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Jen Jen

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The Hilarious World of Depression
John Moe

John Moe has crafted one of the best memoirs I've read. I should be concerned about where I will shelve it after it's done being a "New Release." Health & Wellness? Humor? Writing? Scandinavian? Regional? But I'm not worried. At Beagle and Wolf Books, I won't have to decide anything other than "Staff Picks" or "Bestsellers.”

Moe, the creator of the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression has written a memoir by the same name. It's the account of a person who has spent his life battling an illness, and once you've read the book, you'll understand the masterfulness of this sentence. The reader follows John from boyhood to present-day in a well-written narrative, laced with humor, that is explosively honest and yet still includes boundaries. I found myself nodding along to the bits which were familiar because of my own struggles, and completely engaged in other parts that were unfamiliar territory. 

This is one of the most enjoyable "important" reads I've come across, and I look forward to sharing it. While there are bits from celebrities who have appeared on Moe's podcast, this is a book about Moe and a book about depression.

   
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The Girl in the Tower
Katherine Arden

book coverAfter inhaling The Bear and the Nightingale (book 1 in the Winternight Trilogy) last month, I proceeded to book 2 in the series, The Girl in the Tower, and consumed (and loved!!) that one as well.

In The Girl in the Tower, Vasya travels to Moscow. In order to protect herself, she disguises herself as a boy. Vasya is of an age where she should be choosing between marriage and the convent, but neither is a very likely life for her. Along the way she is, of course, distracted by a situation she can’t ignore and detours to a small village to rescue three young girls. In Moscow, Vasya is reunited with her sister Olga and becomes close to Olga’s daughter.

For those who love having a character to hate, Konstantin Nikonovich is back in this second installment. Like the first book in this series, the setting is Russia and the tale based on Russian folklore. For readers who delve into this series, I strongly recommend you make use of the glossary in the back of each book—the author uses Russian terms that are unfamiliar to most of us (but don’t read the glossary in its entirety before or during reading the book because you’ll hit spoilers!) I’m on to book 3 now, The Winter of the Witch!

   
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The Moor’s Last Sigh
Salman Rushdie

One of the perks of working with Tim is I end up reading books I might NEVER have read otherwise. We got to talking about Salman Rushdie one day and now I’m the owner of the book The Moor’s Last Sigh. The publisher’s annotation of the book is far more descriptive yet concise than I could hope to write, so I’ll share that: “The Moor’s Last Sigh….is a peppery melange of genres: a deliciously inventive family saga; a subversive alternate history of modern India; a fairy tale as inexhaustibly imagined as any in The Arabian Nights; and a book of ideas on topics from art to ethnicity, from religious fanaticism to the terrifying power of love.” The writing is rich, beautiful, and funny! I love having a book that I savor and read one chapter a day.

         

Sally Sally  

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book coverWe’ve known Peter Geye for a LONG time. Here’s a picture of Sally, Peter, and Jen from 2012.

 

Northernmost
Peter Geye

Put on a warm sweater and heavy mukluks, steep a cup of hot tea, and sit before a roaring fire to read Northernmost. Peter Geye is that convincing in creating scenes of snow and cold! The book is set in the Arctic, Norway, and Minnesota, and centers on two people in the Eide family, Odd Einar and Greta. These two are separated by more than a hundred years, but when Greta finds herself in Hammerfest, her ancestral home, Odd Einar and his life seem very close.

Odd Einar barely survived being stranded in the Arctic after an ice bear attack left his companion on a seal hunting expedition dead. He returned home to find his own funeral underway, and his wife stunned to learn he is alive.

His story alternates with that of his great-great-great daughter, Greta, who has finally admitted to herself that she is desperately unhappy in her marriage.

The book echoes with people and occurrences from Geye’s earlier books, The Lighthouse Road and Wintering, yet stands on its own. The presence of Thea, Odd Einar’s daughter who emigrated to the United States and was never heard from again, is felt though all three books.

Northernmost
is both a great adventure story and a tender love story, with the beautiful writing which is characteristic of Geye. Don’t wait until next winter—read it right now!

Contact us to pre-order a copy of Northernmost.

