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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: Linger

Linger Book Cover

Rating: 5 stars

the longing.

Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means a reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain.

the loss.

Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being a human.

the linger.

For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life a constant struggle between two forces–wolf and human–with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?

Like Shiver, I’ve also read this second book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. However, my memory of this book is very limited from my last reading because I don’t remember a lot of the events unfolding, just the characters.

But like Shiver, I couldn’t put Linger down. Every page I read of this weaving tale had me engrossed in these character’s lives, wanting to find out what happened next.

Linger picks up exactly where Shiver left off. After discovering that there is a cure to turning into a wolf, Sam and Grace live their lives happily together. Until a new wolf enters into the story and things begin to change.

One of the aspects to Linger I like is the added point of views of Isabel and Cole. No longer is this series only told from Sam and Grace’s side, but you also get more details of what’s going on from other characters who play an important role in the story. I like seeing more character’s perspective because I feel like it continues to enrich the story, adding more pieces to the puzzle that is beginning to form.

I also love reading Linger because I love seeing Sam and Grace’s relationship continuing to blossom. Now that Sam and Grace don’t have to worry about Sam turning wolf, they can enjoy their lives and plan for their future. And the reader feels happy for them because you get to see how happy they both are to have each other in their lives. To be able to continue their relationship and not have to worry about any of them becoming a wolf. Or so, you think.

I love Linger because I enjoy reading the author’s story. The way Stiefvater writes this story continues to engross me as a reader, wanting to know what’s going to happen next. The words written are so beautiful that I had a hard time putting Linger down, wanting to find out what happens next to Sam, Grace, Isabel and Cole.

Another aspect to Linger that I didn’t notice quite so much in Shiver that I enjoy is character development. Throughout this book, I felt like all of the characters went through their own transformations. Isabel and Cole become more caring towards those around them and Grace gets more sensitive to feeling, even having the courage to stand up to her parent’s bad parenting.

The one thing that bothers me with this book though is the pacing of the story. While I did enjoy reading Linger, I felt some of the pacing was slow. For example, the problems with Grace happened at the beginning of the story and I knew exactly what was wrong with her as soon as it started. But none of the characters acted like anything was seriously wrong with her until it was too late and nothing could be done but the unthinkable. And then once that happened, the rest of the plot unfolded.

Overall though, I enjoyed reading Linger too and can’t wait to read the third book in this series, Forever for the first time and find out what happens next to Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabel.

Book Review: Shiver

Shiver Book Cover

Rating: 5 stars

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

I’ve read Shiver once before. In high school, I read this novel because a friend of mine had told me about it. However, since it’s been a really long time since then, I feel as if reading Shiver again is like reading it for the very first time.

But like the first time I read Shiver, I still find this book an enjoyable read. One of the reasons I love this novel is because wolves are my favorite animal. They fascinate me because I believe they are very misunderstood animals and find them to be very beautiful in nature. And the main character Grace feels the same way, despite the wolf attack she experienced. Having this love of wolves makes reading Shiver an even more enjoyable experience for me.

I also enjoy reading Shiver because the romance between Grace and Sam moves me. I find myself reading about their relationship and seeing how much they love each other. Seeing how they are willing to risk every aspect of their lives to be together. Even if it means facing death. Their love story touches me completely and I can never get enough of it.

Shiver is an amazing read because Stiefvater knows how use words to create a compelling narrative. Like the first time I read this book, I went through this book quickly, wanting to know what was going to happen next to Grace and Sam as they try and find a way for Sam to stay human forever. She also made me emotional because their story ends on a cliffhanger, making the reader wonder what’s going to happen in the next book in the series Linger, which I’ve also read.

The shifting perspectives between Sam and Grace just adds to their narrative. The reader gets the full story of what’s happening from Sam and Grace’s point of view throughout the novel, getting an insight into the mind of a wolf.

I also like this series in general because I feel like Stiefvater gives the reader a reasonable explanation as to why Sam and the others change into wolves. Instead of being a story about werewolves who can change whenever, Sam doesn’t have complete control over his ability to become a wolf. He can only become a wolf when his body temperature is cold for a certain period of time. So when it’s wintertime, Sam is a wolf. However during the summers, Sam usually becomes human again.

But the catch is that they only have a certain amount of years where they can go from being a wolf to human until they become wolves completely and can’t change back. And that’s another reason why Shiver pulls at the reader’s heartstrings until they become emotionally invested in the character’s situation. With Sam and Grace, it’s supposed to be Sam’s last year being human. But this is the first time Sam and Grace have fully interacted with each other. Years ago, Grace had been attacked in her backyard by a pack of wolves, the pack Sam himself is in. But she was saved by Sam. Since then, they’ve both been drawn to each other, watching each other but not daring to get close until the events in Shiver unfold.

The only aspect of Shiver I don’t particular like is Grace’s parents. Both her mother and father are the most absent-minded parents I’ve ever read in a novel. Their relationship with their daughter is very limited. Throughout the book, you feel as if she doesn’t have parents because both of them are rarely around and when they are, their interaction with Grace is small. To the point where Grace basically fends for herself at home because her parents are always out of the house, barely paying any attention to Grace, even when she’s at home. And while I do know some people do have parents like that, it still bothers me because I feel like they don’t care about Grace and what she’s doing.

However, Shiver is such a beautifully crafted story that I can look past it. If you ever get the chance to read this book, please do. Especially if you are a wolf lover like me and enjoy young adult literature as much as I do. I can’t praise this book enough and can’t wait to read the second book in the series Linger again.

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