Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review

Dear Mad'm Decides to Move to the Wilderness


Dear Mad'm is the name by which many readers know Stella Walthall Patterson who wrote a memoir with that title.  She did something I'd be afraid to do. Her Arcata friends and family were ready to retire her to a rocking chair and wait on her when she  turned eighty. But a doctor had told her she had "young legs." She wanted to see how far they could still take her. She preferred a life of adventure to a life of ease.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Photo by get directly down, Flickr, modified. CC 2.0


By the time she was eighty, Stella Walthall Patterson had lived a full life. Born in Stockton California on October 14, 1866, and orphaned at seven, by the age of sixteen she had graduated from Mills Seminary (later Mills College). She had published her first story in the Oakland Tribune when she was only fourteen. Later she studied in Paris and became proficient in art and music.

Her first husband was Judge Augustus Belcher. She lived with him in San Francisco, socializing with other writers, including Jack London and Ambrose Bierce. The 1906 earthquake and the fire that followed prompted her to leave that area. She had lost everything.

Judge Belcher liked to hunt in the Trinity mountains, and he sometimes hired James Patterson, a rancher in Willow Creek, to act as his guide. Thus, he had occasion to meet Stella.  In 1907, Stella surprised all her friends by marrying Jim Patterson and moving to his Hawkins Bar Ranch in Willow Creek. During the years in Willow Creek, the couple adopted two children -- Ralph and Thelma.

By the time Stella was eighty, she was separated, but not divorced, from Jim Patterson. At the time this book begins, Stella was living in San Francisco again. Not long before her eightieth birthday, while visiting with friends based in Arcata, she injured her leg. After her X-rays in the hospital, the Sister in charge told her she had "young legs."

 She had lived an active and busy life. She had traveled to Europe and mingled with the cultured people of San Francisco. After marrying Patterson she was a rancher's wife, and the couple also had some contact with miners.

The day before her eightieth birthday, as she sat at her friend's house recuperating with her leg propped up, she still felt young. She didn't want to stick around, "waiting to be carried out feet first" when she could still be enjoying new adventures. She wanted freedom to do as she pleased.

 She decided to go live in an old mining cabin she had bought two years earlier as part of a placer mining claim. It had no modern conveniences. She imagined that in the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains overlooking the Klamath river she would have solitude and the space to live as she pleased with no human interference. She decided to go for it. She packed her bags, took leave of her friends, and took a bus to Willow Creek. From there she planned to take a mail stage to her cabin. It was 1946. She had promised herself to stay there a year.


Getting to the Wilderness Cabin


The mail stage driver Tom left Stella and all she'd brought with her at the foot of the fifty-foot trail that led UP to her cabin. Evening was rapidly falling. She was exhausted. She pondered the mound of luggage and boxes that somehow had to get up the steep trail to her cabin. She writes:

I had been feeling young and gay all day. Now I felt as old as Methuselah. There was work ahead and no one but me to do it. 

She lugged her belongings up to the edge of her property. Her mind was filled with doubt. She asked herself what she was doing "sitting on a box in the Klamath National Forest far from electric lights, plumbing, inner-spring mattresses" and everything else she had in San Francisco. She contemplated how she would get her things up the trail and into the cabin. She decided to take only what  she needed for the night in one load and come for the rest in the morning. Once inside she took a jar to fill outside at her water barrel. She could feel the scary darkness all around. She recalls:

The feeling of being alone on that vast mountainside, no neighbor within hailing distance, was working on my nerves. I might scream, yell, shout. None to hear. Just an echo from the bluffs cross the river to answer me. 

After taking every safety precaution she could think of, including putting a chair against the door and loading it with pots and pans that would clatter if moved, she crawled into her bed and fell asleep.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Klamath River Photo courtesy of Tony Webster on Flickr, CC 2.0 License


Meeting the Neighbors


Life in the primitive cabin (actually a shack) did not quite offer the solitude Stella hoped for. First, she did have neighbors closer than she thought They were the "boys" she had hired to take care of her mine assessment work. She called them Dearsir and Up'nUp. You'll need to read the book to find out why. They just called her Dear Mad'm. The names stuck.

Very early that first morning she heard a knock on the door. She was still barefooted with her hair down. The door opened and Dearsir announced he and his partner had brought her luggage up to the cabin. She learned they had moved about half a mile up the mountain to Bent Pine Cabin. She offered them coffee and then realized that wasn't enough. She didn't have much, but she fed them bread, butter, and all her strawberry jam with it. She did manage to grab one slice herself. The men invited her to come along with them to shop at the grocery in Happy Camp in a couple of days.

