Book Review: Dolet

Author Florence Byham Weinburg has created a work of fiction based on the actual life of Etienne Dolet, a French scholar, translator and printer, filling in the gaps of the historical record as plausibly as possible. Dolet is a remarkable, thoroughly researched novel.

The novel begins in Toulouse, France with Dolet witnessing the horrific sight of his friend, charged with heresy, being burned at the stake.

Etienne Dolet, born 1509 in Orleans, France, educated under a series of scholars and later as a university law student, was known for his extensive Latin knowledge and writings. His witty and often cutting political remarks resulted in many enemies, though he also had powerful friends. He often suddenly left an area as a wanted man, or at least under grave suspicion. Often protected and financially supported by friends, he found employment using his extensive knowledge and oratory proficiency.

Dolet became a skilled printer, but his own books were criticized by the Catholic Church for their content. Dolet defends his position believing that his writing represented the true message of Christianity.

During his lifetime, Dolet spent a considerable amount of time in prison either defending himself against a trumped-up murder charge, which was actually self-defense, or because of suspicion by the French Inquisition that he was an atheist, charges made more serious because of his published books. Dolet stood fast on his efforts to reform abuses of the Church, not destroy her. He died a tragic death in 1546 on his 37th birthday.

Dolet is a fascinating read. Florence Byham Weinburg’s research is impressive as she follows the short life and times of this controversial figure. To learn more about the author, visit http://florenceweinberg.com/

Book Review: Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington

Dan A. Nelson’s practical hiking guide, Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington, includes necessary information to ensure satisfaction for dog owners and their dogs while enjoying hikes in Western Washington.

Although dogs aren’t allowed on national park or monument trails, there are plenty of wonderful hikes to enjoy in Western Washington. In this guidebook, Nelson describes 85 hikes, complete with quick references for distance round trip, difficulty on a scale of one to five, highest elevation point, elevation gain, best season, map, contact information and GPS coordinates, followed by detailed descriptions of the individual hikes.

In addition to specific destinations, at the beginning of the book Nelson goes into some detail about hiking with a dog in general, which I found particularly interesting. In the “Getting Ready” section, Nelson emphasizes the importance of good training, including use of a leash on the trail. Permits and regulations must be obeyed, not only for human and dog safety, but for the sake of the environment.

“Leave No Trace” is discussed in detail and encompasses much more than hauling your own garbage out. It means camp a distance away from a water source such as a lake or stream, not wash in the water, but collect water in a container and take it back to camp. Camp on hard ground so you won’t trample grass or fragile vegetation. Nelson gives many more examples of ways to keep the wilderness intact by leaving no trace.

The trail etiquette section was an eye-opener for me. For instance, when dog owners meet any other trail users, dog and owner must yield the right-of-way, stepping well clear of the trail to allow the other users to pass without worrying about “getting sniffed.” Another: When a dog meets a horse, the dog owner must yield the trail and ensure the dog remains calm. Also, stay within view so that the horse isn’t suddenly spooked when he sees the dog.

Another rule of etiquette I learned is that when hikers meet other hikers, the group heading uphill has the right-of-way. There are many more important points the author makes, points that make sense once the reasons are explained.

Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington is a valuable reference for hikers with dogs, or even without dogs. Dan Nelson is the author of several guidebooks, all published by The Mountaineer Books.

Two Memoirs by John W. Evans

John and Katie Evans were again living and working abroad, this time in Romania. They met while serving with the Peace Corps in Bangladesh from 2000 to 2002.

John, 29, a writer, and Katie, 30, who worked in Bucharest leading an educational effort on HIV/AIDS and family violence prevention, joined friends on a hike in the Carpathian Mountains on June 23, 2007. They had planned to stay in a hostel near Bucharest for the night, but upon arrival found there were no rooms available. Although it was nearing evening and darkness, they felt there would be time to hike to the next hostel, about a mile away. On the way, the group became separated. John ended up with the faster group, anxious to get to the hostel while rooms were still available. Katie, with the slower group, nursed a sore ankle.

