Thursday, 27 July 2017

Jeff Shaara

Three generations at Gettysburg
  My husband loves Gettysburg!  And the Civil War - mostly the strategy of battle.
  In 2010, he went for his fourth visit to Gettysburg- this time with our son-in-law and grandson.  
  On this trip he was introduced to Michael Shaara's book "The Killer Angels".  The cover of that book says, "A novel about the four days of Gettysburg". That was an important moment for John.  He has always been interested in warfare, especially the Civil War. This book provided the opportunity of getting inside the heads of all those involved in the war.  The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and was later made into the movie "Gettysburg".
   Unfortunately, Michael Shaara died and his special way of storytelling in the middle of battle was gone.  Then his son Jeff decided to try to continue his father's legacy.  And what a success!
  Twice I have surprised John with a gift of Jeff's books.  The first one was in 2015.  You can read about it here.  John enjoyed those books so much that I ordered more the next year.  Click here.
  Well, the first books were a gift for our 55th anniversary, so this year, for our 57th anniversary, I had a better idea.  We went to visit Jeff personally at his book-signing in Pookeepsie, New York- a two day drive that we made into a six day holiday.

 John was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing his favourite author up close and personal.  Jeff gave a great talk and signed many books.
  His wife was so friendly and gave us a great deal of attention.  She realized how important this visit was for John.
Note from John:
Occasionally, in life, we are privileged to have a 'mountain top experience'. This was an exceedingly great one for me!
Thank you, Jeff!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017


H.G.Wells 1866-1946
   This month our classic novel is "The Time Machine" by H.G.Wells.
   His writing is so magnificent that he was nominated four times for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
   Wells is credited with popularizing the concept of time travel by using a vehicle that can travel forwards or backwards in time.   There have been three feature films, as well as two television versions and many comic book adaptions.  His work has also inspired other novels and media productions.

   I have compared H.G.Wells with Jules Verne.  They are both called the "Father of Science Fiction".  

Jules Verne 1828-1905

   Our book club previously read "Around the World in Eighty Days". You can check it out here.  
   Verne only focused on technology and principles that were scientifically possible, or assumed to be possible.  This sub-genre is called "mundane science fiction".

   When thinking of these two men- one French, the other British, I began thinking about two science fiction authors of our day - one American, one Canadian.  I have already written about my favourite, Rob Sawyer. You can read about him here.

  I connect Rob with Michael Crichton because I heard Rob talk about spending 3 months of every year reading non-fiction science material.  He remembers being interested in an article about the possibility that amber may hold dead mosquitoes that have blood in
their bellies, and it just might be the blood of dinosaurs.  Hence, the possibility of cloning dinosaurs.  You know the rest of the story.  Michael Crichton was also reading that article and wrote "Jurassic Park".  Two interesting men and great science fiction authors.

Michael Crichton
Rob Sawyer

Saturday, 15 July 2017

James Michener, continued

Some interesting biographical information about this author:
- didn't know his biological parents or place of birth
- raised by Mabel Michener- a Quaker woman in Pennsylsvania
- became a high school English teacher, then a university professor
- conscripted in W.W. II- naval officer, travelling in the South Pacific Ocean
- ran as a Democratic candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives
- Secretary for the 1967-68 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention
- member of the Electoral College
- wrote about his political experience: "Presidential Lottery: The Reckless Gamble in Our Electoral System".  He preferred the direct popular vote, which would have saved the Americans from the situation that they are in now.

   James Michener is known for his lengthy books and meticulous research.    His books have been made into stage plays as well as movies.

 He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for "Tales of the South Pacific".
 He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.

A fascinating man.  I am searching for a copy of his biography "The World is My Home".

Monday, 10 July 2017

"Recessional" by James Michener

  Before I retired, I had been reading "Recessional" and was sharing my enjoyment of James Michener's writing with my co-workers.   
  So, when I retired, the staff presented me with this collection of his work. 

     Soon after retirement, I got very involved with book clubs and, sad to say, this great collection became a lovely decoration on my bookshelf.        The bookends were part of the gift and added to the decoration.    Aren't they adorable?
Oh, yes, and here are the paperbacks.  I read "Hawaii" aloud to John and it took 75 days. 
You can read about it here.

   Since the summer is starting, there is less time needed for book clubs, so I decided to re-read "Recessional".  The title refers to the music played at the end of a church service and the plot is around a retirement residence in Florida.  All of Michener's books are lengthy.  Now I remember my love/hate relationship with Michener.  He loves to write detail, detail, detail.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.  I experienced that seesaw in re-reading this book.  It is 21 years since I read it the first time, and now I am the age of the residents (older than some).  It certainly was a different experience.
   End of life issues are a dominant theme in the book, so I wasn't surprised to learn that he wrote this book when he was 88 and died two years later.

Friday, 7 July 2017

"The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper" by Phaedra Patrick

   Arthur Pepper is a 69 -year-old widower.  On the first anniversary of his wife, Miriam's death, he is cleaning out her clothes and finds a charm bracelet with several charms on it- an elephant and a book each have an engraving.  There is also a tiger, heart, ring, paint palette, thimble, and a flower.  Arthur has never seen this bracelet throughout his long marriage.  He realizes that there were things about his wife that he did not know about and he becomes "curious". 
   I very quickly connected this book to another book about a widower- "A man Named Ove" by Fredrick Backman.  I wrote about that book here.  I really didn't enjoy that book.
   This book was a better read for me, although not great.
  As Arthur searches for clues about the charms, and thus about Miriam's life, he meets some very unusual people.  In that respect, it reminded me of "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", who also met interesting people on his journey.
   For those who enjoyed those two books, this would be a fun read.
  A first book for this author, it is not well-written, but has some interesting aspects.  It is a quick, okay read that must be loved by many people because it is being made into a movie.
  Aren't the covers interesting?  The author lives in England and is writing a sequel.  This book is also being translated into many languages.  Perhaps a simple, wacky book like this is what most people like to read.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Preston Library Book Club

Preston Library Book Club

   This picture was taken when we were just getting ready to discuss "Through Black Spruce".  These people are such good readers that the double narrative and non-linear storyline did not bother them. In fact, the book rated 8.4 out of 10 - a very high rating.
   This is a library book club and the pretty lady with the flowers is the librarian who helped us get started.  Unfortunately, the library board has decided that we need to be run by volunteers, so Jennifer will not be with us in an official capacity.  We wanted to show our appreciation of her work on behalf of the book club and we said it with flowers.
  There was an interesting discussion about Joseph Boyden's Indigenous roots - or the lack thereof.  Personally, I think he represents the Indigenous community so well that I really don't care about his genealogy.

Since we are celebrating Canada Day, it is a good time to learn about the Indigenous people and celebrate their role in Canada.
      Happy Canada Day!