Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blood Brothers

Nora Roberts trilogys are one of my pleasures, so I was excited when I ran across Blood Brothers in the store around Christmas time. This is the first of the Sign of Seven Trilogy and I really enjoyed it. I was a little apprehensive going in because I didn't even finish the last book in the Circle trilogy, thinking that it was way to far-fetched for me. I was completely pleased with Blood Brothers and think that Nora Roberts is back on her romance/paranormal mark.
Our story begins with:
'Hawkins Hollow
Maryland Province
It crawled along the air that hung heavy as wet wool over the glade. Through the snakes of fog that slid silent over the ground, it's hate crept. It came for him through the heat-smothered night.'

As you see, the story starts off in 1652 Maryland, in a place called Hawkins Hollow, with an evil prescence battling good. Flash forward to 1987 ~ three young boys, best friends and celebrating their 10th birthday (all three born 7/7/77), take a forbidden trip into the woods to camp and turn 10 next to the Pagan Stone. The boys decide to become blood brothers at the witching hour of midnight and unknownly let loose an evil upon the town of Hawkins Hollow. What was to be a fun camping night turns into a nightmare. When the boys, Cal, Fox and Gage, get back to town they find many things changed. The evil that has been released returns to the the town every 7 years, on the 7th month, 7th day and wreaks havoc for 7 days before disappearing again. The townspeople go mad, beatings, rapes and murders take place, but when the 7days are over, the memories seem to fade. It is now the year that the "boys" will be turning 31, and the 7 is coming only stronger and more powerful this time. A reporter and author, Quinn Black, has come to town to research the 7 for a book she plans to write, but quickly becomes personally involved with the evil prescense and with Cal Hawkins. Two other women, Layla and Cybil have come to town and also can see and hear this evil prescence where others cannot. Why are these women, these outsiders, part of the circle? What part could they possibly play in the history of Hawkins Hollow?
I really enjoyed this book and can't wait for the second book, The Hollow, to come out in May.
Two thumbs up!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Truth About Sacajawea

This is my 2nd book for the Back To History Challenge . I chose to read The Truth About Sacajawea by Kenneth Thomasma because much of it is local history. I live in Clatsop County, Oregon which is where the Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered while at the Pacific Ocean. I have been to Fort Clatsop many times and also to the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center at Cape Disappointment on the Washington side of the river. Both places have museuems and wonderful places to take visitors for a look at our countries history.

The author wrote this book using the actual journal enteries from Captains Lewis and Clark from the time that Toussaint Charbonneau and his Shoshone wife, Sacajawea joined the expedition as guides and interpreters. The first entry that included any mention of Sacajawea was made on November 4, 1804 and reads as below:
'Sunday, November 4, 1804 CAPTAIN CLARK
A French-Canadian, Toussaint Charbonneau, visits the two explorers. He wants to hire on as an interpreter and guide. Although he has two Shoshoni Indian wives, the explores engage Charbonneau and one of his wives who would be needed to interpret the Shoshoni language when the explores entered that territory.'
The author adds notes and much to the journal enteries from his own research, showing us all a clearer picture of the importance of this teenage mother on the 21 month journey to the Pacific Ocean. From the journal entries it becomes very clear how much the Captains relied on Sacajawea, not only for her interepreting skills, but also her knowledge of edible plants along the route, her calm manner in taking care of disaters and her mothering skills of her infant, Jean Baptiste.
This book is written for the young adult, but any one with an interest in Sacajawea and the Lewis & Clark Expedition would enjoy it. I actually didn't take away much new information from it, but I believe that is because of our close proximity to the fort and the time that I have spent there, reading parts of the actual journals.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Edge of Winter

My daughter, Shilo, gave me The Edge of Winter by Luanne Rice for Christmas and it fits in nicely with the weather event portion of the What's In A Name Challenge , so I've decided to replace my first pick, Fog Magic, with this one. (I may still get to Fog Magic, also.)
The first paragraph of this book seemed promising:
'The day the world ended started out crystal clear, the sky so heart-stoppingly blue, it seemed it might crack. Although it was near the end of February, and freezing cold, Mickey and Jenna rode their bikes down the windswept road toward the barrier beach. They did this all spring, summer, and fall, but this was their first bike outing since the winter snows had receded.'

Reading this, I could feel the cold ocean air on my face, see the windswept beach spread before me, and was alive with the anticipation of seeing the Snowy Owl that the two friends were in search of. I have read quite a few of Luanne Rice's other books and have to say that when I finished this particular one, it did not go on my favorites list. It is not a bad book at all, just a bit slow and many of the characters seem to be a bit flat for me. At one point, I even had to back track to remind myself who Chris was. Turns out she was Neve's best freind. Neve is a single mother, divorced for a couple of years, who is in court fighting her deadbeat ex for the child support her owes her and Mickey. On Neve's small salary at the local art gallery, she cannot suffeciently support Mickey and herself. As you see from the first paragraph, Mickey and her best friend Jenna are on their way to Refuge beach after hearing about a Snowy Owl that has been spotted on this beach. The girls have been bird watchers their entire lives, are now 16 and Jenna is slowly turning to the crowds of popular high school kids activities while Mickey still wants to spend her time on the beach. Leaving the owl that afternoon, the girls see surfer boy Shane West preparing to destroy some heavy equipment that is sitting on the beach waiting to remove the sunken German U-boat and the watery grave of 55 German soldiers that is right off shore. The U-boat is a part of the communities history and many people, Mickey included, feel strongly that it should be left untouched. Mickey joins Shane in his quest to convince the rest of the community and state to leave the U-boat where it is, and a delightful young romance begins. Mickey and Shane also help rescue the Snowy Owl after a rich punk (son of the wealty man trying to turn the U-boat into a museum) strikes the owl with a piece of driftwood at a beach party. Both kids and Mickey's mom, Neve form a friendship with the park ranger for this stretch of beach, Tim O'Casey, who has demons of his own to overcome. Tim's father, Joe O'Casey, at the age of just 24, was the captain of the boat who sunk the German Submarine. He is very much a legend in the area and also the local expert on saving injured raptors.
Like I said, the book was a bit slow and some of the charachters were a bit flat, leaving you wanting just a bit more information about them, but the last few chapters, where the author really dealt with the emotions of raising the sunken submarine and the effect this had on the families and the soldiers involved, were quite powerful and very well written. This book would make a good fill-in or beach read, when you don't want something to deep but do want something with a bit of emotion.
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Blue Castle

