The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw

The Hungry Ocean was published in 1999 and became a New York Times bestseller.  Recently I found it while looking for something totally different to read and I was not disappointed.  This riveting tale of a woman swordboat captain is the reason I love reading non-fiction.  Linda Greenlaw leads such a different life from me and any of my landlubber friends that I can’t imagine she lives on the same planet.  What an amazing story of a gutsy lady from Maine who spends her life on the ocean.

Linda Greenlaw is captain of the Hannah Boden, a sister ship of the Andrea Gail, a boat that was lost in the horrible storm of 1991 and portrayed in the movie The Perfect Storm. Captain Greenlaw is in command of five men who spend month-long trips fishing over 1000 miles off the northeast coast in the Grand Banks.  She has to fight weather, mechanical failures, close quarters with very little time for personal hygiene, disagreements, illness, and all the decisions of where to fish in order to bring home a full boatload that will pay their expenses.  The story of her personal experiences in how to run a complex operation is fascinating.

The Orphan Master’s Son

This political thriller by Adam Johnson deservedly gets starred reviews from BookList, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal. The Orphan Master’s Son takes place in modern-day North Korea. The book follows the life of Pak Jun Do, from an orphanage, to a tunnel soldier, kidnapper, hero, starving prisoner, and impersonator.  I had difficulty putting this book down even though I knew there were most likely horrors waiting around the corner. It was like watching a train wreck about to happen but being unable to take your eyes off of it. Reading about some of the physical and mental torture, starving people, and other brutalities inflicted on individuals was hard to stomach. To give a further sense of living under a dictatorship, the book is interspersed with narration by the national radio station that spouts propaganda all day long. As people are starving and living in constant fear, the national broadcasts paint a rosy picture of North Korea while portraying western nations as villainous. Some of the propaganda is so darkly funny that I would almost catch myself  laughing at its absurdity. And of course the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il is ever present, if not physically then always in thought. The reader gets a real sense of the fear that the North Korean constantly lives under, where one misspoken word from yourself, lie from another, or bad luck can spell doom for yourself and your family. Amidst all the tragedy, there are some very touching moments and the love story is truly heartwarming. Obviously, don’t pick up this book if you’re looking for a light, feel-good read, but if you want a book that is intense and thought provoking, that will keep you thinking long after you have finished reading it, put this on your to-read list for 2012.

Ruby’s Slippers

>by Leanna Ellis
Dottie and Abby’s Grandmother worked on set with Judy Garland in the making of The Wizard of Oz.  Dottie is happy keeping the family’s Kansas farm going, but Abby has her heart set on becoming a “star”. 

When Dottie suffers from a head injury during a tornado, Abby moves her to a nursing home in California.  With a bit of amnesia, Dottie takes awhile to realize that Abby is going to or has already sold the family farm. Then a pair of rubby slippers are left for her by her father, whom she hasn’t seen since childhood.  Sophie, one of the residents at the home, encourages Dottie to search for her father.  The two of them take off on an adventure with Sophie behind the wheel.  As they travel, they soon realize someone is after the shoes, which are believed to have been worn by Judy in the movie.  When Sophie’s son joins the group, there is trouble around every corner, but there is romance in the air.  Ruby’s Slippers by Leanna Ellis is a fun story of adventure and love.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Ahoy there, me hearties!  If life is ever feeling a bit hum-drum, you can count on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island to carry you away to a land of adventure with treasure, pirates, and mutiny included.  The story is about Jim Hawkins, whose mother’s boarding house connects him with a mysterious pirate.  This encounter leads him across the sea to follow a treasure map and seek unbelievable riches.

Stevenson dishes up adventure and suspense galore with this swashbuckling tale.  He had an uncanny ability to provide enough detail to make the story come alive without bogging the story down.  This classic can be experienced on DVD, audiobook, graphic novel, or as a good old-fashioned book

The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest

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Wildest Dream tells the story of George Mallory and his quest to climb Mt. Everest. In the early 1900′s, Mallory took part in three expeditions to attempt to summit the highest mountain in the world. On his third attempt in 1924, Mallory and his climbing partner Sandy Irvine both disappeared, their last known location only a few hundred meters from the summit. In 1999, mountaineer Conrad Anker and his team of climbers discovered the body of Mallory, with his personal effects remaining intact in his pack. The body was located where Mallory appeared to suffer a fall, broke a leg and froze to death. Irvine’s body has never been located. The only item missing from Mallory’s effects is a photograph of his wife, which he promised to leave on the summit of the mountain. Anker’s life becomes entwined with the legend of Mallory as he tries to re-create Mallory’s climb in order to see if it was possible that Mallory could have reached the summit. He and his partner Leo Houlding go to the extreme of removing a ladder installed in the 1970′s at the second step to the summit and free-climbing that portion of the mountain on the route that Mallory would have taken. This DVD alternates between original footage of Mallory’s expedition and following Anker’s harrowing climb up to the summit of Everest.The story is enhanced by readings from letters sent between Mallory and his wife Ruth. Was Mallory the first to summit Everest? The mystery may never be resolved, but this exciting DVD offers many insights into the psyche of mountaineers as well as into man and the legend that is George Mallory.

