Perimeter: A Contemporary Portrait of Lake Michigan by Kevin J. Miyazaki (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2014)

Beautiful photos of the Lake’s neighbors. We come in many shapes, sizes, colors and have a wide variety of jobs, hobbies, interests, and concerns. Pictured here are hikers, fishermen and women, birders, boaters, surfers, actors, Coast Guard, steelworkers, vacationers, swimmers, police officers, professors and wildlife conservationists. In the faces are pride, joy, trust, self-assurance, friendliness, and amusement. I was pleasantly surprised to see my Biology professor pictured here (now retired but looking younger than ever – he is a local fixture on the shore!) as well as one of the directors of the nature preserve that is within sight of my house and where I spend much time hiking and photographing all year round.

While the focus of the book is on the people here, not the Lake itself, and what we are concerned with when it comes to our awesome body of water, not every person photographed gets to express their opinion and those who do only get two or three sentences under their pic. Each person, however, is identified by name and either where they’re from, where they were visiting when photographed and their situation (job, retired, student, etc). 

In between every handful of people photos is a photo of the Lake, all relatively calm days and, due to the very short timeframe, all warm weather photos. It was a bit disappointing to me that the project didn’t extend into winter because the Lake is equally beautiful then, it’s still relevant to our lives then, and there are still surprising activities in, on, and around it then. And, even though it’s not a “Lake” book but a “people of the Lake” book, there needed to be a photo of the full moon over the Lake and images of the cars lined up on the shoreline on a beautiful summer night just to take in the breathtaking view. 

(As a side note, the man who is identified as Frank Ettawageshik, “a Native American leader” who “sang me the Native American water song” is more specifically from the Waganakising Odawak tribe which is part of the Little Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The song was likely from his people, rather than a song that all indigenous peoples sing.)

ISBN 978-0-87020-676-4

-I received a copy of this book via the  LibraryThing Member Giveaway.

PRIDE: Celebrating Diversity & Community by Robin Stevenson

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Wow. So much better than I imagined. This is a celebratory book, a work of joy, and an offering of love. I didn’t realize it was meant for children. It doesn’t come across as a book directed towards kids – even though I did notice an unusual number of photos of children in the Pride movement – because it doesn’t “talk” in a childish way as many other informative books for children do. It covers the history of Pride, the variety, the worldwide aspect, the triumphs and the ongoing resistance. I learned things! On the last page is a list of other Orca Book Publishers’ offerings and the covers look similar to the Pride cover – colorful and joyful – so I assume they are similar in feel and content. I plan to pick up one or two others and keep an eye on Orca. So far, I’m really impressed and I rarely take note of publishers!

The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey & Gretchen LeBuhn

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I enjoyed this book very much and will be referring to it often as I continue to improve my bee-friendly garden. Firstly, the photos of bees are amazing. You get a handful of the most common varieties in glorious, colorful close-ups. This is a bee-lovers bonus.

There are, too, nice close-ups of flowers and of a variety of gardens/settings to promote ideas for your own design. While the photos made me rather jealous of what others have, the book made very clear that no matter what you have, you can use it to help bees. Everything counts.

The book went into more depth than I expected. I thought it would be just plants and garden designs, but it went into detail on bees’ life cycles, nesting, why they like certain plants more than others, how and when they collect what they need, and even how/why plants offer nectar/pollen. I learned facts that amazed me and enriched my learning beyond just having a pretty flower patch that hopefully attracts bees.

Included were lists of the best bee-attracting plants to put in your garden/property divided by region and zone. A list of “citizen science” projects, organizations, seed sellers/nurseries, websites, and a bibliography and index complete the book, making it far more useful than just a how-to garden tool.

*This honest review was provided in exchange for a free copy of the book from bloggingforbooks.com

Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War … by Eric Blehm

Having grown up seeing the images of Vietnam on tv, even if I didn’t understand what was going on, I have a tendency to be fascinated by the stories of the war now that I know more. The soldiers were/are of my father’s generation so I relate to the stories as if they were my father’s even though he was fortunate enough not to go over.

I chose to read and review this book for these reasons. This story is told simply and straight forward. It is not overly dramatic, does not glorify heavily, does not gratuitously present the horrors. It tells the tale of a remarkable soldier who was, otherwise, an unremarkable man. Just a young man, a young American male who had the right stuff to become a good warrior. His story isn’t much different than other heroes, sung or unsung, of this war, and we’ve seen this stuff on tv shows and in movies many times. However, it stands out from others due to the way it is written – with humility, with reverence, and without any ego from the author intruding. Beautifully written. A fitting tribute to Roy Benavidez.

I received a free copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review, from Blogging for Books.

