Friday, March 4, 2016

The Heart Mender

I would like to suggest this book for your consideration for March or April "Book of the Month." It's a very quick read, a compelling, true story, (well, a lot of truth in the story anyway) and will teach you a thing or two that you didn't know about war being waged in US waters during WWII. 
By Andy Andrews

Here is a short You Tube Video to get you interested.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Book Request by Your Father

By now each of you should have received in the mail and copy of this book along with an email of why Dad felt it was important for you to read it. When we read it together several years ago I was amazed at how much of this story I did not know. I was 10 years old when all of this was happening and I remember hearing the news stories but I never really understood the vital geopolitical and social implications of what was happening in the middle east and how it has changed the outlook of the world. All I really knew was after this, no one really wanted to mess with Israel, and that was a good thing. This is a short month and it is a pretty short book, so please take the time to read it and be ready to join the discussion here (on the blog) on February 28th. 
Looking forward to hearing your opinions. 
Love you, 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Discussion for The Sherlockian

Okay, I'm going to open up discussion on the Sherlockian.  One of the things that piqued my interest about this story, was the knowledge that, although the story was purely fictional, many of the facts which it is based on are true.  I found this author's "theory" of what could have happened, not only plausible, but an enjoyable read.

I think the way it was written with how the story bounced back and forth between the modern day murder mystery and the historical story about Arthur Conan Doyle's experiences, really helped move the narrative along quickly.  The mystery was well written and not terribly confusing or bogged down with unnecessary red herrings.  (Skye and I recently had a lengthy conversation about what makes a good mystery.  For both of us, one of the hallmarks of a good mystery is that it's very simple.  The author doesn't try to mislead you or steer you in a particular direction, but instead, keeps the evidence almost unremarkable, causing you to mislead yourself.)  I did eventually figure out the answer to the modern murder mystery before they revealed it, but it was still so entertaining I didn't mind.  I particularly enjoyed the "historical" story.  (I loved that Bram Stoker was his "partner in crime" so to speak. I loved their friendship and having read both the original Dracula and much of the original Holmes canon I find the idea of their close friendship intriguing knowing the differences in their writing styles and the stories they told. It's hard to picture the somewhat old-fashioned, very outspoken and devoutly Christian Doyle, so closely aligned with the flamboyant  theater manager and author of the macabre. But their friendship is well document and one of the true facts upon which this story was based.)

Probably my favorite line in the book was when Sarah and Harold were discussing the differences in the character of Sherlock Holmes before and after the great hiatus.  Harold says something about him changed, while Sarah perceptively notes that the biggest changes or events were not those to the character of Holmes, but whatever had happened to Arthur Conan Doyle.  It was the author who had changed, not the fictional detective.  I think it's clear to anyone who has read the Sherlock Holmes canon that something traumatic must have happened to Doyle to affect the changes that we see reflected in the character of Holmes.

I wasn't as satisfied with the conclusion (throwing the book off the Falls in the company of the woman who lied and manipulated him, while he's running from the police left a few too many loose threads for my taste) but I could live with it because at least Harold finally got his answers.  At least he finally knew what had happened.

All in all, I enjoyed the story a second time.  And It did make me want to visit the Reichenbach Falls and the various Doyle properties and museums.  As well as go back and read the original Holmes stories.  I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

September Selection

So for September, I'm suggesting "The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore as our book of the month.  And since no one else offered a suggestion, I guess you're stuck.

I read this book a couple of years ago, and have recently been re-reading the Sherlock Holmes canon.  I'm trying to go in chronological order of the stories as they were written by the author, NOT the dates they were published. 

This fictional story is based on several true facts and events that we know about the life of Arthur Conan Doyle.  It centers around a missing diary kept by Conan Doyle, but never found among his papers or other journals after his death.  What makes it so compelling is the fact that the missing diary is from the period exactly when Conan Doyle would have been working on the first Sherlock Holmes story in nearly a decade.