   
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Sharks in the Time of Saviors
Kawai Strong Washburn

book coverA number of years ago we were on vacation on Maui, near a sugar refinery. Sugar production had once been a thriving industry in Hawaii, but when we were there, the refinery was in the process of being permanently closed. This was disappointing to my husband, an engineer who’d looked forward to touring the refinery. Instead, we stopped at the still-open gift shop, where he got a t-shirt outlining the process of sugar production, and we went on with our vacation. Sharks in the Time of Saviors puts a human face on the end of the sugar cane production in Hawaii, telling the story of a family who had once earned a decent living working in that industry. However, it’s so much more! Kawai Strong Washburn, who grew up in Hawaii and now lives in Minneapolis, wraps their story in Hawaiian legends, and tells a story that created a new legend. In 1995, seven-year old Nainoa fell of a boat off the coast of Hawaii. While horrified on-lookers watched, a group of sharks gently returned the child to his mother.

Nainoa, the middle child of three, developed strange abilities. His parents interpreted them as gifts from the gods of legend. Nainoa’s siblings struggled with the favoritism, and the family dynamics suffered.

The book tells the story of the family, alternating between the voices of family members. It’s a beautifully written story about the importance of family and legend, and the choices we make to survive. I listened to the book on libro.fm, and each reader was exactly right for their character.

   
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Strangers and Cousins
Leah Hager Cohen

I could tell you that this book is about the week when Walter and Bennie hosted their oldest daughter’s wedding in the backyard of their historic home. While true, that statement doesn’t convey the delightfulness of the book or the chaos of the event. Many of the characters have secrets, including Walter and Bennie, who have two; while others have their own agendas, including the mice which live in the house. The family members range from five year-old Pim, who incessantly plays soldier, mostly while naked, to beloved Great Aunt Glad, a retired kindergarten teacher in her nineties. Her memory is failing but her hearing is not, and she connects the family to their history. Cohen has the perfect touch while dealing with one humorous event after another while exploring themes such as family, racism, the role of the stranger, and the strange and wonderful ways in which shared history binds us together while driving us crazy. The book reminds me of the ways in which history is a spiral. If you read just one novel this summer, make it this one!

         

         
Ann Ann  

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The River

Peter Heller

Two college friends, Wynn and Jack, embark on a canoe trip on the Maskwa River in northern Canada. What begins as a wilderness adventure becomes a journey wrought with dangers. They must out paddle a wildfire. In addition, they encounter a mystery which adds to their fight for survival. The River is an engaging read with plenty of twists and turns. The story is both heart stopping and heart wrenching.

 
         


Bob
Bob
 


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The Relentless Moon

Mary Robinette Kowal

OMG, I haven’t read a book this long (535 pages) for pleasure since I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in high school. I will admit this was less of a challenge and it was different in that the main character is a lady astronaut. What I did have problems with is the timeframe, which is me, not the book. The book’s setting is March of 1963 to May of 1965 and it opens with discussion of an established moon base and Mars colonization. Something in the back of my head kept saying NO, NO. The first moon landing happened in 1969 and Sally Ride was the first US woman in space in 1983. But alas, this is Sci-fi and I suppose if the U.S. got real ambitious about space travel immediately after WWII it’s possible it could have happened.

Nonetheless, the book is a good read with a murder-mystery bent. There are references along the way to keep you in the era. For example, a mention of a swing band with Ella Fitzgerald singing. There’s also a good rendition of what a moon colony would be like as you weave your way through the book. So that was fun! The chapters (all 52) are pretty short, so it’s easy to pick up the book and read a chapter here and there. If you have a young lady who finds space travel interesting, you may want to pass this book along. There is some language in it, but it seems today everything does.

Note: The book will be released in hardcover in July and may be preordered.

         


Gail
Gail
   
 

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Village of Scoundrels

Margi Preus

The story is set in France during World War II. The teenagers of Les Lauzes forge documents, smuggle people over the border, and carry coded messages. A policeman is sent to their village to uncover the "scoundrels.” Based on a true story, Village of Scoundrels tells how ordinary people opposed the Nazi occupation and stood up for what was right, in spite of great peril to their lives. My heart was in my throat more than once. The author has written a number of award-winning books for children. She lives in Duluth. This was the first book picked for the Sister Wolf Book Club summer season. Though written for middle school age it was met with rave reviews by the group, so I would recommend it for all ages.