Another neighbor was the eccentric Frenchy. He roamed the trails with a book in one hand an a bulb of garlic in the other. He always offered a helping hand when needed.

One day sixteen-year-old Milly came to call from across the river. She wanted to be very proper, but she was very lonely. Once Stella discovered her stilted Victorian speech came from Emily Post, she encouraged her to just be herself. They became great friends.

Occasionally Up'nUp's wife Nora, who lived in Yreka, came to visit and stayed with her.

Later Stella would meet the men's chickens, goats, and English shepherd dog Vicki. She would also meet their mule Pete "the friendliest mule" DearSir ever met. That had not been Stella's first impression.

But Stella's most dangerous neighbors were  her wild ones -- a cougar and a rattlesnake. By the time she met them "the boys" had given her their dog Vicki to be her companion and protector. She turned out to be both.


Peace and Adventure

Photo by Miguel Vieira, Flickr, modified. CC 2.0

One of Stella's first projects was to plant a flower garden. She didn't think she'd be successful with vegetables, but she had always wanted a flower garden. In fact, when she had shopped for her trip she had bought more seeds and bulbs than food. Although the gardening work was difficult, it motivated her, as it does every gardener, to envision the blooming color her labor would bring forth in a few weeks or months.

At the end of the first full day in the cabin she had her first adventure. She came face to face with an escaped billy goat at her door. But the "boys," to whom the goats belonged, quickly caught up with them, took them away, and promised to bring her goat milk in the morning. She didn't like goat milk. Of course, she'd never tried it.

She then puzzled over a way to deal with the rats who lived just between her ceiling and her roof. Her method met with less than success until Frenchy came up with an answer a bit later.

It wasn't long before Stella finally met Pete. Their relationship got off to a rather bad start. It's quite a humorous scene, but you'll have to read it to fully appreciate it. For now we'll just say that first encounter almost made enemies of them forever. That animosity didn't help much when she later had to help trim his hooves.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Mule, courtesy of  Pixabay


One day the "boys" came by in the morning to tell Dear Mad'm they were leaving on a trip to Arcada and leaving Vicki with her for protection and company. Vicki was a permanent gift even though the men would return in a few days. She turned out to be a very valuable gift.

That night there was a terrible thunderstorm. Both Stella and Vicki were frightened to death of the storm that might fell the tree above the cabin. Vicki hid under the bed. Somehow, though, they got through the storm without damage and no trees crashed down on them.

Dear Mad'm had another adventure when the men took her to see her claim. It was up a very steep trail -- too steep for her to climb -- so they dangled her on a rope between them. They let her walk back down with an occasional lift where needed.

She did have a few quiet days of birdwatching and relaxing, but one day while she was in her garden with her nose to the ground she heard heard the whirring sound of a rattlesnake. Vicki sounded an alarm, and I'll let you read the book to see how it ended. Their encounter with the cougar that had been raiding the men's goats was also very tense. The men couldn't believe how she'd solved that problem.

But something even topped that. A storm came up when the group of friends were on the way back from Happy Camp one night. It sent rocks crashing down on the narrow mountain road as Dearsir drove the jalopy around the curves. You'll be on the edge of your seat reading that chapter.

Not long after that night Up'nUp's very pregnant wife Nora came to visit two weeks before her due date and stayed a bit too long. Never a dull moment!

You can purchase Dear Mad'm here. 

Never Too Old to Be Needed


As you can see, Stella's expected year of solitude didn't go quite as planned. But she certainly did have adventures on those "young legs" of hers. Near the end of the year in her cabin she had committed herself to, there were many changes in their mountain "neighborhood." Stella had just about decided those changes would make her continued presence unnecessary because no one would need her there anymore. But another big event persuaded her to stay several more years. The book explains what happened to change her mind.

Dear Mad'm moved to a travel trailer in Redding, California, in autumn, 1955, near Thelma, and died on December 23, at the age of 89. She is buried in Redding. She died just before her book was published, so she never got to see it. Stella Patterson's writing sparkles. Her book is also sprinkled with delightful and comical line drawings by Alice Harvey, who was an illustrator and cartoonist for the New Yorker. 

In the years since her death Dear Mad'm has had so many fans wanting to know what happened to her after her book ended that one of her relatives wrote a sequel to try to answer the questions. That book is Dear Mad'm: Who Was She? I'm hoping to read it soon. I just discovered it.

