The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals by Joel Sartore (National Geographic)

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is a book that should be on everyone’s coffee tables and book shelves!  I found it on the ‘new’ release shelf at my local library, being an animal lover I had to check it out.  National Geographic the Photo ark is a lifelong project, already spanning 25 years, of photographer Joel Sartore.  It is his goal to take portraits of the world’s animals, especially those that are endangered and put them at our fingertips.  Joel has a powerful message sprawling through this fantastic book conveyed with humor, compassion and art.  Joel hopes we will look into the eyes of these animals, to know these animals, in order to save them.

Sartore’s intends to photograph every animal in captivity around the world.  He is visiting zoos and wildlife rescue centers to create studio portraits of 12,000 species, with an emphasis on those facing extinction.  He has photographed more than 6,000 already and now, thanks to a multi-year partnership with National Geographic, he may reach his goal.

As I was going through the book, I happened upon an Albino North American Porcupine with the caption “This albino porcupine is named Halsey for the spot in Nebraska near where she was rescued after being hit on the highway.  Today Halsey is thriving, despite a dental condition that prevents her from ever being returned to the wild.”  This caught me off guard because I happen to live in Nebraska!  Not only that, but as I kept reading I read more captions and descriptions of animals that were photographed at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (Nebraska),  Nebraska Wildlife Rehab in Louisville (Nebraska) and the Lincoln’s Children Zoo (Nebraska).

Then, after finishing the book, I read about the photographer and author Joel Sartore.  He is a photographer, author, teacher, conservationist, National Geographic Fellow and a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine.  He is the founder of this project, the Photo Ark, has contributed to Audubon magazine, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, Smithsonian magazine and numerous book projects.  Are you ready for the icing on the cake????  Joel is always happy to return from his travels around the world to his home in Lincoln, Nebraska, where his lives with is wife and their three children.

I cannot stress enough how amazing this book was, especially from the fact that this project is being conducted by a fellow Nebraskan.  I look forward to seeing more of Joel Sartore’s work in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

~Book Club Selection~ A Novel Idea’s book for May!

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

This book was so beautiful and haunting, a story of the broken destinies of two young protagonists, during World War II. There is Marie-Laure, a French blind girl, forced to flee Paris and the routine of her safe and familiar life, with her father. Then there is snow-haired Werner, a young German private, keen, resourceful and thrown in a war he doesn’t fathom.

Marie-Laure lives with her father near the Museum of Natural History in Paris.  Her father works as the “master of its thousands of locks”.  Ever since Marie-Laure went blind at the age of six, she as been memorizing the neighborhood via a perfect miniature rendition her father has made.  She can navigate easily now.  Then the war comes when she is twelve.  Her and her father flee to an uncles house by the sea, where they think they will be safe.  Although with them, they happen to carry the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In Germany, Werner grows up with his younger sister Jutta and many others at an orphanage.  They find an old radio one day and their lives were changed forever. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

All the Light We Cannot See is undeniably a masterpiece. The characters are well developed throughout the novel, the settings are lush with expository passages that help entrench the reader in Marie-Laure’s sightless world, and is ultimately a novel of optimism in a time of doom.  This is a highly recommended read!

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is a riveting account of the westward trek of 19th century pioneers told from the perspective of 19 year old Mary Ann Graves, one of the Donner Party survivors.  Written in verse, this is a story of the young woman and her family as they make the treacherous journey west in 1846. Working together or not, decisions good and bad all influence the outcome of this fantastic adventure and the fates of many brave families.  By focusing on one member of the Donner party, the author makes one of the most mysterious episodes in American history come to life.

Mary’s family later joined up with a wagon train led by George Donner. Together they continued heading towards California, certain the trip would only take a few more months by taking a short cut. If they had known of the dangers and the cost to their families that lay on the road ahead after they became lost for 32 days, they would all have stayed in Illinois…

Mary’s account of the horrors of their trip, which included death, starvation, freezing cold and mountainous terrain, will transfix readers. One hundred and seventy years later, all that they faced are brought to life in poetic verse.

The writing was as beautiful as it was dark.  The research that went into this is was impressive, and the intimacy and intensity of the verse is absolutely captivating. As you near the inevitable pages that have become fabled in history, you will sense the desperation of the men and women on this journey. It’s an unflinching story of death and survival.

The Trees by Ali Shaw

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is the first book that I would EVER want to read over and over again.  First, we need to pause and admire this amazing cover.  It has so much meaning to me now that I’ve finished the book, but prior, it was what incited me to indulge in the story it held behind it.  The book is quite hefty being close to 500 pages, but I promise you that you won’t even notice.  Reading this was a journey; at times light, and at others so heavy I felt myself shrinking into the couch. I loved every minute of it.

