The Great War and Modern Memory is probably Fussell’s best known work. It outlines the British experience in World War I and how that influenced writers, especially poets, reliving that part of their lives. Fussell, as he does in all his books in this vein, writes about the frustrations the lower ranks have to put with in the combat environment. According to Fussell that war is ironic; for example, battles seldom go the way planners think they will. At the battle of the Somme in 1916, for example, the Allied artillery pounded the German positions leading generals to think that foot soldiers will be able to walk into German trenches unopposed. Instead, the infantry marched into withering machine gun fire and the British took 6,000 casualties on the first day.
The war was not fought the army veterans who commended the British troops who were sent to France expected. Cavalry was useless against machine gun fire and the infantry tactics had similar success against artillery fire. New weapons such as machine guns, gas, airplanes, and tanks were new ways to kill and maim. These new killing machines kept large armies from advancing and the war on the Western front stalemated to trenches with a no man’s land in between. Fussell writes a lot about the influence that conflict had on poets and other writers who romanced the war. He notes the war poets, such as Siegfried Sassoon, Thomas Hardy, and Wilfred Owen, contributions to the Oxford Book of English Verse.
Fussell’s does in writing non-fiction what some authors, such as Heller in Catch 22 and Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five, did in fiction. Of course Fussell is a veteran of combat in Europe in 1944-1945, where he was a young second lieutenant in the infantry. He dedicated The Great War and Modern Memory to the sergeant who was killed beside him in France in 1945.
After reading Fussell’s books, the difference in the American culture in the twenty years between the two wars is obvious. In the movie theaters, talkies had arrived. Radio brought news and entertainment into people’s homes. Celebrities who once was seen only in the big screen now were heard on the radio on a weekly basis. Big band leaders such as Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman had their own radio shows. Hollywood produced patriotic films, some involving combat starring John Wayne who never served in the military. Meanwhile, in Britain, the BBC kept broadcasting educational programs while the bombs were falling on London during the blitz.
Acronyms, which were a holdover from the New Deal, were popular, especially in the military: SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) or my favorite COMAMPHIBFORSOPAC (Commander, Amphibious Force, South Pacific). There were some others which made their way into civilian language, FUBAR, for example.
The big difference between the American experience in the Great War and World War II was that the American government decided when to declare on Germany in 1917, but Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor took that decision out Roosevelt’s hands in 1941. Once in the fight, Americans had put up with shortages at home and rationing. Not to the extent it happened Britain, where rationing continued until 1954.
A green reporter encountered an infantry squad on the front line in Europe and asked what they would say to the people at home: “…Tell them it’s more serious than they’ll ever be able to understand…. Tell them it’s is rough as hell, Tell them it’s rough. It’s rough, serious business. That’s all. That’s all….”
I’ve done over 50 blog posts in my career here at Fontana Regional Library. 50! Seems like a lot. The reason I bring this up is because this post that you are reading right now is my last. I am leaving the library and we are moving across the country (2,674 miles to be exact). And by we I mean me, my wife Christina, who co-wrote the early blogs, and Bellatrix.
So then, what shall we talk about? I thought of a few things, like talking about my favorite books once again, or reminiscing about previous posts. I discarded those ideas, because they don’t take us anywhere. Been there, done that.
Next I thought about the identity of the blog, and specifically my posts. What have I been trying to achieve? What was the point? The answer is obvious. Glaringly, blindingly obvious. The answer is books. Sure, I ventured off the beaten trail a few times (and note how I am avoiding referencing previous posts. They are there. You can find them yourself if you want), but the main focus was always books. It is always gratifying when someone likes or shares or comments on a post, but when someone says they read one of the books I suggested? That is sublime.
I already said I wasn’t going to prattle on about books I already prattled on about, and a couple of posts back I talked about the miscellaneous titles I hadn’t gotten around to talking about yet. So what am I going to talk about? Nothing. Okay, that is a gross oversimplification. If you think you are getting out of this without me slipping in some of my favorites, you are crazy. What I really mean is that I am going to let others do the talking.
I asked a few of my co-workers if they wanted to suggest a title or two, or three, or four in one case *coughEmilycough*. The idea is that while I may not be around to give you reading recommendations, there are lots of other people who are. Remember, these are their words, not mine.
I picked this up while thinking ahead about an upcoming League of Women Voters book and movie display, since one of the characters is a former suffragette, and I thought it might complement the Carey Mulligan/Helena Bonham Carter movie we’ll be showing.
This quiet little book just ended, and burst my heart wide open! Books that make me cry are highly recommended.
Emily at Hudson recommends Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – and not just because they share the same name! Station Eleven is well-written, easy-to-read, and considers the importance of Art as an essential part of survival in a post-apocalyptic (so to speak) world.
This spectacular work covers a single day at the WTO protests in Seattle and forces readers to empathize with characters they would not normally identify with – which is arguably an essential function of great literature.
I have a lot of favorite movies and books, but there aren’t many that have actually affected me in such a way that I remember the first time I experienced them. In fact, I can only think of two.
For both times, I was in high school. The first memory was when I was fourteen, and was out walking with my friend. Neither of us had a car or even a license, so we ended up walking to the movie theater (we had missed a bus to something and therefore had all day to kill). After buying a ticket for a PG movie, we snuck into Pulp Fiction (don’t do this at home, kids!).
My friend and I sat in a mostly empty theater, stunned by the violence, unforgettable characters, and sharp dialogue. We laughed when others gasped and left the theater grinning from ear to ear. I remember thinking, “when I create something, I want to have an impact like that”. It’s still one of my favorite movies.