   
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The Honey Bus
Meredith May

Meredith's mother stuffs some clothes in a suitcase, grabs her brother, Matthew, and announces, “We're going to California to visit your Grandpa and Grandma.” Meredith soon realizes that this is not a vacation, but they will be living there and without their father. Meredith's mother spends her days in the bedroom. Granny and Grandpa are working so it's a lonely, sad time for Meredith and her brother. Learning to blend in at a new school is tough. When Grandpa is not being a plumber, he takes care of bees. He extracts the honey and bottles it in the honey bus. Soon Meredith is working alongside him. He teaches her how bees share the work and help each other survive and, even though her family is troubled she will survive and have a better life, too. This is an unforgettable story about the life of bees and a lonely girl learning to cope with Grandpa's help. Many times in the story I found myself saying "you go, girl"!

       


Hannah
Hannah
     



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Trouble Is What I Do
Walter Mosley

Mosley is the author of Devil In a Blue Dress and other Easy Rawlins novels set in LA in the mid 1900s. Trouble Is What I Do is updated to 2020, and set in New York. The main characters in this little novel are very similar to Easy and his cohorts: black, intelligent, complex, coping with a world that those of us who are white and middle class can only access through books like this. And oh, what he does with words! “Their eyes met with such intensity that I began to feel intangible.” I was going to send this book to my brother, but I’m going to add it to the books I keep to read again one day.

   
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Burn Marks
Sara Paretsky

In April I reviewed the newest V.I. Warshawski novel. Burn Marks is from 1990. All of the V.I. novels are full of action, human warmth, human evil, and a fine dog or two. This one has a special place in the development of her relationships with her elderly neighbor and the cop who was her late father’s best friend. Her resourcefulness in getting out of impossible situations gives you a sort of vicarious pride. Paretsky was doing female empowerment long before the phrase was coined.

   
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Big Little Lies
Liane Moriarty

I’ve been fortunate enough to never have experienced male violence, but I have had to work with some adult “mean girls” which is incredibly frustrating. Big Little Lies catches these and some of the challenges of modern parenthood. As Stephen King says on the cover blurb, this book is both funny and scary. I saw and liked the TV version: the book, of course, is better. I usually dislike seeing actors’ faces before I read a story, but it was fun to picture Reese Witherspoon as I read this one. And now I can watch Big Little Lies Season 2.

   
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Next
Michael Crichton

This is a novel about genetic manipulation of animals and humans. It’s also about cell ownership, with a story line that reminds us of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It’s an eerie counterpoint to today’s obsession with medical science and the uneven morality of those we need so much. Crichton, as is his wont, starts with actual science: there are 10 pages in the bibliography. It’s a polemic about the laws relating to genes. But then he plays with things to make an exciting story come alive. I found it confusing at first: it could use a list of characters in the beginning like a Russian novel. But in the end the stories come together in a surprising scene.

         

         
Tim
Tim
 



 


The Gourmands’ Way
Justin Spring

At the end of WWII Europe was exhausted, food was scarce, and it was thought you were doing well if you were able to keep body and soul together. No wonder that people obsessed about food, especially what was thought to be the best…. French Cuisine. Justin Spring treats us to short biographies of six Americans who were in France right after the war, 1946 until about the mid 1950’s. Some of them you will have heard of, some maybe not: Alice B. Toklas, M.F.K. Fisher, Alexis Lichine, Julia Child, A.J. Liebling, and Richard Olney. Each has special gifts and interests, so there’s something sure to interest anyone with a fascination for food and wine. This is not a cookbook. Rather, it’s a survey of how these six men and women were dazzled by what they encountered in France, and how they came to influence American sensibilities having to do with food and wine. Just think of the changes we’ve seen in the last 50 years, with regard to how America eats, and all things to do with good eating. The Gourmand’s Way introduces you to maybe the six most influential American food writers who began that change.

My personal favorite is Richard Onley. Frankly, I had heard references to him, but I hadn’t a clear idea of what he is particularly known for. An accomplished painter, chef, and food writer, he published Simple French Food, in 1974.

   


 

Hag-Seed
Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed was recommended to me some time ago, and like many of you, I was able to finally get to it during the time spent at home recently, while under quarantine. It’s based on Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. Shakespeare never disappoints, and neither does Margaret Atwood. Hag-Seed reads like a Russian doll. Inside of each narrative line nestles another, and inside that, another… on and on.

