Monday, October 20, 2014

Alaska Traveler, by Dana Stabenow

Alaska Traveler: Dispatches from America's Last Frontier

This is a collection of travel articles on Alaska, most of which Dana Stabenow wrote for her column in Alaska Magazine.  The articles are interesting and the content is pretty varied, from general travel tips and descriptions of glaciers to vignettes of life in the bush and accounts of local celebrations.  I learned a ton, and it inspired me to return to Alaska.  However, the style and structure can get a little samey if you try to read too many close together.  I recommend enjoying them in small doses.

And you can easily read them this way, because it's FREE on Amazon!

Some of my favorite articles:

Ch 4: “Alaska Travel Etiquette”—handy for tourists and culturally interesting.
Ch 12: “I Hear the Train A-Coming”—about the Hurricane Turn flagstop route on the Alaskan Railroad
Ch 16: “Thar She Blows”—about Sitka’s Whale Fest
Ch 17: “Dogs and Beans”—about the start of the Iditarod, from the point of view of normal residents of Anchorage
Ch 20-21: “In the Shadow of the Great One”—about Denali
Ch 24: “Carving History in Ketchikan”—about totems and other carvings by the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian
Ch 29: “Two Points, Big Team, Two Points”—about the basketball culture of small-town Alaska
Ch 38:  “Boardwalk Boogie”—about a music festival (and life) in the tiny community of Pelican.
Ch 46: “Some Say in Ice”—about an ice-carving festival

Ch 57: “Marine Pilots”—about the pilots who guide big ships into ports and such.

My overall rating:  FOUR STARS

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Czech Hikes--Troják to Jablůnka

Here are some pictures of my hike last week from Troják to Jablůnka, near Vsetín in the Czech Republic.

The Czech mountains in early fall, along the ridge from Trojak to Maruška
The new Maruška View Tower
Changing Leaves
One of many, many mushrooms
How much better can it get?
The trail headed down to Jablůnka

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Author Spotlight on Isis Sousa's "Stories of Duskland"

I have an author spotlight on Isis Sousa's blog.  Click here to read about Far-Knowing, "Chaos Rises," and Leaving Home

You can see Isis's artwork in her book, The Night of Elisa. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beka Cooper, by Tamora Pierce

This is the first Tamora Pierce book I've read.  While I enjoyed it overall, I did have a few issues.

1)  There are like 12 different made-up words for different types of people (mot, cove, doxie, gixie, spintry, rusher, cuddy, mumper, etc).  I constantly had to stop and translate or just ignore them, because I couldn't remember exactly what they meant, and I hadn't discovered the glossary in the back.  The ones like dog (for cop), puppy (new cop), rat (criminal) and birdie (informant) are great.  They're good imagery and easy to understand and lend nice flavor.  Even with the other words, I understand the style choice, and sort of admire it, I just didn't enjoy it.  Maybe if there were only 2-3 invented words for people...

2)  I liked and understood how the dogs (cops) worked, but I was REALLY fuzzy on who the "Rogue" was and what his place was in the hierarchy.  Something like a mob boss, I think, who holds the criminals to a sort of criminal code, and keeps things from getting too out of hand...but I was never really sure.  With all the explanation of other things, I think a little time could have been spent on this. 

3)  The journal format.  Just a personal preference, but I don't like novels in journal form.  Never have.  From reading reviews, I'm not alone.  It's just so hard to suspend my disbelief.  Beka's always talking about how dead tired she is after a long and eventful shift, yet she has time and energy to write pages and pages of diary, and it all sounds like a final draft, not the rough draft my own journal entries always are.  But again, this is just personal preference. 

4)  Length:  I think it could have been streamlined a little to cut out some of the repetition.

Things I LIKE:

1)  Beka's voice is great.  Very skillful writing.  With the exception of all the troublesome terms for people, most of the made-up words are completely understandable in context.

2)  I like Beka's character and her doggedness.  I also really like Tunstall and Goodwin and some of the other characters.

3)  Pounce.  Best cat ever.  Especially in one scene where he brings Kora and Aniki some cute gifts.

4)  I like the idea of the pigeons carrying the ghosts of the dead, and how Beka can hear them.  I do sort of wonder if someone with so powerful a gift should be risking her life daily on the streets.

5)  It's not a romance.  Romance is fine, but it's so refreshing to find a book that isn't.  Various characters do hop in bed, and there are other references to such behaviors, but the main character is more concerned with fighting crime than finding a man.

6)  The awesome world-building around the life of a dog (cop).

I will read more Tamora Pierce.

Tamara Pierce's Website
Beka Cooper on Amazon

Friday, October 3, 2014

White Fang, by Jack London

I'm currently obsessed by Alaska, yet I'd never read White Fang.  So I gave it a go.

I love this overall story:  being in the dog's head, getting to see cultures and lifestyles I've not personally experienced, watching big changes.  I also love the relationship between White Fang and Wheedon Scott.

I was, however, surprised by the amount of repetition in the novel, especially when London talks about White Fang's fighting style or the clay he's molded from.  I got it the first time.  Surely the second.  I didn't need to be beat about the head with it.  I also thought the ending felt a little tacked on, like it didn't really spring organically from the rest of the story.

I did enjoy it overall, and would have given it four stars with a bit more rigorous of editing.