The second memory involves my favorite all time comic, George Carlin. I was in a bookstore with two friends (one was the Pulp Fiction fellow sneaker), and we spotted Brain Droppings. Curious, I picked it up and began reading it out loud. Soon we were all hysterical, and I made a beeline for the checkout counter. I ended up reading most of it to my friends during lunch but had to stop because we were laughing so hard our stomachs began hurting. I still have the book, and it still makes me laugh.
It was quite startling to listen to Bowie’s final CD and realize that as much credit as he was given we may still have underappreciated him. An astounding piece of work.
Okay, that last one was me. I want to thank everyone for contributing, and hope some of you readers read some of their reading recommendations. I know I will.
Speaking of thanks, there are a few personal ones I want to pass out. I would beg your indulgence, but this is still my blog, so I can do what I want. First, my wife Christina, without whom none of this would have happened. Sounds cliche, I know, but I wouldn’t have started blogging at all if she hadn’t done it with me. Plus she has had to listen to me bounce ideas off of her ever since. Thank you, and I love you. And a shout out to our cats, Bellatrix, Scrambles the Death Dealer, and Siouxsie, who if nothing else provided plenty of pictures for the blog.
Thanks to Don, the first blog admin I had. He provided lots of support and help as I started writing, not to mention spending an inordinate amount of time figuring out how I could use spoilers in a post.
Thanks to all the other Shelf Life in the Mountains blog contributors, especially the current ones, Amy and Stephen. Besides her excellent writing, Amy is also the “looks” of the organization. By which I mean she created the new logo, and she creates the images for each new post that we use on the library website. Thanks Amy! And Stephen…well Stephen just keeps going like clockwork. I feel like that in 50 years from now he will still be educating and entertaining us with new posts.
Finally, thanks most of all to the readers. Whether you are a long time aficionado or first time peruser, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking a few minutes (or a bunch of minutes when it comes to some of my posts) to take a look. None of this happens without your support. We have had readers from near and far, and I hope all of you got something worthwhile out of it. Thank you all.
Just one more thing. I promise! It is easy enough to find bestseller lists and classics and such. One thing I always liked was being able to point people towards good books they may not have found otherwise. So I conclude with a list of some of my favorites, many of which I think not enough people are aware of. No Commentary, just a list and a final bit of wisdom: keep reading!
This is a post I’ve done before, last year in fact. But, this past Monday,April 25, was the 100 years anniversary since the Allies landed troops on the Gallipoli peninsula, primarily the Anzacs, men from Australasia and New Zealand. Memorial services were held this week those two countries, as well in London, where the Queen placed a wreath at Cenotaph on Whitehall. Gallipoli has family connection for me. My uncle Patrick Morrison, served in the Gordon Highlanders, part of the troops from Great Britain that were stationed there, in addition to the men from the South Pacific. These are the reasons I thought it appropriate to repeat it.
The Gallipoli campaign was a side bar in 1915, the second year of the First World War . Gallipoli is a peninsula in northwest Turkey on the west side of a waterway leading from the Black Sea past Istanbul (it was called Constantinople in 1915) to the Adriatic Sea. Because Russia was fighting on the side the Allies in the Great War, Turkey chose to side with the Central Powers and blocked Russia’s outlet through the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles to the Adriatic Sea. To restore Russia’s outlet to the west, and to take the focus off the stalemate on the Western Front, the Allies planned an attack on the Gallipoli and the Dardanelles in the spring of 1915.
The chief advocate of this plan was Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty¹. At first, a fleet of obsolete British and French battle cruisers and battleships would attack the Turkish forts lining both sides of the Dardanelles, and with accompanying minesweepers would force their force way to the Turkish capital. But, with help their German allies, the Turkish army had strengthen the fortresses and laid mines in the waterway. As a result, the naval attack failed: three ships were sunk, one with over 600 men on board, and several more damaged.
The next step was to land troops on the Cape Hellos end of the peninsula and it’s western shore, where Churchill and his colleagues didn’t think there would be much opposition. But the Turks were dug in the high cliffs overlooking the beaches where the landings were taking place. The Allied force, including members of the French Foreign Legion, Anzac troops from Australia and New Zealand, as well as British forces from India and the Western Front, was pinned down as soon as it landed. The casualties were high at the outset and continued in this vein for the next eight months. The planning for this expedition was faulty, and the commanders chosen to lead it were not given the resources necessary to carry out the objectives of their mission. As a result, two offenses, one soon after the landings and one in August, failed with even heavier casualties. Eventually, like on the Western Front, Gallipoli devolved into a stalemate with both sides ensconced in their trenches, until February 1916, when all Allied personnel were withdrawn.
The British Government, looking for a scapegoat, after the initial attack, sacked Churchill from his post as First Lord of the Admiralty, but kept him in the government. The August failure toppled the government and Churchill, who was also out, was offered a command in the Western Front in Belgium. At end of the war, he was eventually was posted to the Colonial Office, where he presided over the founding of the modern Iraq. In writing about Churchill during World War II, Max Hastings said this, “Churchill believed himself exceptionally fitted for the direction of armies, navies, and air forces. He perceived no barrier to such a role in the fact, that he possessed neither military staff training nor experience of higher field command.”² In this context, he evidently didn’t learn his lesson after Gallipoli. More on Churchill in my next blog.
¹The political head of the Royal Navy. The person holding this office was a Member of Parliament, part of cabinet and served under the Prime Minister.
²Max Hastings, Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, p. 102.
I received a lot of good feedback on my first post about acronyms. Several people mentioned other ones that they use or see with some frequency, so I figured a second venture into the world of initialisms was warranted. See what I did there?
