Monday, October 25, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Maud and Addie, by Maureen Buchanan Jones

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Title: Maud and Addie
Author: Maureen Buchanan Jones
Publication Info: May 2021 Fitzroy Books. Paperback is 240 pages.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb:
In 1910, the two sisters, eleven- and twelve-year-old Maud and Addie, are eagerly anticipating their Summer Social in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. However, the event does not quite go according to plan, and the two girls are swept out to sea as they are rowing home at the day’s end. They find themselves adrift in the unforgiving North Atlantic with only the contents of a picnic hamper to sustain them and a carriage blanket to keep them warm. Finding their way through stormy seas, the girls finally make landfall on a deserted island. With string and a jackknife recovered from Maud’s pockets and a parasol and novel contributed by Addie, the girls create a world for themselves among the island dunes, keeping company with sea birds and other sea creatures. Their ensuing adventures test their wits and, in the process, forge a bond that enables them to survive.
 
My Review:
This was kind of a fun read. It didn't quite read or feel genuine to the period (I couldn't ever put on a finger on why not, but it just felt more modern), but I don't think that will stop any kids from enjoying this tale of two very different sisters. The interactions between the two girls felt spot-on to me--they managed to work together where they had to, but that didn't stop all the normal bickering.
 
As for the plot, it holds together. Things maybe go just a little too well for the girls on their desert island, as though maybe the author hasn't done all that much camping, but it does work, for the most part. The conclusion held its own twists and turns, some more believable than others. 

My Recommendation:
Overall, I'd say this is a story that most middle-grade readers will enjoy, while adult readers may had a little more trouble with the willing suspension of disbelief. Best for ages 8 and up.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Maud and Addie from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange 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.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Friday, October 22, 2021

Photo Friday: The Golden Cathedral

In late September I did an overnight backpack trip in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to an amazing spot near the Escalante River. The Golden Cathedral is doable as a dayhike, but at 11+ miles, my companions (my son and a friend) and I decided we'd rather camp and have time to enjoy the spot. It was a great decision.

I kind of wish I'd gotten some photos of the "Egypt Road" on the way in, because it tested the limits of Prius ground-clearance. Imagine our surprise when we got to the trailhead and the only other car there was... yet another Prius. 

Our two Prii. The 3rd was parked on the other side of the trees.

In some ways, getting to the TH was the hardest part. Once there, we filled out a permit in the box provided, and headed out--down to the Escalante River.

You can kind of tell where the land changes. The river runs through a shallow canyon in front of the more rounded bits.

The river had flooded recently, leaving a lot of drying mud.

Datura blossom

 
We camped not too far from the river, and finished the hike to the Golden Cathedral with just cameras and water. There had been flooding here, too, reminding us to find a campsite above the highest water line.

Heading up Neon Canyon

First glimpse through a narrow passage to something cool.

The Golden Cathedral

We spent about 2 hours just hanging out, taking photos, watching the light change, and playing with the shadows and reflections. There was some discussion of how cool it would be to see the place in flood, if you could do it without dying. (Actually, it was clear that you could climb to safe places; you just couldn't leave until the water moved on.)


Reflections of the water on the ceiling. Note the photographer's shadow.

Second Son playing with the shadows and reflections.


Eventually the light left us, and we moseyed back to camp to have some dinner. In the morning we made an early start, to try to climb out of the river bottoms before the day heated up. We saw some flowers, to my surprise. You can also tell from the flower photos how much of the way we were slogging through sand!

Sand verbena

Some kind of sunflower


The final climb

 
Another long, slow drive back out the Egypt road to camp. More adventures the next day!


 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

#WEP--The Scream

WEP challenges are FREE and open to all.

On the 1st of the challenge month, there will be a get-your-thinking-caps on post. The badge will include the dates of the challenge and the winner’s prizes.

The InLinkz sign up will open on the third Wednesday and close 3 days later. It will contain no news, just the sign up. Participants link up with their DLs (Direct Links to their entry). 

Learn all about it here

 

My entry this time is based on an actual incident. Mom and my brothers will recognize it. My apologies to them for the non-trivial liberties I took with history and their personalities.

We are now also meant to provide a tag line for our stories, so here's mine:

What terrors lurk in the root cellar?

  

The Scream

The house we lived in that year wasn’t much. The wind blew in everywhere you could imagine a draft, and some places you couldn’t. The old enclosed porch we used as a root cellar was worse. It wasn’t just the wind that could get in through the chinks and cracks in that one. Though it stayed just enough above freezing not to spoil the potatoes, it was infested with everything from spiders to mice, maybe more. At least there weren’t any snakes in that part of the country.

