Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Moveable Barrier

These moveable barriers have fascinated me for awhile. I used to wonder what magic let the traffic change from one direction to another in a lane. Here's how:

And here's how they installed the moveable barrier:

Just in case you're still with me, here's a view from the zipper truck:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Botanical Surprise

This is one of my two Sansevieria plants.

It's the smaller of the two and resulted when the larger plant started to annoy me by growing leaves that stuck out at odd angles (see that little devil poking out front?). That's when I reacted by dividing up the "mother" plant and sticking some of its parts into a smaller pot, pictured above.

You may have noticed that tiny flower on the right? I spotted it today when I decided to move the plant to a brighter place in the house. At first, I thought it was a weed, but no! It's a Sansevieria flower!

When I inspected more closely, I found another one on the other side.

What's interesting is that these two plants, mother and daughter (no flowers on mom, by the way) have been stuck in a dark corner of the dining room for the past 3 months, the darkest part of the year and have rarely been watered, so neglected have they been. Maybe that's the lesson to learn. Neglect your Sansevieria and it will thrive! 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Lightkeeper's Daughters

The Lightkeeper's Daughters

The Lightkeeper's Daughters
Jean E. Pendziwol

Jean E. Pendziwol is a Canadian author of several award-winning kids' books. The Lightkeeper's Daughters is her debut novel for adults. As a resident of Northern Canada, Pendziwol is knowledgeable about Lake Superior and its history and geography in the Thunder Bay area, the setting for this well-researched novel. 

The story itself is fairly complicated but Pendziwol unwinds it adeptly yet at a pace that keeps the reader engaged. Here is a concise summary of the novel from the author's website:

Elizabeth's eyes have failed. She can no longer read the books she loves or see the paintings that move her spirit, but her mind remains sharp and music fills the vacancy left by her blindness. When her father's journals are discovered
after an accident, she enlists the assistance of a delinquent teenager, Morgan, who is completing community service at the retirement home where Elizabeth lives, and together they read the musty books. An unlikely relationship develops between the two women as they are drawn into the word of the Porphyry Island light-keeper penned more than 70 years ago. In the process, they discover they are both connected to the isolated island, their lives touched by Elizabeth's enigmatic twin sister Emily and the beautiful but harsh Lake Superior environment. But for Elizabeth, the faded pages of her father's journals hold more secrets than she anticipates and threaten the very core of who she is.

Like so many modern novels, the tale is told in two voices, one reflecting on the past, the other coping with the present. This blending of past and present is skillfully done and the complicated web of the storyline is expertly unravelled.

The characters of the novel are well-developed, with authentic voices, largely sympathetic to one another, helping the reader to both understand and relate. 

I really enjoyed the descriptions of the great Lake Superior in its many moods and how the lives of those living nearby can be impacted. It's good to remind ourselves too that shipping on the Great Lakes was and is an important part of our country's heritage and economy. As a landlubber, I often take such things for granted, giving little thought to the risks involved.

I really enjoyed reading The Lightkeeper's Daughters. I hope that Jean E. Pendziwol is able to get plenty of recognition for this excellent novel and that she will continue to write many more.

If you'd like a little taste of the audio version of the novel, click here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Boat Runner

The Boat Runner

The Boat Runner
Devin Murphy

Devin Murphy is a Chicago-based writer and assistant professor of creative writing of Dutch heritage which might explain why his 2017 novel The Boat Runner follows a Dutch family’s fortunes during WWII. Perhaps misfortunes would be a better word. It is brilliantly written, a wonderful historical novel.

The action opens in the late 1930’s when Jacob and Edwin, 14- and 15-year-old Dutch brothers begin to understand the impending influence of the Germans in their lives. The family lives in a northeast coastal fishing village. The boys’ mother’s brother, Uncle Martin has a fishing boat and the boys are often on it helping out and learning the ropes. The boys’ father, owner of a light bulb factory is excited to be courting Volkswagen as a potential customer. In an attempt to influence the customer and win the business, he even sends the boys to a German youth camp.

 We follow this family through the pre-war years and when war breaks out and their country and town are occupied, it’s easy to see why loyalties are conflicted. Whether one is on the Allied side or the German side is like shaking the dice for survival. There doesn’t seem to be an official Dutch side. At the same time, the Dutch are hardy folk, survival is in their blood. The moral dilemmas facing the members of this family play a major part in the novel and would provide good fodder for discussion in a book club.

However, this is a war novel with events described therein that are very troubling and graphically described. I’m not sure I would even want to suggest it as a book club selection. On the other hand, it is such an epic novel and such an amazing story to read, that I do recommend it for intrepid readers.

In the author’s words:

This is very much a work of fiction, but it is built upon a historical and personal scaffolding of real people and true events. Now, I hope others will read the book and see this family’s impossible situation, and how the circumstances that create great upheavals have morphed through time, jumping borders, races and oceans. I hope this book does its job and entertains, evokes empathy for others, and leaves you more alert to those around you and the unique depths of their lives. But more than anything, I hope this story connects some unknowable reader to the receding shadows of our past, especially those of the darkest times, which is where we learn how essential it is to find the power of our own voice.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng

There has been a lot of excitement about Little Fires Everywhere since its publication and even before. The author, Celeste Ng, is a US writer who grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Shaker Heights, a “planned community”. Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You was such a great hit that it wasn't difficult to generate interest in her second novel.

When I started to read Little Fires Everywhere it was difficult to stop because I became totally engrossed in the fascinating characters. We get a window into the life of the Richardson family, a seemingly perfect family – mom, dad, with 4 teenagers, 2 daughters and 2 sons, living the perfect planned life in the perfectly planned community.

Along came a spider and sat down beside her….oh wait. I mean, there moved into the community some outsiders, a mom and daughter, who bring fresh points of view and consequently unintentionally tip over the applecart.

Personalities react with personalities, people get nosy, little fires are lit and chaos ensues.

I loved it all. It was a great read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story, told well.

I know I do Little Fires Everywhere an injustice with this piddling little review, so I urge you to look it up on Goodreads or just Google it.