Sunday, May 15, 2016

Treasure Island

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Part of my literature class this semester involved a road trip through the South. Riding on a bus for a million hours offers plenty of opportunity for discussion and given the nature of the class it's predictable that we discussed favorite reads. Treasure Island was one book mentioned by several people, which is also one book I missed reading as a kid. The great thing about books is that age doesn't matter!

Everyone dreams of finding a hidden treasure, striking gold or winning the lottery.  In this story Stevenson gives a young Jim Hawkins a treasure map with a warning to be on the lookout for a peg-legged traitor. Jim enlists the help of the town doctor to help him, and they quickly gather a boat and a crew and begin their search. Unfortunately some of those aboard have ulterior motives, including the infamous Long John Silver! Thus we are whisked away on a tale of adventure, piracy and deceit as Jim faces some hard knocks into maturity.

A fast and fun read for all ages! It'd be a great summer read aloud-- for those of you with kids still at home, particularly boys.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Empire of the Summer Moon

by Sam Gwynne

The Plains Indians and America's westward expansion like you've never read! Growing up in StL, my history consisted mainly of Marquette, La Salle, Lewis and Clark and other explorations of the Mighty Mississippi and our focus with growing America dealt with the Louisiana Purchase. And while that is all fine and interesting it seems childsplay in comparison to what kids in OK and TX might get to learn. If their textbooks told any story like Gwynne relates in Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History  then it should come as no surprise that Texans are so prideful.

Quanah Parker was the son of a Comanche warrior and a Texas girl, Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by the Comanches at the age of 9. He would become a great warrior and mediator for his tribe as they navigated land battles with both the Mexican and US armies. Although Parker and the Comanches are singled out as stars in this book, Gwynne doesn't neglect the other Plains nations and their roles in the territorial conflict. Gwynne treats the Comanches with much admiration when he tells of their skills as fighters and horsemen and even though he also refers to them as savage and hostile, it is mainly in response to techniques and treatments of captives. He also relates the stories of several US Military men and their struggles to conquer the west and its inhabitants. He accurately portrays their frustrations and errors in dealing with the Plains Indians, as well as the numerous treaties that were violated by both sides.

If you like history you would like this book. If you are a Texan it is required reading. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


by Peter Clines

A pretty fun read, 14 is a little bit mystery, a little bit sci-fi, a little bit weird and Scooby Doo jumbled all together. As soon as Nate moves into his new apartment, he starts to notice strange things like UV lighting coming from his incandescent bulb, and roaches with an extra leg and apartments with padlocked doors and some rather odd neighbors. Throughout at least the first half of this novel, Cline builds an interesting mystery/haunted apartment type story and then he changes gear delving into the sci-fi as this assorted group of tenants come together to solve a mystery.

Most of this book worked but some of it just went way off the grid. Going far out can work, as in many SK novels, but the characters need to remain consistent and that didn't happen here.  Once these guys seem to solve the riddle and step beyond #14, things unravel and they all seem to lose their brains in the vortex. But if you ignore their lapse into stupidity and just go with it, you'll enjoy this read.