By the end of October the porch was full of root veggies from the huge garden we’d maintained all summer, plus rows and rows of quart mason jars full of fruit—peaches, plums, applesauce, tomatoes. It was Mom’s pride, but none of us much cared for it when we had to go in there and dig out a bunch of spuds or parsnips. I especially hated going for parsnips, because I really couldn’t stand them so it was sort of doubly icky.

As a result, it was usually Mom who had to go rummage in the gunny sacks for the evening meal. We kids would make ourselves scarce, even though my brothers were older than me and supposed to be brave and tough and all that stuff teenaged boys claimed to be.

The night I’m talking about was Halloween, so we were all upstairs working on our costumes, even though we were too old for trick-or-treat. There was a party at the high school for everyone who wanted to come, and we had to have costumes. It was cold upstairs, but we were all working in our rooms to keep the costumes secret, for some reason I can’t remember now.

It was that time of year when dark came on early and took us all by surprise, and a gloomy afternoon was the worst. This one was rainy enough to make me glad I was too old to trick-or-treat, though the truth was we lived too far out in the sticks to make that work anyway. The previous fall, when we’d just moved in, I walked the mile up the road to the nearest neighbor, was given an apple, and walked back. That was it. No one else lived close enough to visit.

So this year I was pleased we’d be going to the high school, where I was sure they would have candy. My oldest brother would drive us in after dinner. He’d just gotten his license and was itchy to show it off, though carting the siblings around wasn’t what he had in mind. I could hear those pleasant kitchen noises that meant Mom was starting to fix dinner, though no good smells were rising yet. It didn’t much matter, since we were all saving up to stuff ourselves at the party.

The wind and rain beating on my windows was kind of creepy. It wasn’t really dark, but that super-spooky kind of dusky light, and I hadn’t turned on my lamp yet, so I could see out. I kept flinching from things flying by the window, but maybe that was because we’d been studying Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in art class. That was the teacher’s idea, to keep our interest when we just wanted to play with paints and clay. But I thought the screamer was dodging some kind of black ghost or something and for the moment blowing leaves made me jump.

I switched on the light, which kept me from seeing out, but might have made my jitters worse. I kept glancing at the windows, now blank black rectangles, and wondering what might be looking in. Honestly, I was kind of enjoying working my way up to a good case of the spooks.

Then Mom screamed.

It sounded just the way the one in the painting looks.

I nearly wet my pants. Mom never screams.

If Mom was screaming, it meant an unthinkable horror. With visions in my head of accidents with the kitchen knives, vampires, monsters, and the undead, I left my room at full speed.

My brothers, I’m glad to say, catapulted from their rooms just as fast. We narrowly avoided a pile-up at the top of the stairs and flew down in close formation.

As fast as we were, Mom had stopped screaming before we got there. It might have been a single scream. Cut off by the fangs of a vampire?

The door to that porch/root cellar was open and the very dim bulb inside glowed feebly. We raced for the spot, crowding around the door, too worried about Mom to be scared, though I kind of hung back and let the boys go first. After all, there were two of them, so Mom and Dad could spare one if the vampire got him.

Mom stood there, looking a little shame-faced, but shaken. While we watched, she pulled on Dad’s heavy work gloves—he wasn’t home—and reached into the nearest potato sack.

She glanced at us. Her voice was almost steady as she said, “Sorry to scare you. But… have you ever felt a furry potato?”

She pulled a dead rat from the bag.

I’d have run, but my knees had gone weak.

And those rotten boys were laughing.

###

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Audiobook Review: Beyond the Call, by Lee Trimble and Jeremy Dronfield

 Title details for Beyond the Call by Jeremy Dronfield - Wait list

Title: Beyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot's Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front
Author: Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield. Read by Donald Corren
Publication Info: Audible Audio, 2015. 11 hours. Hardcover 2015 by Berkley, 352 pages.
Source: Library digital resources
 
Publisher’s Blurb:
Near the end of World War II, thousands of Allied ex-POWs were abandoned to wander the war-torn Eastern Front, modern day Ukraine. With no food, shelter, or supplies, they were an army of dying men.

The Red Army had pushed the Nazis out of Russia. As they advanced across Poland, the prison camps of the Third Reich were discovered and liberated. In defiance of humanity, the freed Allied prisoners were discarded without aid. The Soviets viewed POWs as cowards, and regarded all refugees as potential spies or partisans.

The United States repeatedly offered to help recover their POWs, but were refused. With relations between the allies strained, a plan was conceived for an undercover rescue mission. In total secrecy, the OSS chose an obscure American air force detachment stationed at a Ukrainian airfield; it would provide the base and the cover for the operation. The man they picked to undertake it was veteran 8th Air Force bomber pilot Captain Robert Trimble.

With little covert training, already scarred by the trials of combat, Trimble took the mission. He would survive by wit, courage, and a determination to do some good in a terrible war. Alone he faced up to the terrifying Soviet secret police, saving hundreds of lives. At the same time he battled to come to terms with the trauma of war and find his own way home to his wife and child.

