Review: The Wilder Life- My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

For my birthday, my friend got me this book as she knows that when I’m not busy being obsessed with Louisa May Alcott, I’m busy being obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I promptly put this book in a “safe place” and then couldn’t find it for six months. I was so very happy that I found it a few weeks ago and got to read this wonderful and hilarious book, where author Wendy McClure goes searching for all things Laura.

But first, let me backtrack. When I say I loved the Little House books when I was a kid, I mean I really LOVED the Little House books when I was a kid (um – as an adult, too). I read them all mulptiple times. I actually owned and wore a sunbonnet on a regular basis. And yes – I made my family call me “Laura” (but only when I was wearing the sunbonnet). In the 1970’s, our family travelled cross-country just about each summer to visit our relatives in Rhode Island, and one very spectacular summer my father announced that we could drive through and see all the places where Laura lived. I just had to make him a list of them.  After skipping Wisconsin (too far off the path for us), and the little house that was on the prairie (which I thought was in Kansas but long gone), we went to Plum Creek, spent the night in Mankato (in a rain storm – in our RV – with me pretending  to be in a covered wagon in a storm), De Smet, South Dakota, and the big Laura house and museum in Masnfield, Missouri.  I was in my element. I waded in Plum Creek (I can still see my mother standing by the side of the road where my dad had pulled the rv over, sweater wrapped around her, calling out “Don’t fall in!”). I walked in places where Laura walked. I even met a woman at the Mansfield museum who had been Laura’s friend.

That said, I figured there weren’t many people as crazy/weird about Laura as I was. But then I read this book. Here was an author who loved Laura as much as I did! She even had some of the little “Laura fantasies” as a kid that I did (Laura time-warps and we’re friends, etc.). And she had gone to all these same places as me! In fact, thirty years after my pilgrimage there seem to be even MORE Laura places to discover.

Well, that’s what this book is about — Wendy Mc Clure’s journey to discover all things Laura one year (with her very patient and good-natured boyfriend), along with discovering some things about herself. I loved this book from start to finish. I laughed so hard in parts I cried. But mostly I felt like I had found a true kindred spirit in Ms. Mc Clure — just as I had 35 years ago in Laura, when I read my first Little House books.

Two Quick Reviews: The Mystery of the Blue Ring by P.R. Giff (Children’s) and 50 Underwear Questions by T. Kyi

I recently got two new items through Net Galley, which I shared with my children.

The first is Patricia Reilly Giff’s “The Mystery of the Blue Ring”. Written for children, this is book one in the “Polk Street Mysteries”. My second grader read this for her book report this month. She loves mysteries and loved this story (and loved reading it on my Kindle!). In it Dawn, your typical second grader, is accused of stealing another girl’s ring. Dawn becomes a sleuth to solve the mystery. Giff has countless books out for young readers and has perfected the knack of writing for the younger grade school audience.

Thanks, Net Galley and Open Road Media, for my copy!

I also downloaded into Adobe Digital the fun book: “50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-All History” part of the “50 Questions” series by Tanya LLoyd Kyi (and illustrated by Ross Kinnaird). My kids loved looking through this galley, laughed at the pictures, and enjoyed the inset “bare facts” of trivia. I have to say, though, I actually found the history of underwear much more interesting than I had anticipated! For instance, did you know they had undergarments in prehistoric times? (You might think “did you even care?” but it really was an interesting read!). The fun, comic-like illustrations really make this book!

Thanks, Net Galley and Annick Press, for my copy!

Quick Review: The Dogs of War by Lisa Rogak (available October 25, 2011)

I loved, loved, loved this non-fiction book, which traces the history and explains the use of dogs in our military. Fully entitled “The Dogs of War: The Courage, Love, and Loyalty of Military Working Dogs”, Rogak begins with the story of Cairo, the dog used in the mission against bin Laden, and then traces the history of dogs in the military from the 1800’s to present. Throughout, there are stories of real dogs and real people, pictures, and references. She covers how dogs are trained, what they are used for, what their lives are like on base and on mission, and what happens to them afterwards. The stories of dogs and their handlers are quite touching. The dogs themselves, though, are the heroes of this book.

As a dog lover, I found this book so interesting and inspiring. I will put it on the Christmas list for the dog lovers in my life! I also found this book very “readable” – I think it’d be great for a YA student looking for an interesting topic for a paper.

Thanks, Net Galley and St. Martin’s Griffin Publishing for my free kindle copy!

Quick Review of The Runner’s Devotional by Dana Niesluchowski and David Veerman

Net Galley sent me a download of Dana Niesluchowski and David Veerman’s “The Runner’s Devotional: Inspiration and Motivation for Life’s Journey…On and Off the Road”. This book is part running log, part 52 week devotional, part scripture analysis, part fitness and health tips, and part inspirational true stories. I think that those who run and who are looking to tie their Christian faith into their exercise would enjoy this book. I personally had never realized how much “running” is mentioned in scripture. I did find reading it very motivational. And I always enjoy a good “true tale”!

Thanks, Net Galley and Tyndale House Publishers, for my copy!

Quick Review: Tomorrow’s Sun by Becky Melby (coming in January, 2012)

Another Net Galley ARC that I downloaded for my Kindle was “Tomorrow’s Sun” by Becky Melby. In this novel  Emily Foster is a young woman who is haunted by the tragic events of a past skiing accident – an accident for which she blames herself. To make money and to help herself heal, she decides to fix up and sell a house she has purchased. However, Emily is unprepared for what she finds: an old Underground Railroad stop with letters from the 1860’s. Emily is also unprepared for the feelings she begins to have for her contractor, Jake Braden. Emily’s story mirrors the story of the house in the 1860’s.

I enjoyed reading this novel, which would be considered a romance with a touch of historical fiction in it. It also had a strong Christian element in it, especially in the second half of the book (it seems I’ve gotten a lot of books with Christian themes in them lately!). Most of the story worked for me – though I will admit to finding Jak’es brother-in-law a bit too much of a villain, and I found it an awfully big coincidence that Becky had met Jake in the distant past as a teen. All in all, though, I love a historical mystery and a happy ending!

Thanks Net Galley and Barbour Publishing, Inc. for my copy!