It has been argued that what are commonly referred to as acronyms are not acronyms at all but are really initialisms. This argument might have some technical legitimacy, but not much. Most reliable sources give the word acronym a wide and broad meaning, and general usage certainly does. Enough so that I think that initialism proponents don’t have much of a letter to stand on.
I will not only define these acronyms, but also use them in a sentence about a book. Unlike last time, these are mostly books I have not talked about before, so I will try to work in some mini reviews as well.
Your mileage may vary. A way to say that other people may not have the same reaction to something that you did.
“YMMV, but I found Prep to be a terrific read. Honest, heartfelt, uplifting, and painful. And avoids the horrible cliches one expects to find. One of the best books I’ve read recently.”
On my way. Like letting my wife know I am heading home from work.
“OMW, but not like in Divergent, where the Dauntless often jump on and off of moving trains. BTW, Divergent is a YA dystopian novel that works better when it explores class structures and the nature of our true inner selves than it does at the action packed ending. Of course, YMMV.”
Shaking my head. Showing disbelief and/or disdain at the actions or words of others.
“SMH that some people haven’t read The Girl with All the Gifts, a zombie-dystopia-action-horror novel that is much more than any of those things. Is a child who is a monster still a child?”
We need to talk. Usually a warning that a Serious Conversation is about to happen. Might precede a breakup, for instance.
“WNTT…about why you haven’t read All Other Nights. Sure , it might not be in any of the genres you typically read, but that shouldn’t stop you. Jewish historical fiction set during the Civil War, ultimately it is a story of the extreme lengths a man will go to escape some things and run back to others.”
As far as I know. Indicates you think you know the answer, but you haven’t fact checked it.
“AFAIK, The Sandman: Book of Dreams is the only true prose collection of stories based on the Sandman graphic novels. And it is better than one would suspect from such a collection. Some real gems in there, from authors both known and unknown, but admittedly aimed at readers familiar with the source material.”
You know it. Affirmation of statement, sort of like “you betcha!”
“Is Silver Screen Fiend a good read? Woo woo woo, YKI! Patton talks about his obsession with film, and muses on how it affected him and his life. I like how he, as many of us do, reflects on what an idiot his younger self was. Note that while he lists out all the films he saw, he does not go into any great detail about them. Also, I do have an interesting Zack Ryder story you can ask me about in person.”
Fixed it for you. A way to show that you corrected an error someone made, or more commonly a way to mock someone else. For instance, if you posted that The Adoration of Jenna Fox is not a good book, I might reply like this:
“The Adoration of Jenna Fox is not a good book. FIFY. It is a story of a teenager who awakens from a year long coma after being in a car crash to find that her loving and supportive family now is hiding secrets, namely secrets about who, or what, she really is. It is not a great book, but it is a good one.”
Personal message. Basically telling someone to contact you privately.
“I’ve had mixed feelings about this series lately. PM me and I’ll fill you in on the details. I did think Archmage was a solid entry. For those not familiar, it is Dungeons and Dragons fantasy, and you’ll really want to be familiar with the previous books to fully enjoy this one.”
I don’t know. Admitting you don’t know something, which we should all probably do more often.
“Are cruises fun? IDK, I’ve never been on one. The people in Day Four do not have fun, as their cruise ship is mysteriously stranded out at sea, and things keep going from bad to worse, both from supernatural events and the actions of people. Like a fair number of horror books, the ending does not quite match the build up, but it is still a worthy read, and a good crossover book, meaning all readers and not just horror fans will enjoy it.”
To be honest. Letting people know you are being straightforward with them. Often in conjunction with a statement that might be surprising or controversial.
“TBH, I am not sure reading Preacher was a good idea. Now I am hooked on another series, and there is even a TV show coming out.”
Too long; didn’t read. This tells someone that while you are responding to them, you did not read all of what they had posted, presumably because it was a wall of text or such.
“This blog was totally TL;DR. You know what isn’t? The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman. A take on Sleeping Beauty, it isn’t very long. It gives the tale enough edge to appeal to adults, while still staying appropriate for most children. Plus it is gorgeously illustrated by Chris Riddell.”
I still don’t know what you are talking about. A reference to how bewildering unknown acronyms can be. I made it up for this blog, but feel free to use it. Viral, FTW!*
“ISDKWYATA, like at all, especially when you mention The Seven Deadly Sins Sampler, which the library doesn’t even own! It is a collection of short stories, two for each of the deadly sins, and it features a sinfully delightful collection of authors. Faulkner, Atwood, Chekhov, O’Connor, etc. And then you come across one you don’t recognize, like Bobbie Ann Mason, and then you read her story Shiloh and realize it might be the best in the book.”
*FTW. For The Win. One fun thing to do with acronyms is make up your own versions. Forget The Waitress! Fang Toothed Walrus! Formidable Tea Wizard! Okay, we’re done here.
The books keep piling up. Most of my posts have a theme to them, such as zombies, or cats, or weddings. It is easy enough to fit books into categories. The problem are those books that don’t quite fit into these niches. This helped give birth to Random Book Day, but that isn’t until November, and I already have a bunch of books lined up. If I wait much longer to talk about them I will forget all about them and have to read them again, and I have far too many books on my to-read list already to do that.
So here you are. Ten books that altogether share only one thing in common, which is that I read them. I think I may have mentioned a couple of these before, but not in any detail. Feel free to fact check me on that.
I spilled coffee on this book, or, to be technical about it, my thermos leaked coffee onto the book. Which means I had to buy it and am now the owner of a well read and coffee stained former library book. At least it is a good book. And it is nothing much at all like her other books.