When he approached a stream, John decided to wait for the slower group to help them across, telling the others to go ahead and secure their rooms. When Katie’s group didn’t come, he circled back, but at first couldn’t find them. He heard screaming and found Katie, pinned down by a large brown bear.

Young Widower is the tragic story of this horrendous event and the aftermath of dealing with overpowering grief. The story goes back in time to their earlier years, their families, and day-to-day lives, allowing the reader to know those involved. Evans’ description of coping with his great loss, plus the horrific memory of witnessing and hearing his wife’s final moments is deeply moving.

Young Widower is an extraordinary read, both poignant and revealing about the human spirit.

 

John W. Evans’ Should I Still Wish is a sequel to his first memoir, Young Widower. In the first book, Evans tells the horrific story of his wife Katie being mauled to death by a brown bear in Romania, and his subsequent grief, guilt and adjustment.

In Should I Still Wish Evans renews a friendship with Cait, whom he also met ten years earlier while serving with the Peace Corps in Bangladesh. The memoir begins one year after the violent death of his first wife.

John and Cait eventually marry and have three sons. The author uses dreams, memories, and second-person accounts akin to letters to his first son and to his deceased wife, to share his struggle through the various stages of grief and recovery. He writes of his desire to make peace with the natural world again, and to acknowledge life’s abundant joys.

Should I Still Wish is a moving story of second chances and daring to love again. Evans is an excellent writer who has a talent for describing intricate details of emotions and scenes. He teaches creative writing at Stanford University. To learn more about John W. Evans, visit https://johnwevans.com/author/

Book Review: The Blues

Hang on to your cowboy hat for this action-packed contemporary western novel by Susie Drougas.

When Attorney Dusty Rose accepts a wrongful death case, he’s excited that he can combine business with pleasure since the location of the incident is the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Oregon. Together with his private investigator, Mike, who also happens to be Dusty’s riding side-kick, they load up the horse trailer and drive from the greater Seattle area to where the death occurred.

The case involves a couple who had made arrangements with an outfitter to celebrate their anniversary by taking a picnic lunch to the peak of the Eagle Cap. From their base camp, they rode horses as far as they could, but then planned to hike the last 500 feet to the peak. During this stretch of the trip, the woman fell to her instant death. The widowed husband was now suing the outfitter for wrongful death.

On the way to meet the outfitter and investigate the scene, Dusty and Mike stop at a bar for dinner, the only place open at that time of night. They encounter a beautiful young woman, Stevie, and there is an instant attraction between her and Dusty. It’s a regrettable encounter because Dusty already has a wonderful woman in his life, a fellow lawyer, and he instantly regrets his lapse in good judgement. But the damage is done.

The next day Dusty and Mike talk to the outfitter and ride their horses, then hike, to the scene of the accident. Later, they talk to the widowed husband, but are puzzled by the conflicts and inconsistencies of the various stories.

The Blues, a name which refers to a location in the book, is rich in landscape descriptions and of wilderness horseback riding. As a real-life court reporter, the author also exhibits professional knowledge of legal procedures, which add significantly to the realism of the story.

The Blues is the fourth of the Dusty Rose Series. To learn more about the preceding novels and the author, visit http://www.susiedrougas.com/.

Book Review: Morning Glory

Author Sarah Jio takes her readers to a house boat community on Seattle’s Lake Union. Morning Glory was a fun novel for me as I vicariously revisited Lake Union houseboats and a part of Seattle I know so well.

Ada Santorini tries to find a new life after the tragic death of her husband and young daughter. She rents a furnished houseboat and discovers not only a new lifestyle, but an unsolved mystery that occurred a half-century earlier.

The story toggles in first-person accounts between Ada and a former resident of the houseboat, Penny Wentworth, the young wife of an established artist. Ada is intrigued when she discovers an old wooden chest left by Penny. The chest offers just enough clues to keep Ada on track to unravel the mystery of Penny’s disappearance.

Some residents on Boat Street remember Penny, but they are closed-mouth and avoid the subject when Ada asks. Ada and Penny’s stories come full-circle in a surprising revelation.

