Book Box Review: Powell’s Indiespensable#64: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

I  was very excited to learn that History of Wolves would be the featured book of Indiespensable #64. The book came up as a Goodreads suggestion a while back, and it sounds utterly fascinating.

From the Goodreads description:

Linda has an idiosyncratic home life: her parents live in abandoned commune cabins in northern Minnesota and are hanging on to the last vestiges of a faded counter-culture world. The kids at school call her ‘Freak’, or ‘Commie’. She is an outsider in all things. Her understanding of the world comes from her observations at school, where her teacher is accused of possessing child pornography, and from watching the seemingly ordinary life of a family she babysits for. Yet while the accusation against the teacher is perhaps more innocent than it seemed at first, the ordinary family turns out to be more complicated. As Linda insinuates her way into the family’s orbit, she realises they are hiding something. If she tells the truth, she will lose the normal family life she is beginning to enjoy with them; but if she doesn’t, their son may die.
Superbly-paced and beautifully written, HISTORY OF WOLVES is an extraordinary debut novel about guilt, innocence, negligence, well-meaning belief and the death of a child.

Tying in with the cabin life of Linda’s family, the box also includes a container of Bogg’s Trail Butter. I’m not sure if all boxes came with the same flavor, or different flavors were included in other boxes, but I got their Mountaineer Maple variety, and it was amazingly good (and, at the time of this writing, completely gone).

As always, the book itself comes in a custom slipcase and is signed by the author.

You can find more information, and sign up for Powell’s Indiespensable by clicking here. But be warned, subscriptions sell out VERY quickly!

Book Box Review/Unboxing: Powell’s Indiespensable #63: Moonglow by Michael Chabon

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So first off, yay! I love getting that simple white box in the mail! It certainly helps that this book has been on my TBR for a bit!

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Opening up the box on a cool late-fall afternoon, I actually did a little dance when hot chocolate packets were the first things to meet my eye.

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I mean, come on, just look at those! (I also happen to be drinking the “Original” dark chocolate while I’m writing this review! Delicious!)

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The bonus book for this go-round is Night of Fire: A Novel by Colin Thubron, which releases on January 17th, 2017. I hadn’t heard of the book before receiving it, but having read the blurb, I’m excited to give it a read (my poor, poor, TBR).

And then we get to the meat of the box: Moonglow by Michael Chabon. And, this being an Indiespensable book, it’s signed and comes in its own slipcase! Like I said earlier, I’d been looking forward to reading this book, and I was so excited when it came up as part of the Indiespensable program!

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So if you aren’t signed up for Powell’s subscription box yet, you should really get on it! Books ship every 6-8 weeks, and thus far (after about a year into the subscription) I have yet to be disappointed in their picks! You can checkout the next offer here. At the time of this writing, there were still a few slots open, but these tend to go very, very fast (I had to stalk the website for a month or two before I was able to sign up).

Book Box Review/Unboxing: Powell`s Indiespensable #61: Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

I adore Powell`s quarterly book box. I’ve been a subscriber for well/over a year. The box is a bit pricey, $39.95, but ships every 6-8 weeks, so you’re not shelling that much out every mont, which helps.

Each box includes a signed, hardcover first edition of a new release book, and I understand many of these editions (which come with a custom, exclusive slipcover) have gone on to be quite valuable.

The box also includes goodies, such as snacks, water bottles, ARCs, and other bonus books. This box included an ARC of Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. The bonus book was cleverly packaged as a VHS rental (if you’re not sure what that is, go ask your parents).

The book looked so intriguing, I started reading right then and there. Expect a review to come out a bit closer to publishing time. Suffice it to say it was a creepy and original story, and I liked it quite a bit.

The focus of the box was Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. I haven’t read any of Foer’s other works, but the description of this book sounds great!

Above are pics of the book with and without the slipcover.

All told, I feel that Powell’s Indiespensable is a good deal for the money. Their picks are consistently great, even when the books are outside my comfort zone. Be warned: this box tends to sell out fast (the next box, due out in October, is already sold out), so be prepared for some hovering in order to secure your place.

You can check out the Indiespensable box info for yourself here.

Book Review: A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin

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A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin

 

“Genius is a true degenerative psychosis.” These words, a quote by Cesare Lombroso and spoken by a character in “A Doubters’ Almanac” sums up this book quite efficiently. In this character study by Ethan Canin, we see how the pressures of genius can turn ambition upon itself in self-destructive fury.

As the story begins, we meet young Milo Andret, a bright young man being raised by indifferent parents. Milo skips grades, is socially indifferent, and spends his free time by himself in the woods. As Milo begins high school, he realizes his potential as a mathematician (heretofore unrecognized by himself or his parents). Milo heads to college at no less an institution than UC Berkeley, where he is brought under the tutelage of brilliant mathematician Dr. Borland. Borland is determined to rope Milo into his preferred field of topology. Pressure mounts as Milo’s genius is taken as a given, and we hear the repeated refrain that mathematicians either make their mark early or they fizzle out. Milo decides to focus his intellect on the Malosz Problem, which has baffled the greatest minds in mathematics.

And it is here that we begin to see the self-destructiveness of Milo’s vast intelligence. He becomes obsessed with solving the Malosz Problem, and it becomes the pivotal point of his college career. Milo’s obsession with solving the unsolvable continues to haunt his choices later, when he has achieved a professorship at Princeton University. Throughout the book, we see how the pressures of genius coupled with substance abuse combine to form a toxicity that will damage Milo and his family for decades to come.

This book is certainly not my normal fare. I tend to read things of a more escapist bent. I received this book as part of Powell’s Indiespensable (Vol.58), and this is one of the reasons I value the program so highly: it introduces me to books outside of my comfort zone. This book was well-written, the characters very vivid, and the plot skips backwards, forwards, and sideways in time. And while it’s certainly a far cry from my usual historical-sci-fi-mystery choices, I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. I will say I had to stop midway through and take a break to read a historical-sci-fi-mystery fun book (A Perilous Undertaking if you must know) to keep my spirits up.

The slog through the destruction of a family becomes disheartening at points, but with some well-earned escapism out of the way I can say that I’m quite glad to have read this book.Even the high math references going (way, way, way) over my head didn’t detract from the plot

If you’re generally a fan of soul-searching family and personal drama, or a math nut (which I am not) then you’ll most likely enjoy this book. Ethan Canin is a fine craftsman with words and his story is quite compelling. I definitely recommend this as a heavy read.