Book Review: The Nature Instinct


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


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


Book Review
The Red-Tailed Hawk
By Jack Dunn

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


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


American Lies

by Joshua Corin


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


Willa of the Wood

By Robert Beatty


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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Book Review: Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing


Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing

by Yoshifumi Miyazaki


First, I’d like to say that I absolutely loved this book! It is one of my top three books so far this year. I have been telling everyone who will listen about the things I learned in this book. (I’ve probably annoyed a few people doing it too, but it’s so worth the read!)

What is Shinrin Yoku? It is the art of forest bathing. By bathing, it does not mean getting into water. It means immersing oneself in the experience of being in a forest. It can be for 20 minutes or two hours, but the idea is to get out there in nature. The author is a researcher who has studied the effects of this practice on many people, from stressed-out office workers, to city dwellers, etc. His results are astonishing, but probably not too surprising to those who spend a lot of time in nature.

The benefits are enormous. Lowered stress hormones, improvement in mood, enhanced creativity, lower blood pressure, more energy, improvement of the immune system, better sleep, and more.

The photos throughout the book are fantastic. So beautiful and relaxing! You will want to visit those places. Very appealing artwork!

Studies are shown in the book, along with details of the results. The researchers have published many scientific papers on this subject. Research is supported by the government in Japan too. It is important research and one can hope that the American government would follow this example and fund more research into the benefits of forest and nature therapy.

For those who have no access to a forest, other options are given. Such as growing bonsai or using essential oils. Essential oils mimic the effects of the natural terpenes you would find in a forest. In Japan, many of the trees give off these terpenes and these have been shown by research to help people relax and experience these benefits. But, you don’t need to travel to Japan to experience these benefits. There are many amazing forests in Japan, but there are natural areas all over the world too. Some of the forest therapy places in Japan are documented in the book, should you desire to go visit them. They look beautiful and the photos help the reader see these places.

Other books have written about the effects of nature therapy (Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, and F. Williams’ The Nature Fix come to mind), but this is the first book I’ve read that was written by one of the actual researchers who has studied this firsthand. I enjoyed seeing the actual studies and the results that they documented. They studied a variety of citizens to see if the effects are the same across the board and they seemed to be. Having spent a lot of time in nature myself, I can attest that these techniques really work.

If you want to learn more about how to get these benefits, read this book! I can’t recommend it enough. If more of us would go out in nature and use the methods described here, our overall health would improve, our stress levels would drop and we’d be better off as a whole. I encourage you to try it. You won’t regret it.

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Book Review: No Word for Wilderness

No Word for Wilderness

By Roger Thompson


The title of this book refers to the fact that there is no word for wilderness in Italian. According to the author, in Italy, national parks are not the big deal that they are in other parts of the world. The locals don’t go visit them often. So, when something threatens the existence of the last bears there, people are not familiar with them.

One bear made himself known though. The author tells the story of Bruno, a bear who wreaked havoc during a major sports event. This bear killed sheep and didn’t eat them all, upsetting plenty of farmers. The bear ended up in Germany, where it was killed. The story was known internationally.

The other bears live quietly in the mountains and go about their lives in relative secret. There are estimates of as few as 40 of the brown bears left. They are called the Abruzzo bears after their location. But many threats to their continued survival exist. Not much is known about them since they have not been studied in depth.

There are lots of politics involved, including the appointment of the supervisors of the various parks. Plus, oddly enough, the Mafia is involved in cattle ranching, which poses another threat to the bears’ habitat since they are keeping the cattle in the parks. This is allowed under Italian law, so the bears are not in a good position.

One scientist wants to clone the bears and other endangered species. His technique looks promising, as shown in the book. But, is that the best solution?

This is primarily a book about the various threats to the continued existence of these bears. It does not seem to be intended to be a thorough life history account of the Abruzzo bears. It’s more about what is happening to them and what is being done at the moment.

The book is a good introduction to the bears and what challenges they face. Will it be enough to awaken an interest in preserving the last brown bears in Italy? This book is a must-read for conservationists or bear lovers. There must be something that can be done to save the last of the bears before they go extinct.


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