Monday, February 22, 2016

Lost in Shangri-La

Because this book is called Lost in Shangri-La I assumed it would tell the story of a plane crash over Tibet.  However, Shangri-La ended up being a pet name for an area of New Guinea that was uncharted and unexplored.  There were huge differences in the mythical Shangri-La of Tibet and this remote jungle area on an island in the huge difference was the cannibalistic natives to be found there!  In 1945 a group of Army enlisted and officers, WACS as well as men flew over the area they had heard so much about, on a "sight-seeing" trip, hoping to spot the natives who lived there from the height of the plane.  Because of the difficult access through the mountains surrounding the valley they wished to see, the plane ran into trouble and crashed.  All were killed but two men and three women, and all of the survivors were badly injured.   Later, only one of the women remained.  She and the two men went through terrible trials while they waited for rescue, unsure that they would ever BE rescued.  This is their story, and it is one of courage and determination by the survivors and their rescuers.  A really delightful book; just fascinating.  I loved reading it!  Kudos to Mitchell Zuckoff for taking an almost unknown event during the last months of the war, and researching it and presenting it in this very readable tribute to these men and women!

Corporal Margaret Hastings with native children...she survived to tell her story!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Harper Lee's Passing

                              A Tribute to a Great Writer....

Harper Lee died Feb 19, 2016 at the age of 89. Her novel "To Kill A Mockingbird" was a Pulitizer Prize winner as well as capturing the hearts of readers everywhere. There won't be another Harper Lee. She was one of a kind and will be sorely missed.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


My Book Club has one selection each month. Often I will finish that book long before the next one is to be read and discussed. So, I go on Amazon Kindle and chose an easier read, one that doesn't cost much but might provide me with entertainment.

Such was "Quail Crossings" by Jennifer McMurrain. 

Having written, myself (and had published), a story about a family's struggles through the Great Depression, I was curious about how McMurrain would handle the same scenerio. 

Although the two books touched on several similiar events, I think they were handled differently. I think the author did a good job creating her characters, laying out her timeline, displaying raw emotions, and making things happen that were realistic.
In "Quail Crossings" Dovie Grant is a young widow. She is living with her Dad, James. It's during the Depression and everyone is struggling. Her greatest struggles are not with making ends meet, trying to survive during this difficult period of time. The loss of her husband and small daughter has torn her apart and she is having difficulty dealing with that loss.

Then, Bill, an 18 year old boy, with three siblings in tow, enters the scene. They've been abandoned by their parents, so James moves them into the house with him and Dovie. It's almost more than she can bear. 

There's a lot of different personalities involved in this merging of the two families and often there is more trouble than Dovie thinks it's worth. But, as time goes on she begins to understand why things happen as they do. 

It's a good read, an easy read. I enjoyed it and if you want something to pick up and read on a lazy, cold winter weekend, I'd recommend it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chess Puzzle Learning Levels, Volume I

I love playing chess, but studying chess has always been a chore.  Most chess books are terribly boring, especially the ones heavy on puzzles.  I enjoy Silman's chess books because he adds enough humor to make his lessons palatable.  But I had never met a chess puzzle book I loved (or even liked) until I met Wyckoff's Chess Puzzle Learning Levels.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pioneer Girl

It was such a joy to read Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. I was too young to appreciate the period details and historical significance of the Little House series when I was a kid. I just loved the books for what they were. Entertaining! Now, editor Pamela Smith Hill includes Wilder's original, unpublished manuscript for the Little House series, along with an overwhelming amount of insider information, census data, annotations, diaries, manuscripts, letters, and photographs. 

The beginning of the book follows Wilder's journey to publication. It is always a shock to discover that a series of books that is so beloved by millions, could have had a difficult time getting published. But it did! Wilder and her daughter Rose worked for years to bring the novels to fruition. But, as we all know, they were used to hard work. 

