Friday, October 30, 2009

Half Moon - Book Review

Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World
by Douglas Hunter

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Henry Hudson was was hired by the Dutch Trading Company in 1609 to find a northeastern passage around Russia to more easily access China. Hudson started his voyage aboard the Half Moon with a mixture of English and Dutch crewmen. Part way into his voyage, he decided to turn his ship around and go west to America where he would discover the Hudson River and other uncharted territories. Hudson found himself with his hands full, wondering if there was mutiny brewing and also wondering how he would be received by the Dutch when he finally decided to back. When he did go back, he found himself on another mission to find a northwestern passage to China. That was his last voyage.

When I closed the book after reading the last paragraph, I had to just sit in thought for a bit. Douglas Hunter, who is a sailor himself, wove such an intricate story of Henry Hudson. The amount of research that went into this book is amazing, and to present it like Hunter did was even more amazing to me. From the start I was drawn in, and felt like I was reading a puzzle with pieces being put together from all different sources, a little at a time, until the picture became clear. Who was Hudson? Where did he come from? Why would he blatantly disregard his orders and sail the opposite way?

Since there was no journal of Hudson's to go by, many of the notes about the voyage were taken from Robert Juet's journal. Reading some of the thoughts and feelings of an actual crew member was a real treat and very insightful. I had no idea what exploration was like in the 1500 and 1600's besides the basic textbook "stuff" I received in school. I had no idea of the amount of espionage, threats of mutiny, and pirating that went on. Most of all, I had no idea how much history was re-written for gain, both financially and politically. Hudson ended being a totally different man than the explorer that was captain of the Half Moon.

This book was a fascinating read, and now that I'm done, my family will be able to go back to normal dinner banter, instead of listening to me rattle on about what I found was amazing in the book. Both of my teens are now wanting to read Half Moon and I know they'll enjoy it as much as I did!

Please note - I received this book to review from Bloomsbury press as part of the First-reads program on Goodreads.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Escape from Slavery - Book Review

Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity--and My Journey to Freedom in America
by Francis Bok

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Francis Bok spent his early childhood as a happy member of a Sudanese Dinka family. He took great pride that his father felt he would someday grow up and do great things. At the age of 7, Francis was allowed for the first time to go to the market to sell his family's goods. Little did he know that this would be the last time he would ever see his family again. He was captured at the market and was bound in slavery for the next ten years. Now, he's on an incredible mission that may change how we all look at slavery.

This book is a fascinating read. It left me speechless and mortified to know that so much slavery still goes on all over the world. Francis put up with tremendous abuse and and survived it, astounding me that anyone, let alone a child, could have so much faith and not be broken. This is truly an incredible story of faith, hope and resilience. A must read for everyone!

This book was required reading for my son when he started at the university this autumn. He was lucky enough to hear Francis speak and meet him after the seminar.

How This Blog Began

I am a professed bookworm and lover of books. I married a man who barely reads anything unless he HAS to. He will tell you that reading, especially fiction, is a pure waste of time. He does read the Bible and occasionally a Christian or a how-to book, but being a man of action, he'd rather do things with his hands instead of sitting still and reading. Thankfully, his ideas didn't pass on to the children, and they, too, are just as obsessed about reading as I am.

Growing up, my bookcase always was overflowing, plus I brought home tons of books from the library. My mother always had books coming from some sort of a book club, but I really don't remember her ever reading much. I imagine she read while we were all at school and the house was nice and peaceful. My father, on the other hand, was always reading something. Even now, at 85, he has stacks of books to be read. Sadly, he has developed a disability that now makes it more difficult for him to hold books, but he still reads as much as he can.

Our home library is diverse and very eclectic. Each of us has our favorites. My son loves history non-fiction as well as many of the classics. My daughter is a fiction nut who also loves the classics. Me, well, I'm all over the board. I haven't been able to fit in any type of a box, yet. There are too many books out there to put me in certain genres or classifications. I think that's why my husband shudders when I walk into a bookstore, as he can be certain I can find something that's worth bringing home to read. :)

I live in a very rural area and have not found any interest in any type of book club, so I went looking online. I found a few wonderful groups that I got involved in, and that led me to a fantastic opportunity. You see, I was chosen by Bloomsbury USA to read one of their books and post my review to my group, Bloomsbury and anywhere else I deem fit. In just a few days from being chosen, I received Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World by Douglas Hunter. I am currently reading Half Moon now, and will be posting a review in a few days.

So, that's the story of how this blog began.

The End :)