Tag Archives: adventure

To the Mountain

I feel compelled to confess that when I downloaded the advance copy for this book, I looked at the cover and assumed it was going to be nonfiction, someone’s story of climbing a mountain. Imagine my surprise when I reached the title page and saw it was a novel. But it was a short book, so I decided to read it anyway.

To the Mountain by Erik Raschke has a lot of tension packed into its 176 pages. To the Mountain

It starts of with Marshall, a young boy in a juvenile center. Marshall’s only friend is his doll, Suzy. The other kids pick on Marshall, they don’t understand why he is different. Sometimes Marshall can’t understand the words people are saying to him. Marshall feels like two beasts live inside him: the Panic and the Fury.

Marshall’s father, Jace, conducts search and rescue missions on the mountain. He’s been fighting to get Marshall back, to bring Marshall home. Jace knows he’s far from perfect, but he also knows he’s better for Marshall than the juvenile center.

When Marshall is involved in a crash on the mountain, Jace mobilizes immediately to find him. He’s taught Marshall plenty about surviving on the mountain, but the reality is that Marshall is still a child. Marshall, meanwhile, sees this as a golden opportunity. If he can just make it to the top of the mountain, things are sure to work out.

Though Raschke doesn’t label it, Marshall’s character is learning to exist as an autistic child in a world that doesn’t understand him. Though my own experience with autism is limited, I think Raschke wrote the story in a sensitive and empowering way.

While Marshall’s parents process and cope with the challenges that come with raising an autistic child, Marshall’s character isn’t portrayed as incapable. Marshall knows what he needs to do to survive on the mountain. He shows skill and an ability to rationalize the situation that is certainly beyond his years.

I will confess to having a few more questions than answers at the end of the book (which, disclaimer, does not have a perfect, fairy tale ending. So if you like things wrapped up neatly with a bow, this may not be the book for you). Raschke mentioned a few things in passing that were never addressed but that I’m really curious about.

All in all, Raschke’s story is quick and compelling. He provides a snapshot into the mind and experience of an autistic child, and I think that’s incredibly important, both for children and for adults. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, but I’m glad I read it anyway. Keep an eye out for it this month, it’s worth the couple days it’ll take you to read it.

Tisha

Let me save you the confusion by coming right out and saying there is no character in this book named Tisha. The name comes from the native Alaskans who pronounced “teacher” as “tisha.” Knowing that may help some people (like me) sink into the story instead of wondering who Tisha is and when she’ll make her debut.

Anne Hobbs is a young teacher of just 19 looking for an adventure. She has no real idea what she’s gotten into when she applies for and receives a teaching position in the Alaskan bush. Though nature and the environment will test her strength, it’s the prejudices of the people who will ultimately make or break her. Anne can’t understand the disdain the townsfolk have for the native Indians and Eskimos, and she soon finds herself constantly at odds with the whole town simply because she is willing to extend kindness and humanity to the Indians. With all the odds stacked against her, Anne has to see just how deep her convictions run, and whether they are strong enough to save her.

Tisha is a memoir, written by Robert Specht and based on Anne Hobbs’ own telling of her life’s story. Specht’s note in the beginning mentions a few creative liberties he took with the story, though no real explanation as to why he thought it was necessary (nor many particulars of where he embellished). However, the story moves at an exciting pace and pulls the adventurous spirit right in from the very first moment.

It’s got a little bit of everything, from adventure and conflict, drama, and romance. It’s a snapshot into life as it was, reminiscent of Christy by Catherine Marshall or even Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. It’s a compelling story of a strong woman who is willing to do whatever it takes, to stand for what is right even when it literally means standing alone.

For the adventurers, history buffs, biography lovers, or those who love a good drama, Tisha is well worth the couple days it might take to read.

Curse of the Boggin

I am quite enjoying the simplicity of children’s books, lately. And I don’t mean that the books or plots are simple, because they are as engaged and twisty as some adult books, but it’s nice to have good guys and bad guys, right and wrong, and to be able to actually like the protagonist. And also, they are just fun and easy to read.

