Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck

Title: The Oregon Trail:  A New American Journey
Author: Rinker Buck
Read by: Rinker Buck
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 16.5 hours (14 CDs)
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Review Copy – Thank-you!

I have been obsessed with the Oregon Trail my entire life.  Besides playing the computer game back in the 80’s and early 90’s in computer class, I loved to read biographies of the early pioneers who blazed the pathway west.  I sadly have not seen the trail yet myself, but this book, The Oregon Trail, is the next best thing. Rinker Buck becomes interested in the real Oregon Trail during a trip and starts to research it.  The trail is two thousand miles long and spans six states; Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon   Raised with a spirit of adventure, Rinker Buck decides to become the first person to travel the entire original Oregon Trail in a hundred years in an authentic Schuttler Wagon pulled by three mules.  His brother Nick, a master team handler, and his dirty dog Olive Oyl also joins the adventure.

With the sign “See America Slowly” on the back of the wagon, the two have to face modern trials such as RVs trying to run them off the road, as well as problems that were also faced by the pioneers, traveling in the desert with no way to get help and having your water disappear in a fateful accident.  Rinker and Nick also face the problem of being two completely different people.  Rinker is fastidious, very organized, and clean, while Nick is dirty, a hands on mechanic, and a born story teller to any audience that will listen.  At first Rinker doesn’t want Nick along on the trip, but he soon realizes that he couldn’t complete the voyage without him and the two come to a better understanding of each other and the ghost of their father.

I also enjoyed how Rinker Buck included a vast amount of fascinating Oregon Trail history in this book and also included Narcissa Whitman’s story as the first white woman to cross the Rockies on the trail.  I loved to read about Narcissa Whitman when I was a child.  Buck included her entire story parsed throughout the book including ending at the settlement that Marcus and Narcissa Whitman founded and their mixed legacy.  I learned a lot of new items in this book such as the fact that it was mostly mules and oxen that pulled the wagons west.  I always thought it was horses and oxen.  There was also a great section on Cholera on the trail that I will be using in my water quality classes I’ll be teaching this fall.

I also enjoyed Rinker Buck’s personal story.  Having a father that took his sons on a wagon trip through New Jersey to Pennsylvania in the 1960’s was fascinating. His father left a mixed legacy with his children, but he instilled in all of his children an adventurous spirit which made this trip possible.

Rinker Buck narrated this audiobook himself and did a fantastic job.  I loved the fact that it was the author telling his own story and he did a great job adding voices to other characters such as his brother.

The only negative I had with this book was that since it is a Memoir, Rinker Buck was at times very opinionated.  While at times, it was funny, such as his descriptions of what he has decided is the typical RV owner, at others times, it was offensive, such as when he describes all religion as made-up.  Luckily these diatribes only happened a couple of times.

Part Memoir, part adventure story, and part history, The Oregon Trail is a book to be experienced.  I highly recommend it.  I’m ready to go on The Oregon Trail myself!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle Review and Giveaway!

Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England for nine days.  Named as the heir to the throne by her cousin King Edward, she was also included in the line of succession of King Henry VIII’s will behind his own children.  After Lady Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley were beheaded for treason, Lady Jane left behind two sisters, Lady Katherine, and Lady Mary who would also be pawns in the game for the throne of England.

Lady Katherine was married to Harry Herbert when she was 12 on the same day her sister Jane married Guildford Dudley.  Her marriage was annulled after her sister’s fall from Grace, but she has continued to love Harry from afar as she grows up.  She soon learns through life’s twists and turns that as someone so close to the throne, she is not allowed to love who she would like, but that her love life is a matter of state.

Lady Mary has a twisted spine and is tiny, but she has a heart of gold.  Petted and pawned over by Queen Mary, she and her family must hide their Protestant faith for fear that they will be condemned.  She must also hide her hatred for the Queen that ordered her sister’s execution.  After Elizabeth becomes Queen, Lady Mary is still a pawn that cannot find her own happiness.

Levina Teerling is an artist who paints the tiny portraits popular among the court set.  A friend of Frances Brandon Grey, Levina promises to watch over her daughters while at court.  As a woman Protestant artist, Levina has problems with trying to make sure her religion isn’t known as well as keeping the love of her husband George when he feels she spends too much time on the Grey girls.

I enjoyed this novel.  I liked the complex look on the every changing religious tides during these turbulent years and three different looks at how a woman could try to shape her own life to varying degrees of success.  I had never thought about Jane Grey’s sisters and what her execution would have meant to them.  Even more powerful was how being in line for the thrown of England meant that your life was not your own to decide.

Overall, Sisters of Treason is an intriguing look at the lives of three fascinating women during the Tudor era.  I highly recommend it.

Book Source:  Review Copy from Simon and Schuster – Thanks!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of  Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle courtesy of Simon and Schuster.  If you would like to win Sisters of Treason, please leave a comment on why it sounds interesting.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. 
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments. 
This contest is only open to US  residents (Sorry!). 
No P.O. Boxes. 
The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday September 11th!
Please make sure to check the week of the 14th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.
Good luck!

Winner of The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott!

The winner of The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott is Josh Cormier!  I've emailed Josh at the address he left on her post on this blog.  He has one week to respond with his mailing address.  If I don't hear from his within that time frame, a new winner will be selected.  Josh was chosen using random.org.  Congrats to Josh!

Thank-you for TLC for allowing me to be on this tour and post a review and giveaway.  Thank-you to the publisher Mira and author Jason Mott for allowing me to host this giveaway.  Thank-you to all who read the review and posted a comment!  This was a wonderful book that I'm still thinking about.

Sad that you didn't win?  Don't worry, I will be posting a review and giveaway of another excellent novel shortly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel is an alcoholic divorcee that takes the same commuter train to London to and from work each day.  She loves to watch one house in particular that is a neighbor of her own past home that she shared with her cheating husband.  She loves the couple who live in this house and has fondly called them Jason and Jess.  Rachel loves to imagine the perfect life of romance that they lead.  One day Rachel sees something shocking and feels that she needs to let them know about it.  When “Jess” goes missing on a night that Rachel has no memory of besides being in the neighborhood, Rachel tries to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

I was intrigued by the mystery and unreliable narrator of this novel.  Besides Rachel, her husband’s new wife Anna, and “Jess” are also narrators to try to put together the clues of what happened in this situation.  I didn’t really like any of the characters, but this isn’t a problem for me as long as the story is intriguing.  I enjoyed reading this one, but I guessed the ending about half way through so the ending wasn’t as shocking as it could have been.

Overall, The Girl on the Train is a good thriller, but with all of the hype, I was a little disappointed that I guessed what the ending would be.  It was still an entertaining book to read.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library – Thanks!