Travel

Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air

Summary:

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for “Into Thin Air”, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This is a book that I had postponed reading because I have heard a lot of opinions from family and friends around me who are passionate fans of mountaineering.  If you look at the historical accounts, Krakauer is a little more contentious and I’m planning on reading Boukreev’s counterpart to the story soon.  (Note: I have heard his book is not quite as accessible to the casual reader.)  But this is all a side note, onto the review!

The things that is undeniable about Krakauer’s account is that it’s extremely compelling.  It’s fascinating storytelling and he does an amazing job introducing the topic of Everest with history, why people are drawn to the mountain and he himself ended up with the ill-fated climbers.  I was fascinated with the build up of the book just as much as the events that followed.  The tension portrayed through the final three days had me pausing to stop and take a walk around the room before going back to it.

One thing I found extremely annoying, however was the tendency to alternate between calling people by the last name and their first name.  It made it confusing when switching back and forth and meant that I made ample use of the first few pages that described each respective climbing party.  I would highly recommend reading this book, but if you enjoy it, also encourage you to check out some other accounts as well.

Warning: Contains repeated violence of people’s own choices as a side effect of dangerous climbing.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone with interest and enthusiasm into the type of climbing that happens on the top of the world.

Thin Ice

Thin Ice

Summary:

The world's premier climatologist, Lonnie Thompson has been risking his career and life on the highest and most remote ice caps along the equator, in search of clues to the history of climate change. His most innovative work has taken place on these mountain glaciers, where he collects ice cores that provide detailed information about climate history, reaching back 750,000 years. To gather significant data Thompson has spent more time in the death zone—the environment above eighteen thousand feet—than any man who has ever lived.

Scientist and expert climber Mark Bowen joined Thompson's crew on several expeditions; his exciting and brilliantly detailed narrative takes the reader deep inside retreating glaciers from China, across South America, and to Africa to unravel the mysteries of climate. Most important, we learn what Thompson's hard-won data reveals about global warming, the past, and the earth's probable future.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

Full disclosure I did NOT finish this book.  I really wanted to enjoy it, but just couldn’t quite get myself into it.  I kept picking it up, putting it down, picking it back up and trying again and then getting disinterested.  I found the climbing, the hurdles required when obtaining the cores and the overall techniques fascinating, but Bowen kept swapping gears.  We went from South America to the poles and then jumped into some general background.  I found the abrupt changes distracting whereas if the history had been woven into the story a bit more it may have been easier.

Despite those frustrations, the third of the book I did read was highly fascinating and taught me a lot on the techniques and approaches of the scientists in such extreme locations.  What’s particularly interesting is the combined athleticism with the scientific achievements the were able to achieve at high altitudes.

I readily admit that had I had less going on in life I might be more willing to sit down and focus, but at least for now, this is a book I’m abandoning that perhaps I will come back to it one day.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? Folks passionate about climate change and would like to know a little more about how historical accounts were/are studied.

Whispering in French

Whispering in French

Summary:

Award-winning romance author Sophia Nash makes her women’s fiction debut with a beautifully crafted, funny, and life-affirming story set in the Atlantic seaside region of France, as one woman returns to France to sell her family home and finds an unexpected chance to start over—perfect for fans of “Le Divorce” and “The Little Paris Bookshop”.

Home is the last place Kate expected to find herself…

As a child, Kate Hamilton was packed off each summer to her grandfather’s ivy-covered villa in southern France. That ancestral home, named Marthe Marie, is now crumbling, and it falls to Kate—regarded as the most responsible and practical member of her family—to return to the rugged, beautiful seaside region to confront her grandfather’s debts and convince him to sell.

Kate makes her living as a psychologist and life coach, but her own life is in as much disarray as Marthe Marie. Her marriage has ended, and she’s convinced that she has failed her teenaged daughter, Lily, in unforgiveable ways. While delving into colorful family history and the consequences of her own choices, Kate reluctantly agrees to provide coaching to Major Edward Soames, a British military officer suffering with post-traumatic stress. Breaking through his shell, and dealing with idiosyncratic locals intent on viewing her as an Americanized outsider, will give Kate new insight into who—and where—she wants to be. The answers will prove as surprising as the secrets that reside in the centuries-old villa.

Witty and sophisticated, rich in history and culture, Sophia Nash’s novel vividly evokes both its idyllic French setting and the universal themes of self-forgiveness and rebuilding in a story as touching as it is wise.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Please note: I received a free copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours and I voluntarily chose to write a review.

Review:

I really enjoy books where the character goes through a transformational change for the better and identifies ways to have a little contentment in their lives.  Kate is a mess, no way around that, and is holding things together by a thread.  As the sole voice of reason trying to get her family back on track, she finds it’s her family is who gets her back on track.

This book was evocative of the culture, region and weather of the area, which made the book deeper than a superficial book on a chick who become a better person.  Some of my favorite moments are between Kate and Edward where it’s a fight for the truth, and nothing but the truth, no matter how painful that may be.  I found the book had me thinking deeper than expected and would recommend this one to anyone.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Folks who like books with characters who go through transformational changes and find contentment in the process.

Palm Trees in the Snow

Palm Trees in the Snow

Summary: 

When Clarence of Rabaltué discovers a series of old letters from her father’s past, she begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about her once-noble family. Her father and his brother worked in the colony of Fernando Po, but these letters tell a different story than the tales of life in Africa that made it to the dinner table. Clarence has no idea what really went on during their time at the cocoa plantations—or why no one in her family has ever returned to the island in all the years since. But the letters suggest that a great love story is buried beneath the years of silence.

Setting out from her home in Spain’s snowy mountains, Clarence makes the same journey across the sea that her uncle and father traveled before her. There, she unlocks the painful secrets her family has hidden in the rich African soil. But what she discovers may also be the key to awakening her own listless heart. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a book that I was interested in to understand some of the colonial period for Spain.  Then, I was more interested in understanding who did what, and how the mystery aligned within the family.  Ultimately, however Gabas delivered so much more than a simple reveal, but instead a story infused with love, politics and the complex situations forced upon the family.  I loved that the great reveal ended up being much more complex than I was guessing and that we got a deep dive with both generations of the family.

One of the other things I really appreciated in the book is the unflinching perspectives about colonialism, race, dynamics on the island and where loyalties lie.  Often, it feels that retrospective views on situations are over-simplified and don’t do the country justice.  “Palm Trees in the Snow” gives an authentic view of why people would have conflicting views and, ultimately, created political turmoil for those caught in the middle of it.

Warning: Contains sexual content and violence.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Highly recommended! Anyone willing to dive into the complexities of multi-generational families and interacting with the colonial legacy.