If you are interested in active aging, nature, animals, wilderness living, placer mining, or neighbors bonding and helping each other like family, don't miss this book. It will make you laugh and it will give you moments of heart-stopping suspense. It will show you you're never too old to have adventures when you're young at heart. 




The biographical information that was not in the book came from these sources:

Related Book Reviews You May Enjoy

  • Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review : This historical Christian novel follows two Norwegian brothers who emigrated from Norway to America with their wives and children in 1880. They wanted to homestead in the Dakota territory
  • Driving Miss Norma Book Review: When faced with months of draining medical procedures for treatment of what is expected to be terminal uterine cancer, Miss Norma chooses not to undergo surgery, radiation, and chemo. She decides to live out her life outside the confines of a hospital and accepts an invitation from her son Tim and his wife to take to the road with them in their RV. It is this coming together that will completely transform all of their lives.
  • Can't Wait to Get to Heaven Book Review: The whole Can't Wait to Get to Heaven adventure started when the elderly widow Elner had just wanted pick a few figs to make some preserves "for that nice woman who had brought her a basket of tomatoes." She didn't know about the wasp nest in the fig tree and the adventures that would follow in her brief trip to Heaven. 









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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review
Another trip! This time my armchair travels took me to colonial Kenya, Africa via Paula McLain's historical biography Circling the Sun. Set in the 1920s, it is totally engaging, a fictional account of the real Beryl Markham's life. Beryl lived in what is now known as settler-era Africa. She was definitely a woman before her time and her story is very interesting. 

It starts in England but is mostly set in Kenya where Beryl's mother abandons her with her father. Beryl embraces the local African culture and in the long run becomes a record-setting aviator. That is, after a a life spent conquering the male-dominated equestrian world and loving a man she could never have.

Do I Recommend Circling the Sun?


I do. I highly recommend Circling the Sun if you enjoy historical fiction and are intrigued with the idea of visiting Africa. This book sheds light on the life of a woman and a country that we have not heard much about.
I thought it was an enjoyable read but New York Times' writer Alexandra Fuller found it a bit fluffy. However, in her review she agrees that "the settlers who used Kenya as their hapless playground did so at catastrophic expense to those who called Kenya home long before the whites arrived." It is an interesting peek into the history of Africa.

As Julie McDowall said when she reviewed the book for the Independent, it it is filled with "vigorous, swift, and spangled with spectacular imagery." I came away wanting to visit Africa though of course I wanted to visit that country before I read this book. I also agree with McDowall when she said the story quickens near the end and that not enough time is spent on the one thing Beryl is famed for, her flying. If you want to read this book for the aviation, prepare to be disappointed.

The Boston Globe said, "McLain will keep you from eating, sleeping, or checking your e-mail — though you might put these pages down just long enough to order airplane tickets to Nairobi."  Exactly.

Circling the Sun follows Paula McLain's hugely successful novel The Paris Wife, which I can also highly recommend. That book is set in jazz age Paris and follows the life of Ernest Hemingway and his second wife.

Are you intrigued by the idea of visiting Africa? Will you visit via McLain's book? You can find Circling the Sun on Amazon by following this link.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Circling the Sun on Amazon.




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Monday, May 7, 2018

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS, A Book Review (1988)

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS Book ReviewI have just returned from a trip around the world. A few of the more exotic countries that I visited were Thailand, Maylaysia, Bonaire, Ireland, England, Tanzania, Jamaica, New Guinea and Pakistan. On these travels, I climbed mountains, swam in the seas and slept with fleas. I mingled with elephants, felt the breath of gorillas on my face and swam among the sharks. I travelled off the beaten path and in some very rough conditions.

This trip was another armchair travels trip that I took via Michael Crichton's nonfiction book, Travels. It was a book club book that I recommended to the group. Fortunately, most of the group enjoyed the book more than I did.

I did enjoy parts of the book though I expected something different than I received from within the pages of the covers. It turned out that the title Travels was a little more general than I took it to be. It was meant to encompass Crichton's life adventures, which included literal travel but also spiritual adventures and medical training.

eNotes.com called Travels a "patchwork of pieces salvaged from a writer’s bottom drawer" and that is certainly how I felt about the book and why I was not keen on it. It does a good job of sharing Crichton's experiences individually but I would have appreciated it more if it had flowed as a single story rather than a series of short stories. In terms of writings, I suppose one might consider it a journal or diary of sorts.

