West of Here, by Jonathan Evison
Here's what Publishers Weekly has to say about the book:
Starred Review. A century after the late–19th-century settlers of Olympic Peninsula to the west of Seattle set out to build a dam, their descendants want to demolish it to bring back fish runs, providing one of the many plots in this satisfyingly meaty work from Evison (All About Lulu). The scenes of the early settlers track an expedition into the Olympic wilderness and the evolving relations between settlers and the Klallam tribe, provide insights into early feminism, and outline an entrepreneur's dream to build the all-important dam. By comparison, the contemporary stories are chock-full of modern woe and malaise, including a Bigfoot watcher and seafood plant worker who wishes to relive his glory days as a high school basketball star; an ex-convict who sets out into the wilderness to live off the land; and an environmental scientist who is hit with an unexpected development. Evison does a terrific job at creating a sense of place as he skips back and forth across the century, cutting between short chapters to sustain a propulsive momentum while juggling a sprawling network of plots and a massive cast of characters real enough to walk off the page. A big novel about the discovery and rediscovery of nature, starting over, and the sometimes piercing reverberations of history, this is a damn fine book. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Ringer, by Jenny Shank
"Salvador Santillano dies on the shabby bedroom floor of a suspected drug lair, shot by Ed O'Fallon, a police officer: a by-the-book SWAT raid at the wrong address.
More died that day than an innocent man. Gone is reconciliation between the hardworking Santillano and his dedicated wife, Patricia, a nurse. Patricia has been dismayed by Salvador's unbending attachment to his family in Mexico, and his refusal to stop sending money there. The shooting also may have killed O'Fallon's career. It certainly wounded his emotional stability and his family life. And then there is the city of Denver, with Hispanic activists suspecting the shooting was racially motivated. Shank gets into the head of the hard-charging police officer and uncovers his anxieties, and she draws Patricia as a proud woman fearful that her pride contributed to Salvador's death. That death and its aftermath are the bricks of the story, but the game of baseball drives the narrative. Both families are involved in youth leagues. Ed has been relegated to girl's T-ball because he grew too intense coaching boys. However, his sons, Jesse and E.J., play on a championship team, and Salvador's son, Ray, is a coveted pitching prodigy. As the season progresses, Ray, using his mother's maiden name, ends up pitching as a "ringer" for the O'Fallon boys' team in state and regional games. Patricia realizes early that the O'Fallons are involved, but she realizes too that baseball, Salvador's passion and Ray's love, might save her son from being seduced into street-gang life. Ray's precarious hold on his own emotions falters when he discovers the man who killed his father watching from the bleachers. While some may think O'Fallon deserved one more chapter, considering the depth of his transformation, the author carries her novel to a believable conclusion, with skillful tightening of the emotional tension along the way.
Shank's first at-bat as a novelist is a hit."
The Story of Brutus: My Life With Brutus the Bear and the Grizzlies of North America, by Casey Anderson
Casey Anderson, the host of National Geographic's Expedition Grizzly, met a month-old bear cub in a wildlife preserve in 2002, whom he affectionately named Brutus. Little Brutus was destined to remain in captivity or, more likely, even euthanized due to overpopulation at the preserve. Anderson, already an expert in animal rescue and rehabilitation, just could not let that happen to Brutus, who looked like a "fuzzy Twinkie." From the beginning it was clear something special existed between the two. And so, Anderson built the Montana grizzly encounter in Bozeman, Montana, especially for Brutus, so that he, and others like him, could grow up "being a bear." And so the love story began.
When together, Anderson and Brutus will wrestle, swim, play, and continue to act as advocates for grizzly protection and education, be it through documentaries like Expedition Grizzly, appearances on Oprah or Good Morning America, or in this inspiring book, which promises to be an intimate look into Anderson's relationship with Brutus and a call to action to protect these glorious animals and the natural world they live in.
Crossing the Heart of Africa, by Julian Smith
The amazing true story of Julian Smith, who retraced the journey of legendary British explorer Ewart "The Leopard" Grogan, the first man to cross the length of Africa, in hopes of also winning the heart of the woman he loved.
In 1898, the dashing young British explorer Ewart “the Leopard” Grogan was in love. In order to prove his mettle to his beloved—and her aristocratic stepfather—he set out on a quest to become the first person to walk across Africa, “a feat hitherto thought by many explorers to be impossible” (New York Times, 1900).
In 2007, thirty-five-year-old American journalist Julian Smith faced a similar problem with his girlfriend of six years . . . and decided to address it in the same way Grogan had more than a hundred years before: he was going to retrace the Leopard’s 4,500-mile journey for love and glory through the lakes, volcanoes, savannas, and crowded modern cities of Africa.
Smith interweaves both adventures into a seamless narrative in Crossing the Heart of Africa: the story of two explorers, a century apart, who both traversed the length of Africa to prove themselves . . . and came back changed men.