Sarah Jio is a best-selling author of several books and an acclaimed journalist of major magazines. For more information about the author, visit http://www.sarahjio.com/

Book Review: Finding Dorothy Scott

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Sarah Byrn Rickman has written a captivating, scholarly biography of Dorothy Faeth Scott, the 25th woman to join the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) in November, 1942. Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot is a masterpiece, written by an author who has made a years-long study of these fascinating women who gave so much to our country.

America was at war, in both Europe and the Pacific, and pilots were critically needed for combat. In order to free up the male pilots, civilian women were trained and called into service to deliver liaison and fighter planes from factory to training fields and embarkation bases throughout the continental United States.

Even before the war, many women showed interest in flying and some had even made a living as pilots. As a child, Dorothy had been fascinated with flying and was a regular visitor at the small airport near their hometown of Oroville, Washington. Dorothy Scott graduated from the University of Washington Pilot Training Program, and after joining WAFS had extensive additional training in the various planes being used in combat. Much to their chagrin, the women were only allowed to ferry planes within the United States and Canada, not overseas like their fellow male pilots.

WAFS’ life was not easy. They weren’t always well received and, although they followed military protocol, WAFS were still civilians. They didn’t have the advantages of male military pilots, such as riding back to their base aboard military transport after delivery. The American Red Cross played a significant role in assisting the women pilots with a meal and transportation to civilian airports so they could return to their home base.

In 1943 the name WAFS was changed to WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), which also broadened the scope of their duties. Many graduates of flight school served in different jobs around the country, such as instructors, in addition to ferrying planes. But the women were still considered civilians without the privileges or pay of military pilots. When their unit was disbanded in 1944, many WASP even had to pay their own bus fare home.

The driving forces in this biography are the letters Dorothy wrote to her family during her time of service, letters that surfaced in 2000. These letters give a sense of time, place and mood of the country during these war years. Through her letters, Dorothy’s strong, steady voice relates her struggles, victories and her love of family.

Finding Dorothy Scott is an intriguing study of the life and times of these exceptional women who filled a needed void during World War II. After a long struggle, the WASP were afforded Veteran status in 1977. The biography concludes with news of belated but much-welcomed recognition when, on July 1, 2009, President Obama signed into law a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The description of the ceremony and a joyous reunion serves as a satisfying ending to this extraordinary story.

Sarah Byrn Rickman is the author of five previous books about the WASP, the women who flew for the U.S. Army in WWII. To learn more about the author, visit http://sarahbyrnrickman.com

Book Review: Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

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Jass Richards has written a fun, lively collection of dog stories, tied together by Brett, a woman who’s had a hard time hanging on to traditional jobs. She already has two dogs, Kessie and Snookums, and she likes nothing better than to hang out with them. Why not make this interest an enterprise and get paid for something she loves?

Brett easily acquires four regular “customers,” Chum, Hunk, Little Miss, and Spunk, and they rotate their daily activities between going to the beach, dog park, field, or whatever else comes along. And plenty of other things come along.

Jacko won’t leave his property, Carson won’t come into the house, Rosie is a depressed former race dog. Biscuit refuses to go on walks, and Winner, a blue-and-grey Australian shepherd is an over-achieving herder. Amber is a distraught search-and-rescue dog, Toby’s a wall-flower unless he’s wearing his turtle costume. Cookie, a puppy-mill casualty, sees the light of day, probably for the first time in her life. Can Brett and the pack help Bo and his person compete in serious Frisbee competition? And can they help Nisha, a blind lab, swim again?

The author’s descriptions of the various breeds and their problems are poignant and heart-warming. As a dog lover, I enjoyed the stories in Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun and could relate to many of the situations. The main human character, Brett, is funny in a caustic, quirky sort of way, with a heart for dogs in need and a propensity for knowing how to have fun with them.

To learn more about the author, visit http://www.jassrichards.com/

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed

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Khaled Hosseini’s sweeping novel, And the Mountains Echoed, captivated me with its powerful prose and layered, complex plot.

Abdullah, ten, accompanies his father as they walk to Kabul, Afghanistan, pulling his four year-old sister, Pari, in a wagon. The father’s poverty necessitates selling his daughter to a childless wealthy couple, an arrangement made by their valet, the father’s brother. Abdullah is heart broken to lose his beloved little sister and hopes some day to be reunited with her.