On Crichton's website, it says that the book started as a series of travel pieces though he never intended to write about his travels thinking of them as just "something he did for himself that wasn’t work-related and wasn’t supposed to amount to anything." I understand how an author would not always want to chronicle everything in his life. Anyway, when Crichton discovered that some of his most important experiences happened on his trips this book was born and, when the book became autobiographical, he added the medical stories.

I am sure you have heard of Michael Crichton. He was a very successful novelist, screenwriter and film director. It is interesting that he wrote and sold books while he was studying to become a medical doctor though perhaps odd that he made it through the entire training program before he decided he did not actually want to be a doctor. In his 66 years, he wrote eleven books and more than 200 million copies of them have been sold in the science fiction, thriller and medical genres. In 1994, he had an unbelievable trifecta that included a number one movie, a book and a television show. Namely, Jurassic Park, Disclosure and ER. I am sure you will have heard of a couple of those, too.

Do I recommend Travels?

I guess so, reservedly. I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a page turner or an engaging novel. This book is as I have said before, a group of stories.

If you like to travel, you might enjoy the unusual destinations in this book whether or not you would choose them yourself. If you do not travel, you might enjoy visiting these places via the pages of a book.

Whether or not you believe in psychic phenomenons like aura reading, spoon bending, out-of-body trips and exorcism, you might enjoy learning about them and the various experiences Crichton had in the metaphysical world.

If you are interested in the human body or in being a medical doctor, you might appreciate the first chapters more than I did. If you red the book, you will discover how medical students are assigned cadavers and what follows.

But do not let my lukewarm recommendation be the deciding factor about whether or not you read this book for I have read many reviews by people who really enjoyed it and the majority of my book club members found Crichton's adventures interesting.

Reviewer Patricia Bosworth said in a 1988 New York Times book review, "I was ultimately swept away (by this book), not just by Crichton's richly informed mind, but his driving curiosity. Satisfying your curiosity takes guts."

Shangri-La anyone? The Shangri-La Michael Crichton visited is not the one you might have in your mind's eye. I thought of Shangri-La as an earthly paradise of sorts. Apparently the version I was picturing comes from a 1933 book called Lost Horizon. The real Shangri-La, as experienced in Travels, is quite different from that pleasant image in my mind and a good example of the unusual destinations in this book.

You can learn more about Michael Crichton's Travels on Amazon by clicking right here. If you do read the book, be sure to come back and let us know what you think of it. You might also let us know what your perception of Shangri-La was before you read this post.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Travels from amazon.
More armchair travel book reviews.
Travel with these movies.








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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Paths of Glory Book Review

Jeffrey Archer Paths of Glory Book Review
My first Jeffrey Archer novel, Paths of Glory, came highly recommended recently by my husband.  I asked him for a good book to read and he presented me with five or six choices from his own collection and this is the one that I chose. 

Interestingly, this book recommendation came as I was working my way through my next book club assignment, Travels by Michael Crichton, which also includes a great deal of adventure travel and mountain climbing. Unfortunately, I was struggling with Travels, which though interesting is less of a novel and more of a series of short stories, so I set it aside and picked up Paths of Glory.

Paths of Glory turned out to be a real page turner. Set in the early 1900s in England and on various mountains, it details the life of George Mallory who was born to climb. From the youngest age, he climbed everything that he possibly could including a few things that he should not and it was also at a young age that he set his sights on conquering Mount Everest, an obsession that he lived with throughout his life and that eventually would cost him his life.

The story is a novel but is based on the true story of Mallory's life and his two loves, his wife Ruth and Mount Everest. A period drama, it is interesting and intriguing and of interest to even those of us who have no aspirations to climb a mountain.

George Mallory was a smart student though perhaps not studious. He studied history, served in World War 1 and eventually became a school teacher though he never gave up his obsession with mountain climbing. He was born in 1886 and lived until 1924 when he perished on Mount Everest.  It is still unclear whether he actually accomplished his goal and made it to the top and therefore, whether it is he or Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first to conquer Mount Everest. According to Wikipedia, this book was  or is somewhat controversial because of the fact that it challenges who conquered Mount Everest first and because of some factual errors.

Here's a short video clip of author Jeffrey Archer discussing the book:


I believe that Paths of Glory is a great read for anyone who likes a well done adventure story. A mystery story. A period drama. For world travellers who like adventure or for armchair travellers, who just like to read of adventures set in other parts of the world.

Yes, Paths of Glory is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.  You can order your copy of the book in various formats from Amazon here.  I think the book begs to be made into a movie. However, according to Life Spectator, this book was being turned into a movie until another movie called Everest emerged and this one was shelved.