What would happen to society if everyone, every single woman in the world, became sterile? How would people continue to conduct their business and live out their lives? How would the government (in this case, Great Britain) handle it? And then what would happen if years later a single woman managed to get pregnant? What lengths would people, and the government, go to to protect her, or to obtain her? Dr. Theo Faron, an Oxford professor and our narrator, has to answer these questions as he is caught squarely in the middle of the story.
The story is taut and plausible. It is slightly dated, being from 1992, primarily in the changes in technology since then, but overall that only detracts a small amount from the enjoyment of this dystopian marvel. I haven’t seen the film version yet, simply because I haven’t gotten around to watching it.
I’m not sure where I heard about this one. Perhaps it was featured on this site. In any event, it is the first in a series of children’s novels, which is known as Juvenile Fiction in library jargon. The book (and series) stars three friends: Jasper (an inventor who has a PhD), Katie (who fights monsters), and Lily (who is just a normal girl). And by girl, I do mean girl, as the three of them are still in middle school. Their world seems much the same as ours, except for things like, oh I don’t know, an army of whales on stilts.
Their madcap adventures may seem a bit, ahem, juvenile to adults, but even if they are not for you they are a great series to point younger readers towards.
Bonus points to those who are now saying “wait, those comics were written by Joss Whedon (yes, that Joss Whedon), not by Peter David”, who is a very accomplished comic writer in his own right. Well, you are correct, to a point. Whedon wrote those comics (available from the library in graphic novel form here), but David wrote the novelization.
Yarp, it is a novelization of comic books. You don’t see that very often. In this case it is understandable, because the Gifted storyline is so good. Full of action, drama, and humor, it is a story that doesn’t really require you to have read any other X-men beforehand. The novel tells the same story. You essentially exchange the art of John Cassaday for David’s prose. The story stays the same, so the question is which format do you prefer? Because you really should read it sometime. It is that good.
Oh, the power of social media! Rollins himself recommended, on social media, that I should read this book. Of course that is his pen name, and maybe it wasn’t really him but an intern or publicist or the like, but it did happen. He followed me, and I replied that I guess I needed to read one of his books, and he suggested Sandstorm. And, thankfully, it turned out to be a pretty darn good book. Others must agree, since it spawned a series that numbers 12 titles to date.
This is an adventure novel, sort of an amalgamation of Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne and Lara Croft. And it works! The heroes are heroic, with ample skill sets, and are faced with challenging challenges that has the reader wondering how they will ever triumph over the bad guys. High tech mixed with a dash of other-worldliness makes for a fun read.
I think the key part of the title is the word “people”. Dungeons & Dragons has been around in various editions for over 40 years now, and a great many people, boys and girls, men and women, have played it. That is not just rhetoric. In my days I have played with people ranging from 8-45ish, with about as many females as males. The stories I could share! But won’t, since we are here to talk about this book.
Ewalt sets out to show the evolution of the game, and more importantly highlight some of the people who have both played it and shaped it over the decades. He accomplishes this in an approachable manner. That being said, this isn’t for everyone. It is probably too specific for the general reader, although it does work well for a casual fan, or someone just wanting to learn more about what the big deal is. For hardcore players, it might be a little light. I enjoyed it, so there is that.
Speaking of Dungeons & Dragons…Brom first came to real prominence as an artist for D&D products, notably the Dark Sun line. His gothic fantasy art has since appeared in many places. I even have a signed print at home. He has also delved a bit into writing, and this book is one of the results of that.
It is a retelling of Peter Pan. A thoroughly un-Disneyfied retelling of Peter Pan. Brom creates such a dark, immersive version of Neverland that when the characters return back to New York near the end it is jarring. This is not a children’s book by any means. It also features terrific color illustrations, bringing the varied cast to vivid life. And if you want something even more dark, track down Brom’s The Plucker, a book about toys that will give you chills.
In my youth I was a member of the Science Fiction Book Club (thanks, Mom!), and got my hands on lots of great books. One of these was Strata, which I really liked, but didn’t make me read more by Pratchett, because he was still largely unknown at the time. Years and years later I finally got into his Discworld books, and belatedly realized this was the same guy. Indeed, Strata is sort of a precursor to Discworld.
The main character is a woman named Kin, who works on terraforming planets. A neat little side bit is how these workers hide out-of-place artifacts in these new worlds they are creating. Anyway, Kin gets pulled into what is essentially a hunt for buried treasure, and winds up on a flat Earth, where she encounters what seem to be actual magical creatures. Uncovering the secrets is delightful, both for her (in the end, when she is no longer in danger of being killed), and for the reader.
You might not have ever heard of the book, but you probably have the movie. This is another book, much like Strata above, that I read eons ago and then rediscovered much later. The book is based off of Hasford’s experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. The title refers to those troops who are nearing the end of their deployment.
There are three main sections to the novel, covering boot camp, the Tet Offensive, and finally an encounter with a sniper. The book is raw and honest. The title really comes into play at the end, giving the events an even more tragic feel.
The movie version was done by some guy named Kubrick, and is titled Full Metal Jacket. The movie is not as different from the book as one might think, considering the director, and maintains the same feel as the novel throughout. I had originally read the book before the movie was made, and then saw the movie with no idea it was based on source material I had read, so that was a fun “hey, wait a minute…” film going experience.
Yeah, so, zombies. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Ringo’s books over the years, notably his Posleen series, so I was first a bit hesitant to pick up his take on zombies. Obviously I did go ahead and read it, and am glad I did. One thing that interests me with zombie books is the different approaches to them that authors take. In this case, Ringo clearly set out to create a more plausible and realistic zombie scenario, and he succeeded admirably.