D.J. MacHale’s Curse of the Boggin is the first in the Library Book series. Marcus O’Hara lives a normal life, until the day when he doesn’t. At first he thinks he’s imagining things, or maybe hallucinating. He’s seeing things that can’t be real. But soon he has to accept that ghosts, hauntings, and even monsters are real, because he’s experienced all of them. Armed with a mysterious key that takes him to a strange, other-dimensional library, Marcus and his friends need to find a way to put and end to his haunting and conclude a story that started long before they were involved.

This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a kid (and still love as an adult). It’s got mystery, suspense, a little bit of drama, all combined to make a fast-paced adventure. It’s easy to read, written in a conversational way, no highfalutin words or unnecessarily complex structures.

Curse of the Boggin was a fun read, and I’m probably going to end up reading other books in the series, just because it’s a nice break from the adult fare. So whether you’re looking for a fun and slightly spooky book for kids, or the same for adults, this might be the way to go.

Lord of the Flies

Being homeschooled means I missed quite a few classic required reads, so now I’m taking some time to try to catch up. Because when you find it for 10 cents, why not?

Let me just say, I went into William Goulding’s Lord of the Flies with little knowledge of what it was about, other than kids on a island. Let me tell you, it was wild and I wasn’t really prepared for it.

The book starts right in, giving the reader little to no context for what’s going on. You have to piece it together as you go. A plane full of boys crashes on a deserted island, and the boys must figure out how to survive. They elect Ralph as their leader and things go well for a while. But when Jack, Ralphs only real rival, decides he doesn’t like Ralph’s leadership style, the groups splits up and things begin to breakdown.

By the time the boys are finally rescued, they’ve survived a series of traumatic events, leaving them all changed.

I was confused at first, trying to figure out the context for the story. It wasn’t apparent, right off, whether the plane crashed or just dumped them. Also relatively unclear was the time the book was set in. These aren’t huge things, but they help orient the reader.

However, once the story got going, it moved quickly. Ralph’s character represents logic and rationality and Jack’s character is very much impulse and feelings, rather a classic case of super-ego and id, without an ego to balance them. In the end, it’s a fight between Ralph, who wants to be rescued, and Jack, who is focused on the joys of wild abandon and no consequences.

I wasn’t prepared for several of the plot twists, though I see how the author uses them to explore what makes a man.

All in all, it was a quick, enjoyable read, and I definitely see how you could get a lot of discussion out of it.

Into Thin Air

You’d think that reading about tragedy would curb enthusiasm or interest in risky adventures. But I think Jon Krakauer sums it up perfectly in his introduction to Into Thin Air: “There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act—a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.” And it’s not just applicable to Everest.

Into Thin Air is Krakauer’s personal recounting of the 1996 spring season in Everest, a brutal and deadly season. Krakauer signed on to the Everest expedition to write a magazine article about the commercialization of climbing Everest and found himself part of a team of marginally qualified climbers and experienced guides. The other teams camping out hoping for a summit assault had much the same composition. So when a storm started brewing in the afternoon of several teams’ attempts, the mountain claimed the many lives, some with a lot of climbing and Everest experience.

Reading Krakauer’s account is harrowing, when you reach May 10. Krakauer lays bare the actions he and others took without attempting to justify them (though he does remind readers that at 29,000 feet, even supplemental oxygen is only enough to keep one functional, not necessarily rational). One is left wondering what it must be like to live with the choices made, along with the survivors guilt.

I’m sure many people read this book and think, “what kind of person signs up for that? Knowing the risks?” The answer is, the other kind of people who read the book and think, “I could do that.” I don’t think Krakauer’s book is meant to discourage people from climbing—too many people would see it as a challenge. Nor do I think it’s meant to serve as a guide for what to do or what not to do, though certainly there are lessons one could pull for the pages. If anything, aside from being an attempt to process the trauma he’d survived, I think it’s probably meant to serve as a reminder of the risks, to pose the question, “are you willing to die for this?” Or, more heavy, “are you willing to let others die for this?”

