Thursday, August 15, 2019

Natalie Recommends Bats: an Illustrated Guide to all Species


This was a great book giving some insight into these flying mammals.  And with as many species as their are, somewhere around 1,300 if not more, it's nice to see that this book highlights each one.  It starts off with some basic information about these winged mammals: their biology (including anatomy and physiology), history, ecology, and behaviors.  As well as a brief look into the reputations they've had over the years.  

After that, it gives a brief, but informative synopsis about each bat, where their located, their size and weight, and where they fall on the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) as far as how endangered they are.  It also includes the different classes that each bat falls under, giving an explanation of what each class entails.

This is a nice culmination of one of the more unique mammals out there and what kinds of bats you can expect around the world.  This book can be found in the Adult nonfiction section.

For fans of "Where the Crawdads Sing"

If you read Where the Crawdads Sing and loved the evocative descriptions of nature and the incredible story of a girl left to grow up on her own, you may enjoy Once Upon a River by Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell

In Once Upon a River, Margo Crane's relatively happy childhood is destroyed one step a time. First, her beloved grandfather dies. Then her mother leaves home. At 15, an act of violence by a trusted uncle leaves her and her father exiled from the family home to the opposite bank of the Stark River. A year later, Margo tries to set the balance right, but starts a chain of events that ends with her alone, heading upstream on the river, with the vague idea to find the mother that abandoned her. 

On the Stark, a fictional branch of the Kalamazoo River, Margo, like Kya in her marsh, is surrounded by wild things: fish, heron, duck, muskrat, and deer. Margo is uniquely suited to take care of herself on the river, having grown up at the heels of her outdoorsman grandfather. She shoots with the skill of her hero, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and guts and skins animals herself. If Kya is the "Marsh Girl," Margo is the "wolf girl," raised in the wild, and she's not sure whether to be proud or ashamed of the comparison. 

While Margo is content and confident observing the rules of the natural world, she is less confident navigating her human relationships. She cannot locate and reconnect with her mother right away, so Margo hooks up with a series of men along the river. It's a logical decision in her mind, since she is looking for someone to take her in. But her inclination to ‘wait and see’ before deciding how she feels about things often leaves her stranded in dangerous situations. 

There's no murder mystery in Once Upon a River, which isn't to say there's no death. A person left to observe that in the natural world, the strong survive, will do what it takes to survive. Thriving is something else, and Margo has a long journey ahead of her before she can consider what she wants from life beyond her own survival. That journey is beautiful, heart-breaking, frustrating and thought-provoking. Not for the faint of heart, Once Upon a River is unforgettable. 

Other stories of survival, living off the land, and overcoming obstacles set in a deep natural setting include: 

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Animal Vegetable Miracle or Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Gretchen recommends the "Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness"

As you enjoy these last dog days of summer, learn how you can optimize this time with your canine or feline family members by giving attention to your pet's health and wellness needs.  The Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness by Dr. Gary Weitzman provides a wealth of information from first aid and common illnesses to a pet's psychological needs throughout its life span.  This well-illustrated book is geared for adult readers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Natalie Recommends "Alita Battle Angel"

Based on the Yukito Kishiro manga (Japanese comic) Battle Angel Alita, Alita: Battle Angel tells the story of the cyborg Alita, who has amnesia and wants to find out who she is.  This movie highlights the first few issue of the Battle Angel Alita series, which includes her introduction, her interest in motorball (a fa roller derby like sport), and her time as a bounty hunter.  Along the way, she meets new friends, like Hugo, who she would develop a romantic interest in as well as enemies such as Zapan, a cyborg bounty hunter, and Victor a motorball champion, who has questionable ties.

This movie did stray slightly from the source material slightly, like changing how Alita got her name (she was originally named after Ido's cat) to his daughter and Jennifer Connolly's character, Dr. Cherin.  She was originally a character from the short animated series but was Ido's partner there, where here, she's his ex-wife.  However, these additions were nice and added some development for the story. For example, Hugo shows Alita how to play motorball (for fun), which would at least explain where she learned it from.

This was a project that James Cameron had been wanting to do since Avatar, which would be the movie he ultimately went with first.  And while the titular character's look it may take some getting used to, this is a really good cyberpunk movie.  I actually saw it in theaters when it came out because I am a fan of the series and was waiting for this to finally come out for a few years.  And after the wait, I can say that I really enjoyed it.

It's a good movie that tells the story of a cyborg trying to discover who she is and who she wants to be and is full of great action sequences.  The motorball scenes in this movie are fast much like the sport it mimics and are fun to watch.  As an adaptation of a manga series (much like Ghost in a Shell two years ago), I feel like this did it well compared to a number of others like it.  And as a science fiction movie, I thought it was pretty well put together.  This movie is suited for a more adult audience given some of the language and topics that are brought up.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Sarah recommends "Bachelor Nation"

Confession: I’m a fan of The Bachelor. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a member of “Bachelor Nation” (the term used by ABC TV for die-hard fans of their Bachelor franchise), but I DO regularly watch the shows. Which led me to this CMPL Hot Read from 2018: Bachelor Nation: inside the world of America’s favorite guilty pleasure. Written by Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman, it explores both the secrets behind making a reality TV show, and the cultural implications of a show focused on the narrative of fairy-tale romance.

Here are some of the juicy details I learned by reading this book:
*Co-executive producer Lisa Levenson got her start in television with Jerry Springer and General Hospital – she knew all about how to create drama!
*The “in-the-moment” interviews, in which off-camera producers interview contestants during an episode, are shockingly similar to police interrogations – contestants may be kept in that small room until they say what producers want them to say, so they “confess” in order to get out of there and finally get to sleep. (p. 148)
*Something called “Frankenbiting” – sound-bites that have been edited to change the meaning from the original recording. (p. 161)
(Surprise! Reality TV isn’t really real.)

So if you’re a proud member of Bachelor Nation, a casual fan, a “hate-watcher,”or just curious what all the fuss is about, I highly recommend picking this one up.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Gretchen recommends "Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country"

I always look forward to Pam Houston’s books.  This memoir from the writer and environmentalist—several years in the making--is a series of essays to be savored slowly.  At midlife, with the mortgage paid, she has found her place of belonging and healing on a 120-acre ranch in the Colorado Rockies with her beloved animals.  Pam Houston’s voice is honest and hopeful.  Her beautiful writing celebrates nature, the earth and its survival, and her hard-won place in this world .  A thought-provoking read for adults with a passion for natural history.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Anneliese recommends "The Storyteller's Secret"

A captivating story that takes place in the past and present, Badani will have you enamored in her tale of Jaya, a woman who travels to her mother's hometown in India to escape her feelings dealing with her failing marriage and multiple miscarriages.  While there, Jaya and readers will travel back in time to also learn the story of Jaya's grandmother, and the secrets that have been long hidden as to why Jaya's mother left India, never to return.  This book  is full of Indian culture, history of the British occupation in India, heartbreak, love, family, and perseverance, and will have you so enthralled that you will NOT be able to put it down.

Recommended for adults.