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Book Review: Come be Wild with Me

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Come Be Wild With Me is a cute story book for children. It will appeal to younger readers and encourage them to go outside and play in nature, which is always a good thing.

The book contains a short, lyrical story about a mother and son who venture out into the forest to learn about the wild. They immerse themselves in the nature experience and have fantastic adventures exploring and being wild. The message is a positive one and shows kids that nature is a great place to be and that you can have imaginative adventures without being plugged into a device with a screen. They climb trees, throw stones into a lake, dress in leaves and eat berries. A full sensory experience of nature.

The story is accompanied by beautiful watercolor paintings depicting the storyline. The paintings are fanciful and colorful. The animals are cute and not scary for young readers. The characters are shown with smiling faces so that young readers will understand that nature is not a scary place; it’s a place that makes people happy.

The positive message of this book seems well-suited to readers of any age, and indeed adults will enjoy the poetic story and the accompanying paintings. The story is told in words that younger readers can sound out and spell, so it’s appropriate for the age group. Parents can read it to children who are too young to read on their own yet. It’s one of those books that a child might ask for as a bedtime story each night and memorize so that they can read along with the parent.

I enjoyed the story and its message about nature. I recommend this to anyone who wants to introduce their kids to nature and give them a storybook that will almost certainly become popular a favorite.

I would like to thank the author, publisher, and NetGalley for allowing me to see an advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Review: Monte Rio

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Monte Rio

By Mark Joseph

Review:

Monte Rio, California, is home to the famous Bohemian Grove. The Bohemian Grove is a huge grove of redwoods owned by the Bohemian Club, a men’s club in San Francisco. This is not just any club though; the men making up the membership rolls are some of the most powerful in the world. There are political leaders, industry leaders, entertainers, and more. It is a given that all are super rich. This is their version of summer camp, the world’s biggest party for rich men. Naturally, such an exclusive group would be protected by the best security money can buy.

The Russian River Society of Pirates and Thieves is a group of four guys from the little town whose entertainment during the 18-day encampment involves spying on the wealthy men at the grove, who they call the Bohos. They don’t do this for any nefarious purpose. They just do it for fun and because they can. If a Boho leaves the campgrounds to go visit a local brothel, they follow him. They use very sophisticated radio equipment to listen to the security patrols in the Grove and to learn who is arriving and departing. They know more about the Grove than the security teams themselves. So, it’s not surprising that the FBI decides to recruit the Russian River Society of Pirates and Thieves to put Grove security to the test.

FBI agents Teddy Swan and Paul Kruger pay a visit to the Pirates and gain their assistance. So, when the president of Belarus, Boris Dimitriov, arrives, the group spies on him just like they normally do. But little do they know that a group of Russians is angry at Boris over a pipeline deal. They have recruited a terrorist group to get their revenge on Boris while he is at the Grove. Will the Pirates be able to help in time to stop the plot?

The characters are really great and provide seriousness as well as funny moments. The neighbor with one arm who keeps complaining that people are trespassing on his land is a good example. The Pirates themselves are an eccentric mix of characters. The financial guy for the group, Albert Flowers, is a tech genius who retired with $8 million dollars, which was still not enough to get him invited to the Boho’s club! He is the one who purchased all the high-tech gear that Jeremy uses. Butler Rhodes is an older veteran who was a sniper in Vietnam. The radio geek is Jeremy Steadman, who can find just about any radio transmission nearby and snoop on it with his gear. Phillip Mercier is the youngest member and is a math teacher. He helps out the radio guy by using his high-tech computer gear and databases to look up information.

I loved the scene where they dress up in costumes and storm the beach at the Grove. Hilarious! Then, there is the more serious subplot involving the terrorists. It details how they come into the country and arrive at the Grove and how they remain hidden. It is plausible and believable.

The local sheriff is a corrupt guy and there is a whole subplot involving him. He and his deputies are mysteriously absent during the attack. Was this part of the plan, one wonders? It is not indicated that it was part of it, but the reader can use their imagination and think that maybe the terrorists plotted the sheriff’s rather convenient downfall to coincide with their attack.

This was a very entertaining novel and quite exciting ending too. Not what you would expect to happen. I enjoyed learning about the mysterious Bohemian Grove. It’s also a look at the local culture, where people protest outside the gates and local business owners cater to the rich guys and make a lot of profit during their visit. Then, there are all the eccentric characters who populate the peripheries of the story. All in all a very entertaining and enjoyable read. I recommend it!

 

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Book Review: Homer and the Holiday Miracle

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Homer and the Holiday Miracle is a short story about a cat named Homer. He’s a 15-year-old rescue cat who has no eyes, due to having lost them to an infection when he was three weeks old. That hasn’t stopped Homer though! His blindness doesn’t seem to impair this spunky cat one bit! When he falls sick and is taken to the vet, his owner, Gwen, is told that his blood test numbers are “incompatible with life” and that he doesn’t have long to live. Homer proves them all wrong though! His holiday miracle will have you alternately cheering and crying. If you haven’t read any of her other books, Gwen Cooper has written about Homer previously in Homer’s Odyssey, where you can learn more about this amazing little cat! She has several other cat books, and I recommend them all. They all make great reading for cat lovers. If you are a cat lover looking for a short and uplifting story for the holidays, get Homer and the Holiday Miracle!