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Living the Quaker Way by Philip Gulley

Living the Quaker Way is an adequate introduction to the Quaker religion for those who are curious about it, especially if they were also told they might be good candidates for membership. The first few pages made me laugh because I am one of those who took the Beliefnet quiz years ago and was pegged, to my astonishment, as Quaker. It led to my search for information on why I was designated such, because it seemed implausible to say the least.

The beginning third of the book is a little slow and perhaps the least inspiring. Nothing really stands out as saying “this is the Quaker way.” I was tuned in to the fact that the author speaks from a position of relative privilege, having two homes (one with a peaceful woods behind it), the latest technology, a vehicle, a secure job, time to write, etc. One can only simplify, and reap the benefits of simplifying, if they come from a life cluttered with possessions, commitments, etc. The poorest don’t often have the luxury to work in a job that fits their beliefs or to quit when they find a conflict with their ethics. The destitute can’t give up an expensive car and buy a smaller, less flashy model in order to be more in line with their morality. The poverty-stricken, single mother of 5 most likely won’t be able to risk jail for not paying taxes that fund wars because she would have her children taken away. The book doesn’t address Quakerism as a religion of the poor, but as a religion of those who look to equalize the poor and the rich, which is noble, but requires one to be well-off in comparison.

The book becomes far more intense and thought-provoking around the middle when discussing war, violence and the current controversies in politics and conservative religion. Furthermore, the author does a great job pointing out not only his own struggles and mistakes, but also those of Quakerism over the years. He doesn’t shy away from the ugly truths and does not paint a picture of perfection. Being a good person, a responsible citizen, and a conscientious Quaker is an ongoing struggle. As he states, Truth is always ahead of us. If we think we have found the entirety of it, we are deceived and don’t have it. This is where I am most impressed with Quakerism in general. It encourages us to look outwardly as well as inwardly, to study religions and cultures that we don’t belong to for more truths, to recognize that whatever lifestyle we live, whatever religion we practice, whatever belief we hold is not the Truth in full. All in all, the book made me want to read more books by Quakers, to look more into the various Quaker organizations, and to examine the various ways I, even as someone relativity poor in comparison to those writing books like this, may bring my life more into line with my deepest values.

ISBN: 978-0-307-95579-1
Released 11/18/14

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book for review from Blogging for Books.

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I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

I have read and liked several of Yrsa’s other books. I pre-ordered this one and read reviews while I waited for it to arrive. I did not heed the warnings to read this during the day (or at least, not right before going to bed) and consequently had to sleep with the lights on 3 nights in a row. However, it did not begin to frighten me until chapter 9 or 10. As others have said, the scary bits are short and come primarily in the last few sentences of each chapter, serving as mini cliffhangers. The structure of the tale, in this way, is brilliant, and would easily translate onto the big screen. Just why the scary bits are so scary is partly because they suddenly pop up and partly because of something I can’t articulate. As someone else mentioned, it’s ala Blair Witch, more mind over matter, yet extremely visceral. Before the scary bits got going, I was rather bored, however. I wasn’t particularly interested in the characters and in fact I found the 3 who interact the most with the ghosts to be annoying, immature, illogical, stupid, and hard to accept as real people. I suppose it’s typical for horror genre that people have to do dumb things but I had hoped Yrsa would play things differently.

Also, as others have said, while the storylines come rapidly together at the end, and you see why all the boring bits earlier had to be said, there are quite a few loose ends and questions you are left with at the end, some that leave open the possibility for a sequel and some that seem merely part of the illogical stupidity that permeates many of the characters. I found myself wondering, second-guessing, and reviewing what I had read to try to tie up the loose ends or answer the questions (which is good when a book makes you think). I felt a little cheated with the fates of the 3 characters who had the most interaction with the ghosts. When the most serious and frightening things occur, they happen “off camera” as it were. We don’t see or hear it. Better than 3-stars, but not quite 4.

9781250045621
Minotaur Books, 2014

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The Atheist’s Prayer by Amy R. Biddle

I bought this book solely because I liked the title. No idea what it might be about. Then I read the back cover and the “what people are saying about” section, and wondered how well I would like a book about a druggie stripper and an alcoholic Santa in a “fiendishly funny” novel (not much, I guessed). Then I began reading … and couldn’t put it down! Extremely likeable and realistic characters (not once did I roll my eyes), a completely believeable plot that somehow kept me interested even though the main action described on the back doesn’t really get underway until halfway through, and a certain warmth/hope that made me look past the drugs and alcohol. Do atheists pray? Not in the theistic way. They pray with friendship, love, and concern as evidenced in these characters. Thought this would be a read-and-recycle book, but nope, I’m keeping it to read over and over. Can’t wait to see what else Amy R. Biddle writes!

9781780995823
Perfect Edge, 2014