Mystery and Heartbreak During WW1

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Source: Kiplin Hall, kiplinhall.co.uk

 

“But it was certainly a library, rather than a room with decorative books and well-used sofas. Shelves lined the walls, unbroken but for five windows, two doors, and a fireplace with a portrait above it. Free standing bookshelves of a subtly newer appearance extended into one end of the room, creating three bays that filled a third of the library’s floor space. On the other end, under the windows, were two long mahogany work tables and a trio of leather armchairs, all of which were equipped with reading lamps.”

– Justice Hall, Laurie R. King

 

While this description of the library in Justice Hall, found in the novel of the same name by Laurie R. King, sounds like a book lover’s delight, all is not well in the manor. Married sleuths Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes must fallow a dangerous trail of ominous clues that leads from a post-WW1 English village to the city of Paris and on to a bleak Canadian wilderness. The heir to Justice Hall died in France during the Great War amid scandalous rumors, leaving a title in question.

There is a meme going around about books that made you cry, and this heartbreaking story caused me to tear up on several occasions. With WW1 Centennial remembrance ceremonies going on around the western world, it is hard not to reflect on the tragedy of millions of boys dying horrible deaths in mud filled trenches.

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Source: Atlas Obscura

What I found even more tragic, however, were the boys and young men condemned to death for desertion or cowardice, often without representation.  The Shot at Dawn memorial in the Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, England depicts a seventeen-year-old private, who was condemned without representation in the summer of 1915. Behind the blindfolded figure are 306 wooden stakes, each representing an executed Commonwealth soldier.

My heart weeps.

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Source: Atlas Obscura

 

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Justice Hall  by Laurie R. King

 

 

Lord of the Rings travels through Dystopia

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“As I arranged the clothes in my pack, my hand hit the spine of one of my books. The Lord of the Rings. I found it years before in a Walmart, buried beneath a pile of torn baby clothes and dry leaves. I’d read it start to finish six times, always waiting until after Grandpa went to sleep. He’s said the only thing books were good for was kindling.”

“I flipped through the book’s crinkled pages and placed it at the very top of the bag so it would be the first thing my fingers touched when I reached inside. Doing this gave me a rebel thrill. I didn’t have to worry about Grandpa finding it now.”

-The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

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Summation from Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true.

 

Like many contemporary post-apocalyptic YA dystopias, The Eleventh Plague features a bleak, devastated, virtually unrecognizable United States ravaged by war and disease. Quinn and his family represent a small group of the surviving population who manage to endure by scavenging the countryside for usable goods and food.

Luck does not travel with the survivors though, and Quinn eventually is left on his own until he stumbles upon the town of Settlers Landing. In a classic case of a community looking too good to be true, Quinn eventually is forced to decide what a new society should be, and his role within it.

I found the use of Tolkien’s LOTR particularly interesting. Like Sam, Quinn is forced to face hardship, deprivation, betrayal, fear, and grief. Yet through these challenges, Quinn is eventually shaped into the adult he chooses to be, and determines his own set of values.

I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Library Ladder

“I had been scaling the bookcases in the library, pretending I was a noted Alpinist, when my foot slipped and a heavy book was knocked to the floor.”

-The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley.

The Jackalope Ranch, Geoff Cline + Sallie Trout, Foo, Gertie, Gus, Dinkydao,
Source: Sallie Trout/ Trout Studios

Not for the faint of heart. Designer Sallie Trout built shelves in an inaccessible stairwell. Unable to reach them any other way, she fastened a bosun’s chair to a ceiling chain, and raises or lowers herself to collect  books.

The Jackalope Ranch, Geoff Cline + Sallie Trout, Foo, Gertie, Gus, Dinkydao,
Source: Salle Trout/ Trout Studios

6 Great Garden Library Sheds You Don’t Want to Miss

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Source: iVillage 

Ever feel like you just don’t have space in your house for a library? You aren’t alone. Some clever homeowners have created charming reading spaces in garden sheds. spaces.

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In the UK, shed conversions are such a big deal that they hold annual competitions to select the best garden shed.

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Andrew’s shed, (no last name given,) is a private library filled with 12,000 books he has acquired over his lifetime. Nearly all of the books are catalogued, and showcased with quirky pieces like his bookstore bag collection.

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The Library shed is a retreat, a place of reading and contemplation, a place to write and a place to bird watch.

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Source: Trish Radge 

Trish Radge says she goes to her library shed to get away from her active family for a couple of hours. In the winter it is her “go to” spot in the sun where she can read or listen to podcasts.

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Source: Asian Architecture

London-based Asian Architecture has designed this low budget garden working studio in North East London, England, UK.

 

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Source: nanakim.com

Or how about a magical retreat, across a red bridge where you can relax with your books?

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Source: nanakim.com

If you don’t think you can build your library shed from scratch, you can always start with something like a shed from Lowe’s, and then decorate it anyway that you want. Tufted chairs, bookshelves, and a neutral rug create a respite made for relaxing with a good read.

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Source: Lowe’s

 

 

 

George and Henry Read Here

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Library used by both Washington and Longfellow.

 

George Washington, called the Father of the US, and Henry W. Longfellow, one of the most recognized US 19th century poets, famously resided in a widely recognized Cambridge, Massachusetts House.