In the dead of night, without any warning, they came.  The trees.  They came without remorse for what damage was to come or who would be in the way of their rapid eruption from the earth.  The aftershock of creaks and groans were heard then, the sound of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins… Why had they come.  What did they want?

The story seemed to revolved around Adrien Thomas, a man who in the beginning you think will not ever be able to make it in this abruptly “new” world but he has no choice once he realizes that help isn’t coming.  His wife Michelle is thousands of miles away in Ireland, across the sea and Adrien has no way of knowing whether she is alive or if the trees had come for her too.

On his way out of his destroyed town he meets Hannah and her son Seb.  Although Adrien would prefer to travel alone, Hannah will not have it.  Her and Seb are setting out as well to reunite with her brother who lives in the forest.  Then they plan to help Adrien reunite with his wife.  Although nothing could have prepared them for what was to come. This has become a fascinating, frightening and grim world to traverse into filled with new strange creatures and animals alike.

THIS is a book you MUST read dear followers.  Dig into it and smell the freshly turned soil, experience the authors poetic way of writing.  Let the story take you into the dark heart of nature where you will find it’s beauty and this book may just change the way you look at the world we live in.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

~Book Club Selection~ A Novel Idea’s book for March!

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

A Man called Ove was a laugh and a tear jerker for me.  Ove is a grumpy old man. A man of principle. And not very nice. He was never a talker and not very social either. It’s the way he is, and there is a reason too. His wife Sonja died recently and he just can’t take life anymore. In flashbacks we learn how he meets Sonja, how they build a life together in which he absolutely adores her. He misses her dearly and when we meet Ove he actually makes several attempts to end his life as he sees no use living on without her. However, the neighborhood prevents him to do so…. He meets a new family who comes to live in his neighborhood. A pregnant woman, a clumsy husband, and two little daughters. The first encounters with the various family members are hilarious. And Ove meets a cat, who comes to live with him. And other colorful neighbors follow…. he does not want to connect with them at all, but it can’t be helped. And then… the story really starts. And Ove, without wanting it, bonds… with the cat and with the family. And the other neighbors.

This book was fantastic!  I had previously read Fredrik Backman’s  “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” and this book was just as enjoyable!  This book is about the transformations we go through in life and how different events within our life affect, shape us, and make us who we are today.  This book is a journey. For Ove, for Ove’s surroundings and for the reader. It is a magnificent tale about true love, Saab and the fact that what you see isn’t always what you get.  Ove is melodramatic but he will make you laugh and cry and you’ll be glad that you met him in the end.  A highly recommend read!

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home (Mennonite #1) by Rhoda Janzen

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Rating: ♥ ♥

This is the first book in my new post series “Book Club Selections”, as they are books that we have read for our book club ~ A Novel Idea!

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her.

Written with wry humor and huge personality—and tackling faith, love, family, and aging—Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is an immensely moving memoir of healing, certain to touch anyone who has ever had to look homeward in order to move ahead.

I will be completely honest with you, this book was difficult for me to get through.  I stepped out of my box, which is why I wanted to join a book club, and this one to me was just not a winner. All things considered I did find humor in a few places!  Sad to say, she pretty much used up her good material within the first few chapters, after that I felt as though she was rambling on, going no where.  Here’s another thing, the author makes a point of mentioning that she is an English professor and a grammarian who is often asked to edit her colleagues’ research papers and has in fact taken on a paying editing gig in the wake of her divorce. Apparently, these editorial skills don’t extend to fact-checking (in which her copy editor also failed her), since the text is sprinkled with such things as “Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers” (the actual name is spelled Bonne Bell).

Although I think the part that kept me reading the book was that it was interesting to me all the skills that Mennonites have.  Now a days you won’t find kids in the kitchen learning how to make bread or learning to sew.  Still, this was a bizarre read. I had no idea what to expect of this book but I’m glad that I stepped out of my ‘norm’ to take a shot at it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts.

Julia is still mourning the loss of her beloved dog Ramon when her mother signs Julia and her younger brother Randy up for a local university production of The Wizard of Oz.  Julia is quite short for her age, so her mother is certain she will be cast as a Munchkin.  Reluctant at first, Julia becomes more and more enamored with the various people involved in the semi-professional production.  The director, some of the actors, and a few of the tech crew have been hired from out of town; some are college students; the rest, like Julia, are from the local community.  Julia acknowledges not only her own “shortcomings” both at school and at home, but is realistic in her assessment of other people as well. The reader will grow along with Julia as she learns about life and the world around her through this classic production. A must read for students who love to act, as well as for those who feel they are average in a world of “stars.” I loved the main character Julia SO much and I think I took a liking towards her right from the beginning due to her love of her dog! Highly recommended for grades 4 & up!