Have you read Paths of Glory? Are you interested? Would you like to climb a mountain or maybe you already have?

See you at the 
top of the mountain!
(Well, maybe not but
definitely at the book store.)

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Order your copy of Paths of Glory from Amazon.








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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dan Brown ORIGIN Book Review

I was intrigued when I read in Dan Brown’s newest book Origin that the book includes only “Art, architecture, locations, science and religious organisations that are real.” I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the heart of Italy with Dan Brown in Inferno and then with my husband in real life and one day I hope to visit Brown’s Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid and Seville in person after having enjoyed my visit with him in this novel.

I’m not quite sure why I picked up Origin but it was at least in part because of the memories and discussions that my entire family had after we all read the first two books in the series, Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I know that not all of the books in the series were quite as well received by my family and I have to admit to wondering how many times poor Robert Langdon could be called out to save the day.

Well, as it turns out, at least one more time. In this, the latest book, we are armchair travellers to Spain where Langdon is solving a murder mystery and focuses on the origin of man. It involves the art work, symbols, architecture, locations and religions of Spain. This time, the debate includes some interesting familiar and unfamiliar high-level technology and even a super computer. You will find yourself wondering is that really true and find yourself thankful for Brown’s statement that everything in the book is real.

Origin is the first Dan Brown book to feature modern art since Robert Langdon is not much of a fan of that genre and it focuses on the work of Joan Miró. I recommend googling her to have a feeling for her artwork. It really is different from the masters that Langdon normally prefers.  The book also features literary references to William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche, authors whom I was not particularly knowledgeable of.

The effort required to put this book together with real details and facts is mind boggling. Apparently, Brown employs a team of fact checkers to make sure he is accurately presenting all of that history and science.

Is Origin recommended?


Yes, Origin is recommended by me. Is it highly recommended? I am undecided. I found the novel a bit heavier on religion than I care for and I can honestly say I have never thought about where I came from or where I am going to in such depth. Of course, thinking about our creation and destiny is not necessarily a bad thing.

I was, however, totally fascinated by the high-tech science in this book that includes quantum computing, artificial intelligence in the form of a thinking computer and a self-driving Tesla Model X. The conspiracy website is a nice link between our current online world and the book.

Barcelona Super Computing Center exterior

Barcelona Super Computing Center Interior
Barcelona Super Computing Center
Finally, I liked the glimpse into Spain. Yes, there is really a super computer built inside the walls of a church in Barcelona in this book and the pictures shown here are from the website of the real Barcelona Super Computer Center.

I expect that if you enjoyed Angels & Demons and the Da Vinci Code, you will likely enjoy Origin.

Origin was published on October 3, 2017 and was number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in that same month and it remains on that list in the number eight position as I write this post in February, 2018. It is also currently number 2 on Amazon’s bestseller list of the top 20 most sold and read books of the week. Is there a movie? Not yet but maybe.

The New York Times finds fault and praise for the book but concludes: ”…for all their high-minded philosophizing, these books’ geeky humor remains a big part of their appeal. Not for nothing does Kirsch’s Tesla have a license plate frame reading: “THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.” Brown continues to do everything in his playful power to ensure that will happen.”

Here's an exciting peek at Dan Brown, his books, and Origin. Warning: It will make you want to go to Spain with me.


Origin is fun. Don’t take it too seriously. You can find it here on Amazon. If you decide to read it, be sure to come back and let us know what you think. If you have already done so, have you figured out where we come from and where we are going and, more on point, would you recommend this book to your friends and family?

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

ORDER OF DAN BROWN’S ROBERT LANGDON BOOKS:

Angels & Demons (2000)
The Da Vinci Code (2003)
The Lost Symbol (2009)
Inferno (2013)
Origin (2017)

QUICK LINKS:

Buy Origin on Amazon.
Check out Dan Brown's author page on Amazon.
Read my review of Inferno.






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Monday, February 19, 2018

The Guilty Book Review

In The Guilty, David Baldacci takes you on a non-stop, action packed adventure in Cantrell, Mississippi.

When a top ranked government assassin is unable to perform his job, he heads home to deal with unresolved issues from his past and winds up embroiled in his father's murder investigation.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that he has been estranged from his father for 20 years. Talking to his father is no easier now than it was when he was a lad and his father's life being on the line does not seem to make a difference. His father wants no help from his son and is resigned to his own personal situation.

