This intriguing novel starts in Minnesota, at a big pharmaceutical research lab, where Marina Singh has worked for several years. Dr Singh’s colleague, Anders Eckman, went to the Amazon area to get a progress report from veteran researcher, Dr Annick Swenson, who has not been forthcoming on the outcome of her studies and the corporate funders are growing anxious. A brief report of Anders death arrives in Minnesota and Marina is sent to find out the details by her married lover, and boss, Mr Fox. The contrast between Minnesota and the Amazon region where the Lakashi tribe lives could not be more stark. Marina finds herself cut off from the world she knows, even wearing native attire after her clothes are stolen, as she tries to learn more about Anders’ death and the status of Dr Swenson’s research into the fertility of women of the tribe who routinely gnaw the bark of a certain species of trees and continue to have babies well into their 70′s. As Annika observes, what 70 year old woman wants to have babies? Good question, and one that this novel explores along with many others including the place of commercialism in medicine, culture and identity, good and evil. It’s a real tale, well told.
Archive for March, 2012
Recently I happened upon an advanced reader copy of Jacqueline Winspear’s new Maisie Dobbs mystery, Elegy for Eddie. The Maisie Dobbs series is one of my favorites and it was a treat to get to preview this book!
It’s April 1933 in London and the Private Investigator, Maisie Dobbs, is grappling with how she fits into the world. Maisie comes from the working-class neighborhood in Lambeth where her father was a costermonger before going to work at a country estate. Maisie has inherited a considerable estate from her mentor and feels an obligation to use her new-found wealth to help others. Maisie struggles to balance the moral obligation she feels with the wishes of those she wants to help.
As Maisie struggles with her obligations, friends from her past ask her to investigate the death of childhood friend, Eddie Pettit. Eddie died in a London factory under questionable circumstances. Maisie’s investigation takes her from the dark back streets of London to elite dinners with friends and politicians, including Winston Churchill. As Maisie digs deeper into the mystery, the news in Europe indicates the continent may be heading into another war, and Maisie begins to realize Eddie was caught up in issues he could have never understood.
Jacqueline Winspear’s newest Maisie Dobbs book is a solid mystery that creates a strong sense of place and continues her tradition of creating interesting characters. The book will be released in late March. ~Enjoy~
I love Historical Fiction novels but rarely read Nonfiction. Recently I read a review about Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand that made me decide to take a chance and put a hold on the eBook version. WOW! What a compelling story! I was immediately hooked on the story and rarely put my Kindle down until I had finished the book. Although it’s not a new book (published November 2010), I decided to blog about it because I really enjoyed it.
Louis Zamperini grew up in a large Italian family in Torrance, California. He was a defiant and incorrigible (but lovable) boy who enjoyed pushing limits. School didn’t interest him and he often channeled his energy into petty crime, fighting and riding the rails. Eventually he discovered running and focused his energy into becoming an Olympic runner with the goal of being the first runner to run a 4-minute mile. He competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, earning an 8th place finish in the Men’s 5,000 meter race.
Louis Zamperini enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in 1941 and trained as a bombardier on a fighter plane. He was stationed in the South Pacific and when his crew’s plane, Super Man, was damaged in a war battle, the crew was assigned to a new airplane, The Green Hornet. Mechanical issues caused The Green Hornet to crash into the South Pacific, killing 8 of the 11 crew members. Louis Zamperini and two others (Russel Phillips and Francis McNamara) survived the crash and ended up in two plastic life boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With little to eat and no fresh water the men told stories to one-another to pass the time and keep their minds off thirst, starvation, and the odds of being rescued. Francis McNamara died after 33 days at sea. On the 47th day, Louis Zamperini and Russel Phillips reached the Marshall Islands but were soon captured by the Japanese soldiers stationed there. Both men were held in prisoner of war camps and were beaten and tortured. Louis Zamperini was never officially registered as a prisoner of war, and the knowledge that his family did not know he was alive weighed on him each day of captivity. Unfortunately Louis Zamperini was the target of extra torture in the POW camps because of his Olympic fame.
I am happy to report the book has a happy ending, although Louis Zamperini struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after his return from the War. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it for readers who enjoy Historical Fiction. By chance, I just discovered Bobbie Ann Mason’s new book, The Girl in the Blue Beret, which is a fictional story about a WWII fighter pilot who is shot down over Occupied Europe. I love the “Advanced Search” option in OverDrive that helps me find Historical Fiction eBooks for my Kindle!!
