Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Non-fiction Audio: Braving It,


Title: Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild
Author: James Campbell. Read by Roger Wayne
Publisher: Tantor Audio, 2017. Original by Crown Publishing, 384 pages
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

The powerful and affirming story of a father's journey with his teenage daughter to the far reaches of Alaska

Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to only a handful of people, is a harsh and lonely place. So when James Campbell's cousin Heimo Korth asked him to spend a summer building a cabin in the rugged Interior, Campbell hesitated about inviting his fifteen-year-old daughter, Aidan, to join him: Would she be able to withstand clouds of mosquitoes, the threat of grizzlies, bathing in an ice-cold river, and hours of grueling labor peeling and hauling logs?

But once there, Aidan embraced the wild. She even agreed to return a few months later to help the Korths work their traplines and hunt for caribou and moose. Despite windchills of 50 degrees below zero, father and daughter ventured out daily to track, hunt, and trap. Under the supervision of Edna, Heimo's Yupik Eskimo wife, Aidan grew more confident in the woods.

Campbell knew that in traditional Eskimo cultures, some daughters earned a rite of passage usually reserved for young men. So he decided to take Aidan back to Alaska one final time before she left home. It would be their third and most ambitious trip, backpacking over Alaska's Brooks Range to the headwaters of the mighty Hulahula River, where they would assemble a folding canoe and paddle to the Arctic Ocean. The journey would test them, and their relationship, in one of the planet's most remote places: a land of wolves, musk oxen, Dall sheep, golden eagles, and polar bears.

At turns poignant and humorous, Braving It is an ode to America's disappearing wilderness and a profound meditation on what it means for a child to grow up--and a parent to finally, fully let go.

My Review:  

This book gets some criticism for feeling at times a bit trivial, or not exciting enough, or even for focusing on the relationship between the author and his daughter (okay, that one puzzled me, since that's what the story is *about*). In some ways, though, the critics are right. This isn't an epic death-defying adventure, though there are moments. The thing is, it doesn't have to be. Maybe it only makes sense to people who spend a lot of time in the wilderness, but to me the details about life in the bush are important. I wanted to know what it was like to build a cabin by hand in the 21st Century. And I sympathized with the misery they all felt at times during that episode. The backpacking and boat trip flow more naturally out of the cabin-building and trap-line experiences that make up the first 2/3 of the book.

I get the criticism, though. The blurb makes it sound like the book is all about the river-running expedition, when in fact it is about a) the things that made it possible for James Campbell to believe his daughter could make that trip, and b) the relationship of father and daughter at a crucial turning point in her life. And maybe I'll add a c: the book is also about the way a wilderness addict is born.

Maybe it's because I'm a parent whose kids are making the shift to adulthood and independence, but I was fascinated by the delicate dance of parenting and freedom that Campbell engages in with his daughter. When he--and she--finally reach the point where he can trust her completely to do the job at hand, it's a triumph for him as much as for her. It's also a point we all have to reach some time with our children. Campbell just had the opportunity to experience it in a concrete, I'm-trusting-you-with-our-lives kind of way. And that's cool. The biggest thing that bothered me was the way Aidan's mom got left out of the growing-up adventures, and the sense that Aidan bonded in a very mother-daughter way with Edna. I'm not sure I could have been gracious about that if it were my daughter.

The writing is solid, with a believable memoir feel (not over-written; some might say it's a little under-written). The audio is excellent, really capturing Campbell's feelings as he recalls the important or scary moments.

My Recommendation:

So this might be a book more for people who are already into the idea (at least) of living in the wilderness than for those just looking for an adventure tale. It's also for parents wondering how you let your kids grow up.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Braving It out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Middle Grade Fantasy: Granted, by John David Anderson


Title: Granted

Author: John David Anderson
Publisher: Walden Pond Press, 2018. 325 pages (hardback).
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, there is someone out there who hears it.

In a magical land called the Haven lives a young fairy named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. Ophelia is no ordinary fairy—she is a Granter: one of the select fairies whose job it is to venture out into the world and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day.

It’s the work of the Granters that generates the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do, and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of potential wishes gets granted.

Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today, Ophelia is going to get her very first wish-granting assignment.

And she’s about to discover that figuring out how to truly give someone what they want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.

My Review:  
This book has a lovely cover, and a story to match. Honestly, I'd have read it just for the pleasure of having a character named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. But the story is well worth it on it's own.

A co-worker recommended this to me in part because it reminded her of my own book, Halitor the Hero. Not the same story at all, but the books share a sort of gentle ironic humor, and a hero(ine) who tries perhaps too hard and keeps failing until the mission is accomplished. I loved the story, and felt that the tone was just right--a little funny, a little whimsical, and a whole lot adventurous.

My Recommendation:

This is a book that will probably delight readers from 7 or 8 on up. The writing is pretty accessible without being simplified, and the story is gentle enough for younger children to read and enjoy. And maybe we can all reclaim a little bit of magic!

FTC Disclosure: I checked Granted out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

#fi50 is coming!

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!
fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration. Bonus points for hitting 50 exactly.
That’s it! But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at or create your own Fi50 meme pic…
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

The June prompt is: 

Cutting it fine.

You can use the prompt as a title, or just as a spark, or a piece of the story, or ignore it completely. Really, there aren't many rules, other than 50 words or less.