This book is set in the real world, if you will, and centers around a former paratrooper named Steve and his family. Forewarned that a biological disaster was occurring, he is able to get his well-prepared family onto a boat. Not only do they survive the initial outbreak, but they eventually start leading rescue and recovery efforts. There are four books in the series, with an anthology volume on its way, so plenty of zombie mayhem is to be had.
As for the setup, these zombies are much more akin to the infected in 28 Days Later than to the more classic Romero zombies. Ringo envisioned how they could come to be, and then extrapolated that out to how they would act both short and long term, and he did it well. I also appreciated that the characters are well versed in zombie lore, even though they are fully aware that these are not actually zombies.
In the end, if you like zombie books, or perhaps even militarily themed books, you’ll like this. If not, you’ll probably want to pass.
I’m a big fan of Harkaway, and Tigerman did not disappoint. The setting is the island of Mancreu, a former British colony, and the site of an ongoing ecological anomaly disaster. Sergeant Lester Ferris is the last official British presence on the island, and he serves as a sort of unofficial police officer. Along the way he befriends a curious 12 year old called Robin, who is a big fan of comic books. This comes in handy, because when various world powers try to use Mancreu’s unique lawless status in order to do naughty things, Ferris has to become a hero to stop them.
This actually starts out innocently enough, as Robin helps him create a costume that he can use to unofficially investigate a theft. Things get out of hand, of course, in part thanks to video footage of his exploits getting onto the Internet, and Tigerman is born. This is a great rollicking adventure story, and one that asks some interesting philosophical and ethical questions as well.
Okay, well, I never know how to end these things, so I’ll just remind you to keep reading what you love to read, and every now and again try reading something else.
I believe it was when I was in Junior High that friend of our family gave me a copy of Samuel Eliot Morison’s book Admiral of the Ocean Sea: a Life of Christopher Columbus. That was my introduction to the writings of Dr. Morison, who, unbeknownst to me when I was a teenage boy, was a historian studying the naval history of the new world. Over the years, and he wrote and published just short of his death in 1978, Morison produced seven books relating that aspect of American history, besides publishing his fifteen volume History of United States naval operations in World War II, and multiple books on the history of his native New England, as well as co-authoring an American history textbook in 1930 that is it’s 7th edition. For the purpose of this blog I am going to concentrate Morison’s book The Great Explorers.
The Great Explorers is an abridgment of The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages and The Southern Voyages . When Morison wrote the preface to the latter volume, he dated it exactly two years before he died at the age of 88. While writing these two volumes, he was traveling all over the world tracing the voyages of Columbus and the men who followed him to the coasts of North and South America, and in the cases of Magellan and Drake, circumnavigated the globe. Morison concentrates on the voyages, how they arrived at the Americas, the ships they sailed on, not what happened after they got here. For some reason I can’t figure out, Morison wrote about the northern voyages before the southern ones, although he suggests Columbus’ trips laid the ground work for the rest of the fifteenth and sixteenth century explorers.
Columbus made four trips to the Americas. The first one as we learned in school was in 1492. Although Columbus sailed under the colors of the Spanish kingdom Castile and Aragon, he was born Cristoforo Columbo¹ in Genoa long before it was considered Italian. Columbus and a number of other Europeans believed if one sailed west across the Atlantic they would find a short cut to East Asia. On his first voyage he took three vessels: The Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina. The first was 85 feet in length, the two were smaller. Morison reckoned Columbus touched San Salvador and Cuba on that trip. The Nina was only the one that made it back. During the second and fourth voyages Columbus visited Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola.
A quarter of a century after Columbus set foot on the “New World,” Ferdinand Magellan was in Seville, giving up his Portuguese citizenship to become a subject of Emperor Charles V of Spain. Two years afterwards Magellan was in command of five ships with a commission to explore the Pacific Ocean. His fleet sailed south along the coast of South America, through the strait which now bears his name, and out into the Pacific in the latter of November 1520. By February the following year, he reached the Caroline Islands and by March, after touching at Guam, he was in the Philippines; where he died during a battle with natives on April 21. Eighteen survivors made it to back to Seville on the Victoria, Magellan’s flag ship, which had sailed three and month before.
Unlike Magellan, Sir Frances Drake survived his circumnavigation and went up the west coast of the Americas besides. Drake was regarded as a naval hero to the English and a pirate to their enemies, the Spanish. The purpose of this voyage was two f0ld: first, harassment of the Spanish settlements in the Americas, second, exploration. Unlike the voyages of the Spanish and Portuguese, Drake’s was funded by private monies. There were six vessels in his fleet, which sailed in December 1577, headed by the “The Golden Hind,” armed with a total of 56 guns and, in addition to crew members, men at arms. Each time they found a Spanish settlement it was attacked. The English expedition traveled as far north as what is now known as San Francisco Bay. Despite Drake claiming that part of Calfornia for Queen Elizabeth I, the Spanish built a series of missions there. The voyage ended in Plymouth harbor on September 26, 1580. The whole expedition was profitable for the investors, the throne, and Drake as well.
Unlike Drake, John Cabot was an explorer. Cabot is the anglicized version of his Italian name, Giovanni Caboto. Cabot’s home base in England was at Bristol on the Avon River which empties into the Irish Sea. Cabot made his first seaworthy trip to North America in 1497 by sailing due west to the southern tip of Ireland, then west northwest before resuming a more westerly direction, which took him directly to the island of Newfoundland off the coast of what became Canada. For the next 36 years several Englishmen and a Portuguese, Joāo Alvares Fagundes, made voyages to Newfoundland and Labrador on the mainland. Toward the end of the 16th century, the English became involved in the search for the fabled Northwest Passage. Martin Frobisher made several voyages, all of which ended in failure. John Davis was another mariner who failed to find it.
