One of the first books I read this year is from the Nancy Drew series, Carolyn Keene’s Mystery at Lilac Inn. I picked it up wondering how I’d like a book I read as a child.
While the story was dated, I did enjoy this fast paced detective story. Nancy is curious, kind, brave and likable. In this book, she resolves to find the thief who took the jewels her friend Emily inherited. Emily has no living family and the jewels can help her get a good start in life.
Yet after her guardian Mrs. Willoughby claims the jewels from the bank, she stops off at the Lilac Inn for lunch with a new friend. As you might have guessed, the minute Mrs. Willoughby was distracted, the jewels disappear.
Consulting her father, who’s a sharp lawyer, Nancy springs into action. I was surprised how dangerous the story got. If you’re open to nostalgia and enjoy mysteries, check out Nancy Drew or perhaps Keene’s other series, the Dana Sisters’ Mysteries.
I just finished reading the graphic novel version of the library in a Auschwitz. The Librarian of Auschwitz is a compelling story of 14-year-old Dita, a Jewish teen growing up in Czechoslovakia. During World War II the Nazis her rounded up her family and neighbors and forced them into a concentration camp.
Brave and compassionate, Dita risks taking care of and distributing a tiny cache of books to lend to her fellow prisoners. Reading is prohibited but it transports people from the atrocious situation they find themselves in.
One of the most intriguing parts of the story was the mystery of why the people at the first camp Dita and her parents are taken to were treated better than I expected. Dita and her parents were leery of why people I her side of the camp didn’t get their hair shaved off or why they were allowed to wear their own clothes when on the other side of the fence the prisoners wore striped uniforms and had no hair. It turned out Dita was in the portion of the camp that the Nazis showed human rights inspectors. When the tours were over, cruelty and dehumanization reigned with beatings, inhuman living conditions and for most people back breaking labor.
I recommend this compelling story with its fine illustrations and well crafted characters.
In her memoir, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, Lea Ypi chronicles her childhood growing up when Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha was in power and through the era of Albania post-Hoxha. With wit and insight Ypi recounts how she trusted Hoxha like a grandpa while questioning her parents’ lack of enthusiasm for the government.
I was pulled in with her stories of her family obtaining and losing a prized possession, an empty Coke can, of how her family talked in code about neighbors and relatives who disappeared, of her best friend who ran off with a neighborhood tough guy.
The book continues through the 1990s when Albania transitioned to a free market economy when her mother got political, her father found himself working for a corporation and having to implement World Bank policies and when it seemed that everyone who could fled to Europe or North…
At the library yesterday I overheard a rather loud conversation between two local people who’ve written a book and wanted the library to purchase a copy since they live in this town. The librarian at the desk congratulated them and went on to explain that the library will accept a donated copy of the book, but wouldn’t purchase it unless it had been recommended by a professional reviewer like Book List.
She went on to tell them how to get their self-published book reviewed and that the library buys about 3,000 books a month.
I was disappointed and a bit shocked that our hometown library wouldn’t support residents who’ve written a book by purchasing one. Instead it’ll take months to go through a lot of rigamarole. Clearly, not everyone in town publishes a book every month.
I think that unless the book costs over $100 or is absolutely full of…
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air,
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a
In his ecstacy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the
hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride,
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
After reading The Waiting Land I became a Dervla Murphy fan. I’ve followed that with Ukimwi Road and Eight Feet in the Andes. Thus when it was my turn to pick a book club book, I decided on her first book Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle (1965).
When she was 10, intrepid travel writer Dervla Murphy received an atlas and bicycle for her birthday. Talk about an inspirational gift. Dervla’s Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle chronicles her trip across Europe to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Murphy focuses on her travels through Western and Central Asia. Murphy doesn’t hold back. She shares the good and the bad. Whether sleeping on dirt floors or a palace in Pakistan, whether riding along a smooth road the Russians built in Afghanistan or trudging up a rocky mountain in Pakistan, whether enjoying a good meal at a missionaries home or eating dry crackers washed down with salted tea for the seventh straight day, Murphy shoots straight.
She includes her views on modernization, politics and aid. She definitely believes we’ve lost the art of leisurely, quiet conversation since we’ve opened our homes to TV sets. (I wonder what she things of the multiplication of screens of every size. I bet I can guess.)
The more I see of unmechanized places and people the more convinced I become that machines have done incalculable damage by unbalancing the relationship between Man and Nature. The mere fact that we think and talk as we do about Nature is symptomatic. For us to refer to Nature as a separate entity–something we admire or avoid or study or paint–shows how far we’ve removed ourselves from it.
I was surprised that she brought a pistol with her, but it did come in handy to ward off men with bad intentions in the middle of the night. So that was a wise move.
She has her share of tough times from bureaucratic hassles, to horrible roadways, if you can call them roadways, to smelly roommates and bouts of dysentery. Her travel travails would have made me run to the nearest airport, but reading about them was fascinating.
I found her commentary on Russian vs. US aid in Afghanistan insightful. In 1960 she opined that the Russians were smarter in how they gave aid. Their aid was mainly small local projects so Afghanis knew that’s the bridge or school, etc. the Russians gave us. In contrast the US’ aid was in the form of huge projects that didn’t register with the Afghanis. I’m not sure how things have or haven’t changed since the 60’s, but I’d like to know.
The subtitle says “with” not “on” a bicycle because there are often times when she can’t ride. Once in Afghanistan the officials force her to ride on a truck because the route is has become violent. Another time she leaves Roz, her bike, in a town as she takes a horse up into the mountains where the terrain is iffy and the roads narrow with no shoulder to speak of.
If you like strong, opinionated women exploring places you’ve never heard of, give Full Tilt a try.
N.B. I’ll warn you there are a couple phrases she used that aren’t PC. They bothered me, but I doubt she’d use the same language today.
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