I can’t deny that even though it’s an intense read about worst-case scenarios, a part of me doesn’t feel even more of a draw to the danger. It’s not even really a the competition with nature. It’s more like what George Mallory is quoted saying, it’s simply because it’s there. It is there, and so I must try. (Not that I’m planning on climbing Everest anytime soon. I’ll try some smaller mountains, first.)

The Adventurer’s Son

Usually when I read wilderness adventure stories, I stick with the uplifting ones that inspire me to abandon typical responsibility and go live the dirt bag life.

The Adventurer’s Son by Roman Dial was not that kind of story.

Dial starts with his own childhood and how he ended up being an Alaskan adventurer and scientist, instilling the joys of the outdoors in his children. His son, Cody Roman Dial, grew to love wilderness expeditions in his own right. So it seemed natural that, after a particularly rough breakup, young Cody Roman would go on a sort of wilderness journey to find himself.

But when he fails to check in with his parents when he is supposed to, it launches an all out, multi-year search to try to find him and discover what happened, and how he just vanished in the jungles of Central America.

This book is the story of a parent’s worst nightmare, and a close look at how one father handled it. Dial wrestles with some tough questions, like whether different childhood activities would have changed how things played out.

This was the kind of book that’s easier to read if you already knew how it ended. I had to resist skipping forward, because though I wanted to know, I felt a weird sort of responsibility to let the story play out in its own time.

Dial writes in a clear, honest style. Perhaps because of some experiences he had during his search, Dial doesn’t dramatize in any way, or even use emphatic language. The story is plain, and that makes it powerful.

In case you’re like me and didn’t know anything about the missing person search in 2014, I won’t spoil the story for you. Just know, it’s an intense book. And it’ll either swear you off wilderness adventure forever, or make you pause and remember that you’ve accepted the risks.

Learning to Fly

Do you ever read a book that makes you want to absolutely uproot your life and go chase an outlandish dream? That’s how I feel when I read Steph Davis’ books.

A well-known climber and skydiver/base jumper, Steph Davis lives the adventurer’s dream, going wherever she wants, attacking whatever project catches her fancy, and not weighed down by the mundane everyday trivialities of a job (at least not for very long, only until she’s boosted her bank account enough to afford getting back out into nature).

In Learning to Fly, her second book, Davis opens with honesty, sharing a pretty raw look at what her life looked like when she hit rock bottom. With no where to go but up, Davis went about as high as one can–channeling her emotion into a single-minded dedications learning and mastering first skydiving then BASE jumping.

Davis takes readers along in her journey of healing, wrestling with fear and learning to stretch in new ways. Davis’ second memoir is an emotional roller coaster, full of inspiring moments of overcoming, as well as moments of despair and sorrow. I wasn’t quite prepared for it, when I dove into the book. But Davis’ honesty within her writing strikes a nerve, and I think even people who aren’t into outdoor adventures can relate to the emotions Davis shares in her book.

Each time I’ve read a book by Davis, it’s made me want to quit my job and go live out of my car, exploring nature and climbing anything and everything I can. This book in particular struck a cord, Davis’ journey to rediscover herself and her purpose feeling extremely relatable right now. Not gonna lie, part of me feels like I might find myself if I look 14,000 feet in the sky. But, I’m not sure taking up skydiving is the answer right now, no matter how fun it might be.

I’ve got the adventure bug something awful now, thanks to Davis’ book. And more than that, I know how being outside allows the simplicity and beauty of nature to put the rest of life into perspective. Coming into a fresh new year, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

The Fork, The Witch and the Worm

When I heard Christopher Paolini was returning to the world of Alagaësia, I was really excited, though I didn’t quite know what to expect. Now that I’ve read The Fork, the Witch and the Worm, I think there’s a couple things to know before you pick it up.

While I knew from the beginning that this wasn’t simply a continuation of Eragon’s story, part d me still assumed it was, I think.

Instead, we get a brief look at Eragon holed up in the Easter Reaches, little snapshots before being shown three different little stories. The first is a glimpse of what Murtagh is up to, just enough to make you wish you had a full story on him post-Inheritance.