The Georgian mansion, built in 1759, and served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston, July 1775 – April 1776. Washington found the views of the Charles River important in devising military strategy against the British.

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1854 image of the home labeled as “Headquarters, Cambridge 1775” in reference to George Washington

During his time there, Washington was visited by John Adams and Abigail Adams, Benedict Arnold, Henry Knox, and Nathanael Greene. In his study, Washington also confronted Dr. Benjamin Church with evidence that he was a spy. It was in this house that Washington received a poem written by Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet.

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Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site                    National Park Service

The house was a wedding present to Longfellow and Fanny Appleton from the bride’s father in 1843. It was the Longfellow family’s home until 1913. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow filled the mansion with objects reflecting his interest in other cultures. European and Asian artwork, furniture, decorative objects and books are found throughout the house.

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Pictured here is the room where the real Dante Club met at Longfellow’s house in the mid-1860s. Longfellow converted one of the windows to a bookcase—he did this in several rooms of the house, in order to house his library of approximately twelve thousand volumes. Credit: Nicholas A. Basbanes

While Longfellow lived in the house, he produced many of his most famous poems including “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Village Blacksmith”, as well as longer works such as Evangeline, The Song of Hiawatha, and The Courtship of Miles Standish. In all, while living in this house, Longfellow published eleven poetry collections, two novels, three epic poems, and several plays as well as a translation of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.

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Longfellow in his study.

Longfellow  often wrote in his first-floor study, formerly Washington’s office, surrounded by portraits of his friends, including charcoal portraits by Eastman Johnson of Charles Sumner, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Cornelius Conway Felton. Longfellow would write either at the center table, at the desk, or in the armchair by the fire. Famous literary figures such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne were visitors, as were politicians, actors, musicians, and others.

For a time, Longfellow’s home was one of the most photographed and most recognizable homes in the United States.

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Trivia lovers should note that in the early twentieth century, Sears, Roebuck and Company sold scaled-down blueprints of the home so that anyone could build their own version of Longfellow’s home. Several replicas of Longfellow’s home appear throughout the United States. A full-scale replica of the house was built in Great Barrington, Massachusetts at the turn of the 20th century. This building is the only remaining full-scale replica of Longfellow’s original home maintaining all the original historical character.

The Longfellow House Washington Headquarters National Historic Site, 105 Brattle St., Cambridge, is open Wednesday through Sunday from May 25 through November 1, 2016. Free 50-minute ranger-led house tours are every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis (limit of 15 people per tour). The Visitor Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gardens are free and open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk.

 

The Abominable: A Novel by Dan Simmons

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ALA Reading List Award for History, Short List

I admit, when I first read the title, “The Abominable,” it was hard for me not to go to abominables I have known, like the famous “Bumble” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  (1964 TV Movie)

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Or the Yeti, from Disney’s Monsters, Inc.

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But while these familiar fluffies are cute and cuddly, something far more terrifying is stalking the climbers hoping to be the first to summit Mount Everest. The plot twists and turns, at one time making the reader believe in mythical monsters, at others offering more prosaic explanations for climbing accidents, equipment failures and mysterious deaths.

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The Abominable: A Novel is heavy on alternate history, climbing terminology and 100 words for snow. Well, maybe not 100, but far more than I had encountered before.

From Booklist:

“It’s 1924, and a trio of rogue climbers—mysterious WWI vet Deacon; emotional Frenchman Jean-Claude; and our narrator, brash young American Jacob—are hired to find the corpse of a dignitary lost on Everest… it’s the subsequent complications that make this required reading for anyone inspired or terrified by high-altitude acrobatics: sudden avalanches, hidden crevasses, murderous temperatures, mountainside betrayals, and maybe—just maybe—a pack of bloodthirsty yeti. Though the first 200 pages of climbing background might have readers pining for the big climb, it is nearly always interesting, and, later, Simmons excels at those small but full-throated moments of terror when, for example, a single bent screw might mean death for everyone.”

Good read, but a bit slow at times. The final push to solve a series of mysteries while trying for the summit make it worthwhile.

Three out of four stars.

A book to read when non-fiction books about Everest lack appeal.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

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Excerpt from opening paragraph:

“The Home Office telegraphy department always smelled of tea. The source was one packet of Lipton’s at the back of Nathaniel Stapleton’s desk drawer. Before the widespread use of the electric telegraph, the office had been a broom cupboard. Thaniel had heard more than once that its failure to expand was a sign of the Home Secretary’s continuing mistrust of naval inventions, but even if that wasn’t the case, the department budget had never stretched to the replacement of the original carpet, which liked to keep the ghosts of old smells…”

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Tea! The opening sentence has tea! Books and tea are two of my favorite things. Stir in a delicious mystery featuring a lonely Japanese immigrant who specializes in amazing machines; an interfering female Oxford physicist and you’ve got an amazing steampunk adventure. Everyone seems to be hiding something as the sweeping narrative blends fantastic and historic events to create a compelling journey for readers.

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Via Indulgy.com

 

Oh, and there’s a mechanical octopus. How could you NOT want to read about a mechanical Octopus?

Four stars out of five.

Brain candy, but we all deserve it occasionally.