Robie, however, refuses to let his father take the murder charge without fighting back. His efforts, combined with those of an equally skilled coworker, to save his dad eventually help him start a proper relationship with his father. Better late than never, as they say. It turns out that his book is about murder and about family.

I was amazed at the action that took place in the first half of the book, which meant that there was lots more still to come. It was fast paced and hard to put down.

Yes, The Guilty is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. Read more about it or order your copy from Amazon by clicking right here.

As it turns out, The Guilty is number four in a series called Will Robie and David Baldacci has written many other books, which I look forward to checking out. It is always great to find a new author that you enjoy and if all of Baldacci's books are as good as this one, I will have some more sleep deprived nights ahead.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Order The Guilty from Amazon here.
See David Baldacci's author biography on Amazon.




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Monday, March 20, 2017

Is Elvis Alive? Losing Graceland Book Review


Losing Graceland: What Would Elvis Be Like If He Were Alive?


For the life of me, I cannot explain exactly why I read Losing Graceland: A Novel. I know why I picked it up - in part because it is a fictional story about what Elvis might be like if he had faked his death and was still alive and in part because I have always been interested in Elvis Presley.

Of course, you cannot and probably should not judge a book by the cover and in this case sandwiched between the two covers was some content that I was not comfortable with. That's your warning. This book has sexual content that might make you uncomfortable. It did me. And did I mention violence? There is some of that, too.

But still, I read it right through to the end. Something compelled me to keep reading. I wanted to know what would happen to the aging Elvis impersonator (who might really be Elvis) and the young man he hired to help him find his granddaughter. The adventures were entertaining. Along the road there was a fight with biker gangs (and befriend them), a visit with an oracle and a battle to save a hooker from her pimp.

At first glance, this book is a light read but it also deals with two interesting lives: that of an old man whose body is unwell, who has an addiction to pain killers and who lives with an incredible legacy and that of a young man who is heart broken and unemployed.

Reviews of this book are a mixed bag with most people saying they enjoyed reading it. Take one old man with a lifetime of regrets, add a young man with his future before him and what do you have? An emotional story, perhaps a bit too short. If you're a fan of Elvis, the consensus of the reviews is that this is an enjoyable lightweight fictional story. It will make you think about what Elvis Presley might be like today if he were still alive.

Click here to order your copy of Losing Graceland: A Novel from Amazon.

What would Elvis Presley be like if he were alive?


I want to close by telling you about a scene in this book when Elvis takes the stage at an impersonator contest and the crowd really goes wild just as though they were seeing the real Elvis.  A lady faints. A young mother hardly knows her child needs her. Another woman screams that she cannot breathe. Two men have a fist fight. A young girl vomits. Hands grope on stage for Elvis. The crowd screams. The announcer begs people to be calm. Elvis leaves the stage and says to his travelling companions, "Heartbreaker still breaking hearts. You like my show?" I did like your show, Elvis, and I will admit, you gave me goosebumps.

If Elvis was still alive, he would be 82 today. I think that it would be interesting if he were still alive, although not so much if he was in the condition of the impersonator in Losing Graceland. I cannot help but wonder what it must have been like to have seen Elvis Presley in person. What was it like to be Elvis Presley? And finally, what would he be like today if he were still alive?

What do you think Elvis Presley would have done with the rest of his life if he had lived past the age of 42?

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Elvis Presley Reading


The Best Elvis Presley Movies
Elvis Presley starred in 31 movies and 2 concert documentary films all of which were released in movie theatres. On this page, we celebrate the three of the films that are considered his best...

Elvis Presley Christmas Duets
In 2008, long after his death, Elvis Presley released this album, Elvis Presley Christmas Duets on which he could be heard singing Christmas songs with some of today's top female vocalists. Learn more...

The Elvis Presley Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich ...
Understandably, residents of Tennessee feel a sense of pride when they think of their home state. There are many iconic things that have come out of Tennessee: the Vols, Kenny Chesney, the 1982 World's Fair, and the Elvis Sandwich...

Copyright 2011 Treasures By Brenda


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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review

The Wedding that Wasn't


We meet Kate Evans, protagonist of Touching the Clouds, on the day that was supposed to be her wedding day. A week before, she had told Richard, the man she was to marry, that she feels a need to move to Alaska to become a bush pilot. Richard is hurt and not ready to give up on marrying her. Her parents don't completely understand, either, and it's hard for Kate to explain. She likes Richard a lot. She doesn't enjoy hurting him. She just doesn't think she loves him enough to marry him.