In 2005, Daniel McGowen, to the shock of his family and friends, was arrested by the FBI for his involvement in a domestic terrorist organization called the Earth Liberation Front (or ELF). One of his coworkers was so flabbergasted by his arrest, that her husband, Marshall Curry (a director known for the acclaimed documentaries Street Fight and Racing Dreams), made If a Tree Falls. The documentary follows the rise and activities of ELF in the United States and why someone like McGowen, a shy, quiet working-class kid from Brooklyn, was drawn to the group.
Although the development of ELF alone makes the film worth watching, If a Tree Falls also raises questions on the meaning of “terrorist” in a post-9-11 era. McGowen and other ELF members have committed acts of terrorism under the legal definition. However, the term is understood differently in the public sphere. Should McGowen be labeled a terrorist? It is certainly something you will think about days after watching the film. If a Tree Falls was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
We gardeners are a strange breed. The sight of bare ground appearing as the snow melts makes us itch to sink our hands into the soil and get things growing. Most of us have to remind ourselves rather sternly that spring is still weeks away.
Many gardeners start planning their gardens while the snow is still flying. Especially vegetable gardeners, since most of what they plant grows, produces, and dies all in one year, and they get to start new every spring. For some of us, before we can start thinking of plants, we think of garden beds.
In my case, raised beds. My yard is home to not only vegetables and flowers, but a very large dog. Raised beds were the easiest way to get him to stay out of my veggie gardens. I built my first raised beds eight years ago, and last spring I promised myself that it would be the last time I shored up the sides with stakes. This year I have to start over.
This time I’m doing it right. I’m going to build raised beds that drain better and are varmint resistant – no more free dinners for moles. I’m not building a raised bed in the soupiest part of the yard this time either. In that spot I’m going to try creating a rain garden to let Mother Nature deal with her bounty.
Thankfully, the Iowa City Public Library has a great collection of gardening books – from planning guides to plant care and everything in between. Two of the new books that are helping me with my planning as I wait for spring:
The vegetable gardener’s book of building projects: raised beds, cold frames, compost bins, planters, plant supports, trellises, harvesting and storage aids, by Cindy Littelfield and Kevin Ayer, c2010. For a gardener with a bit of DIY experience and a few power tools, the 39 projects in this book can help you transform your yard and gardens.
Rain gardens: sustainable landscaping for a beautiful yard and a healthy world by Lynn M. Steiner and Robert W. Domm, c2012. This well written and easy to follow guide to rain gardens starts with a thorough introduction to storm water and rain gardens, and follows with chapters on planning, building, planting and maintaining your garden. Plant suggestions are given throughout, and a large plant index of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees follows. Features lots of color photographs and illustrations throughout.
Other new gardening books for the spring:
The Complete Guide to Greenhouses & Garden Projects: greenhouses, cold frames, compost bins, trellises, planting beds, potting benches & more created by the editors of Creative Publishing in cooperation with Black & Decker, c2011.
The essential guide to creating rain gardens: capturing rain for your own water-efficient garden by Cleo Woelfle-Erskine and Apryl Uncapher, c2012.
Backyard Harvest: a year-round guide to growing fruits and vegetables by Jo Whittingham c 2011.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour, c2012.
The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Own Food by Monte Burch, c2011.
I have been enjoying my annual supply of Girl Scout cookies while reading the brand new adult biography called, Juliette Gordon Low; The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, written by Stacy A. Cordery. Today, March 12, 2012, marks the centenary of the Girl Scouts in America. This is a scholarly work written by an Illinois history professor who has written a couple of other biographies on Teddy Roosevelt and one on Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Having been a Girl Scout myself, as well as a Girl Scout leader for my daughter’s troop for seven years, I was anxious to read more about the founder of Girl Scouting. My interest was piqued by a tour of the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace in Savannah a couple of years ago while vacationing. I found the adult biography detailing Daisy’s hearing loss, her childhood and family life, her marriage to an adulterous British fellow, her relationship to Sir Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of the Boy Scouts), and the establishment of the Girl Scout movement—the endeavor “Daisy” undertook to make a difference in the world—to be a fascinating read. The old black and white photographs included in the book were neat to see. History really came to life for me reading this book. I have so many fond memories of my Girl Scouting years, both as a girl and as a leader, plus the visit to Savannah, and my continued support of the Girl Scouts through their annual cookie sales, that I was the perfect reader for Cordery’s new book. The documentation and resources, notes, bibliography, and index included are impressive. All the primary sources the author examined make for a truly accurate biography of the woman who began the largest and most beloved girls and women’s organization in the world.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts in the United States. A couple of books have just been published to honor the occasion and celebrate the life of founder, Juliette Gordon Low.
