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Book Review: Shout

Shout Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

This book was so beautifully written that I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. The overall writing style in this book reminds me so much of Ellen Hopkins’s young adult, contemporary, poetry prose. Like her works, Shout does a wonderful job of telling Laurie Halse Anderson’s story in poetic format. The difference being though that her story is a memoir, based on her own life experiences that she had during her adolescence.

For me, that made this book that much more beautiful. I found her story from teenager to young adult relatable as she talks about her experience with sexual assault and how that helped shape her into the adult she is now. Her poetry style flowed very well and was easy for me as a reader to follow along. As a result, I found myself wanting to continue reading her story to see how she handled her life experiences.

Another element of this memoir I enjoy is the honesty with which Anderson talks about sexual assault. Not only with regards to how it affected her own life but also how she’s seen her writing about it impact the lives of others. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this in any of my blog posts before or not, but her book Speak is one of my favorite books. The first time I read it, I knew it was an important book that I’d always have on my bookshelf and it’s a story I’ve read countless times. With Shout, I find myself feeling the same way because the story being told within its pages is just as important.

I appreciate that this book brings up important topics such as sexual assault and censorship when it comes to allowing children to read certain books. Both topics need to be addressed, especially in books. It saddens me to see so little has changed when it comes to these topics and I appreciate Anderson’s words bringing this truth to light and letting us know she wants to continue being a voice of change.

There is very little with this memoir I didn’t enjoy, except maybe certain poems didn’t flow very well. Or that I found when reading certain parts of the overall story didn’t feel quite as strong as others. I overall loved each of the sections in this book, but I sometimes found the writing worked well in one section over the other. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the content, I just didn’t find that section quite as enjoyable to read as the other. It was interesting and caught my attention but didn’t speak to me quite as much.

Either way, I overall enjoyed reading Shout. To the point where I’m at a loss of words to describe my thoughts on this book. It’s a good book, full of content that gets straight to the point and leaves quite the punch. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it, especially to those who love poetry/prose and memoirs. It’s also good for young adult readers and those who enjoy reading books that deal with difficult topics.

Book Review: Shadow Mountain: A Memoir of Wolves, A Woman, and the Wild

Shadow Mountain Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

After forming an intense bond with Natasha, a wolf cub she raised as part of her undergraduate research, Renée Askins was inspired to found the Wolf Fund. As head of this grassroots organization, she made it her goal to restore wolves to Yellowstone National Park, where they had been eradicated by man over seventy years before. Here, Askins recounts her courageous fifteen-year campaign, wrangling along the way with Western ranchers and their political allies in Washington, enduring death threats, and surviving the anguish of illegal wolf slayings to ensure that her dream of restoring Yellowstone’s ecological balance would one day be realized. Told in powerful, first-person narrative, Shadow Mountain is the awe-inspiring story of her mission and her impassioned meditation on our connection to the wild.

This book is an amazing read. This memoir weaves together an amazing story about a woman and her love of the wild. Through Askins’s eyes, the reader learns more about her upbringing and how she was introduced to wolves for the first time.

I enjoyed reading Shadow Mountain because Askins really brings to light subjects a lot of us don’t talk about. She talks about the wild by providing her own definition of it, but also realizes that we can’t stop an animal from being wild because it’s a part of their nature. Askins also talks a lot about her personal life by telling us stories about her dogs. But she connects these personal anecdotes to her work with the Wolf Fund and her understanding of how we contribute to the state of animal populations. I enjoyed seeing these type of discussions in her memoir because it continues bringing to light topics we don’t openly discuss, such as how we try and take the wild out of our pets and pet pageantry. Both of these things are something we ourselves sometimes do and don’t realize it. So it was nice to have someone openly talk about these topics.

I found this book enjoyable because I wanted to learn more about the subject matter. As someone whose favorite animals is wolves, I wanted to learn more about the author and how she contributed to Yellowstone. But I also wanted to know more about wolves and their behaviors around people. I wanted more understanding of what our society is doing to help bring wolves back into the wild and what we are doing to make sure they are safe. And I found the information Askins provided to be very helpful in getting a better understanding of her organization and how she contributed to the restoration of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The information she provided in Shadow Mountain shows she did a lot of research while doing her work, which helped me a lot in better understanding her perspective and the way the world perceives wolves.

