Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Heidi’s Picks

December 31, 2013

I love to read domestic/family fiction, thrillers, horror, and biographies and really, anything that is contemporary and realistic. Here are my picks for my best reads in 2013 – books that were new to me, and made an impact on me in some way or another.

Watership Down by Richards Adams
Somehow I made it through 16+ years of schooling without reading this gem. To say it is The Iliad and The Odyssey of rabbits is reductive but largely correct.  The novel follows a group of rabbits on the perilous journey to find a safe, new warren in a perfect society in the Downs of England. There are human-like factions, battles, friendships and alliances transferred to the rabbit world.  An excellent tale in which you quite possibly recognize  all of your family,  friends,  co-workers and supervisors in the well-drawn characters. I will never look at rabbits the same way again.   Enjoy a full-length review of this title.

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
Sometimes we need a cozy read to remind us that the world is a good place. In A Week in Winter, the reader is welcomed to Stoneybridge, a tiny town on the western coast of Ireland where the cliffs are tall and the ocean is crashing. Meet Chicky Starr who buys an old stone mansion and turns it into an inn, renovating it with the help of bad boy Rigger and her business-savvy niece Orla. The first group of guests that stay at the inn – and their unique personalities and foibles – make up the plot of this nove. Characters were Ms. Binchy’s domain, and these characters are richly drawn and fully explored. The story line is not as strong as that in some of the author’s earlier works, but honestly it doesn’t matter – the characters make up for it.  Read my full review here.

Six Years by Harlan Coben
I am new to Harlan Coben, and as a suspense and thriller reader, I loved this novel. Jake Fisher is a slightly geeky political science professor at a rural, private college in Massachusetts. Six years ago he fell hard for Natalie, a young painter passing the summer at an artist retreat.  Jake and Natalie frolicked for a summer and then… BAM! Jake was jilted and jolted when Natalie suddenly married another guy and asked Jake to not contact her ever again. Jake upholds his end of the promise until six years go by, and he sees an obituary for Natalie’s husband Todd.  He attends Todd’s funeral in Georgia and gets the surprise of his life when Todd’s wife and widow is not Natalie.  Natalie was never married to Todd. But… wait! Jake attended the wedding, and saw with this own eyes Natalie marry Todd. So, what’s the story? Jake sets off on a semi-obsessive hunt for Natalie, and discovers that she never existed, at least on paper. No one seems to have any memory of Natalie.   The search becomes dangerous when Jake becomes the one who is hunted…but by whom – and why?  See my full review here.

The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik
Every American high school has a Kristi Casey.  A semi-sociopathic, popular, sexy woman-child who can get away with anything, with anyone.  Ole Bull High School (named after person, not an old animal) in suburban Minneapolis can barely contain Kristi, whose popularity shines like a twisted beacon. Who doesn’t love Kristi? Joe Andreson can’t get enough of her, although he has a love/lust/hate relationship with her that begins in high school and continues throughout his life. Landvik writes Joe convincingly, and his character is as solidly developed as that of Kristi, no small feat for a female author. Landvik develops her characters as do few authors, and her dialog? Funny, funny, funny.  I am a sucker for coming-of-age stories, and this one satisfied.  If you like this book, try her Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons if you want to laugh until you howl.  See my full-length post here.

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin
I am fascinated by man versus nature for some bizarre reason. Anyone who has read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series might remember one of the titles in the series is The Long Winter where the Ingalls family almost starved and froze to death on the Dakota prairie during a winter of such monumental snowfall that the trains could not run. The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is the non-fiction account of that infamous 1888 storm on the Dakota Prairie that left many people stranded – and dead.  Laskin’s ability as a storyteller keeps this book moving along at a brisk pace; what could have been deadly boring is alive with descriptions and characters. This is my book for a stormy day hunkered down with a cup of hot tea, paying homage to central heating. See my full-length post here.

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The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

February 18, 2013

Anyone who has read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series might remember one of the titles in the series is The Long Winter. The Ingalls family almost starved and froze to death on the Dakota prairie during a winter of such monumental snowfall that the trains could not run to bring in necessary supplies to a very dependent population of settlers.  Wilder writes of one particular storm that caught many settlers unaware and was particularly deadly. The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is the non-fiction account of that infamous 1888 storm on the Dakota Prairie that left many people stranded – and dead. Unseasonably warm weather in January allowed children to leave for school without coats, hats or mittens. During the school day, the storm struck, leaving the children and their teachers helpless. Those on the open prairie in the schools burned desks and chairs to stay alive; others left and met their fates by freezing solid in haystacks, or even surviving the night and dying the next morning upon getting to a warm shelter. Laskin’s ability as a storyteller keeps this book moving along at a brisk pace; what could have been deadly boring is alive with descriptions and characters. This is not only a book about disaster. It is a thoughtful analysis of the westward expansion, with the blizzard an apt metaphor for the brutal conditions and landscape that the settlers found in the Dakotas. You’ll learn about Dakota, the railroad, meteorology, and U.S. history in Laskin’s work. After reading it, I went back and reread Wilder’s The Long Winter with a greater appreciation of Wilder’s storytelling abilities.

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