The first voyage under French colors was led by a man of Italian descent, Girolamo da Verrazzano, whose first trip led to landfall of the present coast of North Carolina. Sailing north from the outer banks, he came the Narrows that leads into what is now New York harbor. From there he explored the shore opposite what we now call Long Island and from there proceeded to what become Maine, where he had contact with natives. Verrazzano was followed to North America by a native of Normandy, Jacques Cartier. Cartier made three visited North America three times between 1534 and 1542. On his third voyage, Cartier founded a colony named Charlesbourg-Royal after the Charles duc d’Orléans, son of the King of France.²
Morison’s book is filled with illustrations of old maps, which gives readers an inkling of the geographical ignorance that Europeans had of the western approaches to the Far East from Europe. Particularly not realizing there was a whole large continent between Europe and Asia. In addition to those maps, there are portraits of many of the explorers and photographs the author took from his flights which traced to routes used by the explorers to find their way west.
Author’s note: To be sure the Europeans brought war and disease to the indigenous peoples of the “New World,” and started a genocide that lasted in North America until late in the nineteenth century. But Morison concentrates on the voyages, how they arrived at the Americas, the ships they sailed on, and how they navigated without any of the modern aides modern sailors have at their disposal.
¹ In Portugal he was known as Christovão Colom.
² Archaeologists discovered remains of the colony in 2006 at the junction of the Cap Rouge River and the St. Lawrence River.
This week’s blog is a guest post from Cristen, Youth Services Supervisor at the Macon County Public Library. She’s going to tell us about children’s audiobooks with the assistance of a bright young lady by the name of Tessa. Enjoy!
I don’t know about your family, but my family spends a lot of time in the car! Up until my daughter, Tessa, was about 4 years old, we listened to children’s music. But after 4 years of listening to kids’ music, we had grown a bit tired of it. At 4 years of age, I didn’t know if Tess would have the attention span to listen to chapter books. We gave it a try though and started with the Magic Tree Housebooks by Mary Pope Osborne. Tess loved them because, as she says, “they have cool adventures and the adventures weren’t too scary.”
Our whole family’s absolute favorite is the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. Even my husband, who initially wasn’t enthusiastic about listening to a children’s book, loved the Harry Potter books. On several trips to Pennsylvania, these audiobooks have helped time fly by (and helped us all keep our sanity). About the books, Tess said, “They were really, really interesting and exciting and the characters were funny.” Jim Dale, the narrator of the Harry Potter audiobook series, is amazing! As a narrator, he has won 2 Grammy awards and has 7 Grammy nominations.
Jim Dale also narrates the Peter and the Starcatcher series, which we are currently listening to, and again he did an incredible job. Tess has enjoyed these books “because of the battles, but not too much blood and guts.” Some of her other favorites and the reasons why (in her own words) –
Over the past 3 years, we’ve listened to over 100 children’s audiobooks! We’re very fortunate that with our library card we have many options for listening to children’s audiobooks. We can borrow CD audiobooks from libraries throughout North Carolina using NC Cardinal. We can also download audiobooks for free from OneClick Digital and Overdrive. So, if you want to save yourself from hearing “Are we there yet?” and if you want to build your child’s vocabulary and reading comprehension skills, audiobooks are the way to go!
UPDATE! Senator Richard Burr has now signed on. Thank you, Senator Burr!
It’s that time of year where we go crazy for green. Green clothes, green shakes, green beer. Heck some people even dye their rivers green. So here is my request to see some green. Now this isn’t some silly St Patrick’s Day clickbait post. This is serious business.
I want to see some money.
As of Friday March 11, not one single solitary member of our great state’s national legislative contingent of 15 people has sent their letters of support for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) funds. It’s almost as though they think North Carolinians don’t want technology in our libraries or literacy programs in our schools. Members of the Senate have until Thursday March 17 to get their letters in, while the House has until Thursday March 24. So they still have time to do the right thing.
But as we all know, politicians often need a push in the right direction. Especially in a Presidential Election year when so many are up for re-election. That’s where we (and you) come in. We want to flood our legislators with calls asking them to support LSTA and IAL funding.
“But, Serenity,” I hear you ask “what does LSTA do for me?”
Excellent question! Do you use computers or internet at the library or at your school? You can thank LSTA for that! Does your library happen to have shiny new tablets for kids? That’s quite probably LSTA, too. I know it is here in Fontana. You know that online catalog you use at your public and school libraries? BAM! More LSTA funding.
Basically, just about anything that has to do with technology in your public library, that’s what LSTA helps fund. Without LSTA grants, many public libraries would not be able to provide the services our communities need. No internet to look for work, no computers to do homework on, no catalog to find the books or check them out. *shudder*
Did I answer your question? Great! Let’s get to work.
Here’s a sample script for when you call your legislators (but we know that some of us HATE to talk on the phone, so it works for email, too.) Feel free to personalize it when you call, email, show up at their office. If you do show up at their office, please send me pictures…
“Hi my name is _____ and I am from _______ (your county/city) and I would like to urge Senator or Representative ____ to sign the “Dear Appropriator” letters for LSTA (Library Services Technology Act) and IAL (Innovative Approaches to Literacy). Senator Jake Reed is the primary sponsor in the Senate and Congressman Raul Grijalva in the House if you would like more information.”
