Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream by Carson Vaughan

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was my book club’s pick for July!  I was talking with our hostess and said “look at this book!”  To my surprise, she had already read it! Not only that, but her husband used to live in the town where this book takes place!  Of course she decided that she would pick it to read at book club!

Welcome to Royal, NE with a population of about…80 folks.  The town wasn’t really much to look at, with a bunch of abandoned buildings and dirt roads.  Although what it did have, was it’s own Zoo and for nearly 20 years!  This made for an interesting tourist attraction for the area, although eventually things took a turn for the worse.  This is where our story is made, in the tragedy of Zoo Nebraska.

It all began with a vision from Dick Haskin, who was studying to be a primatologist.   He is struggling with the idea of leaving his current job and the chimpanzee he has trained, for a chance to go to Rwanda and work with primatologist Dian Fossey.  Unfortunately, her death dissolves any chances of this dream to work on conservation.  Dick’s devotion to primates didn’t fully die with her.  He returns to his hometown with Reuben, an adolescent chimp, in the bed of a pickup truck and transformed a trailer home into the Midwest Primate Center.  As the tourist trade multiplied, so did the inhabitants of what would become Zoo Nebraska,  boosting the economy in Royal and became the  source of a power struggle that would lead to the tragic implosion of Dick Haskin’s dream again.

Later on in the story, things takes a turn for the worse when an enclosure is left unlocked and several chimpanzees escape.  With Dick Haskin out of the picture at this point, all hell breaks loose at the Midwest Primate Center.  If there is one thing you need to know about chimpanzees, it’s that they are extremely strong.  At one point in the story, a chimp grabs a workers leg and snaps it, like it was a twig.  So you can imagine the chaos that is exploding.  Now, this is a very small town in Nebraska mind you and certain force is brought out against the chimps to protect the visitors and on lookers.  Unfortunately, the result ends in the death of one chimp in particular that was dear to Dick Haskin.

The only reason I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, was there were points in the book that I actually skipped over because the author would sort of ramble on about things that were irrelevant to the story.  I would recommend this book, although be prepared as it really isn’t a happy story, but one that did need to be told.

 

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Down from the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear by Bryce Andrews

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The cover is breathtaking, the story is phenomenal.   This is a true story about a bear named Millie in Montana; her life, her cubs, her death and the story that led the author to write this book for us.

In an absolutely beautifully written account, Bryce tells Millie’s story.  Millie was a typical mother: strong, cunning, fiercely protective of her cubs. But raising those cubs was hard. The mountains were changing, as the climate warmed and people crowded the valleys. There were obvious dangers, like poachers, and subtle ones, like the corn field that drew her into human territory, and sure trouble.

The grizzly bear is North America’s largest predator.  They are starting to return to their normal romping grounds in the West, only to find that humans are now roosting.  This is where the author’s story meets Millie’s.  In this book, he shows how this singular story is a piece of a much larger one in the West: an entangled, bloody collision between people protecting a life they’ve known for generations, and the people fighting to preserve one of America’s wildest landscapes.

When Bryce is called to help with a non-profit group called People and Carnivores, which focuses on the intersection of wilderness and development.  In the same area where Millie resides, he works to help one particular farmer to protect his corn fields from these very hungry creatures.  We learn about a conflict in a corn field in the Mission Valley and Andrews’ work to keep bears from gorging on the easy meal.  More importantly, though, Andrews takes us inside the mind of bear Millie, as she traverses the mountains and leads her cubs to the fields. These sections of imaginative prose make the writing and the story come alive.

I would highly recommend this book!

Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live by Rob Dunn

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The cover is creepy, the title is creepy.  How could I not read it? Just the title makes you look up around you getting the feeling someone or SOMETHING is watching you.  I love reading books about Natural History and what goes on around us, even right under our noses.  I stumbled upon this book and thought I would give it a whirl.  It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but still interesting none the less!

The author is fascinated by the organisms that live in our homes and there are a LOT of them—roughly 200,000 species. He is a professor of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University and also works at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. He initially undertook this study of indoor organisms with the idea that he could help to make our homes healthier. The BIG takeaway from the book is that humans benefit from biodiversity—leave your windows open and don’t kill all of the spiders that get in your house!  I personally keep a few of the ‘good spiders’ around just for good measure!

“Fewer than a hundred species of bacteria, viruses and protists cause nearly all of the infectious illnesses in the world.” Unfortunately, these guys also are some of the toughest microbes to get rid of. So—when we douse our houses and bodies with antiseptics; we actually kill off the natural predators that would keep these bad microbes at bay.  I had already been aware of most of what he talks about, portions of it kind of dragged on BUT still made a person think!

