Sunday, June 30, 2013

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

Frozen in Time
by Mitchell Zuckoff
4 stars - a wonderful adventure

From the dust jacket.

On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane on a routine flight slammed in the Greenland ice cap. Four days later, a B-17 on the search and rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived. The U.S. military launched a second daring rescue operation, but the Grumman Duck amphibious plane sent to find the men flew into a severe storm and vanished.

First off, Greenland is so off my bucket list. Just a totally nasty place. Yet a strategic launch point during World War II with coast guard cutters guarding the shores and military planes using it as a refueling point on their way to England and Europe.

Mr. Zuckoff alternates his chapters between past and present. The past detailing the multiple plane cashes and ongoing attempts at rescue, the present about the mission to bring home the remains of the soldiers buried in the ice pack. 

Even if you don't normally read non-fiction, I highly recommend this book. Mr. Zuckoff carries things along in the style of an action / adventure thriller. 

As a side note, the coast guard cutter, Northland, plays a key role in the ongoing rescue attempts. My sister served as a Lieutenant on the second generation Northland named after the ship in the book.

This is the original Northland floating around in Greenland.

And the current Northland which does search and rescue and law enforcement missions all along the Atlantic coast.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Right Books, Wrong Time

Two books that I'm neither going to finish nor rate. I think these are both fine books as I cannot find fault with either. However, my mind just doesn't seem to be in the right place for either.

These things happen.

The Late George Apley
by John P. Marquand
1938 Pulitzer Prize

I started this book while I was busy studying for an exam. Not good. While an excellent book that really drew me in, it requires more attention than one can provide in brief, 15 minute snatches.

Readers familiar with Boston will be particularly drawn to this story as it outlines the life of George Apley, a wealthy, Harvard educated, Boston Brahmin, during the late 19th and early 20th century. 

The story is told in the form of letters and memoirs which capture the "ordinary" events of the main character. It isn't easy having the responsibilities of wealth and good taste as demonstrated in this passage from Mr. Apley to his sister regarding a dispute over the family inheritance:

"I shall be glad to give up the silver tea set, but I shall feel it very unkind of you if it is not understood between us that I shall have the Apley papers to take to our new house on Louisburg Square. You may have access to them, of course, at any time you may desire. I also should like it understood that I take the portrait of John Apley, done by Copley. Newcomb is furnishing our house with some things taken from the Simmings' country place in Winchester, but they are all very hideous. This is hard on one who has been brought up surrounded by important and beautiful objects."

Or this unfortunate "fiction" which he pens during his time at Harvard regarding a man of good breeding finding himself in a house of ill repute:

"Hugo had never seen anyone like Mrs. Bryant; she was richly dressed and spoke with an Irish brogue, but she was most hospitable. She said the girls were in the parlour. Hugo's ignorance was such, or perhaps his condition, that the painted cheeks and carmined lips of the creatures in that close, heavily scented, brilliantly lighted room gave him no message of warning. It was not until one of these singled him out and signified her profession in a way he could not doubt that Hugo knew he was in a house of ill fame. The knowledge shocked him into sobriety."

But I stalled. And once stalled, could not find my rhythm and abandoned the book halfway through. 

A Killer Plot
by Ellery Adams

All the hallmarks of a delightful cozy, and yet.... a mere 77 pages in I am not interested. Why, I do not know. The elements are in place; likable, yet damaged heroine, appropriately suspicious and flirtatious minor characters, a murder, even a poodle. Oh dear. Perhaps some other time.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Two Comfy Cozies

This will be brief. I am supposed to be studying. Blech.

Rottweiler Rescue
by Ellen O'Connell
5 stars - a true dog lover's mystery

OK, I love Rottweilers. Big, block heads, sweet dispositions, good watch dogs, what's not to like?

This book has Rottweilers in every chapter. Score! And not Rottweilers communicating telepathically, or doing extraordinary things, just Rottweilers being Rottweilers. What I really liked, is nothing is left out. If the heroine, Dianne Brennan has to go out, she lets you know that her foster dog, Millie, is in a crate with a Kong. Plus she always puts the dogs first and dog lovers will relate to how she defies both doctors and law enforcement to make sure her dogs are OK.

Yes, some scary parts, but... well, you won't be sorry.

Not only are the dogs in every chapter, but there is lots of information about showing, rescue, and training. As for the mystery itself? Well, let's just say it was good enough to keep things moving but didn't get in the way of what was, for me, the central theme of the book.... ROTTWEILERS!

This book is hard to find and I had to wait well over a year for one to show up in my library network. The author promises a sequel by the end of this year. Might actually buy that. I can't wait!

Eggsecutive Orders
by Julie Hyzy
4 stars - safe and comforting

The third in the White House Chef mystery series. As with its predecessors, predictable, interesting, and no excess of mushy stuff. Very satisfying.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Honey in the Horn by H. L. Davis

Honey in the Horn
by H. L. Davis
1936 Pulitzer Prize
2 stars - great writing, but kind of a chore to finish

H. L. Davis passed away in 1960, yet I still felt obliged to him to finish his Pulitzer novel. Why? Because his writing is so beautiful, his gift so great, that not to finish seemed disrespectful. 

But where did he go wrong with this novel?

The book takes place during the homesteading days of 1906-1908 in Oregon (something I discovered via Wikepedia since the actual time of the action is never revealed in the novel). The author uses the travels of the central character, Clay Calvert, to introduce the variety of people making due (or not) in Oregon as well as the lush variety of landscape offered by that region of the country.

"The timekeeping department of the thing was badly used up. The second hand was gone, the minute hand was bent so it pointed out accusingly into the room instead of at the figures as it should, and one of the weights was missing. Simmons had taken it to kill a skunk, and it had got lost before the smell wore off so it could be brought back. So the clock didn't run. But is was handy to hang things from and lean things against, and old Sommons couldn't have kept house without it. His father had freighted it all the way across the plains in the early days, and any clock that had been that much trouble to import was too good to throw away. It did give a comfortable feeling to the homestead cabin, the light from the stove shining against it in the half-dark that represented warmth because the dawn in the snow outside was so eye-hurtingly dazzling and white."

Come on, am I right? A broken clock as poetry. The descriptions of the land, the weather, and the incidental characters kept drawing me back in, even when I felt ready to give up. What killed the story for me was the main character, Clay Calvert. It seemed like every time there was "action" the prose, curiously, became stilted and painful. With all the delightful people he meets along the way, I wish that some of them had stayed in the book longer. But at the end of the day, it was about Clay, a tiresome youngster. 

Oh and forget about the female lead, Luce. Ugh. 

Honesty compels me to give this book two stars, but I still kind of recommend it. Read it for all the stuff that happens in between. Read it to meet (however briefly) people living in isolation who will talk the ear off of anybody who happens by. Read it for the descriptions of the rain forest and the plains. Read it with my assurance that you can skip over the stuff about Clay and focus on the "good" parts.

"But for really high hopes and a genuinely finished contempt for probabilities, the river canyon wasn't a circumstance alongside of Dead Dog. It was on a high, handsomely situated plateau, as windy as a ploiticians' alley in hell..."

Note that the very end does have a bit of a "surprise" to it. Plus this book comes pretty darn close to discussing s-e-x at one point.