For the Fontana Regional Library readers, here are the means of contact for our Senators and local Representative.
It was last summer that I blogged about genre bingo, and it has taken me that long to finally get bingo myself. Believe me, I have been reading up a storm since then. I just haven’t been reading the right books, I guess. One thing I pledged to do, and obviously kept to, was to not read books specifically to fill in blank bingo spots. Some books I read did not fit any of the criteria, and in some cases they fit a space I had already filled. Despite all that I overcame and finally was able to shout BINGO! across the library. (The shouting may or may not actually have happened.)
I was actually a little surprised when I realized it. I was preparing a blog post about the random reading habit I have developed, but had to put that aside (for now) to cover this momentous event. Of course I will talk about the books that made all this possible, but first, here is the current status of my Genre Bingo card:
Okay, I know what you are going to say. That sure is a lot of spaces filled in, but it does not actually qualify as bingo. My reply is that you are correct. I have not actually obtained bingo on that card. However, you may remember that I created two separate types of bingo cards, the second being called Something New Bingo. Here is how my card for that looks:
There you have it, right across the top. Bingo! Interestingly, I have 15 spots filled in on each card. Many books I read qualified for both of them, but not all. I also like how I have three stars in each of the vertical columns for the Something New card.
A couple of minor caveats here. The “book with a red cover” I read certainly had red on it, but it was not entirely red. Probably more orange than red overall. Still satisfies the criteria in my book (pun intended), plus it is set on the “Red Planet“. The second issue is that the “book made into a movie” was technically made into a TV series. A TV series with long, movie-like episodes, so I have no qualms marking it off here. Also, several of these titles would have worked for other spots than the ones I used them in, so if I rearranged them I think I could still make it work for bingo.
This was the one that finally gave me bingo. It had been sitting around the house just waiting to be read, which lead to my random approach to reading (blog post on that coming soon!) It is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, a crew member of the third manned mission to Mars. A dust storm strikes the landing site, and during their evacuation Watney is hit by debris and, quite understandably, presumed dead by his fellow astronauts. The others head back to Earth, mourning their fallen comrade.
Mark is alive, though and has to find a way to survive not only day-to-day, but until the next mission arrives. He does so with a wonderful mix of ingenuity and humor. A great example is one time when disaster once again befalls him, he solves the problem almost with regret, since he thinks his crazy backup plan would also have worked. The science in the book is strong but still very approachable. Overall, a very fun book. I have not yet seen the movie. Also, this would have worked as both a Debut Novel and a “Book Made Into A Movie”.
Over the last couple of years my wife and I have started to beef up our Stephen King collection. This is one thing I appreciate having a smartphone for: easy access to lists so I don’t have to try and remember which books we already own.
We have both been King fans for many moons, and I read this one before. Way before, like maybe around 1990. Okay, maybe that means it is not technically “something new”, but 25 years gives me some leeway here. Although not one of King’s strongest works, it is still Stephen King, which means it is still an excellent book.
The tale is of an insidious alien invasion. A woman in rural Maine (this is King, after all) uncovers a spaceship that crashed eons ago. The aliens within are only sort-of dead. Their physical bodies are destroyed, but they can still imprint themselves upon hapless humans, and use us to start recreating themselves. It then becomes a race to see if they can be stopped before their plans come to fruition.
A couple of hallmarks of King’s writing, besides length, are foreshadowingand showing the perspective of the villain. Many of his stories have a BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy). This may be a prototypical one, such as in The Stand or It, or one a little more unusual, such as in Misery or Cujo. In The Tommyknockers, you do get the foreshadowing, but the villains are just regular people. Admittedly ones controlled by evil aliens, but still people.
This may not be a book that inspires you to create online discussion forums about it, but it is a page turner. It checks in at 558 pages, which is not so bad. Not like it is Harry Potter or something. The Tommyknockers is another one made into a movie, albeit a crummy TV movie.
Shea’s 2014 debut is a science fiction romp about an ex-mercenary, the titular Koko, who is trying to enjoy an early retirement. Of course that does not happen, as her past comes back to haunt her. It isn’t even her own past that is really the problem, but that of a former associate.
Mayhem ensues, and she goes on the run to both escape those hunting her and to find the person who caused her this trouble. The characters are well formed, the action is tight, and the future society predicted seems plausible. The story touches on some interesting social issues, but not in a distracting or limiting way.
If this sort of story sounds like something you would like, then you will almost certainly enjoy this book. The sequel is already out, and I am looking forward to reading it.
This book is about Seattle hipsters and their self-made art scene. Hmm, no, that’s not quite right. Let me try again. This book is about the war in Iraq, and the effects it had on people. It is about love and obsession, about how people change and how the stay the same. It is about longing and wishing and missed opportunities. It is about art and Wikipedia and how one defines the truth. It is about IEDs and hard choices and juxtapositions.
This is a book I recommend you read. I’m glad someone recommended it to me.
The first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, it was first published in 1996. Over the next decade it, and the series, slowly gained in popularity. How popular? The fourth installment hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and HBO optioned the books for a television series. That series is simply called Game of Thrones, and has won multiple awards. It may not be a movie per se, but it is close enough for my purposes. And yes, you can get the DVDs at the library.
A Game of Thrones is a fantasy novel set in the kingdom of Westeros. The title refers to the scheming done by various persons to sit upon the Iron Throne and to rule. It is low fantasy, meaning that while magic exists in the world, it is rare and seldom a factor. Dragons are real, but are presumably extinct, and so on.
