"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea

by Gary Kinder

Can you possibly pass up a book with a name like that?!  I love it!  The English language is a beauty to behold, even at its simplest. 

This is a non-fiction work that is immensely interesting, intense and fascinating.  It tells two stories.  The first one is of the Central America, a ship that is sunk by a storm on its way to New York during the California Gold Rush, with 21 tons of gold on board.  It goes down 200 miles off shore and 2 miles below the surface. 

The second story is about Tommy Thompson, a visionary man who many think is crazy.  He is an adventurer, an inventor, and he is on a quest to find the ship and the gold, despite everyone telling him it is impossible.  When others say that a deep sea recovery of this nature is virtually unattainable, he spends a decade inventing ways to get there, and in the process changes the very nature of deep sea diving and what the world believes is possible in the depths of the ocean.  Towards the end, Thompson's adventure takes on quite an urgency as others begin to get close to what he has been working on for years.  I was on the edge of my seat and biting my nails, wondering if he would indeed win the race.

Yet amidst this all, the story of the people aboard the Central America and their ordeal on the ocean is time and again brought back to the forefront, so that the reader never forgets the harrowing journey that these people made and the great losses they suffered.  Both Thompson and Kinder do a wonderful job of honoring the ship, its crew, and its passengers for what they went through, helping the reader understand at what cost this gold was bought.

As Captain Jack Sparrow says, "Not all treasure is silver and gold, Mate."  This is one book that is a treasure in and of itself, so go on the greatest hunt ever and read it today.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


by Kenneth Oppel

Occasionally, in the midst of the heavy reading I usually gravitate towards, its refreshing to simply read a good adventure story.  Airborn is just such a book, about a young man who works on an airship and aspires to someday fly his own.  He meet a young lady on board and they have quite an adventure with pirates, a mysterious island, and an even more mysterious animal.  It is well-written, especially as it describes with inner workings of the airship and the crew on board.  I especially loved referring to the diagram of the airship to see where all the different areas are located.  It reminds me of an old book that my grandmother gave me about a little kid taking his first ride on a clipper ship.  I'll have to review that one soon! 

It is considered a Young Adult fiction, but is appropriate for all ages.  I thoroughly enjoyed the short escape from my much more boring (but no less important) reality.  The book won the Canada's Governor General's Award and is followed by a sequel called Skybreaker, which I will be picking up at the library soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cutting for Stone

by Abraham Verghese

This book is not for the faint of heart.  But it is full of heart, blood, bone and sinew.  I haven't even finished it yet, but I know its a good one.

You see, I started to read it a few weeks ago and was so excited to find out that my mother had never heard of it.  I knew she'd like it because its all about doctors and the medical profession, which is what she loves and does so well.  Shortly after I gave her the recommendation, we went on a trip to visit my sisters.  She hadn't found time to get a new book from the library, so I said she could start reading my copy.  We passed it back and forth all week, careful to mark each others spots, and then she graciously left me the copy to finish.  A few days later, I took her to lunch for her birthday and asked what she planned to do, or what she wanted.  She said it had been a stressful week and all she wanted to do was go home, lay on the couch and read all afternoon. So, I gave her the book back as a present.  She not only finished it in a few days, she is also now reading it aloud to my father, one of our long held family traditions. I wish I could be there and listen.  She said it was the best present she's gotten in a long time.

But, back to the book.  The story is about two boys who grow up in Ethiopia, born in mysterious and horrific circumstances to a nun who serves as a nurse at a small hospital outside of Addis Abba.  The presumed father, Dr. Thomas Stone, flees after their birth.  Political and family challenges separate many of the characters and then bring them back together.  It is a narrative about things broken, and things mended - body, soul and family.   

As I said, a book not for the faint of heart.  The political turmoil which the book is set within is full of violence.  The medical descriptions and procedures are outlined in graphic detail.  As my mother confirmed, medical personnel often are the most vulgar when referring to the human body and its processes, and this is not glossed over in the book.  But my mother said that it is one of the most profound books she has read recently and also one of the most honest in presenting what medical school, doctors, and jobs are really like.  She said it reminded her of early internships and her first jobs at the state mental hospital and some of the large hospitals.  So none of it bothered her.  The reason these things don't both me in this sort of book is because they fit the topic, they are necessary and even crucial to the story.  You know they are not just thrown in to shock or disturb the reader, just for the sake of shock value itself.

I am champing at the bit to get my book back because after only reading the first quarter of the book, I find myself often thinking of the characters and what will happen next.  If that's not a good indicator of an excellent read, then I don't know what is.