Book Review ~ Our National Forests: Stories from America’s Most Important Public Lands

Part travelogue, part history lesson, part environmental plea, Our National Forests is exactly what we need to ignite a renewed interest in our country’s protected lands.

Turns out, National Forests (not National Parks, which are something else entirely) are much more than I thought. I was surprised to learn that not only had I likely visited a National Forest without even knowing it, they’re absolutely essential to the fabric of our nation. The National Forests are steeped in history — both good and bad — and the author doesn’t shy away from either. Whatever your mood (introspective, light, frustrated, or scientifically curious) you’ll be greeted with insightful stories and huge color images that you could easily get lost in.

Spotted Bear River, Flathead National Forest, Montana | US Forest Service | Flickr

Our National Forests is as varied as the lands in question: sometimes dense and textbooky with dates and figures, sometimes sprinkled with relatable anecdotes that’ll make you chuckle, and sometimes sobering. The author addresses challenging topics from the early days of the Forest Service as well as ongoing issues like human impact, apathy, and inequality. But just before the reader’s heart breaks, we’re presented with new stories of citizen science, advancements, and renewals. I especially enjoyed the historical chapter about the first planted forest in Nebraska. What an uphill battle it must’ve been to learn how to efficiently establish a forest where there was none!

A cool, clear mountain stream. A wide open prairie of tall grasses. A majestic range of western peaks covered in ponderosa pines. These are some hallmarks of America’s cherished national forests.

But, if we look more closely and shift our lens from macro to micro, a very different world comes into view.

-Greg M. Peters, Our National Forests

As the author points out, much of the forests themselves are millennia old, but the Forest Service is only 115. Clearly, there’s a lot more history to be written in this ongoing tribute to trees. If you love our lands and are interested in what’s protected, how, and why, Our National Forests belongs on your coffee table.

Our National Forests: Stories from America’s Most Important Public Lands by Greg M. Peters was published November 9, 2021 and is available now.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review ~ Rewilding: The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery

Ecologists want to see a healthier planet, and some have found a path to this recovery through rewilding — that is, reintroducing species to their native habitats after being wiped out. And as it turns out, there are wildly different approaches to this truly radical technique. From delicate moves (like replacing an extinct tortoise species with a similar one in the Mauritian Islands) to sledgehammer action (think bringing back mammoths), rewilding begs the question, “How? And more importantly, should we?”

“Rewilding” is a great introduction to the topic, which is multifaceted in the extreme. This book explores the history of rewilding — what’s worked, what’s failed, and what’s on the horizon — as well as the ripple effects. As an armchair ecologist, most of these approaches were new to me. But I did recognize a few rewilding efforts, including Pleistocene Park and the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. I appreciated the mentions of plant and insect rewilding, too, which are often eclipsed by megaherbivores and other showy species.

While it is intended as an overview and introduction, this book sometimes get technical, so a background in biology would be helpful for most readers. The language drifts between pop sci and textbook, but there are lots of great illustrations to help clear up sticky concepts. Plenty of beautiful photographs and well-placed diagrams.

“Rewilding” is a fantastic conversation starter, leaving the reader with lots of food for thought. An excellent foundation for building new knowledge on this tangled topic.

Thanks to NetGalley, the authors, and the publisher for providing a copy of this ebook in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters

Satoshi is back in Japan after living in the US and he feels like a total outcast. He’s been gone a long time, he’s way too good in his English class, and he worries that his disabled sister and confused grandfather will attract unwanted attention. On top of it all, there’s only one spot left on the baseball team! Can he juggle his school, sports, and home life while still fitting in with his friends?

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters paints a wonderful portrait of school-age awkwardness and the desire to fit in. This story takes place entirely in Japan, where the cultural differences between Japanese and American school systems are highlighted, especially with student-teacher relations. The culture shock goes both ways for Satoshi and his friends, making this a poignant read for children who feel like they just don’t fit in anywhere.

I listened to this with my 9 year old who absolutely loved it! He did struggle to keep the names straight, but the story is fast-paced, exciting, and kid-friendly without being babyish. The story trusts that the middle-grade readers will be able to handle heavy subjects like dementia right along with things like the desire to get good grades. It struck a great balance, and we both looked forward to each listening session.

We did find that the sound effects were intrusive at times. It was a great addition, especially at the baseball games, but some sounds went on way too long and became distracting (like when Satoshi gets a haircut). We had mixed feelings about the ending, too, but overall, we loved it!

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters is a refreshing middle-grade story about fitting in, friendship — and of course baseball! It’s a gem of a story that’s perfect for any sports-loving kid.

CW: Parents, there is some mild language and 2 plot-pertinent uses of the R-word.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

What’s new? Reviews!

I am pleased to announce that I am now a NetGalley reviewer! For years, I’ve been envious of the ARC reviewers who get sneak peeks of new releases, and I’m thrilled to finally join their ranks. Unsurprisingly, I was a little over-enthusiastic with my requests on day one, and five of my requests were approved within 48 hours of joining. A little daunting, yes, but I’m over the moon.

I enjoy all literature bizarre and unsettling, so most of the titles I plan to review will be horror or at least weird. So far, so good.

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My first book up for review, Welcome to Brookville by Kelly Ennis, was a quick and dreamy read. I’ll be honest, I picked this title based on the cover in the hopes of some serious atmospheric weirdness. WOW did Ennis deliver! This collection of vaguely interconnected short stories takes place in the town of Brookville, where nothing normal seems to happen. If there had been giant rabbits spouting non sequiturs in their living room (spoiler: there aren’t) I’d almost believe it could be a Lynch movie. Almost. I felt like the most pertinent pages ripped out of my copy, so I could never say for sure what was going on, but I think I liked it.

The overarching themes of imprisonment and anxiety brought even the mildest psychological horror to the forefront. I can’t say what this book was about, exactly, but it left me with some disturbing and frustrating after-images, and in that way, it was successful.

Click here to see the full review.

There are four more books to review in the next couple weeks, and countless more in the pipeline. Mount TBR just got a lot higher.

Next up, The House of Dust by Noah Broyles.