Everyone knows that in 1893 Doyle killed Holmes in a fall off the Reichenbach Falls (a story which, the author dated as taking place in 1891.)  Doyle never offered an explanation for why he killed the beloved detective and just as mysteriously in 1901 he released "The Hounds of the Baskervilles" (which takes place only two years later in 1893 and which some scholars argue is the greatest of all the Sherlock Holmes stories.) True to form Doyle never offered any explanation of why he suddenly decided to resurrect Holmes, thus the missing diary is thought to include his thoughts and reasons for returning to Holmes and the entire mystery genre.

When a modern day Conan Doyle scholar is found murdered at an annual Holmes convention after having claimed to find the missing diary, every Sherlock Holmes expert in the world suddenly finds himself trying to be Holmes and solve an unsolvable mystery.  The story jumps back and forth between the modern day account of one Harold White, a Sherlock Holmes fanatic whose knowledge and obsession of the detective draw him into the murder investigation, and a story of Arthur Conan Doyle in that pivotal year of 1900 when he would have been contemplating writing again about his long dead detective.

It's a quick, easy and entertaining read and actually motivated me to go back and start re-reading the Sherlock Holmes canon from the beginning.  I'd only ever read two of the novels and a handful of the short stories, so going back and reading the original stories has been very interesting.  (Especially when I watch "Sherlock" and Benedict Cumberbatch for fun on the side.) Anyway, I'm excited to hear your thoughts.  Enjoy.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Good Read

Hello my dear family and friends. I think it is time for a new read. Let's start the new book on September 1. Any suggestions?  Please type your suggestions into the comments. 

Until then, see if you can answer these trivia questions: 

1. When and where was the first public library established on the North American Continent?

2. As of the year 2000, what was considered the most valuable (monitarily) book in the world?

3. Before settling on the moniker "Tiny Tim", what other names did Charles Dickens consider for his sickly character in "A Christmas Carol"?

4. What was "Dr. Suess" full name? Do you know what year he wrote his first book?

5. A.A. Milne's son was the inspiration for the Christopher Robin of the Winnie the Pooh books. What was his name and how did his parents decide on it?

6. Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world's first Novel. In what year was it written?

7. Harriet Wilson was the first African American to have a novel published in the United States. She wrote it in 1859. What was the title? (I might get in trouble if I publish it here. ;-)

8. German Johann Gutenberg invented the moveable type in 1440 and printed his first book, the Latin Bible, in what year?

9. The first book printed in English was in the year ______ ?

10. What is the historical significance of the books Freeman's Oath and An Almanack, published in Cambridge, Massachusetts?

Find the answers here. ANSWERS and more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Discussion - The Walking Drum

