A charming memoir about birds and the people who love them.

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THE BIRDS OF PANDEMONIUM

LIFE AMONG THE EXOTIC AND THE ENDANGERED

Raffin recounts how a chance encounter with an injured dove proved to be a life-changing experience.

Fifteen years ago, the author, now a conservation columnist for the Aviculture Society of America, was a stay-at-home mom who had put her career as a Silicon Valley executive on hold in order to care for her sons. When her trainer showed up late for their appointment at the gym, he explained that he had stopped to move an injured dove to the side of the highway. Raffin went back with him to pick up the bird and take it to a veterinarian; though it eventually died, the seeds of her new vocation were planted. A newspaper advertisement led to her agreeing to take in a pet dove in need of a home, and she was hooked. More birds followed, and she became a volunteer at a local bird shelter and then a certified aviculturist, after which she joined an informal network of experts. Raffin had found her calling, opening her home to a wide variety of birds. The author describes how, over the years, she has gained expertise in housing rare, endangered species—some of which have been illegally captured in the wild—and taken on the additional task of breeding them in captivity. Not only did the learning process prove “daunting,” it also required strategic planning—finding mates, “incubating eggs, hatching them, and caring for the babies.” By 2010, Pandemonium Aviaries, which had begun on a whim (fostering birds in need of a home), was a premier conservation-breeding operation playing an important global role in saving endangered species. “I've learned that their behavior is far more fascinating than their plumage…” writes the author, “and that 'birdbrain!' is the finest of compliments.”

A charming memoir about birds and the people who love them.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61620-136-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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