The second little story is a scattered bit of biography by Angela the herbalist (written by Paolini’s sister, the inspiration behind the character). And while I think many of us would also enjoy a full story of Angela’s, I personally felt this section was largely nonsense, neither giving insight to the character, nor really furthering any part of the story or series.

The final story was an Urgal legend, and it was probably the best bit, though maybe a little longer than it needed to be. It was the story of a young urgal and her long-standing vendetta against the dragon who wreaked havoc on her village. Of all the stories in this anthology, this one made sense to have among the brief glimpses of Eragon’s new life, as we see him learning a lesson from the story and recognizing that there will always be some challenge to face, even after you’ve defeated one.

All in all, I think it wasn’t the book we wanted. It wasn’t quite a book of histories or legends, which would have been interesting (thinking Tolkien’s works relating to the Lord of the Rings), but it wasn’t really a story about Eragon and the world we grew up with and loved. It comes across as a collection of tidbits that didn’t find their way into the series.

I’m indifferent about it, to be honest. It’s a short book and a quick read, and if you love the world, I’d say read it. But at the same time, it’s not crucial, nor a must read for all fans of the series. I think it could have been more, even without being a full continuation of the story. And that’s a hardest part, I think. I was excited for something new from a world I loved, but change a few words and terms, and the stories could have been pieces of any fantasy story. It wasn’t fleshed out enough to really feel like Alagaësia.

Dragon Rider: The Griffin’s Feather

For many people, Cornelia Funke’s sequel to Dragon Rider has been a long time in coming. For me, I was not only early in getting to read it, but also didn’t have the same wait that everyone else has had. Sorry, everyone.

In this second book, Ben and the Greenblooms have settled down in Norway, running a secret sanctuary for all kinds of fabulous creatures. Unfortunately for Ben, Firedrake and the rest of the dragons are still living at the Rim of Heaven. When the last Pegasus eggs are in danger of being lost before they hatch, Ben and company set out to hunt for a Griffin’s sun feather.

But Griffins and dragons have a long history of animosity, which means Ben’s best ally–Firedrake– can’t know about the mission, and can’t come along. Ben and company are willing to risk it all to save the unborn Pegasi, but when they get in over their heads, who is going to save them?

This sequel has a much more powerful message of nature conservation, reminiscent of the Amazing Panda Adventure (I used to love that movie as a kid). But, it’s still an exciting adventure story, keeping you on the edge of your seat (even if you know how it’s going to end).

As a sequel, I think Funke accomplished her goal of not telling the same story in a different way. While it’s still a story about saving a species, that part of the adventure is in keeping with the established characters. How they go about it, though, is fresh and exciting. Funke weaves in more themes than just saving the Pegasi, though, making it a dynamic read from start to finish.

For those who have been waiting, I think you’ll find it’s worth it. Keep an eye out for it, it hits shelves July 31.

Keeping the momentum going

November this year feels like it falls weird, in terms of weeks. I’m not even sure if I’m in the third week of writing, or where I am. It’s throwing me off, mostly just for knowing what week to reference in these blogs.

Whatever week I’m wrapping up and starting, I’m still, surprisingly, on track. Last week was challenging, my schedule changed a little and I got really behind. I managed to still write each day, which is more than I’ve managed in years past. And over the weekend, I managed to write about 10,000 words, so, that bolstered my confidence.

I got some additional planning done too, mapped out a few extra chapters, though the end is still ambiguous.

This week will be possibly the hardest to keep on track. With Thanksgiving, and the kick off of the busy season at work, I know I’ll be tired and busy with family. But, if I use the time I have and I’m intentional about it, I know I can stay on track.

And at some point, I’ll have to cast my mind out and decide on the ending.

This story has already changed so much from what I first expected it would be, I’m excited to see where it ends. And then January will be time for editing and revising. But, we’re not there yet. It’s still November, and still time to write with abandon.

And the good thing about Thanksgiving being early this year is that, after the weekend, I’ve still got several days left for binge writing. I’m confident that not only will I hit the goal of 50,000, but I’ll be able to write the ending too.

So, here’s to soldiering on, even through food comas and all the rest.