Wow! What a book! I want to thank Shiloh for the recommendation, I really liked this book and can't wait to get it on CD so Ryan can listen to it.
We won't discuss the story itself too much since it is the classic Monomyth or "Heroic Journey". Stories such as these can be found everywhere - in popular literature, in classics, and even in scripture. (For more information on that click here) The Walking Drum follows the journey of Mathurin Kerbouchard from boyhood to manhood as he sets out to free his father from slavery and avenge the death of his mother. Louis L'Amour is an excellent scholar as he transports the reader to the dark ages. To a time when men were as rough and treacherous as the roads they traveled. However, all had different motives. Some were driven to evil by a desire for property and destruction (the Petchenegs), some by power (Andronicus), some by enmity (Mahmoud), and some were just plain mad (the traveler).
The imagery in this book is exquisite as is the detailing of true history. The attention paid to accuracy is fantastic. My only complaint with this book would be that there seem to be no ugly women in the 12th  century. I felt that every female character (with the exception of Fat Claire) was a recycled description of the one previous. And for a wise man, Mathurin fell in love far too easily and quickly. I loved Mathurin's philosophical musings as well as his witty retorts. My favorite of the latter includes this exchange between Suzanne and Mathurin from page 249:
   "If you come to my bed, I shall scream for help."
   "Madame, if I come to your bed, I shall not need help."
There is also this gem:
   "By the Gods! If it is a duel of wits you wish, you shall have it!"
   "I am sorry, Bardas. I could never fight an unarmed man!" - pg. 338
Some of my favorite philosophical lines from the book include these:
"To be reckless is not to be brave, it is only to be a fool." - pg. 37
"A sword is never enough. The mind is also a weapon, but like the sword it must be honed and kept sharp." - pg. 70
"An old man's advice? Speak little, listen much." - pg. 73
"In knowledge lay not only power but freedom from fear, for generally speaking one only fears what one does not understand." - pg. 78
"...a man may be judged by who his enemies are, and their power." - pg. 83
"In impatience there is danger." - pg. 85
"...many a victory is easier won with words than a sword - and the results are better." - pg. 126 (This, to me, is Mathurin's journey to manhood. When the story begins he is already a tested seaman with the ability to defend himself with the sword. His growth comes as he becomes wiser, as he makes better decisions, as he learns when to fight with wits vs. fists. At the start of the story he threatens his enemies with violence. Toward the end, he deflects their anger with verbal barbs.)
"I have no reverence for those who accept any idea, mine included, without question." - pg. 221
 "Civilization was born of curiosity, and can be kept alive in no other way." - pg. 227
"For the mind must be prepared for knowledge as one prepares a field for planting, and a discovery made too soon is no better than a discovery not made at all." - pg. 230
"Victory is not won in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later win a little more." - pg. 236
"Women are neither weaklings nor fools, and they, too, must plan for what is to come." - pg. 290
"Many things are not done simply because they are not attempted." - pg. 329
"Go prepared to die; if so, you may live." - pg. 377 (I think, in part, some of Mathurin's success can be attributed to his reconciliation with death. He is prepared to die and is not afraid of death. Yes, he has his quest to free his father, but he also has the knowledge that his mother is on the other side, he has no land, no occupation, no family to speak of, and so death does not intimidate him. Unlike some of his opponents who are described as being very fearful of death, which could be why they are so easily defeated.)
These are my thoughts, observations, and musings. Please share yours with me.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Discussion on the Jungle Book

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1894)

Back in July I put up a very short review of the Jungle Book (click here) in hopes that you would find time to read it. I have tried to think of ways I can make this discussion a little more interesting, so in that vein, I will postulate a few of your ideas and impressions from this delightful collection of stories and poetry.

1. How many of you knew that Rudyard Kipling was a poet?
     a. I loved the poems and songs at the beginning of each chapter or story. What a unique way to set the mood, the scene and introduce us to the personalities of his characters.

2. Which story do you feel would most interest your Children?
     a. Mowgli's Story  b. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi  c. Toomai of the Elephants d. The White Seal (This made me a little sad.)

3. Your second favorite character of all of the animals mentioned and why?
     a. I think mine was Akela, the leader of the Seeonee Pack. An old wolf who knows his days are numbered, but he is wise.

Mr. Kipling's style of writing and his descriptions truly takes us to India, into the sounds, the sights and the feel of the jungle or to the Islands of the Cold Northern Seas. We see with the eyes of the little boy Teddy as he looks out on his gardens from the Bungalow he shared with his parents, and sees the jungle life. We feel a little sorry and anxious for the Tailorbirds in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and we are saddened by the fate of the Hollieshuckie in The White Seal and the Deep Sea Song of Lukannon. From Rudyard Kipling's words I can perfectly picture the animals, their look, the way they move and think. My favorite description is found in our first glimpse of Bagheera (who, by the way, is my favorite of all the animals):

"A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his path, for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and skin softer than down."

- Wow! Imagine the vocabulary and comprehension skills your children will develop if we read these types of stories to them along with Hop on Pop and The Monster at the End of This Book! Just typing that description makes me want to go back and read the book. If you haven't read this wonderful little collection of stories and poems, please make the time to do so. Read it to your children in Family story time. To help peak your interest I have made a little crossword puzzle for you. I will include the answers in the comments if anyone actually does comment and request it.

Happy Reading Dear Family. Don't let our Voxer Conversations and Weekly movies steal from us the joy of reading and sharing. I love you! - Mom