Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Have 3 Posts to Write, but It's SO Beautiful Outside....So Here's a Quote for you:

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience:  this is the ideal life.  ~Mark Twain

Here's another...

No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.  ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And one more...

Books are a uniquely portable magic.  ~Stephen King

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Looking for Alaska

Some of the most wonderful authors can be found in the young adult section.  Once you fight your way past the wall-o-paranormal, there is a veritable buffet of literary yumminess just waiting to be devoured.  Luckily, our local Barnes and Nobel has a terrific salesperson who gives me great recommendations, and thanks to her I've added a new favorite author to my menu.

Looking for Alaska by John Green is NOT about Alaska the state. It is set in present day Alabama, where Miles Halter travels to attend Culver Creek Boarding School.  He is tired of the invisible life he has been living at his Florida public school, and decides to attend his father's alma mater at the start of his junior year.  It is the place where he hopes to shake things up, do something exciting and find his "Great Perhaps". What he finds is Alaska Young, a beautiful, fascinating and troubled dorm neighbor, who along with Miles' roomate "The Colonel" introduces him to the labyrinth that is life. Now, for all of you who are thinking that this is kind of Catcher-in-the-Ryeish, don't worry.  It is SO MUCH BETTER.  And it has a point. And you don't have to be in high school to relate to the characters; they are ageless and universal.

John Green is not a new author, he's just new to me.  Looking for Alaska was published in 2005, when it won the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.  He's written several since then, and I plan to read them all.  Stay tuned...

Mary Kay

Monday, June 4, 2012

These Is My Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901, Arizona Territories

Nancy E. Turner wrote this novel in 1998.  I have just finished reading it, and my question is:  Why didn't I know about it before now?! Anyone who lives in the southwest, or anyone ever curious about how people settled in the southwest, or anyone who loves cowboys and Indians and romantic calvary officers should read this book.

Sarah Prine is a teenager when her family pulls up stakes and travels from the southwest to the east and then back to the southwest again. Along the way they encounter very unhappy Indians, whiney eastern tenderfoots, (tenderfeet?), unsavory and unwashed bandits and fellow travelers good and bad, all documented in the diary that young Sarah starts on the trail.  More than just a travel log, this is the story of Sarah, her family and her education in letters and in life.  It is a charming and terrifying story, and it will make you happy that you can sleep safely in your varmint-free beds at night. It is also the story of how a rough and dangerous frontier becomes a state with cities and universities, something I think we all take for granted.

Nancy Turner won the Arizona Author Award for this book.  She wrote two sequels to These Is My Words, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden, so we get to follow Sarah's adventures beyond 1901.  This book was a sweet surprise.  I hope you agree!

Mary Kay

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Long Walk

The Long Walk, The True Story of a Trek to Freedom is the first hand account of Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish calvary officer at the start of WWII. After Poland fell to the Nazis, many Poles who lived near the Russian border fell into the hands of Soviets who then accused them of spying for the Nazis.  The Polish people found themselves literally between a rock and a hard place.  In the case of Slavomir, it is a miracle that the rock did not crush him.

Slavomir was arrested in November of 1939 when he was just 24.  He spent 12 months in solitary confinement, taken out only to be interrogated and tortured by the NKVD, the Soviet Secret Police.  After a sham of a trial, he was sentenced to 25 years hard labor in Siberia for "espionage and plotting against the people of the USSR." It seemed that his life was over, but the journey had just begun.
3000 miles later he started his sentence in Camp 303.  Almost immediately he began planning his escape, a difficult enough task in the Siberian winter, but which he and 6 other inmates accomplished in April of 1941. Getting out of the labor camp was just the first step in this journey. They now had to escape south on foot through Siberia, China, the Gobi desert, Tibet, over the Himalayas and into the safety of British India. This is a story of superhuman endurance, and proof that the fight for freedom makes any obstacle seem surmountable.

Here's a little piece of advice.  When you are reading a non-fiction book, wait until you finish before Googling the subject matter.  I didn't, so I had to finish the story knowing that there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding Slavomir and his trek.  I'm not going to say anymore.  It is an amazing tale, and a look back at a time in history as told by an eyewitness. I was reminded once again of how lucky we are to live in the USA. I'll let you make up your own mind about the rest.

The Book Chick

Friday, June 1, 2012

Elegy for Eddie

Fans of Maisie Dobbs rejoice!  Elegy for Eddie is Jacqueline Winspear at her finest, and once again my only disappointment is having to wait for the next one.

In 1933 London the costermongers of Covent Garden still rely on horses and wagons to sell their fruits and vegetables. Any good mechanic can fix a car, but the costers know that only Eddie Pettit can be counted on to fix an ailing horse.  Gentle Eddie is loved by all, and when he is killed in a suspicious accident his coster friends reach out to Maisie for help. How, you may ask, do these rough, working-class men know a highly educated psychologist/investigator such as Maisie? Because her father was a costermonger, that's why!

One of the many things I love about this series is the character development of Maisie Dobbs herself.  She started life in a place that is light years away from her current social position.  Her first job was as a maid in the London home of the Comptons, and now she is engaged to the son of the house.  She has inherited her mentor's country home, but her father insists on living in the stable house, and he is "paying calls" on her housekeeper. None of this would seem too extraordinary now, but the social norms of 1933 were still very strict. Reconciling her life now with her life growing up as a costermonger's daughter is a constant struggle for Maisie, and we get to see how she continues to figure things out. Now throw in the threat of war and powerful people manipulating public opinion for the greater good, and you have another great Winspear novel.

Now, go put on the teapot and settle in for a good read.
Cheerio for now!

Mary Kay