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Book Review: The Nature Instinct

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The Nature Instinct: Relearning Our Lost Intuition for the Inner Workings of the Natural World
By Tristan Gooley

Review:

Tristan Gooley’s books always make me want to go outside and explore! They are packed full of great tips for anyone who spends time outdoors. The Nature Instinct is no exception.

This book is one that every outdoor enthusiast has to have on their shelf. But, don’t let it sit on the shelf! Read it! The information in here is amazing!

As a wildlife tracker, I have completely fallen in love with Gooley’s books. The skills of observation and interpretation of the landscape that he uses are very similar to the skills a tracker uses. Gooley outlines how to use subtle clues on the landscape to not only navigate, but to read past events on the land too.

Many of these skills can’t be explained well. To an observer it almost looks like a sixth sense, which is what Gooley calls it. How else can you explain the intuitive way that he sees things and can explain them? Do you want to learn how to do this too? Then, you must read this book. It is packed with tips on how to do these things. It’s an excellent learning tool and also provides a starting point for you to begin your own local observations and start to know your environment in this kind of detail.

Nature is right outside your door. Go out there and start learning about it, and take this book with you!

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Book Review: The Red-Tailed Hawk

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Book Review
The Red-Tailed Hawk
By Jack Dunn

Review:
This book starts out well. It tells the story of Diyin, an Apache holy man who escapes from the train carrying Geronimo and his band to imprisonment in Florida. Diyin follows a red-tailed hawk and finds the Collins family. He is taken in by them and treated well and respected. Diyin has one wish. When he dies, he wants a lock of his hair to be returned and buried in his homeland, because he knows he will never see it again in person. The Collins family promises to do this.

The novel is told in three parts and follows multiple generations of the Collins family. The young couple who take in Diyin, Michael and Sally, are poor and get by on earnings from his woodworking. However, a great opportunity comes up to join another man in a business in town and Michael agrees to go. Diyin goes with them. The business prospers and so does the family. I assume that Diyin’s presence helped them somehow in this success, but am not sure how. It was not directly referred to in the story. The character did not perform any ceremonies to assist them, but the red-tailed hawk does show up often.

Diyin also meets a man with one leg. This was foretold to him long ago. But, the relationship with that man doesn’t seem to lead to anything beyond a friendship for them both. Since it was foretold, I expected that more would have come out of that friendship. It’s fine that it didn’t. I was just expecting more from it as a reader. I was hoping that it would become a larger part of the plot.

The first part of the book was well done and I think that storyline has a lot of potential. The second parts follow succeeding generations of the family and rely less on telling of the connection to Diyin and his wish. The book goes on to tell of the family in the future, as far as the year 2062. Coincidentally, this is the next time Halley’s Comet is supposed to be visible. The second and third part of the book seemed to drag for me. It was mostly about the business success of the Collins family descendants and how they built up the business Michael started in the 1800’s.

The last parts of the book seemed to me to lack a focus. There was no main conflict to be resolved. There were no plot elements that moved the story along toward a particular resolution. I felt that the book should have focused on the original characters and Diyin’s relationship to them to be more effective. It lost a lot when the author took us into the future. The original premise was great and I think it could work very well as a stand-alone novel without the future Collinses being involved. I understand that Halley’s Comet was part of the reason to take the narrative so far into the future. However, those parts of the story just zoomed by in a more documentary fashion, detailing mostly the family’s business successes.

The archaeology student near the end would not likely have been sampling 200-year-old specimens in the manner that she and her companion did. Sure, it’s supposed to take place long into the future, but I don’t know of any universities that would approve that sort of experimentation with an unknown substance. It did gain them some insight, but did not seem to directly relate to the plot. It was an interesting way to introduce the history of the genocide of native peoples but the event didn’t move the plot forward much in my opinion. I think maybe having Diyin reflect on some of these instances would have been a more interesting way to bring these historical facts into the narrative. Plenty of them happened to the Apache people. Also, the fact that the cave had been submerged when the dam was built would have flooded and likely destroyed many of the artifacts they found inside, particularly the powders Diyin left there.

Overall, I loved the first part of the book, but was disappointed by the latter parts. As a reader, I wanted to see a larger conflict that the characters had to resolve. I wanted to see Diyin’s wishes fulfilled as he had requested. It was disappointing that this connection was lost and that subsequent generations of the family knew so little about him and about what had been promised to him. It seemed like a very simple request.

The idea for this story was great and the author certainly has plenty of talent. I hope that this story will be revisited at some point and maybe re-written a bit. He’s got some great story ideas here. They just need a bit of fleshing out to bring them to light. Keep up the good work.