What I got from this book: I learned interesting facts about mammals and insects that live in our homes. It greatly reduced my fear of black widow spiders and developed a grudging respect for cockroaches (still gagging though). It made me look at the dust on my windowsill differently.  This book convinced me that in 100 years our war against all forms of bacteria will be seen as backwards as bloodletting. By removing as many species from our homes as possible, we’ve created a space where beneficial bacteria, insects, and more cannot survive, opening us up to invasions of pathogens and disease.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes.  It’s interesting and will in fact make you say “hmmmm.”

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This book was a reach for me as I don’t normally read these styles of books.  I’m so glad I listened to all the hype from my fellow readers!  This. Book. Was. GREAT!  It also lead me to start listening to her podcasts as well.  She has great knowledge and lays things out to you exactly how they are.  Yes, there were some parts in this book that I thought….”woah, woah, woah chill out lady!” but such a good read!  It’s really hard not to get motivated after you read this as well as listen to some of her podcasts!

This really isn’t some sort of self-help book as one would think.  It’s really the story of Rachel Hollis, founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Chic Media.  She has created an online fan base of hundreds of thousands of fans by sharing tips for living a better life while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own.  She’s failed, she’s lived and she’s learned and she shares it all with us, with no masks of how she earned every bit of where she is now.

Check out this book as well as the next one.  Also, find her on Instagram and her podcast Rise as well as the one she does with her husband – Rise Together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Much Country by Kristin Knight Pace

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I listened to this book on Audio as it was narrated by the actual author herself!  Such an amazing story and a great writer!  Kristin writes her story in all it’s raw and beauty for us in a way that made you feel as though you were right there with her.

In 2009 Kristin went through a divorce that left her in pieces.  She decides to accept an offer to live at a friend’s cabin outside of Denali National Park in Alaska for a few months. In exchange for housing, she would take care of her friend’s eight sled dogs.  It was during this winter that she grew to learn how tough she actually was and how to survive in one of the most remote places on earth.  Here is where a love bloomed with a man, Andy,  and of course running with sled dogs.

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Photo: Katie Orlinsky – Racing dog, Piper

Kristin and Andy eventually start a a sled dog kennel of their own.  Kristin starts training of her own to complete a life goal to complete the Iditarod, the 1,000-mile dogsled race from Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast.  She is so honest and the weather is so brutal, but she loves every single part of it.  Along her journey there is loss that will make you tear up and triumph that will make you want to stand up and cheer right along with her.

This is the authors journey through her transformation and where it has brought her to today.  She is amazing and this story is one that I think anyone will find enjoyable, also making you want to put several layers of clothes on!

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Photo: Kristin Knight Pace

 

Interesting article I found about “A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…Kristin Knight Pace, Dog Musher” – http://lessonsinbadassery.com/day-life-kristin-knight-pace-dog-musher/

The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation by Alex Dehgan

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was a very interesting book, although I only gave it 4 out of 5 stars as some of the writing lost me in a couple places.  Otherwise, it was great!

Alex Dehgan arrives in Afghanistan in 2006 in hopes to build the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Afghanistan Program, and preserve and protect Afghanistan’s unique and extraordinary environment, which had been decimated after decades of war.  Quite honestly, I never thought about wildlife in that area and what war would do to their home.  I was also surprised at all the animals that actually live there!

Alex found out that conservation actually provided a bond between his team and the people of Afghanistan.  The team worked unarmed in some of the most dangerous places in the country.  Some were so remote that winding roads would just disappear, and travel was on foot, yak, or mule.

This is Alex’s account as he and his team helped create the country’s first national park, completes the some of the first extensive wildlife surveys in thirty years, and works to stop the poaching of the country’s endangered animals, including the elusive snow leopard.  Some of these animals somehow even navigate mine fields, which is why no one had really ventured into finding out what was still out there and alive after all these years of war.

 

 

 

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was my book club’s pick for June!  It stirred up some very good discussions about this tale that reflects upon a true story that happened in Memphis around 1939.

Before We Were Yours follows five children and their life on the Mississippi River upon a shanty-boat.   One night their mother needs to be rushed to the hospital before a storm hits, feeling as though she may be having complications with her pregnancy.  The older of the children, Rill is left in charge.

The next day, strangers arrive at their boat.  No parents in sight.  The children are coaxed off their boat with promises of visiting their mother who is recovering in the hospital.  A lie that starts as a trickle and turns into a churning forceful river.  The children are not taken to the hospital, they are taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage.

The tale ultimately moves from two stories, one in the past with the children and one in the present with Avery Stafford.  Avery’s character  discovers a long-hidden family secret.  One that will tie both families in together in a way that you won’t expect.

This book is based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country.