Kate wants to get away from all that reminds her of the awful day she "killed" her best friend Alison. Kate was seventeen then. She had talked her friend into flying with her in her father's plane. The weather had been fine, with clear skies, when they started out. But when they got to Rimrock Lake it was foggy. She didn't turn back even though she knew she should. They had crashed into the lake, which sucked the plane down into the icy waters. For seven years Kate has blamed herself for Alison's death and is sure everyone else in town blames her, too. She want to go where  no one knows about the accident.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Image in Public Domain Edited with Text from Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon.
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Right after the accident, she was afraid to fly again, but her dad, an excellent pilot who had taught her to fly, helped her to get back in a plane and resume flying once again. Now she is 25 and wants to do something she believes matters -- something more than just getting married and having babies. Her mother warns that she can't let her past rule her present.  She replies,

As long as I stay here, everything is about the past. I need to start over in a place where I can prove myself, a place where I'm free to live without shadows of that horrible day dogging me.
Now, as she's about to get into her Bellanca Pacemaker and head for Alaska, she leans against her father Bill -- the one who taught her to fly and has always understood her. Her feelings are mixed as she prepares to leave her parents and the apple farm in Yakima. The angry roar of Richard's truck as he left moments ago, after one last attempt to keep her home, still sticks in her mind. She wonders if she will regret her decision.

She climbs into the plane. Her father cranked it for her, she pulled on her helmet, and checked the gauges one last time, and took off. The year was 1935.

A New Life in Alaska


Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Chugach Mountains Near Anchorage from the Air,
Courtesy of Frank Kovalchek, CC 2.0 


When Kate landed in Anchorage, she spent the first night in a hotel she could not really afford. The next day she applied for a job at the local mercantile. She knew she probably wouldn't get a job as a pilot right away and meanwhile she would need to support herself.

When Albert Towns, the owner of the store, interviewed her, she admitted she really wanted to be a bush pilot, but recognized that probably would take some time. Albert and his wife Helen were OK with that, saying that if she found work as a pilot, she could work part-time around her flying hours. The couple also said she could stay in a room at the back of the store. The arrangement worked well for all of them. They became close friends.

One of the first customers Kate helped in the store was Paul Anderson, who lived in Bear Creek in a rather isolated cabin. He came to town a couple of times a year to stock up on supplies. He had come from San Francisco but no one knew much about why he came to Alaska. The reader learns his wife back home, Susan, had died. No one knew how he had earned his living in California. In Bear Creek he was trapping animals for their meat and fur.

The reader can sense that Paul finds Kate fascinating, and Kate admits to herself he is handsome and intriguing. One wonders if this is the beginning of a possible new romance.

When Paul learns that Kate wants to work as a pilot, he suggests she try the new airfield at Lake Spenard. She had already tried Merrill Field with no success. They didn't need any more pilots. Kate applies at Lake Spenard. Although the interview was tough, Sidney Schaefer tests her in the air, and hires her part-time for a mail run. The current pilot filling in for the mail run, Mike Conlin, was to train her the next Monday.

Kate Begins Taking Passengers

This is the terrain of  the Chugach Mountains Kate flew over near Anchorage. 



Kate soon got used to the mail run, and looked forward to giving people their mail, especially Paul and his neighbors -- Patrick and his wife Sassy and their daughter Lily. Paul felt uncomfortable with Lily because he knew Patrick and Sassy wanted him to marry her and he didn't want to. Sassy was always sending Lily over with food, or to help. Paul was polite, but he didn't want to encourage her.

Paul was fighting his attraction to Kate because he didn't want to give his heart away again.  Falling in love would make him vulnerable to hurt again. He knew Kate's work as a pilot was dangerous, and he could lose her, just as he'd lost his wife.

Kate proved herself capable on the mail run, and Sidney began to let her carry passengers. Her first opportunity was a rescue flight to check on hikers at McKinley Park who should have gotten in before the sun went down. She was called in  early morning to go search for them. She found them just before her fuel got low enough to necessitate turning back. That made her more sure than ever that she would not return to Washington and Richard, who was still writing and begging her to come back. She knew she belonged in Alaska, flying as a bush pilot, fulfilling her dreams.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Photo of Mt. McKinley Courtesy of  Pixabay


Kate got to play Santa Claus before Christmas. She flew to Kotzebue,  549 air miles northwest of Anchorage, to bring Christmas packages to that small town. She had made friends with the owner of the airfield Joe Turchick and his native wife Nena on her first visit. She had arrived on Halloween and Nena invited her to go trick or treating with her and her children. Since then she'd stayed overnight with them on her trips there. It was like her home away from home in Kotzebue.

