Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

Pulitzer Prize finalist, Dan Egan, has just released a new work of non-fiction entitled The Death and Life of the Great Lakes. The book was a winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Award – given annually to provide funding necessary for the completion of a non-fiction work focusing on an American topic that is of political and/or social concern.

Egan’s book starts by educating us on the engineering marvels of the late 1800’s that broke down the barriers of the Great Lakes – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior – for improved shipping and to allow Chicago’s sewage to float out to the Mississippi . These man-made changes exposed 20% of the earth’s fresh water to waterborne disease, sea lamprey, zebra and quagga mussels, and more; destroying native species and changing the ecosystem forever. Egan also talks about other threats including toxic algae, climate change, and dredging of shipping channels; addressing the pressing concern of a potential Asian Carp invasion. There are glimmers of hope, as Egan uncovers relatively simple things we can do to ensure that the Great Lakes will be healthy for generations to come.

As Egan covers the life within the Great Lakes, the threats they face daily, and their revival, you can feel his concern for and love of one of our most precious resources. This book is a must-read, as it provides a concise history of the Great Lakes, information on man-made and environmental concerns leading to where we are today, and a blueprint for protecting these bodies of water for the future. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is relevant and informative. It is a book that should not be ignored.

Reviewed by Jennifer Harden

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

Charles Wang came from Taiwan to the United States and amassed a fortune in the cosmetics industry. He married, bought a house in Bel-Air, and had three children. His first wife died and he married Barbra, who was also from Taiwan. Then in 2008, he made a few mistakes and managed to lose everything. This is the story of Charles and Barbra leaving their home to pick up two of the children from boarding school and college. Luckily, the oldest daughter has her own house in upstate New York. The Wangs are making their way to her in an old Mercedes station wagon. Charles still has a grand scheme to reclaim what he lost. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different family member. This is a funny road trip story about a family trying to adjust to their change in fortune and figuring out where they belong in the world.

Reviewed by Fiona Swift

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

I happened upon this title while searching for an ‘end of days’ read. The concept that has riddled numerous societies and populations for millennia intrigues me and I search out good books on the subject whenever I can. Although a fictional work, the author ties in a historical background and largely unknown historical facts to produce an engaging and thought provoking work that I stayed up late nights pondering.

A coming of age story set within a very plausible setting, the beginning of the book reads fairly slow and deliberate, with easy to justify moral complications. As the reader, I started to get slightly bored over the lack of pitfalls and any foreboding. Then it hit. Little forebodings spaced just off context that drew me into the story and started the elements of which I cannot stop pondering over now. The subtle provocations at the governmental system, the background of human nature, and thoughts on how little human influence has on the larger scheme of life and death still play within my mind today.

I will be ordering this hardcover for my personal collection. I will ensure my children read it, and hope they ponder the past to bring light to the future.

Reviewed by Dan Rice

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lucky Bastard by Joe Buck

Buck, Son of legendary broadcaster Jack Buck, spins a self-deprecating tale of growing up in the shadow of his famous father. From an early age, Joe was allowed to tag along and watch his dad do the play-by-play for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.

Brutally honest about his own and his father’s shortcomings, Buck tells how it was growing up with the most famous father in St. Louis, who never turned down a speaking engagement or a request for an autograph. As he begins to blossom in his own broadcasting career, Joe faces stinging criticism and accusations of favoritism from the baseball community.

Lucky Bastard is a quick read filled with an inside look at the famous; from Mark McGuire’s steroid fueled home run chase, to personal anecdotes about Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr, and broadcasting partner Tim McCarver. A light, entertaining glance behind the scenes from one of our top broadcasters.

Reviewed by Bill O'Brien

Monday, January 9, 2017

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Image result for barkskinsBarkskins is the newest book by author Annie Proulx, the critically acclaimed author of Brokeback Mountain and The Shipping News. This weighty work begins in the late 1600’s with the arrival of two young French immigrants to the dense forests of the rugged new world of Canada. It traces the fate of their descendants and the devastating impact of deforestation through to the present day. It is a sweeping and engaging story rich in French Canadian, Michigan and Native American history. The fate of the two young men and their families diverge widely due to chance, choice and hard work. Life in the Canadian wilderness is harsh and unforgiving but also beautiful and rewarding. Throughout the book, the ever present and far reaching impact of deforestation plays out in meaningful and difficult ways. The book ties together people and the earth and their powerful impact on each other. I highly recommend this book to readers of local and historical fiction.  

Reviewed by Amy Churchill

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I am Princess X by Cherie Priest

May and Libby become best friends in fifth grade.  They invent a fictional character they name Princess X and spend hours writing and drawing stories about her.  Tragedy strikes a few years later when Libby drowns.  May’s parents get a divorce.  She and her mom move out of state.  Every summer May travels back to stay with her dad.  The year she is sixteen, she finds a sticker with a picture of Princess X.  How could it even be possible?  She investigates and finds a website with the stories she helped write, along with new ones.  Did someone find their old notebooks or could Libby be alive?  May meets some new friends and they follow the clues in the Princess X stories. 

Reviewed by Fiona Swift

Monday, December 5, 2016

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Image result for born a crime

South African comedian Trevor Noah was largely unknown when he was tapped to succeed Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show in 2015. Instead of talking about showbiz in his first memoir, he focuses on his formative years under Apartheid and life with his indomitable mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah.

Parts of Noah’s memoir are tremendously funny. (The future humorist had the gift of smart talk and knack for trouble at an early age.) But the title of this book reflects its serious undercurrents. Under the laws of South Africa when he was born, Noah’s existence was literally proof of a crime. His skin color was too different from either his black mother or white father for either one of them to acknowledge him in public. If the authorities had suspected their true relationship, his parents would have been arrested and Noah taken into state custody. In his teen years, the country moved towards racial integration, but finding his way out of generational poverty wasn’t easy. This book is a great choice for anyone who wants a better understanding of Noah’s perspective as a comedian. Having grown up under a police state certainly informs the way he makes fun of politics in America today.

Reviewed by Lynn Heitkamp