Curious Critters Michigan

Book: Curious Critters Michigan by David FitzSimmons

I picked up this fun board book at the Ann Arbor Street Fair this year. The photographer and author had a booth that included several of his striking prints, along with a nice selection of children’s books. He had a lovely Curious Critters picture book with more lengthy text, as well as several varieties of board books like this one. Each of the board books featured animals that can be found in different states around the US.

Although a fairly simple concept, these books are well put together and a nice representation of wildlife in Michigan. The focus is on “critters” versus all animals, which I think makes the animal selection more interesting. While there are other notable animals in the state, these are the creatures that you might see in your backyard or around town. The Michigan book includes a variety of birds and insects, along with a few other small animals like turtles, opossums, and snakes.

Each creature has a short kind-friendly description, usually with a distinctive behavior or sound associated with the animals. The real stand out here though is the photographs. The photos are fully colored and detailed, with most of them either life-size or larger. In our first read-through, my niece was fascinated by the bugs—things she sees regularly, but would rarely have the opportunity to inspect up close in real life.

Minka’s Thoughts: “They included some of my favorites, but left out the most important curious critter of all: ME. 2 paws.”

The Hill We Climb

img_9579Book: The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

Date Read: June 30, 2021

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

I debated with myself about writing an entry for this one—I bought a copy of this little book, but I wondered: should it really count as a whole book? Yes and no, I suppose. It is a bound copy of a poem. Short, yes, but presented in the form of a book. Regardless, I thought that it was deserving of some recognition—which, of course, is part of the reason that I bought the book in the first place.

I heard the poem the first time when many others did: when she recited it at Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. I admit that I was not watching with great excitement. While I thought Biden was the better of the presented options, this was not exactly what I had been hoping for. Then Amanda Gorman took the stage and blew me away. She talked about my country in a way that felt familiar but could not put in to words on my own. Not the perfect place Americans like to pretend it is, but one that has the ability to prevail nonetheless. One that is able to look at its shortcomings and find ways to make them better. That’s the America I want to live in. That’s the life that I hope I am living—not perfect, but good enough to strive for my best and be proud of the result.

The poem captures a feeling—one that I feel we all desperately need right now. Healing. Hope. Resilience. Unity. Whichever you feel it is, I hope that we are able to live up to her words.

Sh*t Happens So Get Over It

img_9730Book: Sh*t Happens So Get Over It

Date Read: June 30, 2021

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

This book was a gift from a friend, who said it was perfect for two reasons: it was the kind of book she felt that I would appreciate, and it would be a short, quick read so it would not really be like adding more books to my reading list! Correct on both counts. I read this one along with a couple others on an evening near the end of June, as I was trying to dwindle down the growing stack of books that I cannot find room for on my “to read” shelf.

There is a trend in shock-value self-help lately, and I am happy to report that this does not fall in to that category. While I have not really read that myself, I know of complaints from many about unexpected titles meant to draw you in to a book that offers minimally insightful advice. It may have the title meant to grab that attention, but this is not a self-help book and it does not pretend to be. This is a collection of quotes—some common, some a bit more obscure. It’s a book that you can grab from the shelf and open to a random page when you might need a little flash of inspiration or motivation. As that, it succeeds nicely.

Boris’s Thoughts: “Oh, I am so not over it. 1 paw.”

Winter’s End

img_9697Book: Winter’s End by John Rickards

Date Read: July 1 to 11, 2021

Rating: 3 (of 5) stars

In July, the Unread Shelf Project challenged readers to own up to doing what they are told to never do: judging a book by its cover. I decided to put my own personal twist on the prompt, to read a book bought for the cover. This is a book that I bought for the cover, but not in the way that you would suspect: I bought it because it did not have a cover. I found this book in the discount section of a discount bookstore. Presumably it ended up there because it was a hardcover book that had lost its dust jacket. A plain black covered, with the title embossed on the spine in metallic red. This was many years ago—at least long enough that I did not have a smart phone or other convenient way of looking up anything about the book. Intriguing enough for me to bring it home.

As with many books, it got filed away on my shelf to read when the time was right. This month, its number was up. Despite the temptation, I refrained from looking up the book or checking reviews before reading. However, I did get a glimpse of the actual cover by adding it to my to read list on Goodreads. That all is to say: I went in to this with very few expectations. I suppose it is safe to say that it lived up to all of them. It was a quick and entertaining read, but nothing that jumped out or sets itself apart. It’s a pretty straightforward murder mystery story, with a few unusual elements. The leading man, Alex, is called back to his hometown to help the local sheriff solve an unusual case, and the clues begin to point to a larger story buried under the surface of small town life.

While the story was pretty straightforward in what I would expect from a murder mystery novel, the author did throw in some misleading trails and enough hints toward the supernatural that I wondered if there was something more to the novel than it seemed. As he revisits his hometown, Alex reminisces about his childhood, but most specifically about stories of ghosts and hauntings in the town and its surrounding woods. There are several characters that are implied to be important, who end up simply falling out of the story. I did enjoy some of these elements, especially descriptions and references to the purportedly haunted Crowhurst Inn where Alex stayed in town.

Unfortunately, none of these possibilities pan out. It really is just a murder mystery in the real world. There was one piece in particularly that had me wondering: Alex makes it a point to state that he moved on from the town when he left for college, never looking back. Initially, he talks about hoping to quickly solve the case so that he can get home to Boston. However, at several points later in the book, he refers to the Inn where he is staying as “home.” As I was reading, I wondered if this was some kind of clue, but in retrospect I wonder if it was merely a bit of careless editing.

Minka’s Thoughts: “I find hauntings more interesting than the real world as well. 2 paws.”

Unread Shelf Progress for July

  • Books Read: 3
  • Books Acquired: 4
  • Total Unread Books: 280

I have added it up several times, and my math does not fit from where I was last month. Not sure where the error is, but I know that this current total unread is right!