Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

During World War II a Dutch girl, Noa, is impregnated by a German soldier.  Thrown out of her home by her father she is forced to give up her baby and finds work cleaning in a rail station.  Discovering a boxcar full of Jewish babies, many of them dead, she snatches a live baby and flees into the cold, snowy night. Noa is rescued by a circus performer and eventually becomes part of a German circus as an aerialist. Though not welcomed at first by Astrid, a superb acrobat who is forced to train her, a great friendship develops between the two women. Astrid has secrets and has found refuge in the circus.  The circus travels and puts on many performances but dangers abound even as people flock to the circus for entertainment and relief from the oppression of war. The story of these two women and other characters in this book is a historical novel of sacrifice and survival, one that sticks in my memory and I enjoyed.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Best Land Under Heaven by Michael Wallis

As we head into November, cold weather is upon us and the holidays are near which means eating with family. A book to consider as it certainly ties-in is The Best Land Under Heaven by Michael Wallis. In his book,Wallis looks at the Donner Party, cold weather and the eating of family members - pretty close if you ask me.
Tales of the Donner Party have filled our history. It is one of pioneers heading west, getting lost and turning to cannibalism to stay alive. With his book, Wallis looks in detail at the make-up of the party and just what went wrong that led to its disastrous end.
What I like about Wallis' book is his exploration of the personalities of the Donner Party - who got along and who didn't. He takes that a step further in looking at what roll this played in the decisions made by the group. He also explores negative outside influences and bad advice that plagues the group and eventually led to deaths of several of its members.
And of course there is the cannibalism. Wallis looks at who died and who was actually eaten. There is even a chart at the end of the story that goes family-by-family and looks at who died so that others might live. He further explores the after-effects of the party's members who were labeled as man-eaters for the rest of their lives.
Wallis' The Best Land Under Heaven may make you a bit queasy, but it is a fresh look at one of the dark chapters of our country's pioneer history.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Frog Trouble by Sandra Boynton

I checked out this book with music to listen to with my granddaughter. I was first attracted to it because I saw that the performing artists were all country singers. Among them were Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, two names I recognized. We both thoroughly enjoyed all the songs, but my favorite was Beautiful Baby because I thought it described my granddaughter to a T. The author, Sandra Boynton, wrote the lyrics, and she, with the help of Michael Ford wrote the music. The songs were then recorded in Nashville with the renowned artists. The book was delightful too, with illustrations in the front with the musical melodies printed out for you, and pictures and blurbs of each musical artist in the back. Loved it! 

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Elements: A Visual Guide of Every Known Atom in the Universe

Good books don’t just have to be novels.  Sometimes a book is excellent for the information it contains, and  how that information is presented.  Sometimes a book is excellent just because it is interesting to look at.  The Elements is such a book.  It presents a photographic journey through the entire Periodic table, starting with Hydrogen, and working up through element 118, ununoctium, which at the time of writing had not yet been synthesized (it is now formally named Oganesson).  Each page has a large photograph of the raw state of the element, followed by pictures and information about the various uses of the element in everyday life.  In the margin is more technical data and graphs which represent things such as the crystal structure of the element.  I have to confess that I wish someone had presented the periodic table to me this way in high school chemistry class.  It would have been decidedly more memorable.  I encourage everyone, students of science or not, to take a look.  It’s like a National Geographic magazine for the elements.  Verdict:  Wow!