The little girl’s new mother, vivacious Nila and much older father, Suleiman Wahdati, give their only child all the advantages money can buy. When Suleiman suffers a stroke, Nila takes her daughter to live in France.

Pari often feels there is something missing in her life, an emptiness, but can never quite grasp the mystery. War rages in Afghanistan; the Taliban and Russians play their part, but the story is about the people affected by war, by wrong choices, by their own humanness.

The story takes place over a 50-year period, beginning 1952. At times I was confused by a newly introduced character, but eventually realized its significance to the basic story of loss and separation.

I found the ending a revelation as Hosseini brings this complex tale to its conclusion. Hosseini’s characters are vivid, his descriptions of the various countrysides—Afghanistan, France, Greece, and the United States—and their cultural differences, realistic.

Book Review: Sticks, Stones & Songs: The Corey Story

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Eleanor Corey, the seventh child of ten children, has written a remarkable family history of the Corey family who lived on the Olympic Peninsula in rural Washington State.

Arthur Corey, a preacher, paid $28, the amount of over-due taxes, for an old drafty grange hall he converted into a home. The year was 1937, toward the end of the Depression, and times were tough. He moved his wife, Margaret, and three daughters into the old derelict building situated on rough acreage, and they did what they could to make it into a home, a home without insulated walls, or running water, and with an outside toilet where catalogs were used instead of toilet paper. Despite these hardships, it was a home of love and unbridled faith.

The story takes us through the pains of poverty in terms of money, such as subsisting on canned green beans three days in a row, but also on the richness of accomplishment through faith and hard work. Clothes were made from the material gleaned from missionary barrels, food often received as charity, tools fashioned from bits and pieces. Nevertheless, the Coreys were rich in their faith, in their love for one another, and in their music. Gradually their living conditions improved, the land became bountiful through the family’s grinding toil, most often accompanied by singing.

Through their hard work and dedication, the children became resourceful, leaders of their classes at school, involved in community musical activities, and generous with their time and talents. Their father’s powerful faith and their mother’s constant love and attention instilled in the family the lessons of sharing and serving.

Sticks, Stones & Songs: The Corey Story is an inspiring, well-written account scanning from a 1937 bare-bones beginning to a glorious 1979 family reunion that brought members scattered from six countries, many serving in humanitarian projects, and ending with a 2014 epilogue. I feel enriched having read about the Coreys and I highly recommend this heart-warming family history.

To learn more about the author, visit  http://www.eleanorcorey.com

Book Review: Becoming Clementine

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Jennifer Niven has written a third novel in her Velva Jean series, Becoming Clementine. As a WASP flyer during World War II, Velva Jean flies a B-17 Flying Fortress to Britain. After the delivery she volunteers to co-pilot a B-24 Liberator carrying special agents to their drop spot in Normandy, France. Besides wanting the experience of additional flying, Velva Jean has a personal mission to find her brother, a pilot who is missing in action.

The B-24 is shot down and only Velva Jean and five agents survive. Although she’s considered a nuisance, she tags along with the five, much to their agitation. Eventually she becomes one of them, a spy with the Resistance and is given the name Clementine Roux.

Clementine’s grit becomes a necessary ingredient to her survival as she encounters cruelty dealt by invading Germans. Clementine and the members of the team work toward their assigned goal to capture an operative known only as “Swan.” All the while she searches for her brother.

Although some of the situations are a bit far-fetched, I enjoyed this book. For one thing, I find the subject of the WASP’s (Women Airforce Service Pilots) of special interest. These brave women did our country a great service, but met with little appreciation and even sabotage by fellow male pilots. I also found the references to French resistance fascinating, and admire the courage and sacrifice required to regain their country from German occupation. Clementine spends some time in prison and, again, learning of those conditions reinforces the atrocities of war.

Despite the gim subject, I enjoyed the humor in Becoming Clementine and the main character’s spunk. It’s hard to imagine the hardships of war, the loss of life, the lack of basic necessities, and the hopelessness of regaining a normal life. Jennifer Niven does a good job of capturing war-time conditions.

To learn more about the author, visit http://www.jenniferniven.com/