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Book Review: The Burglar

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Book Review:

The Burglar
by Thomas Perry

Elle Stowell is a young woman with an interesting occupation; she’s a residential burglar. For a living, she breaks into the homes of rich people and steals stuff. However, one day she breaks into the wrong house and sees something she was not meant to see. It will change her life in drastic ways.

This novel is well-written and exciting. Readers will enjoy the various plot twists in this one. I love how the author doles out the clues slowly and builds up the tension until the very end. Who are the mysterious people in the black SUVs that seem to be following Elle? How can she catch them without getting caught herself?

The character of Elle is described in detail. The reader learns a lot about her background and how she gained her skills. She’s a very astute observer of human nature and behavior. In her profession, she has to be. But, her background also contributes to her knowledge of people. You find yourself wondering why such a smart and skilled woman doesn’t get into a safer field? She seems to enjoy the challenges that she encounters though.

The supporting characters are all perfectly suited to their roles. The mystery man who says he’s from Canada is well-done. Elle’s friend Sharon also helps move the plot along in her own way. The other characters are mostly peripheral ones. The conflict in the story builds up gradually and was done at a steady pace. I didn’t feel like the narrative had any slow or dragging parts to it. The pacing was pretty even.

The ending was interesting and creative. I liked how things resolved at the end, but don’t want to give spoilers.

The story seemed quite believable and so did the characters. The author did a great job on this novel. It’s suspenseful and nail-biting at times. The story is really original and the main character is not someone whose perspective we usually see. Although Elle makes her living as a criminal, she is a sympathetic character and you find yourself rooting for her to come out on top in the end.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and found it to be an engaging and suspenseful story that held my interest throughout the book. As a reader, I was drawn into this world the author created and was able to suspend reality for a time to get into the world of Elle and her friends and acquaintances. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys suspense, mysteries, or just a really good read.

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Book Review: American Lies

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American Lies

by Joshua Corin

Review:

American Lies is a novel that starts out with a bang, literally. In the opening chapter, a drone blows up a Muslim mosque, killing everyone inside and injuring several police officers who are there to guard it. Who committed this terrorist act on American soil? Enter investigator Xanadu Marx, a former FBI agent who was fired for alcoholism. Xanadu begins to investigate on her own. What evil will she uncover?

A second explosion claims another mosque and someone releases a deadly toxin in a local hospital. Who could be behind these attacks?

I thought the premise of this novel was interesting. But, it seemed to me that this is part of a series and the reader has to have read all the other books to totally understand the central character’s background and motivations. I felt like Marx’s story was not well documented in this book alone. There are references to other incidents that must have happened in the previous books. A short review would have helped the reader who comes into this one as a stand-alone novel. Certainly, her participation in AA and her interactions with her sponsor have a ring of truth to them, but what happened to her friend who is mentioned several times?

The story itself seemed somewhat plausible, involving the possible theft of a military drone that had been donated to the city’s law enforcement. But, when Marx falls under suspicion because she gets caught at the site? That was stretching it a bit, I thought. There was no evidence against her at all.

Also, the way the organ donation was handled was not realistic. In reality, there are waiting lists for this and people do not just get a donated organ simply because they are in the same hospital.

One thing that really bothered me was the way the book ended. I like cliffhangers just fine, but I felt that the main part of the storyline was not resolved by the end of this book. It’s like the author is planning to continue this story in a sequel. I would have preferred to have the resolution neatly wrapped up in a single novel rather than having to wait and buy the sequel. For that reason, I would not recommend this is a stand-alone novel.

It’s a good thriller if you like them, and it will be a good read, but I really think, as a reader, that I wanted it to be wrapped up more completely than it was.

 

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Book Review: Willa of the Wood

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Willa of the Wood

By Robert Beatty

Review:

Willa of the Wood is an interesting story that follows the adventures of a girl living in the Great Smoky Mountains. She is part of a clan of Faeran. Her job in the clan is to steal items from the day-folk, the settlers. She’s very good at it.

She runs into trouble when she gets injured on one of her nightly forays. Suddenly, everything she has known is called into question. Her devotion to the clan and the padaran are absolute, but is this misplaced?

Willa is a delightful character with some very interesting skills. She is a woodwitch and is able to call on help from the natural world. This gets her out of some sticky situations. But, her own clan has a lot of issues and she gets in trouble with them too.

I enjoyed the storyline and the characters. Willa is the one whose point of view the reader sees. She is a wily and intelligent character that many readers will relate to. She can think for herself and can see that there is more to the world than the insular world of her clan. When she makes some disturbing discoveries, she knows her world is about the drastically change.

Willa befriends one of the settlers, a man named Nathaniel. She begins to learn that the things she has been told about the day-folk are really not true. When the padaran decides to recruit Willa to a new job, things begin to unravel.

This book should appeal to middle grade readers, as well as even older readers. As an adult, I found the story to be enchanting and the characters easy to like. If this book is going to be part of a new series, I think it would be an excellent series to introduce to your students. Although I have not read them, the author has another series that I have heard good things about.

 

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