Nena was afraid to fly. After the Christmas  trip, though, she asks if Kate will take her to visit her sister in Candle, who is about to have a baby. She overcomes her fear when she sees how beautiful it is to look down at the scenery. She decides she actually likes to fly.

Flying Wasn't All Fun


Most of Kate's trips were uneventful, but some passengers put her and everyone else on the plane at risk. It's hard to handle drunk hunters bigger than you are and fly a plane at the same time, especially when the drunkest one opens the door in the back of the plane . One woman lied about about how far her pregnancy had advanced and actually gave birth in the plane. Kate knew nothing about bringing babies into the world, but she had to find a place to land and deliver the baby.

Kate had many close calls. On one occasion she left on a mercy flight with a nurse to pick up a miner in Hatcher Pass who had fallen, was seriously injured, and needed to get to a hospital.  The weather conditions were so bad that Jack, the other pilot there on call refused to go and called Kate a fool for going.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Hatcher Pass Photo Courtesy of Dootsle20, CC 2.0


Kate wound up agreeing with him when after flying in the fog she discovered she was off course. Her compass was malfunctioning. She had to find a safe place to land and wait for the fog to clear. Meanwhile, everyone at home was worried. Unfortunately, when the fog cleared they found that the miner had died. None of the pilots could afford radios in their planes, so when  pilots had trouble, there was no way to contact anyone to report their locations.

After each close call, Mike, who was getting to be a close friend, comforted Kate. His interest in her was obvious. Paul's reaction to Kate's close calls was to withdraw.  One of Kate's fellow pilots, one of the best, crashed and did not survive. The loss hit Kate and the other pilots hard.

Nena finally made it to Anchorage. She had a wonderful time. As Kate was taking her back home to Kotzebue, they passed Mt. Susitna, also known as the "sleeping lady." Kate veered from the flight plan a little to give Nena a closer look. That's when Nena smelled something, and Kate saw a drop of oil on her windshield. Memories of Rimrock Lake came rushing back. Below is a photo of Mt. Susitna from Cook Inlet, the location Kate was flying over when this happened. You will have to read the book to find out what happens next.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
BySanchom - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0aption, CC 3.0

A Decision to Make

The first decision, the one Kate had already made, was to stay in Alaska and fly. She had learned that she did not want to live an ordinary life. She had told Richard she would not be coming back to him. She knew he would not want to live in Alaska.

Kate had been dating Mike, her fellow pilot. He was protective of her and a good friend, but she did not think she was in love with him. She was eager to know Paul better, but although he sometimes seemed attracted to her, he would  keep withdrawing. They had some great experiences together, but then he would avoid her again. She knew she was attracted to him.

She is pretty sure Mike wants to marry her. He has given her plenty of hints, but she just isn't ready.  She knows she needs to decide soon, because she doesn't want to lead him on if she knows it won't work.

 Recommendation

I found it hard to put his book down. The characters were well-developed, and   every one of them was necessary to the plot. I appreciated that I had time to get to know them in small batches instead of having too many being introduced at the beginning and having to try to keep them straight. I enjoyed learning more about Alaska and aviation in 1935.

I enjoyed getting to know Kate. She is the sort of person you can imagine having as a friend. She is brave, kind, and stubborn. She is willing to take risks, and sometimes takes foolish risks that land her in trouble. 

The characters are realistic and complex. Kate and Paul individually have guilt and fear to overcome in order to become whole again. Kate trusts in God. Paul has given up on God. Even minor characters, such as the drunk hunters, and the pregnant woman come alive through Bonnie Leon's words. So do the other pilots, Jack and Frank.

One of the mysteries in the book is Paul. No one knows why he came to Alaska. No one knows much about him.  Patrick knows his wife died.  Paul eventually also shares that information with Kate under duress.The author gives the reader enough clues to get close figuring out who he really is.

The author is very good at foreshadowing what will happen without really telling the reader. An alert reader is able to pick up the clues and be on the alert for what will follow. 

I would recommend this Christian novel to anyone who likes adventure stories, aviation, strong women, Alaska, and/or a touch of romance. I am anxious to read the rest of the series. I hope I've been able to interest you in these books, too. I would suggest you get the set so you can just keep reading after you finish Touching the Clouds. I don't  think you will want to stop. Just click below if you want to buy them. 


Here's one last photo that's designed to Pinterest specifications if you'd like to pin it.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review




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