Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag

If spring and its warm weather got here too early for you, you might want to read a classic - O.E. Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth. For me, Rolvaag is a master at describing the untouched American prairie, including its extreme isolation and harsh climate, especially winter, prior to its settlement. With Giants, you get plenty of blizzards, and plenty of loneliness as you read about Norwegian settlers in the Dakota Territory of the 1870s.
Giants follows the family of Per Hansa and his wife Beret, along with three other Norwegian families as they break ground in a new land. Rolvaag takes you on their journey as they find their land, turn over the sod and set up their homes; doing what was needed to survive their first winter in the Dakotas.
The settlers' story continues on onto the 1880s as Native Americans, locusts, drought, storms, blizzards, isolation, mental illness and faith all present challenges to the small community as it grows.
If you ever wondered about the hardships faced by those who settled the Midwest, Rolvaag does a masterful job of painting the picture. Both the defeats and the successes are covered as these families make their way in unchartered territory. Published in 1927, Giants in the Earth is not very far removed from the time in our history that it covers. Rolvaag himself emigrated to South Dakota in 1896.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue

This story is about a single woman and her daughter. The mom is a successful radio host who had issues with her own parents when she was growing up. He daughter (who she wanted to accept just as she was) was shy, fearful, and stuttered as a child. Quite the opposite of her fiery parent. So the mom does all she can to help. Therapy does help with the stuttering. But the horses are what become the driving force in the life of Nicola.
     After one particularly embarrassing day at school, Nic goes out on her horse, Tru. She was told to stay on the grounds, but a rebellious streak takes hold, and she flies into the woods attempting to jump a tree that had fallen over the path. She falls, and ends up with a head injury that leaves her in a coma for four hours. This is when everything changes. Nic loses her fear. She begins doing things that are totally out of character for her. She gets in to some trouble at school and with her parents. But not in the way you might think.... Her sympathy for the meek, and her anger towards bullies takes on a strong amount of action on her part - with her horses and her peers. A great read!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Boy On The Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

Leon Leyson or Leib Lejzon, as he was know growing up, was one of the youngest survivors on Oskar Schindler’s List.  The memoir tells of his childhood growing up in a rural area and then moving to Krakow after is father was able to save enough money.  Little did he know what this move would save his life. 
All schools were given a copy to show students and as a freshman, I didn’t fully understand significance that Oskar Schindler had on the survival of so many Jews.  He traded goods and services on the black market to keep his employees alive. 
Like so many World War II books the subject matter is hard to read and I did find myself having to put it down, walk away and do something else before being able to come back and finish the book.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Drones for Dummies by Mark LaFay

Drones for Dummies is an introductory primer to the world of hobby dronemanship (yes, I made up that word). It reviews construction and inspection of drones, safe flying, and current laws and regulations.  As with most For Dummies books, it also provides helpful “Dos” and Don’ts” in each chapter.  Unmanned aircraft systems (drones) are now so readily available to the public that they can be purchased at Wal-Mart (check near the digital cameras).  These devices are poised to change the way that we interact with our environment, from aerial photography to deliveries-on-demand. If you’re looking for a new hobby, drones are a fun and exciting option.  While certainly not the only book available on the topic, Drones for Dummies will give you a chance to see if this is something you might be interested in pursuing more in-depth.  Recommended as an introduction to the subject.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith

From the author of the popular No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series comes this enjoyable collection of short stories.  Based on vintage photos of unknown subjects while he was working on a photography book, McCall Smith imagines the lives of the people in the black and white photos have had and creates five distinct love stories celebrating love, friendship and the human spirits and how chance encounters can change one's course of life.  I was touched by He Wanted to Believe in Tenderness where David, a World War II veteran didn't get hardened by injustice, but remains devoted to his first love.  I also enjoyed Angel in Italy and Dear Ventriloquist.
It is a good read!

Celine by Peter Heller

Celine Watkins is a witty, feisty, elderly PI who specializes in reuniting families. She and her husband/partner trek off to Yellowstone to investigate a decades-old disappearance.  Although not always believable, I enjoyed the story and loved the characters.  I hope to read more of Celine’s adventures.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

An interesting true story of a Japanese-American family during World War II is extensively researched. All the children of the Fukuhara family were born in the United States but returned to Hiroshima, Japan with their mother after their father's death. Harry Fukuhara and his sister, Mary returned to the northwest U.S. in the late 1930s.  They were sent to internment camps after the Pearl Harbor attack and endured rough conditions.  Seeking a way out Harry enlisted in the U.S. army and became a bilingual interpreter.  Facing the Japanese enemy in several Pacific islands and interrogating captured Japanese soldiers he also was in danger and mistrusted by American soldiers because he was Japanese. Harry's family was enduring tough conditions in Japan and his brothers had to serve in the Japanese army. When the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima members of Harry's family were injured.  After the Japanese surrendered Harry finds his family in Hiroshima and witnesses the devastation in this city.  This book shows the suffering and sacrifices of this family and is an excellent historical read.