I read this for the Sword & Laser book club this month. It is a really cool story. In the future you can join the Colonial Defense Force when you’...moreI read this for the Sword & Laser book club this month. It is a really cool story. In the future you can join the Colonial Defense Force when you’re 75. They get you back into fighting shape and send you off to fight aliens. No one is allowed to come back to Earth so none of the new recruits know exactly what happens. One of the things I like most about this book is that when you take away the external trappings it’s a very personal story about a man going to war after he loses the woman he loves. Granted, he’s 75, she died of a stroke, and the war is in space, but it’s still a very intimate narrative. It reminded me of Starship Troopers, but has less of a political message.(less)
This is another book club book. The story is based on events that occurred in the village of Eyam during the plague of 1666. When plague is found in t...moreThis is another book club book. The story is based on events that occurred in the village of Eyam during the plague of 1666. When plague is found in the village the rector convinces the villagers to seal themselves off from the rest of the world to prevent the further spread of the plague. During the year that the village is cut off the survivors go through wonders and horrors.
The protagonist is Anna Frith. She is the widow of a miner and works as a housemaid for the rector and his wife. In the time before plague comes to the village Anna is very much like any other young mother in the village. She is lucky enough to have a kind husband who leaves her with two sons, a cottage, and a small herd of sheep when he dies in a mining accident. The most unusual thing about her is that the rector’s wife has taught her to read. She and Mrs. Mompellion form a very close friendship during the year the village is quarantined.
The year of the plague tests the villagers to their utmost. As more and more people become sick various waves of hysteria sweep through. There are witch hunts that result in the death of the village’s only healers. Some people turn to flagellation while others turn to the occult for their answers. Anna and Mrs. Mompellion attempt to take up the mantle of healers and research in the rector’s library for medicines that might help.
Anna blossoms into a mature, intelligent woman during the year of hardship. Her faith and her resolve are tested and found strong. I really enjoyed this book. Although, there is a turn at the end that I didn’t see coming. Overall, I was satisfied with where Anna ends up, although I was very surprised by how she got there. Is that vague enough? I do recommend the book. We had a very lively conversation about it in book club. I especially liked it because my very first term paper was on the bubonic plague. So, that was kind of fun for me. (less)
tells the story of events which transpired in Dutch New Guinea in 1945. Pilots from an American base nearby had discovered an untouched valley deep in...moretells the story of events which transpired in Dutch New Guinea in 1945. Pilots from an American base nearby had discovered an untouched valley deep in the mountains. They named it Shangri-La and took base personel on occasional sightseeing flyovers. However, on May 13, 1945 a group of 24 servicemen and WACs took a flight over Shangri-La that ended in tragedy. The plane crashed and only three of the passengers survived into the following week. Margaret Hastings, Kenneth Decker, and John McCollom were left to survive as best they could. They were able to salvage a few supplies from the plane, but with the heavy tree cover they could not afford to stay with the wreck, which is standard procedure. All three survivors were severely wounded, but they struck out through the jungle in an attempt to get the open valley floor. They knew that the valley was inhabited by primitive seeming peoples, and hoped that they could find aid and shelter with some of them. Through some unimaginable luck the party passed into the valley safely. They found shelter and managed to alert rescue parties searching for them. But their troubles were far from over. All three survivors required immediate and intensive medical treatment, which was far beyond the capabilities of the locals. The terrain made landing any of the available planes impossible. Plans were continually made and remade, but rescue still seemed far away.
This is probably one of the more fascinating non-fiction books I've read in a long time. Longitude and The Bolter are the two others that stand out for me. Zuckoff did intense research on the tragedy. He collected photographs and interviews from the people involved or their families. He manages to put the reader into the situation without assuming the role of the omniscient narrator. He allows for the limitations of second hand narratives, but still makes everything seem very immediate. Unbroken by Hillenbrand has been the breakout WWII story of the last few years, but I think Lost in Shangri-La is absolutely worth a read.(less)
I read this for the Little Professor book club. It's not my favorite of Allen's books (that would be Garden Spells) because it's a little... flat? Is...moreI read this for the Little Professor book club. It's not my favorite of Allen's books (that would be Garden Spells) because it's a little... flat? Is that the word I want? I'm not sure. Despite the storyline, which is really interesting, there's no sense of urgency. But, it's still well written... That sounded nicer in my head. So, the plot. Our protagonist is Willa Jackson, the last of an old southern family that fell on hard times about 70 years ago. Her family founded the little town of Walls of Water, NC over a century before, but lost their money and their house, the Southern Madame. Now, socialite Paxton Osgood has restored the Madame and is opening it as a bed and breakfast. In the days before all the money was gone Willa's grandmother and Paxton's grandmother were best friends. However, something horrible happened that neither woman has ever talked about. Now, with all the arrangements going on for the reopening of the Madame old ghosts are starting to stir. Allen does an excellent job bringing to life the small southern town and fleshing out the characters. Willa, once a wild child has settled down to a very constrained life. She thinks that's what her father would have wanted for her and since he's passed away she feels she owes it to him to live his ideal. Paxton is a poor little rich girl, who somehow manages to avoid being a stereotype. She keeps waiting to start her 'real' life until her parents are ready to let her grow up. Willa has an assistant who determines people's personalities based on their coffee orders. These are great characters. But they're in a story that isn't very urgent. The grandmothers' secret is part of a ghost story that is meant to be running under all of the modern action, like tree roots underground. That is where the title comes from in fact, the peach tree up at the Madame is linked to the ghost. But the ghost is never very scary and almost not present at all. I think the magical elements distracted from what could have been an amazing story about friendship, choices, and letting fear hold you back.(less)