The Unconquered by Scott Wallace

>The Unconquered:In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes is an extraordinary tale of a journey into the most remote regions of the Amazon to locate a mysterious tribe–the flecherios–the Arrow People. Scott Wallace, on assignment for National Geographic, joins the 2002 expedition led by Sydney Possuelo, a leader in the National Indian Foundation of Brazil, whose goal is to protect uncontacted Indian tribes and to protect the large tract of unspoiled rainforest that has been set aside for the survival of these tribes. The trek is a grueling 3 month journey, often undertaken with insufficient food or clean water as they travel by boat, canoe and foot through the dense jungle, surrounded by dangers in the form of poisonous snakes and insects, caimans, piranhas, and deadly jaguars. Human dangers also face the men in the form of drug runners, illegal miners and loggers, and the elusive Arrow People, whose ability to shoot their arrows with deadly accuracy then vanish into the jungle strikes fear into all of the expedition members. Wallace describes the journey in fascinating detail, but besides telling a tale of adventure and exploration, he discusses the plight of indigenous tribes, both in the past and the present. The result of contact with people from the outside have usually resulted in the death and destruction of these isolated tribes. Possuelo’s approach is significantly different from contacts  with tribes throughout history, made with luring natives with beads, glass or knives and other tools. “[He] sought nothing, and in turn gave little. He was just passing through. He didn’t want locals to fret, didn’t want to uncover their secrets, didn’t want to know much of anything except to know that they were doing fine…What he offered was at once nothing and everything, something so huge and intangible that they’d never know he’d even given it to them–the chance to endure, to survive another day, to replicate their way of life, a way of life that had all but vanished from the rest of the planet”.

Wallace has written a profound and revealing portrait of the last great wilderness on earth and of the forces working both for and against it’s destruction. This is a thought-provoking look at our relationship with nature and our responsibility to allow these indigenous tribes to exist in their chosen manner and in their familiar environment without exploitation by the outside world.

The Man From Beijing

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by Henning Mankell

Swedish author Henning Mankell starts off this adventure with a furious ride! When a journalist arrives to photograph one of Sweden’s dwindling villages, he finds a mass murder has occurred and the bodies are still warm. Traumatized by fear that the murderer may still be in the village, he escapes the scene to find help. Alas, so strong was his fear that he succumbs to a heart attack causing him to swerve in front of a semi. With his last breath, he is able to utter the name of the village. When authorities investigate, they find the village that had consisted of 21 people, now filled with 19 corpses as well as their slaughtered pets. Who would do such a heinous crime and why?

When this horrific news is broadcast, Birgitta Roslin, one of Sweden’s Supreme Court judges, realizes she has seen the village somewhere before. Searching through he mother’s papers, she finds a photo of her mother’s childhood home that matches one of the homes on the news. Curious and wanting connection with her mother’s family she sets off to find out if it is indeed the home of her mother’s foster parents. She finds clues that she thinks are important, but the local authorities are not interested.

This journey will have you traveling across the world and back in time to solve the mystery. While the title gives a clue to the involvement of China, you’ll also make a track to mid 1860’s America, and also a side adventure to Africa. The perpetrator is known midway through the story, but the “what will he do next” will keep you reading. Have a fun ride while reading The Man from Beijing.

Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extrordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan

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A miniature schnauzer named Atticus M. Finch has climbed all48 of the four-thousand-foot mountains in New Hampshire several times.  Following Atticus most of the way has beenTom Ryan, a middle aged formerly overweight newspaper owner from Newburyport, Massachusetts.
  I was delighted toopen this book after seeing the cute cover of a winsome dog, Atticus, and begin reading a storythat warmed my soul.  Having recentlybeen on a fall foliage tour of New England anddiscovering the White Mountains of New Hampshire I was amazed to also havestayed in the quaint town that adopted Atticus. We stumbled onto it one rainy evening looking for a place to stay.  Our next day’s destination was Boston, but we were too tired to drive thatfar and fight city traffic.  The ClarkCurrier Bed and Breakfast will always be a highlight of our trip, as will Newburyport’s beautifulsea captain’s homes.  Tom shares storiesof the special people of this place but also the low-down nasty politics of asmall town.  He spends his days rubbingshoulders with everyone possible to find gossip for his underground newspaper,the Undertoad.
 When Tom finds alittle puppy to purchase and accompany him on his business excursions, Atticusopens doors all over town.  Who can resista well mannered little dog?  As Tom andAtticus begin spending time in the mountains, first with friends and family andthen more regularly on their own, he begins to find peace and contentmentmissing from his rough upbringing.  Thosewho enjoy the solitude of the outdoors and hiking will appreciate the way Tomwrites of his love for nature.  Those wholove animals will be amazed at the devotion and fortitude of this 20-pound spirited dog. Those who love books will be constantly touched by the lovelyreferences to great writers through quotes and poetry sprinkled throughout thestory.  Following Atticus: Forty-EightHigh Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship is truly abeautiful book you will want to share.

