Book Review: The Naturalist by Darrin Lunde

Title: The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, a Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History

Author: Darrin Lunde

Published: 2016, Crown Publishers, New York

Genre: Biography

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary: The Naturalist recounts Theodore Roosevelt’s contributions to the study of natural history and the beginnings of efforts to preserve nature, animals, and natural environments – i.e. wilderness – for its own sake. The book begins with Roosevelt’s childhood and early fascination with animals, the outdoors, and ornithology, and ends with his monumental African safari. It describes and explains how his sickliness as a child and his father’s attitude towards the necessity of physical as well as mental fitness and masculinity drove him to exert, improve, and remake himself through outdoor adventure. As a biography, it is not comprehensive, as it focuses narrowly on Roosevelt’s engagement with hunting and natural history, and Roosevelt enthusiasts will likely learn little new. Its relatively short length and conversational style make it a good choice for those interested in either Roosevelt or the early days of natural history and who have not read extensively on either subject already.

Thoughts: The author is collection manager at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and so is extremely qualified to write on this subject. From the introduction, it seems that he casts himself as a sort of kindred spirit with the subject of his book, which the reader may or may not interpret as a good thing. Many modern readers may be put off by the antiquated attitudes towards animals and hunting, some of which the author does not condemn as strongly as some might like. Lengthy descriptions of the preparation of animal and bird skins for preservation, while detailed and interesting, may distress some readers. Overall, an interesting and accessible book about the changing national attitude towards nature and environmentalism as it shifted gradually from aggressive exploitation to a desire to preserve and protect.

What I liked: I enjoyed reading about the beginnings of natural history museums and natural history as a science. This is the first book I’ve read about T. Roosevelt, and I also enjoyed learning about his youth and his incredible determination, energy, and ability to remake himself and accomplish the seemingly impossible things to which he set his mind.

What I didn’t like: I personally disliked reading about the hunting and killing of so many animals, especially the destruction of the buffalo. I wouldn’t say I’m especially sentimental, but I did find the idea that studying things justifies destroying them to be an example of human arrogance. Still, just because I didn’t like those parts doesn’t mean they weren’t important or well written.

Verdict: I liked more than I disliked about the book. Well written, accessible, detailed, and interesting. Probably one to borrow from a library rather than buy. A solid 3 stars.

*** I received a copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Brute by Kim Fielding

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Title: Brute

Author: Kim Fielding

Edition: ebook

Rating: ♥♥♥♥
Summary: Brute is an ugly giant of a man with a beautiful heart and soul. When his stunted life as an unskilled laborer is interrupted by a clumsy prince, his life is forever changed. I found this to be a well-developed story with endearing characters and a solid plot.

Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised that the prince was not the love interest in this story – that role falls to a blind prisoner — an accused traitor-witch. I should note that the story has some shortcomings. In places, the plot progresses too quickly, and the reader is simply told that such-and-such has occurred. This is most noticeable in the development of the relationship between Brute and Gray, which would have benefitted from a bit more transition between cautious strangers and full-blown love. However, it’s such an original story, with such amazing characters and a gripping plot, that I had to give it four stars (especially since it made me cry, which = +1 stars). I’m especially impressed with how well the author presented a complete, well-developed fantasy world to the reader without boring the reader with tedious world-building. The reader is given glimpses of a complex and detailed setting without becoming distracted from the main characters.

Highly recommended to fans of m/m with unusual characters and an original storyline.