Then, when you start reading the original manuscript, you'll be charmed and educated all over again. I loved reading Wilder's personal notes to her daughter and editor Rose Wilder Lane. They're written here and there through out the original manuscript. I'll let you discover those hidden gems on your own. And the conflicts of frontier life will shock and amaze all over again. Note to settlers of the past...if you find a mummified baby hanging in a tree... leave it there! You'll have to read the book to find out the rest of that haunting story.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Under Fire

I bought Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack on Benghazi, by Burton and Katz before I knew there would be another book written by the actual men who were there, 13 Hours.  I read it right before the movie 13 Hours was released because I wanted to understand completely the events of that fateful day.  Burton and Katz had done their homework and the book was really good in many ways. I commend them for their excellent efforts with a situation they wished the public to be aware of that effects us all...a tragedy we all should come to understand.  It was, however, released before the men who wrote 13 Hours agreed to release their own names, and because their names are not given in Under Fire, the players in this event tend to be a little confusing.  You don't get a complete sense of how these men truly felt and what their actual motivations were, even though Burton and Katz do a decent job  relating what they were told when they did their interviews.  Parts of the book are redacted, as well.  It's also a little hard to follow all of the organizations, and their various acronyms, and know who did what as the events unfolded.  There are DCM, DOD, DS, DS/CC, DSS just to name a few.  There's a glossary of these in the back of the book, but who wants to keep referring to the back to get things straight in their mind, while reading a book.  I think Burton and Katz did as good a job as possible, considering they are third parties to the events, and were not allowed to release the names of the actual brave men involved.  I'm glad the book was released, and glad I read it, but hope to follow up at some point with 13 Hours to get a more clear view of the complex issue.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A More Perfect Union

At a Ben Carson book signing back in October, I purchased Carson's 2015 book, A More Perfect Union for $20.  Carson signed it on the front page.
Today I finally finished the book.  For the most part it's a commentary, explaining the United States Constitution.  If you slept through social studies, American history, or government class in school (or your class didn't teach you about the Constitution), this is the book for you.

Since I've already studied the Constitution in depth, I was pretty much just reading things I knew.  I would give Carson an A+ for understanding the Constitution.  He knows the document and the history of the founders well.  And I did learn certain things about the lives of the founders that I did not know.

The book is formatted very nicely, and it's of good quality, without grammatical mistakes or typos.  I like how Carson chose to start each chapter with an appropriate Bible verse.    

Throughout, Carson sprinkles some very interesting stories from his own life, but I wish he had included more.  Most fascinating to me was a comparison he made between government and chess.  Carson wrote that he played on a chess team in both high school and college.  I wonder what his playing strength is, and/or if he could beat the other candidates in a chess tournament!

Conclusion:  If you already are an avid student of the Constitution, go for one of Carson's other books.  You'll probably find this one boring.  But if you've never paid much attention to the Constitution or the government process, read this book!  It's a very nice, well-written analysis. It contains respectfully-presented conservative commentary, spiced with reflections from life and a common-sense approach to government and the "big picture."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Anne of Green Gables

I wasn't planning to review any of the classic books I've been reading, after all, everyone has already read them! But then again, some of us read them in school, long ago and possibly under duress. Maybe if I start to review some of the classic books I've been reading, some of you will discover that you've never read them at all. Or maybe you can't remember if you have read them. That is not the case with me and Anne spelled with an e. Anne is a character that one could never forget meeting. Of course, I watched the series long ago on p.b.s. And suffered through pledge drive after pledge drive for the privilege. Now, I can fast forward through the pledge drives. But back then, Anne was worth it.

I finished this book last summer and eventually, wouldn't you know it, it turned up on t.p.t. I started watching. But it wasn't in H.D. Gasp. Anne's red hair wasn't so red. And Avonlea wasn't quite as picturesque. In the book, Anne is always jibber jabbing about the local color. You can actually feel the kiss of the sun, marvel at the cerulean color of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, savor one of Marilla's pies and are completely charmed by the miracle of a single spring flower. You see everything through Anne's eyes. Her eyes are definitely in H.D.! And so is the pen of L.M. Montgomery.

The book is as charming as Snow White is innocent. The beloved characters earn their timeless appeal. And the dialogue is a marvel. Especially, what spews from Mrs. Lynde. I'll end this review with a dash of color and spice from that tart tongued old gal.

"It can't be denied your hair is a terrible red; but I knew a girl once-went to school with her, in fact-whose hair was every mite as red as yours when she was young, but when she grew up it darkened to a real handsome auburn." Mrs Lynde from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery