Monday, September 22, 2014

The Fortunate Child by Archana Mishra

It is difficult to look at one's self for the first time in High Definition.  You see every imperfection, every line, every discoloration.  I can only postulate that reading the first draft of this compelling story was like that for new Alaskan Archana Mischra.  In their first book an author will write what they know, and Mischra has an interesting perspective that colors her worldview.

Set in the busy otherworld of modern India, we follow an idealistic child as she grows into a pragmatic woman, then is forced to re-evaluate her the belief structure of her youth and determine if it is, in fact, a more appropriate reflection of the person she should choose to be.

Plot twists abound, and I wish there was another chapter.  The loaded topic of sexual abuse was broached, but the line of causation - which could heavily influence multi-generational character development - never was explored.  Such activities are learned, and we are left wondering how and from whom.

The importance of education and the opportunity that it brings is the obvious theme, but to me, of far more interest, was how a strong woman was formed.  Her life journey is distinctive but understandable, exotic yet very close to home.  The importance of family and how family is defined resignates in a land like Alaska where such boundaries are often blurred.

This isn't the India of Kipling and the Travel Channel.  It's a more meaningful journey.  To purchase this novel, click here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Anchorage Place Names by Rae Arno

This delightful collection of the stories behind familiar place names in the Anchorage area easily fits in the glovebox and is perfect for perusing while waiting for summer road construction lines to get moving.

The Who and Why of Streets, Parks, and Places takes us from the early homesteaders of the Anchorage bowl, through a hundred years of political high rollers, through locomotive engineers, music teachers, bankers and bootleggers.

The history of the little towns that Anchorage grew over like Muldoon and Spenard, dog sled trails that turned into major byways, and helicopter pilots from Vietnam are illustrated with interesting historical photographs.

A fun read: meaningful, adventurous, and sure to offer a better appreciation as to the importance of the place names that we take for granted.

To purchase this book, click on this link.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finding Bethany

Finding Bethany, a memoir by Glen Klinkhart, is an unexpected tale. 

The usual elements of a true crime story written by the investigating detective are there - the facts of the case, the twists and turns to solving it, a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in an Alaskan homicide investigation.

Those are the least interesting pages of this book.  Far more fascinating is Klinkhart’s search for forgiveness, and the love of community that he finds. 

It is through the hundreds of volunteers who help in the search, the faith of Bethany Correira’s Talkeetna homesteader parents, and the fragile moment when a broken man decides to do the right thing, that we find the shiny bits of humanity.

Bethany had only lived in Anchorage a few days when she went missing.  “Someone is Getting Away with Murder” captioned a photo her smiling face on a large poster downtown that hung for a year.  Her story will be a cautionary tale for generations.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The White House of the North: Stories from the Governor's Mansion by Carol Sturgulewski

They say that if you want to be inspired, study in a historic building.  The Juneau Governor's mansion surly can meet that challenge.  With over 100 years of tales to tell, the history of this humble but elegant building follows the journey of our state.

From boom and bust, neglect to make overs - some more attractive to others, it isn't just how the building was constructed or why, it is the transition from territory to statehood to self determination.

Carol Sturgulewski doesn't throw a fresh coat of paint over the flaws of the building, its occupants, or their activities.  Alaska's governor's mansion (or house if you prefer) statistically seems to be filled with as many characters as the rest of her population.  Hung in effigy, run out of state, hot tubs, crushed velvet, and sun tan beds - the behind the scenes stories are filled with tidbits that would satisfy readers of both People Magazine and the Smithsonian.

The historical photos in the book are fantastic, they capture the juxtaposition of the traditional Alaskan lifestyle - where even the governor, it seems, at time has a yard filled with construction debris, a front porch that is a little questionable, and treasures hidden away in basements and attics.

Purchase your copy by clicking here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Raven's Gift by Don Rearden

Rearden is one of those breakaway talents that hits the ball out of the park the first time hit picks up a bat.  It builds in tension as the story makes it way through the bleakness of a post-epidemic arctic, discovering different facets of humanity along the way.

Like some of Steinbeck's best novels, it forces us to explore why we are who we are in the greater context of survival.  The best part, this isn't some guy from Los Angeles making up what it would be like to be strolling through rural Alaska.

It's real, it's raw, it's authentic and meaningful.  It stays with you.  It has you thinking about the characters months after you set the book down, or, more likely, hand it off to someone else.

Read more about Don Readen here.

Beyond the Bear by Dan Bigley and Debra McKinney

Surviving a brown bear attack in the wilderness takes a rare and exceptional individual.  Words like persistent, courageous, indomitable come to mind.  One has the expectation of a person with a strong sense of self, a will to live that is in overdrive, and an inner strength that is beyond measure.

Dan Bigley has all these traits in spades.  But he is so much more than a man who survived a bear attack.  He is centered, a down-to-earth man living a balanced life.  His focus is on his family.  He finds joy in the little things.  The bear attack, he tells us, GAVE him all of things that make a life one well lived and not just coasted through.

The bear didn't just blind him, she chewed his face.  Even with the disadvantage of titanium plates in his skull and his eyes pop out of his sockets - Dan found a woman of qualify to love and cherish him, marry him and raise their children in their slice of heaven in Alaska.

This is a story of love and hope... and also one of the more terrifying encounters a man can experience.

Buy yourself a copy by clicking here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Wonderful Life with Diabetes by Rick Mystrom

Words to Live by
 Former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom stopped in the studio several times to allow us to follow his publication journey.  It is always interesting to see how one goes from bright idea to book on the shelf.

Rick has been working on this book all his life, literally.  Diagnosed at an early age as a diabetic, he has managed through proactive lifestyle choices to avoid the horrible consequences and certain early death that his came with his diagnosis.

Living a meaningful life filled with adventure is also a theme, and Rick relates this through his experience with taking a small remote city on the edge of ghost town to America's Choice for the Olympics - twice.

Alaskan politicos will also enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at yesteryear, and some of the biggest names and events in Alaskan political history.

Click here to purchase Rick Mystrom's book.

miAlaska by Joel Loosli

He's from Palmer, and he is multi-talented.  miAlaska is Joel Loosli's photo journal comprised entirely of images taken with an iPhone while touring Alaska over the course of a year and a half.

This is not a Christmas re-gift of your cousin's summer vacation - this is Alaska through the eyes of an Alaskan, one who happens to be well skilled and professionally trained in his craft.

The landscapes are everything Alaska is, magnificent, grand, demure, mystical and mysterious.

And, true to form, it isn't just the images...which are also available as prints.  Joel also brought a basket full of his silks to the set as well.  Strong Alaskan graphics in classic colors - there is a pride piece for every executive for the holidays.

On Alaska Daily, Joel told the story behind his brilliant graphic idea - so easy and simple he couldn't believe that no one had made a houndstooth out of our he waited, and waited, then took the initiative and did it himself.  Technology has brought the ability to use Alaska's number one trading partner, China, into the reach of everyman.

The quality silk fabric is available in a number of color combinations, and the graphic is also available on t-shirts and sweatshirts.  One could easily predict this is going to be the accessory of choice for politicians representing Alaska.

Alaska Daily, on set, Dorene adds Joel's scarf to her wardrobe.
Hit this link to buy Joel Loosli's book or scarves/ties.