My favorite part of this memoir was reading about her relationship with Natasha. I enjoyed reading about that relationship because I feel like it gives readers a better understanding of wolves. I also feel like when Askins was talking about Natasha she would talk about the wolf pack hierarchy, which I always found interesting to read about. I find learning about wolves and how they perceive others to be useful information in getting a better understanding of them. I also found it interesting that Askins voices an opinion that I myself believe to be true, which is that we as humans tend to fear things we know very little about. She talks about these things and calls them the “other,” something which we tend to do quite a bit ourselves when talking about things we don’t agree with as a society. I agree that wolves tend to be talked about in this way because they are creatures people don’t understand. So instead of trying to understand them, people kill them because they are scared of them.

While I find Shadow Mountain to be a powerful memoir, there are times when I feel like Askins does too much telling in her memoir. Her overall message to the reader is beautiful. But sometimes I feel like she’s telling story after story to get her point across instead of providing the reader with facts as to why we should be working on restoring wolves into the wild. While I get that this issue is very close to her heart, having all of these stories in her memoir made it a little of a slow read for me at times. When those moments came, I would’ve preferred to have facts as to why restoring wolves is a good idea for the whole animal population. I feel like that would’ve helped get her point across and provide the reader with even more information and understanding.

Despite this aspect of her memoir, I really enjoyed reading Askins’s book. I feel like it really helped me understand the challenges she faced while restoring wolves to Yellowstone. I also enjoyed hearing about her upbringing because it allowed me to better understand why she involved herself in this restoration effort. I look forward to continue reading more books about wolf recovery efforts in the near future and recommend this to anyone else interested in learning more about wolf restoration to Yellowstone National Park.

 

Book Review: Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World

Phenomenal Book

Rating: 4 stars

Heartfelt and awe inspiring, Leigh Ann Henion’s Phenomenal is a moving tale of physical grandeur and emotional transformation, a journey around the world that ultimately explores the depths of the human heart. A journalist and young mother, Henion combines her own conflicted but joyful experiences as a parent with a panoramic tour of the world’s most extraordinary natural wonders. Phenomenal begins in hardship: with Henion deeply shaken by the birth of her beloved son, shocked at the adversity a young mother faces with a newborn. The lack of sleep, the shrinking social circle, the health difficulties, all collide and force Henion to ask hard questions about our accepted wisdom on parenting and the lives of women. Convinced that the greatest key to happiness—both her own and that of her family—lies in periodically allowing herself to venture into the wider world beyond home, Henion sets out on a global trek to rekindle her sense of wonder.

Henion’s quest takes her far afield, but it swiftly teaches her that freedom is its own form of parenting, one that ultimately allows her to meet her son on his own terms: with a visceral understanding of the wonder he experiences every day at the fresh new world. Whether standing on the still-burning volcanoes of Hawai’i or in the fearsome lightning storms of Venezuela, in the vast animal movements of Tanzania or the elegant butterfly migrations of Mexico, Henion reveals in Phenomenal a world of sublimity and revelation.

Henion’s spiritual wanderlust puts her in the path of modern-day shamans, reindeer herders, and astrophysicists. She meets laypeople from all over the world, from all walks of life, each going to great lengths to chase migrations, auroras, eclipses, and other phenomena. These seekers trust their instincts, follow their passions, shape their days into the lives they most want to lead. And somewhere along the way, Leigh Ann Henion becomes one of them.

A breathtaking memoir, Phenomenal reveals unforgettable truths about motherhood, spirituality, and the beauty of nature.

Upon picking up this book, I discovered how much I really enjoyed reading it. I found this book to be a phenomenal read because it inspired in me a sense of wonder about the world around us. It brought to light how much of the world I have yet to see and how each of us in everyday life can find something to live in awe over. Hearing this incredible journey to see natural phenomena in our everyday world from the perspective of a journalist struggling to fit in her travels while still having time with her son really made me captivated to continue reading this memoir.

I found Phenomenal to be an enjoyable read for other reasons as well. I really enjoyed hearing about all of the different places Leigh Ann traveled to, from seeing the Northern Lights in Sweden to going to see a volcano eruption in Hawaii. I also enjoyed her conversations with people from different walks of life about their culture and their own beliefs and how she was able to reflect on all of those different conversations to try and make sense of the world we live in. I found Phenomenal to be a memoir that not only kept me thinking, but also inspired in me the need to travel and see the wonderful sights the world around us has to offer.

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