The Legend of Lady Ilena by Patricia Malone

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In sixth century Great Britain, fifteen-year-oldIlena feels set adrift after the death of her mother and father.  Since they had no family nearby and herfather trained her to be a warrior, she has always known that she was destinedfor something different than the other girls of their small village, but neverknew what.  Her father’s dying wordsdirect her east to Dun Alyn.  Her journeytakes her across the mountains and through many trials, making friends and enemiesalong the way.  Upon her arrival, she isgreeted as an evil spirit and thrown into a cage, but with the help of ahealing woman, a dwarf, and one of King Arthur’s knights she is able to findthe truth and save the day.  The Legend of Lady Ilena by Patricia Malone is an exciting story about a girl finding her strength and herdestiny in a world of upheaval.

Horatio Hornblower

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Take to the high seas with the British Navy and our brave hero Horatio Hornblower.  Based on the books by C.S. Forester, this film series created by A&E will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Join Horatio as he navigates the alliances and feuds among his fellow officers, faces the enemy, and rises through the ranks, all while being incredibly dashing and clever.  Full of adventure, this series is a rousing good time.

The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mt. Rainier

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The Ledge begins with a heartfelt and poignant letter from author Jim Davidson to his friend Mike Price, leaving no doubt that Davidson survived their fall into a crevasse but Price did not. This knowledge, however, does not detract from their engrossing story.

Davidson relates his interest in climbing from his beginning efforts in New England to his move to Colorado. He met and became climbing partners with Mike Price, describing the trust and reliance needed in order to be partners. There are fascinating details about climbing—the methodical checking and re-checking of equipment and routes, the mental mindset needed, the safety precautions taken and the unknown variables that can affect the most careful of climbers. Davidson describes in great detail the climb with Price to the summit of Mt. Rainier—both climbers had the experience, ability and mental strength to make the climb. After summiting and on the way down, a collapsing snow bridge causes a fall into a crevasse, where they land part way down on a small ledge. Price is killed in the fall, and Davidson must leave his friend and climb the 80 foot ice wall in order to survive. He meticulously describes his emotions, his precarious situation and the process of climbing out of the crevasse. Afterwards, Davidson’s struggle to cope with despair and survivors guilt is emotional and touching and his will to overcome the tragedy is impressive. This is not only a story of climbing, friendship and courage but of determination to overcome impossible odds in order to survive. The Ledge is an engrossing and inspirational adventure story.

The Daughter’s Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick

>Two women walking from Spokane, Washington to New York City, in 1896, seems a ridiculous task. Yet, that is exactly what Helga demanded of herself and her daughter, Clara. After all, the $10,000 payment would be worth anything they might have to go through, right? There were stipulations of course; they must walk within a certain amount of time, they couldn’t beg or take charity of any kind, they must wear the new shorter dresses, and they had to get important people to sign their document. Peace of cake, oh yeah! The trials along the way are daunting in and of themselves, but the life Clara leads after their return home is a whole different story. Read for yourself how Clara pulls through the journey, in The Daughter’s Walk, and how she deals with a life of separation from her family upon her return to Washington.

The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn

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In order to prove herself to her grandfather, Cordelia Blackburn, independent adventuress, agrees to search for the Mayan “Gift of the Jaguar.” Grandfather Blackburn, a rather grouchy old man, adds a twist to the deal at the last minute by insisting his arrogant and sarcastic butler, Hartford, accompany her to keep an eye on her. Of course, Hartford is not what he seems. Her headstrong determination to succeed combined with his pessimistic determination to survive the expedition with as little effort and injury as possible, create an explosive mix. With themes that are reminiscent of Romancing the Stone combined with a historical romance, the The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn is a delightful adventure.

Tales of An African Vet by Roy Aronson

>Dr. Aronson is a domestic animal veterinarian treating dogs, cats, hamsters, and monkeys at his practice in Cape Town, South Africa. But because of his expertise he is also called upon to help with wild animals in the bush, in zoos, and on game reserves. Each chapter is a new adventure as Dr. Aronson treats elephants, rhinoceros, cheetah, lions, crocodile, and many other African animals. It is fascinating to go on safari with Dr. Aronson as he endangers himself to treat these wild animals. Tales of an African Vet is entertaining as well as educational. Go on this safari for yourself and you will learn about the life of this veterinarian but even more about the land and animals of South Africa.

Tales of an African Vet by Ron Aronson

>Dr. Aronson is a domestic animal veterinarian treating dogs, cats, hamsters, and monkeys at his practice in Cape Town, South Africa. But because of his expertise he is also called upon to help with wild animals in the bush, in zoos, and on game reserves. Each chapter is a new adventure as Dr. Aronson treats elephants, rhinoceros, cheetah, lions, crocidile, and many other African animals. It is fascinating to go on safari with Dr. Aronson as he endangers himself to treat these wild animals. Tales of an African Vet is entertaining as well as educational. Go on this safari for yourself and you will learn about the life of this veterinarian but even more about the land and animals of South Africa.