chef, Aaron Franklin has a bit of clout here. Published in 2015, Franklin Barbecue : A Meat-Smoking Manifesto gets into the nitty-gritty of how to use your smoker, from wood selection to take-off times and cooling periods , including the most minute of details such as how weather will affect your smoking and how to push the coals around. It clearly reveals Franklin as a passionate master of his craft, willing to share his extensive knowledge with anyone willing to listen/read. Some recipes are included in this book as a guide, but it is primarily a how-to text, a more technical look at the art of smoking.

A long time experienced griller planned to use this book for recipes, thinking his technique needed no help. However, this book prompted further reflection, tweaking and gave additional insights for the cooking process. It’s clear why new restauranteurs look to Franklin as the Guru of meat smoking. His sheer enthusiasm made this book, already packed with color photos, even more palatable, if you will. Any grilling enthusiasts would enjoy a go at this book, and it would also serve as a great father’s day present. Check it out from a library near you!


Book Review | Native Fashion Now: North American Indian Style by Karen Kramer

Previously authored for and published by Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Reviews in May 2016.


Accompanying the exhibition Native Fashion Now, the first extensive traveling exhibition of modern fashion representing indigenous North American designers, this book honors contemporary Native American fashion throughout the past sixty-five years. As Curator of Native American Art and Culture at the Peabody Essex Museum for over twenty years, Kramer is clearly well versed in her field. This text fills a gap present in the formal literature about contemporary Native American fashion since the publication of Native American Fashions: Modern Adaptations of Traditional Designs by Margaret Wood in 1981.

By showcasing the works and backgrounds of dozens of Native American artists, Kramer reveals the ongoing evolution of Native artists choosing to use fashion as a vehicle for individual, social, and cultural expression while respecting cultural tradition and values. She stresses the diversity that exists among Native Americans of different tribal and mixed backgrounds and their collective efforts to break down stereotypes surrounding American Indian apparel.

In accordance with the exhibit, the book categorizes artists into four defined groups: Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, and Provacateurs. Textual contributions from three field experts provide astute details about selected exhibit pieces. Brief insights into the work of most artists are given, and quotes from a handful are also included.

Full page, high quality, color photographs comprise the majority of this book. Reproductions are visually stunning and the captions are thoroughly informative. Dust jacket photos are eye-catching, and the book’s coffee table size is fitting. The thick, glossy pages and a solidly stitched binding result in a durable, high-quality volume. In addition to photography credits, Kramer has included a selected bibliography for additional research leads and a comprehensive index that allows the reader to access information from a variety of angles.

Appropriate for all audiences, the text is well written and logically organized. It would be an excellent reference piece for anyone researching Native American fashion, fashion collaborations, the use of cultural symbols in fashion, or stylistic evolution in Native arts. Moreover, this book belongs in all academic libraries providing resources for students in Native American studies or art and design.