One ordinary man. One extraordinary mission. A thousand lives at stake.
This is the compelling, inspiring true story of an American hero who laid his life on the line to bring his fellow men home to safety and freedom.

My Review:
I enjoy finding books about bits of history I never heard about. This book delivered that in almost a larger dose than I wanted. It's mostly the story of one man's war--the part of the war he fought after he thought he was done, since Robert Trimble had completed his 35 bombing missions. But it's also about a much bigger issue, the question of how the US handled the USSR as the war wound down, and it's not always pretty.

Perhaps that's why I never heard more about this part of WWII in my school history classes, since I grew up in the Cold War and you'd think there'd have been a rush to tell us anything bad about the Soviet Union. But I never knew about how the Soviets treated POWs, released prisoners of the Nazi death camps, or other war refugees. Let's just say it was an eye-opener, especially how the US just walked away from a lot of our own people. I know political necessity made that inevitable, but this book tells what it looked like on the ground.

The book is well written. Lee Trimble was smart to partner with an experienced writer to tell his father's story, and the research they put into confirming Robert Trimble's story shows. Any incident they could not confirm, they make clear is based only on the elder Trimble's memory. In general, the narrative flows clearly, though at times I got confused as we jumped from one narrative line to another. Part of that is the nature of audio books, where everything relies on the listener's memory and attention.

The narration itself doesn't stand out in my mind at all--which means it was well done. In a book like this, especially, I'm all in favor of narrators who stay out of the way of the text.

My Recommendation:
A fascinating story and well worth a read, or a listen, especially for history fans.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Beyond the Call from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange 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.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Photo Saturday: Backpacking the Ansel Adams Wilderness

After more than two weeks of day-hike training and the shorter (but still rather stiff) Pine Creek backpack trip, we set off on the main event, a 4-night, many-lake loop near Mammoth, CA.

Day 1 was a 9-mile + hike up to Thousand Island Lake, along the High Trail, one of two trails that count as the Pacific Crest Trail north of Agnew Meadows.

Banner (right) and Ritter were the peaks that defined much of this trip, as we pivoted about them.

It was a long day, but we made 1000 Island Lake with enough energy to find a nice, tucked-away campsite. It's a very popular area, so we weren't far from neighbors, but we had our privacy.

Camp, with our almost-matching TarpTents.

There was lots of smoke in the air, which at least made for interesting light.


There was so much smoke that first night that we wondered if we should continue the trip, but as nothing could be done that night, we went to bed. It was much better in the morning.

First light, and a setting moon. Banner Peak on the left, Davis Mt. is the highest point on the right.

As the sun rose, the smoke did interesting things.

Following our well-established pattern, T. and I got up at the crack of dawn and spent 30-60 minutes taking photos. I always gave up first and returned to camp to get breakfast started, at which point C. would get up, having dodged the coldest part of the day!

By the time the sun was well up, we were ready to hike on to the next lake.

Day two was a short traverse over the ridge to Garnet Lake. Even taking our time in the morning and taking it easy on the way, we were there before lunch.

An early look at Garnet, dominated by Banner--and Ritter, now emerging from behind it's brother peak.

Garnet was a lot like Thousand Island Lake, only a bit less populated.

We had our moment of worry at Garnet, as we approached the lakeshore and found two large groups that had been horsepacked in spread through what looked at first like the only camp area. But knowing a lake that large would have more space, we went on to the next peninsula and camped in peace and solitude. Naps, reading, writing, and photography filled the hours to dark.
A smoke-tinted sunset

Sunrise was a little breezy, but clear. The lake was too rough for reflections, but the little tarns scattered around the peninsula were not.



Leaving Garnet

Day Three was a longer day, up and over to Shadow Creek, then up the creek to Ediza lake. We started early enough to beat the heat, which wasn't too bad anyway.

Gentian

Approaching Ediza

Ediza Lake. Campsites are all on the far side of the lake.

The backdrop for the lakes has now become the Minarets, rather than Banner and Ritter, though I believe we could still see Ritter off the north end of the lake basin.

 

Day four saw the division of our party, as C hiked out on the trail to return to Mammoth, while T and I took a scrambley route past Iceberg and Cecile Lakes to Minaret Lake.

Approaching Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake, just before the trail became a scramble up the talus slope.

Cecile Lake had its own stark beauty, but didn't look like anyplace you'd want to camp.

The author picking our campsite at Minaret Lake

The descent to Minaret Lake was a bit steep.

Minaret gave us our best sunrise, with perfect views, light, calm water for reflections, and of course the spectacular Minarets.

Evening and morning.




After that, the only thing left to do was to hike out...

And enjoy a good meal in town!


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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