   


 

I, Claudius
Robert Graves

Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus lived from 10 B.C. to 54 A.D. He is one of the most interesting of the Roman Emperors, mainly because he was able to survive the political intrigue, murders, exiles, and poisonings which took the lives of most of his family. Judged ‘inconsequential,’ due to his being lame and suffering from a stutter, he was able to live ‘under the radar,’ until he was made Emperor after the assassination of Caligula. For those of you who have been reading my recommendations here in the newsletter, you know I have a liking for historical fiction. Robert Graves is one of the very best writers of historical fiction, and is able to bring figures to life with extraordinary skill. Made into a PBS series, this book is sure to please.

         


 

Guest Review by Rachel

 


 

Mayo Clinic on Digestive Health
Dr. Sahil Kanna

Approximately 70% of your immune system resides in your gut! In January 2020, Mayo Clinic published an updated fourth edition of Mayo Clinic on Digestive Health. Overall, I was impressed with this book. The format is very straightforward and logical—it almost reminds me of a modern middle school or high school science textbook and could probably be used as such for those who homeschool or for anyone who wishes to understand gastrointestinal anatomy, function, testing, and treatment options. It is a moderately sized paperback with pleasant photos and high-quality paper. Although the content of this resource is very conventional or allopathic (there are very few references to supplements with the rare mention of probiotics and supplemental fiber), I still recommend this reference book for its wealth and breadth of information.

The first section of the book covers “Digestive Health Basics” including a succinct glossary of medical terms related to gastroenterology. This initial part provides a chapter on guidelines for what to eat for healthy digestion (with which I mostly agree), contains another chapter on common conditions and simple treatment suggestions, and lastly provides a thorough, yet understandable explanation of diagnostic tests which might be ordered for different intestinal issues. Chapter two is devoted entirely to the emerging gut microbiome; the author uses a great analogy that compares the gut microbiome to an ecosystem. Within this chapter, he also devotes a page to a novel and fascinating treatment called fecal transplantation. Astonishingly in the second section “Digestive Diseases,” the first topic addressed is obesity which I found extremely progressive; the author explains earlier in the book: “considerable research has linked an unhealthy gut microbiome to the development of obesity in humans”(pg. 28).

The portion of the book which excites me the most is the FODMAP Eating Plan. This diet can be used for any type of dietary distress (bloating, gas, pain, diarrhea, constipation), but it is most frequently recommended for those people who suffer from IBS as up to 76% of people with IBS who implement this diet will experience symptom improvement. The author does emphasize that “this diet is not a diet for life. It’s a tool to help you learn which foods agree with you, and which don’t” (pg. 301). If you give this plan a try and it helps, I encourage you to investigate further as most people with IBS suffer from a disorder called SIBO, aka small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. SIBOinfo.com provides a tremendous wealth of valuable and reliable information on this complicated topic. This eleven page appendix is a hidden gem, a most concise yet thorough guide that walks you through the elimination, reintroduction, and maintenance phase of the low FODMAP diet and gives an extremely complete list of foods allowed and food to avoid. I have already recommended this section to several patients and anticipate I will continue to recommend this entire reference book when appropriate.

This review was recently published in the Park Rapids Enterprise and is printed here with permission of the author.

 



 

Guest Review by Ray

 




Game Used
Dick Bremer

I remember where I was for the 7th game of the 1987 World Series. Dick Bremer's book, Game Used, is a memory trip around the bases through 58 years of Twins History. The 108 brief stories are told as stitches on a baseball. Game Used is a delightful journey for any sports fan.




 

Guest Review by Lee

 
 

Crossings
Alex Landragin

Crossings is a uniquely-structured and wonderful book(s). As is explained in the Preface written by a Parisian bookbinder, it either consists of three novellas or a single novel, depending on the order in which the chapters are read.

It is learned early on that a crossing refers to an exchange of souls. As a result, the novel’s characters remain and change across decades and continents. Even so, it is far from fantasy or science fiction. Even readers who most enjoy historical fiction will find it quite great: There are characters such as Charles Baudelaire and Coco Chanel, who are not just thrown in as peripheral characters to make a Paris commentary seem real. In fact, Baudelaire is central to much of the novel.

All-in-all, a creative and spectacular debut novel!

 
         


Would you like to be a guest reviewer? Email Sally at sally@beagleandwolf.com
         


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