Friday, May 27, 2016

BOOKLOG 53: Kolea


Booklog 53: KOLEA
by Russell Cahill

Prehistory stories are interesting, because they’re part fantasy and part conjecture (thus fantasy again) and part history, because you can actually construct some idea of what life was like back then. In Russell Cahill’s Kolea, we have the story of a boy, destined for greatness, who’s taken from his biological parents and raised by others in an effort to protect him from those who would do him harm—classic adventure beginnings, right? Myth scholar Joseph Campbell would be nodding (and of course so would Christopher Vogler) at this beginning. That this story begins and ends in the islands we now know of as Hawai’i long, long ago, travels all the way to what we now know of as Alaska, and then the return trip back home makes it a true adventure. These travelers, led by the boy turned man, Kolea (whose destiny was predicted in the classic way, naturally), had to go to Alaska, to escape those who again was out to get him. But I’m not telling this story right.

Okay, it’s got the classic beginnings, as I said. I was immediately tickled by this, just because so many of the great stories of our known civilization have had similar starts (see Campbell, again, and the Earl of Cardigan’s breakdown of the similarities between those heroes. I was an anthro major; this was right up my alley!). Destined for greatness, hidden away from those who would harm him—do some research on this, and you’ll find that a lot of those heroes of yore have stuff like this in common. It makes for great story.

Anyway, the details of Kolea (the story, not the guy) interested me, too. The author, who is of Hawai’ian descent and was a park ranger for national parks in California and Alaska and (of course) Hawaii, had a lot of local lore and local research to draw from, put in fascinating bits about culture, and foods, and how to build stuff, including watercraft that could make their way to Alaska safely. We know it’s possible; think of all the logical conjecture about how the Polynesians made their way all around the Pacific in their amazing craft, with nary a yacht or engine in sight, not to mention compasses or sextants. And how we find amazing evidence how these folks must have been in places that we can’t imagine how (and no, not aliens).

Like adventure? You’ll like Kolea. Especially appropriate if you’re going to Hawai’i for vacation, or Alaska for vacation, or anywhere, actually. Read this and imagine how the human species has striven to explore.

Coming up: Dunno!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

BOOK LOG 52: VERONIKA LAYNE (HOT OFF THE PRESSES #1 AND #2)


by Julia Park Tracey

When I first read these two mysteries, what to call them in the way of category stumped me for a while. Not just a mystery, not romantic suspense, not just an adventure, what? What would be the mot juste? Then it finally came to me: it’s chicklit mystery!

First of all, it’s the story of Veronika Layne, a young reporter, as California liberal as you can get, with tattoos, piercings, and recycled oil powering her little car, working for small community newspapers in the San Francisco area. That may seem like it’s pretty quiet stuff, but not so, as Veronika finds out. There are mysteries and odd happenings afoot in the suburbs, the one that she knows best in particular, with much of the hippie community if not intact, then certainly echoing many years after. In #1, Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop, our intrepid reporter—because all reporters are intrepid—pokes her nose into the rumors that a real estate developer is destroying native burial grounds. But she finds out there’s more to the story than just that, and it doesn’t help that her editor doesn’t seem that interested in the story. In #2, Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News, our reporter is on the trail of the murder of a TV house-flipper star, and why a classic home he bought ostensibly to refurbish was instead torn apart. There’s also a treasure hunt involved, because treasure hunts are cool these days, and nostalgia, and really, sweetness, because Vee really misses her boyfriend, who’s out East for a while.

The author, who’s the current poet laureate of Alameda, Calif. (who knew such a thing existed?), is working on the third installment of Veronika’s stories, but when it’s going to see print (digital or paper) is a question that has yet to be answered, because the publisher for which she wrote them has closed up shop. But I think it’s pretty clear Veronika’s stories will continue, one way or another.

Anyway. Looking for a mystery? Try ‘em! They’re both wonderful reads!

COMING UP: So hard to choose!