The main focus is on the Stark family, who lord over the cold northern end of Westeros. Chock full of lively characters and brimming with relevant and interesting side plots, this is a book to be reckoned with. There are good guys to root for, bad guys to despise, and ambiguous guys to wonder about. It’s popularity is well deserved.
I had watched the show before reading the book, and I will say it is a masterful adaptation. The TV series format gave them about 10 hours to work with, instead of the two or three a movie would have provided, and they make good use of it. Most of the changes from page to screen are minor, or things that you recognize had to be changed for budgetary reasons and the like. The casting was top notch, with a special nod to Peter Dinklage. Once you see him in the role you will always read Tyrion Lannister in his voice.
There we have it, my road to bingo. It was a fun ride, or should I say fun read? I am still tracking my progress, as I hope to score Genre Bingo one of these days. And to keep things interesting, I just created a third bingo card, this one for characters. It will be fun to see how that this one goes!
Since I made this I have finished a couple more books, so I can cross off Zombie, and one other. The second book had several characters that would apply, so I can move it around as needed as I fill in more spaces. Maybe next time I really will shout Bingo! in the library.
It’s no secret I like to read mysteries! I used to work with someone who introduced me to that genre of fiction about forty years ago. I am one of those readers who have three or four, or maybe more books going at a time. I read non-fiction for the most part in my living room, restaurants, and doctor’s waiting rooms and fiction at night in bed. The only exception is when I getting close to the end of a mystery, it moves to the front of the line. I’ll read it anywhere, except, of course, at work. In the case of mysteries my preference is British police procedurals and the occasional spy story.
Recently I have started watching Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis, both characters developed by Colin Dexter in a series of books, (which I am also reading) who investigate crime in Oxford. Ruth Rendell, who died just last May, wrote twenty-four mysteries featuring Inspector Wexford and Detective Mike Burden, who were later brought to life on television. North of the border (English-Scottish border, that is) Stuart MacBride sets his stories around Aberdeen and the Northeast. Ian Rankin, another Scot, has his detective policing in Edinburgh. Martha Grimes, an American author, has written a series of British police procedural mysteries with each title reflecting the real name of an English pub. Elizabeth George is another American who write police detective fiction set in England.
In the Morse books and the television episodes, Morse is the detective inspector and Lewis is his sergeant. Dexter did not write any books with Lewis as the main character, but the ex-sergeant, now a detective inspector himself, stars in his own television series, a spin off from the Morse shows. Morse, himself, likes his liquor, cryptic crosswords and other word games, and expects people who send reports him to be grammatically correct and know how to spell. Unlike Lewis, who has a wife and family, Morse lives by himself and expects his sergeant to make himself available any time at his chief’s beck and call.
Unlike Colin Dexter’s character, Inspector Wexford is married with two daughters and a long suffering wife. To assist Wexford in his cases, Ruth Rendell created Mike Burden, Wexford’s sergeant, also as a married man. Rendell wrote twenty-three more novels featuring Wexford in almost fifty years. In the last two, Wexford is retired but still consults on cases. In the debut book in the series, From Doon With Death, Wexford has to identify the person who gifted the murder victim books inscribed with the name “Doon”. If Wexford investigates of the past of the dead person, he is sure he will be able find “Doon”.
Up in Aberdeenshire, Stuart Macbride writes about Detective Sergeant Logan McCrea solving crimes in the Granite City, where the winters are long, wet, and cold, as suggested by the title of his first book: Cold Granite. I like MacBride’s books for the simple reason I spent the first nine years of my life in Aberdeen, so I am familiar with the geography of the city and the region. A warning to fans of ‘cozy’ mysteries, MacBride’s books are not for you. If, on the other hand, you never miss an episode of ‘Law and Order Special Victims Unit” you will enjoy his books. A note about DS McCrea: he is far from a perfect hero, as he bucks the system and often is far from politically correct. What would you expect from an author who calls his cat “Grendel!”
A little further south, in the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, Inspector John Rebus is actively hunting bad guys. Ian Rankin, along with MacBride and a number of other Scottish mystery writers publish what has been called “Tartan Noir.” In Rankin’s first Rebus novel, “Knots and Crosses,” the detective get assigned to the case of the Edinburgh Strangler, who is murdering young girls whom he has kidnapped. His investigation is hampered by an anonymous person is sending him clues and a nosy newspaper reporter who thinks Rebus is hiding something. To solve his first case, Rebus has to delve into his past.
Martha Grimes main character is Detective Inspector Richard Jury. Like Morse, Jury is a single man, but Grimes has surrounded him with a bevy of appealing characters to keep his life interesting. Jury is aided in solving crimes by a sergeant who is always on the verge catching some disease and a personal friend, Melrose Plant, an aristocrat who long since lost interest in his title and given it up. Jury is based in New Scotland Yard in London, so he goes other places in England when the local police request help from the capital to solve a case.*
Another aristocrat crime solver is Elizabeth George’s Inspector Thomas Lynley. Unlike Richard Jury’s friend, Lynley admits to being the 8th Earl of Asherton. He has a valet and drives a Bentley. His crime solving partner, Sergeant Barbara Havers comes from a lower middle class background, which makes them an odd couple. In A Great Deliverance, the first book in the series, the latter is given a second chance at working in the CID (Criminal Investigation Division) at NSY, so she has to learn to get along with Lynley as they delve into a family whose conflicts climaxed in a horrific crime.
*– A word about British police organization. New Scotland Yard is responsible for policing Greater London, providing security for the Royal Family and other important individuals, and lending a hand when requested by local police to help solve cases, among other things. In other words, in its national responsibilities, it is like the American FBI and Secret Service combined.