Saturday, October 24, 2009

War! What is it good for?

I was born in 1959. My father served in the US Navy from 1948 to 1958, missing World War 2. My father-in-law just barely caught the end of WW2, serving in the Navy on the west coast, mostly, to hear him tell it, in the function of processing discharges at the end of the war. My grandfather was born in 1902 and so was a bit too young for WWI and then too old for WW2 (although that certainly would not have been true in any other major combatant country, which goes to illustrate just how fortunate the United States has been during these world wars).

My point being that I have no direct experience, nor do I have any close family that has had any direct experience of war as described by Rulka Langer in her book The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt. Ms. Langer was a Polish citizen, wealthy and talented enough to have been educated in the US at Vassar, that lived in Warsaw during the German invasion in 1939. Her husband was on assignment at the time in the US, so she was raising her two school age children, and living with her mother. She was very fortunate (and wise) to take the opportunity that having a husband working in the US gave her and escaped the city about 6 months after the Germans took over. Her story describes the events leading up to and during the seige and subsequent takeover. Bravery, determination, courage and a good measure of luck, were the determining factors on who survived those 6 months (the winter following the invasion was one of the harshest on record) and who didn't.

Being twice removed (through time and distance) it is hard to imagine an ordeal like that. Yet many places in the world are currently embroiled in similar circumstances. Afghanistan comes to mind. I sometimes wonder that we, as a people and a culture, perhaps have lost something important by NOT having had to face and overcome such horrific events. That we've perhaps lost some of our resilience and certainly some appreciation for the good things we have.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt

What a great title! Just received an advanced reading copy of the 2nd edition and can't wait to dive right in (no pun intended). Pictured on the left is the modern cover, and on the right is the original cover, published in 1942, which I love.

The story itself centers on a young Polish career woman and mother in Warsaw during the first two years of the war. It has been acclaimed by many as a marvelous memoir from a civilian who was there.

I'll say more after I've read it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

And Away We Go...

After six months or so of messing about with re-reading old favorites and slowly reading a few new books by favorite authors, I think I'm back in the groove. Of course it's just in time for back-to-school preparation (teaching TWO new classes... AP Biology which requires a ton of prep work, and Zoology). None-the-less, I hope to get my blog up and going again and start racking up some reviews and new material.

Also, it's just in time for the 2009 Gateway nominee pre-reader reviews, which I will be bringing you in early August. All in all I'm a bit pumped about some of the stuff I'm reading and getting ready to read.

So to start off: you all know I love apocalyptic stuff and I came across this sweet gem mentioned or reviewed somewhere... Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler. I picked it up B&N earlier this week and received a strange look from the lady who helped me find it on the shelf... but I'm unapologetic when it comes to AF. I also grabbed Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse ed. by John Joseph Adams (website here).

Working my way through The Coyote Road ed. by Terri Windling & Ellen Datlow, and really liking it. Some of the stories are exceptional, and even the ones I don't like I have no trouble finishing. More when I finish.

Completed books in the last 4 weeks or so:

Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling; reread
Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Skeleton Canyon by J.A. Jance
Divine Justice by David Baldacci
Pride Runs Deep & Sink the Shigure by R. Cameron Cooke

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

AP Biology

I get to teach a new class (new to me and to Poplar Bluff High School at least) called Advanced Placement Biology. Students taking this class have an option to take a test in May 2010. If they pass the test they will receive 3 hours of college credit for biology accepted nearly every college in the country.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Scout Camp Take 1

I attended Camp Geiger (north of St. Joseph, Missouri) as a boy scout from 1970-1973. My son crossed from cub scouts to boy scouts this last March. Soooo, even though we now live in SE Missouri, the boy and I went to Camp Geiger with his troop. And had a great time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wrapping up 2008

Nothing like a 5 month delay in wrapping up a year :-). I finished up 2008 having read 104 books, so I achieved my goal of 100 books in a year. I then took about a 3 month break, just doing some light reading (magazines and short stuff) and re-reading some favorites. Some of the highlights from the last quarter of '08 were:

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Montserrat; a classic WWII sea story, I enjoyed this book very much, having an interest in both WWII and naval fiction.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, soon to be made into a movie (and here). This may be a modern classic (whatever that means). Max Brooks has written a gem here, that I've reread once already, had several high school students read with positive reviews, and generally seen nothing but praise anywhere about it. I eagerly await the movie.