Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

34111673I recently read another book I picked up via NetGalley last year/earlier this year, called The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse. When I opened it up I had no recollection of what it was about, or even whether it was fiction or nonfiction. Turns out it’s a novel, and a fairly heavy one at that. I briefly considered putting it down, because I sometimes struggle to read emotionally taxing stories, being prone to depression and anxiety, but I quickly found myself too engrossed in the story.

The protagonist, Nina McCarrick, is left to raise her two sons when her husband unexpectedly dies in a car wreck. Having married young and into wealth, Nina has never had to fend for herself as a mother and adult. The novel is Nina’s story at its heart: her journey to self-awareness, self-sufficiency, and self-respect, as a woman and as a mother. Though I started out identifying with Nina, as the story went on I sometimes found her incredibly frustrating — I found myself judging her and asking how on earth she let herself get into such a ridiculous situation! That said, I came to admire her perseverance and her ability to both provide for her sons AND pay attention to her own needs.

It’s an emotional story of loss, so the reader must be prepared for some weightiness. But it’s also a story of love and triumph, with many important life lessons taught (in a very unpreachy fashion) along the way. I’ve included below some of my favorite quotes from the book, those that resonate most with me (for varying reasons) and that I think show some of the depth of the story and insightful life lessons learned by the characters throughout the book:

“But here’s the thing, Nina. I think happiness lies in being content now – right now! Every day! That’s not to say you can’t plan and work for change, but if you are constantly waiting for happiness to start, waiting for the change that will make it happen, then you just might miss some really good days along the way.” (Kindle location 3253)

“Hardship eroded his sense of entitlement and in its place a nicer, humbler boy was emerging.” (Kindle location 3953)

“I’ve been reading a lot about people who are depressed. People who live with extreme stress and those who only see one way out… They often fall into two camps. Those who fall apart externally, seek help, battle it publicly, and then there are those won don’t, can’t. It’s this group of people who interest me most. They are skilled in the art of hiding. I think that my dad must have been like that.” (Kindle location 4105)

I’m sorry it took me so long to read this book and I definitely think it’s well worth reading (just not if you’re feeling in a fragile frame of mind). I’ll definitely be interested in reading more from Amanda Prowse!

4 stars!

Buy it now for only $0.99!

Book Review: American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

41078131 American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee is the most recent read in my effort to get through all the books I irresponsibly got via NetGalley last year and never read. Essentially, it’s the story of the wolf in America, focusing on “recent” events since the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. The book follows the lives of the wolves, as chronicled by a handful of avid (or obsessed?) wolf-watchers in the park over many years, as well as the political, cultural, and societal factors that impact wolves’ survival in the American West.

The most gripping parts of the book are Blakeslee’s reporting on the life of O-Six, a female wolf born in 2006 in the park. He succeeds in telling a gripping story of life and survival for wolves as they face both natural and man-made threats. It reads almost like a novel, and definitely paints a vivid picture of wolf society. I learned so much about wolves, the evolution of individual wolf packs, and the social interactions of what are clearly very intelligent and emotional animals.

Woven into the story is the political, societal, and legal context in which the wolf reintroduction and population management unfolded. It was interesting to read about the events through the 2000s and to understand how events I lived through (sequestration and the 2011 threat of a government shutdown, followed by an actual shutdown in 2013) impacted things across the country. It’s disturbing and yet unsurprising, especially having lived my entire adult life in the DC area, to read of the political nonsense–riders circumventing legal protections for wolves tacked on last minute to a must-pass spending bill in 2011, for example.

I couldn’t help but root for the wolves as I read the book, while I understand the legitimate concerns of residents of areas surrounding Yellowstone as they coped with rising wolf populations. I’m glad I read the book, and sorry it took me so long to actually pick it up to read. I give the book 4 stars, only subtracting one because I feel it starts out a little slowly and took some effort to get into. Persevere, though! It’s worth it!

4 stars!

Two Picture Book Reviews – Starring Rainbow Fish and DC Monsters

I got both of these books last year sometime via NetGalley and had skimmed them myself but hadn’t read them to my kids until just this week. I can’t say I was super impressed with either, unfortunately. Now, let me say that I do think some of that comes from reading picture books on my Kindle – I’ve done it a handful of times now and I’m not planning to continue. It’s just not a format conducive to enjoying a picture book, in my opinion. I would LOVE to review more kids books, but they have to be hard copy or I can’t get into them. To my kids it’s “special” to read on Mommy’s Kindle, so they want to do more of it but… ugh.

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So, everybody loves Rainbow Fish, right? What’s NOT to love about the original? You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish is a new(ish) (2017) book in the Rainbow Fish series and aims to teach another moral lesson — in this case, how not to be a sore loser, basically. Most kids are familiar with Rainbow Fish (I think each of my kids has come home from school with Rainbow Fish artwork at least once), so it’s a great way to keep them engaged and learning through a familiar character, but to me this one lacked the charm of the original. Worse, to me it seemed a little forced. Perhaps I’m remembering the original too rosily (is that a word?), but this just didn’t measure up for me. The kids were engaged, but haven’t asked to read it again. So, I give it two stars and I think I’d get a similar opinion from the kids.

33510848The concept behind this book is fantastic – but at the risk of sounding repetitive, reading it on a Kindle is NOT. We live near DC, and though we don’t take the kids downtown much they were familiar enough with the landmarks to recognize them and get excited about places they’d been. They were especially thrilled with the page about the National History Museum because my husband took them there last week. That said, black and white pictures on a tiny screen made it virtually impossible to find the monsters in the pictures. The text, to me, was, well… fine. It’s a great introduction to DC landmarks and a potentially fun and engaging format for teaching young kids, but to me it falls into that very big basket of kids books that are just so-so and don’t particularly need to be revisited. Another two-star read.

So, on that cheery note I’m going to wrap up. I usually don’t post negative reviews because why? But these came from NetGalley and I figured it’s better to follow through and review even if it’s negative… so there you have it. Next time I write I’ll have something more positive to say.