One book is the picture book biography geared for K-3 children titled, Here Come the Girl Scouts! The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure. This book is written by Shana Corey who was inspired by her own mother who was a Girl Scout in Savannah, Georgia, where the movement began. The author tells about Daisy, a girl with gumption, who wanted to do something meaningful with her life. Although from a wealthy Savannah family, Daisy was not like other girls who wanted to be prim and proper; she wanted to have adventures, be outside in nature, and see the world. As a young women she road elephants in India, visited the Great Pyramid in Egypt, and even flew in an early airplane. Daisy liked to go fishing, boating, and camping. After meeting Sir Robert Baden-Powell in England, founder of the Boy Scout movement, Daisy returned to Georgia to start the first Girl Scout troop in America and that is the beginning of the organization that now boasts over 3.2 million members. More than 50 million American women enjoyed Girl Scouting during their childhoods. Reading this picture book will remind young girls that Daisy believed girls could do anything and she lived a life that proved it. The delightful illustrations by Hadley Hooper extend the story of the life of an early feminist. Also included in the back material is further factual information about Daisy, the Girl Scout Promise, and the Girl Scout Law.
Rand Burkert has created a new retelling of the famous Aesop fable, along with his mother, Nancy Ekholm Burkert, who contributed the exquisite artwork for this beautiful picture book set in Africa near the Botswana and Naminia borders. Here lions, field mice and baobab trees may be found together under the hot African sun. The author chose to give the tiny mouse the top billing rather than the king of the jungle, as he explains, “Mouse clearly performs the lion’s share of the work.” As the familiar tale unfolds, the meticulous illustrations in watercolor extend the fable in scene after naturalistic scene with soft colors that capture each eventful moment. A trip to Africa provided inspiration for the detailed artwork depicting the flora and fauna of the region. The artist’s use of perspective creates some stunning images and turning the heavy cream-colored pages is a joy to anyone who appreciated fine book design. This version of the mouse who saves a lion from the hunters’ net is a picture book that is perfect for storytime and lapsit with the 3-6 year-old crowd. The illustrator also created the artwork for her picture book of The Nightingale (1965) and Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs (1972) along with the original illustrations for Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach (1961). Welcome back to the world of children’s book illustration, Nancy Ekholm Burkert!
This nonfiction book, primarily aimed at upper elementary and junior high students, gives a quick, readable overview of the iconic American civil rights photograph of Elizabeth Eckford and the attempted integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
Tougas uses the first chapter to give a riveting account, with primary source dialogue, of what was to be 15-year-old Elizabeth’s first day of school at the newly integrated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. She and eight other African-American students (now known as the Little Rock Nine) were to begin classes on September 4th, 1957, but when Elizabeth arrived she was alone and faced an angry mob of hundreds of protestors and armed National Guardsmen who barred her entrance. The photo spreads and personal accounts are shocking albeit a bit emotionally distant due to the succinct text.
Being part of the Compass Point Books “Captured History” series, the book features large photos depicting the events of that day and the aftermath of this Civil Rights Movement struggle. There is quite a bit of discussion about the iconic photograph taken by photographer Will Counts of white student, Hazel Bryan, shouting racial abuse at Elizabeth. Readers will learn about the impact photojournalism has on the world and what it can feel like to be defined not only by your skin color but by a single photograph.
Short chapters with simple, effective sentences also allow tweens and teens to easily follow the developments of the integration battle in Little Rock, give a basic history of the Civil Rights Movement, and provide a “where are they now” of Will Counts and the Little Rock Nine students. Tougas’ book gives us a good introduction to the topic and includes a list of further reading to help students know where to go for more detailed information.
The first John Green book I read was An Abundance of Katherines, and I fell in love. I then read Paper Towns, and, finally, Looking for Alaska, the book that made Green famous. When I finished Looking for Alaska, I realized that each book starred essentially the same character. So, we kinda broke up. I stopped reading his blog, and wasn’t nearly as interested in his upcoming projects. Then The Fault in Our Stars was released–to put it mildly–with glowing praise. My resolve was weak, so I read it. I’m very glad that I did.
The Fault in Our Stars is a cancer book. Its main character, precocious teen and voracious reader, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is depressed. She has a terminal case of Thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs, which requires her to wheel around an oxygen tank and periodically get her lungs drained of fluid. Her doctor decides that she should attend a weekly support group. It’s there that she meets Augustus Waters, and everything begins to change.
Green succeeds by making his characters likable and honest. They talk about their shared pain in a deeper way than most adults. I cannot recommend this book enough to regular readers of young adult fiction, but it’s also a great first book for someone who has never read a YA novel before. As cliche as it sounds: You’ll laugh and you’ll cry. But, the tears are never cheap, and the laughter is pure.