'If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling's whole life would have been entirely different. She would have gone, with the rest of her clan, to Aunt Wellington's engagement picnic and Dr. Trent would have gone to Montreal. But it did rain and you shall hear what happened to her because of it.'
The first paragraph of The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

I read this book as my choice for a book with a color in the title for Annie's What's In A Name challenge .
I have read and completely enjoyed L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series and have also seen several comments from fellow bloggers that The Blue Castle was their favorite book by this author, so off to Amazon I went... Boy, was I not disappointed! What a wonderful, charming read.

The book opens on Valancy Stirlings 29th birthday, with the realization that she is now officially considered an old maid, that love has passed her by. Valancy lives in the family home with her very strict, proper and oppressive family. She has been stifled her entire life, never let to live and feel, always held up to the standards of her beautiful cousin, Olive. Valancy takes refuge in her daydreams of her Blue Castle and her much loved books by author John Foster, much to her Mother's dismay. On this fateful rainy day, Valancy decides to visit Dr. Trent, without her families knowledge, to find the cause of her "heart attacks" she has been experiencing. The Doctor gets a message during Valancy's exam and rushes out without finishing with her, only to send her a letter later telling her that her condition is serious and she only has a year to live. Valancy takes the news in stride, not telling her family, but deciding to live how she wants to for her remaining time. She moves in with Roaring Abel Gay, the town drunk, to care for his sick daughter after telling her family what she thinks of their stodgy ways. They, of course, think they she has gone completely mad and write her off as a lunatic. While at the Gays, Valancy becomes friends with Barney Snaif, a man who lives alone on an island and doesn't socialize with the townspeople. Because nobody really knows him, the stories circulate about Barney; he is a criminal; he is a drunk; he is this and that, and certainly not fit to be associated with. Valancy falls in love with Barney and finds that her life is so much more than she ever imagined it could be.

Each and every page in this novel is charming and wonderful. A feel good read, and yes, I would have to agree, my favorite L.M. Montgomery novel. I laughed and cried right up to the end. Delightful!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand

I have completed my first book for the 2008 Back To History Challenge and it was an excellent choice to get this challenge rolling. The book is The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand by Jerred Metz. My Mother-in-Law sent it to Riff and I for Christmas this year and I couldn't wait to dig in.

The first paragraph is as seen through the eyes of Ronnie Knopp and reads:
'My father and stepmother moved the family from Montana to a farm just north of Powell, Wyoming, in September of 1938. We got there right in time for me to start school. During the first few weeks, I made friends with Tom Spint. He was in the same grade as me and we got off at the same bus stop. Tom walked west from the corner where the bus let us off and I turned north. But we lived close enough to each other that we could pal around together after school. A constant topic of our conversations was our neighbor Earl Durand.'

This is a true story set in our old stomping grounds around Powell and Cody, Wyoming in 1939. Earl Durand is what the newspapers called the last outlaw of the west. He was a local boy who choose the life of a mountain man, was known by many people to be a strange man but at the same time very neighborly and could be counted on to help out anyone in the time of need. Earl was a known poacher, killing hundreds of elk for their ivories. His last eleven days start out with him poaching an elk to help feed a hungry family. Earl had talked two young friends and one of the boys Dad's into going along on this poaching trip with him, so when they were caught, they were all in a bit of trouble. Earl breaks out of jail by taking the deputy sheriff hostage and in the next 10 days leaves 4 men dead and the county terrified before robbing the local Powell bank where he is finally killed along with a young bank teller. I have not spoiled the story for you, as there is no mystery how it is going to end. The author is upfront with that in the first few pages. What is so fascinating about this book, other than the fact that it took place in an area where we lived for a lot of years, is that the story is told over and over again through the eyes and words of those involved these many years later. The author, Jerred Metz, interviewed those people involved who were still alive and in the area years later and wrote the book through their eyes and with their differing opinions on the events. Each person from young Ronnie Knopp, Earl's 16 year old friend who was on the poaching trip, to Ray Easton, the county coroner and undertaker, has their own section.

It reads like a good story, not like a book filled with facts. Very interesting and quite the page turner. Hard to put down. My daughter has even asked me, "Mom, what are you going to do with that Earl Durand book when you're done? Don't get rid of it. I want to read it." I'm definately not getting rid of this one, it will be right on the shelf whenever you want it...

"The most imaginative creator of pulp melodrama never, in his wildest dreams, produced as wild a story as Durand lived in his last ten days. If it had been portrayed on the screen, no one would have believed it could be real."
~Denver Post, March 25, 1939