gimmethatbook

Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: January 2020

The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke

Mary Roach meets Bill Bryson in this “surefire summer winner” (Janet Maslin, New York Times), an uproarious tour of the basest instincts and biggest mysteries of the animal world

Humans have gone to the Moon and discovered the Higgs boson, but when it comes to understanding animals, we’ve still got a long way to go. Whether we’re seeing a viral video of romping baby pandas or a picture of penguins “holding hands,” it’s hard for us not to project our own values–innocence, fidelity, temperance, hard work–onto animals. So you’ve probably never considered if moose get drunk, penguins cheat on their mates, or worker ants lay about. They do–and that’s just for starters. In The Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke takes us on a worldwide journey to meet everyone from a Colombian hippo castrator to a Chinese panda porn peddler, all to lay bare the secret–and often hilarious–habits of the animal kingdom. Charming and at times downright weird, this modern bestiary is perfect for anyone who has ever suspected that virtue might be unnatural.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

This book reads like it was written by the love child of Charles Darwin and Mary Roach. There is humor, pathos, and animal facts aplenty. The author’s writing style is easy to read and captured my attention immediately. The love Cooke has for these beasties is quite obvious from the start. Hopefully, given the facts, others will learn to appreciate these maligned characters that occupy the animal world.

Each chapter is devoted (lovingly) to a misunderstood animal, where we find myths debunked through modern science. The reader will learn about sloths, bats, and hyenas, to name a few. The author will discuss how the animals were experimented on/studied over hundreds of years (Who knew that Aristotle was a proponent of spontaneous creation?) then get to modern times, where myths are debunked and the many reasons to love these animals are revealed.

Some of the experiments detailed can be a bit gory, such as when, in the 18th century, the Catholic priest Lazzaro Spallanzani practiced blinding bats in order to find out how they managed to find their way around in darkness. (He also coated them in varnish for another experiment, but I digress).  Other tales are edifying and satisfying, such as:

It may sound suspiciously like bogus medieval folk medicine, but from the 1940s through the 1960s the world’s first reliable pregnancy test was a small, bug-eyed frog. When injected with a pregnant woman’s urine, the amphibian didn’t turn blue or display stripes, but it did squirt out eggs 8-12 hours later to confirm a positive result.

Cooke’s book is full of factoids like that one. How can you not love this book? You will learn, you will laugh, and you will be full of obscure information. That sounds like a winner to me.

Yes, you want your own copy and can pick it up here.

Call Me Cass by Kelly Stone Gamble

Cass Adams is finally happy. She has a man who loves her, a family that understands her, and a baby on the way. Other than seeing the occasional dead person, Cass feels normal. But pregnancy has an unwelcome side effect. Cass is having visions of the future, just like Grams does. While some are cloudy, Cass knows one thing for certain. Her best friend, Maryanne, is going to die.

Police Chief Benny Cloud has his own problems. His father has been released from prison and is on his way home to surprise Benny’s mother, who’s been keeping time with the county sheriff. Fat Tina’s Gentlemen’s Club is under siege by protestors. And it’s growing dark outside.

A devastating storm is coming to Deacon, Kansas. In its wake, the town must deal with tragic losses that force everyone to reevaluate their lives.

Thanks to the author for this review copy!

One thing about Kelly Stone Gamble is that she is adept at creating character backstory. In CALL ME CASS we see all of our favorites from her previous two books but with more depth. This is accomplished by having each chapter told from a different point of view – something that I usually dislike – but it works here. We are privy to each character’s deepest thoughts and fears and learn who dislikes who (and why). These inner thoughts are both poignant and hilarious at the same time.

In this 3rd book of the series, Cass is ready to give birth while a massive tornado is bearing down on Deacon, Kansas. She is also struggling with one of her visions – her best friend Maryanne is supposed to die. Each character experiences the huge storm in their own way, and no one is unaffected. Deacon is destroyed and we stay with Cass & Co. while everyone picks up the collective pieces.

Gamble’s real talent lies in her ability to create friendships and deep connections in her storytelling. It feels like there are true bonds between Fat Tina, Angus, Clay, and the rest of the Deaconites. Kindness shines through on nearly every page no matter which character is telling the story at the moment. The characters are quirky and fun, and they all show compassion when the situation warrants.

The storm creates serious suspense while also serving as a cleansing for the town, since a few of the characters experience revelations about their life, their relationships, and their dreams. This proves to create a satisfying ending despite the fact that some of the characters did not survive the storm. I felt truly sad for these characters and wish things turned out differently. This shows how strongly the author is able to create lasting emotions in her readers through her writing. Anyone who can make the reader feel for a fictional character is a winner in my opinion.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

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