Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lost Drag Strips - Ghosts of Quarter Miles Past by Tommy Lee Byrd

Published by CarTech

An excellent and colorful trip down memory lane. Almost everyone in North America will have, at some point, heard, seen or driven a Hot Rod, Dragster, Formula 1, Sprint or any variation of racing vehicles. For me, I remember hearing the races on the mud flats, but only saw the vehicles on the road when they weren't racing. Afficionados will enjoy the well-written histories of the tracks and racers. Readers who don't know a stock-car from a sprint-car will become well-versed on the many different styles and how they evolved.

There was a lot of research and interviews involved in writing this book, I congratulate Tommy Lee Byrd on a very informative book written with such feeling. The photographs, from actual collections by the people who lived, crewed, and drove at the speedways are fabulous. The storyline is historic, factual, nostalgic and intriguing. Hard to put down, unusual in this type of book. A tribute to the author and the innovative drivers and their crews. This is not just about the drag strips or what happened to them. It's also about how the vehicles from streetracers and hot rods to the dynamic race cars of today have brought about changes and inspired the automotive industry for all makes and models of cars on the roads now.

As a teen in the 1950s, I grew up in the heyday of the growth of the sport in Canada. I found in reading this book that I wish I had seen more. I was fascinated by the speed at which changes were made in the industry and on the track to get more out of the vehicles. The growth in length of the old dragsters to the elongated parachuted dragsters of today is all documented. The death knell came for the old original community tracks and even many of the later safer tracks as the value of property increased, and in some cases population grew up around the tracks and then complaints of noise, smell and traffic "bothered" the very people who moved in next to tracks. I was actually surprised to learn that most tracks were on leased land.

I highly recommend this book to all racing car enthusiasts, those who remember the early days and those who like to learn a little bit of exciting North American vehicle and racing history. Those were the days! But not the last.

For more about Tommy Lee Byrd's photos

Buried Secrets at Louisbourg by Jo Ann Yhard

History, mystery, action and adventure for these teen heroes. An action-packed treasure hunt in historic Louisburg Fortress where the British and the French fought for control of Cape Breton Island, a prime harbour and cod fishery in Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1770s. At that time, it was a part of New France. Now it is federally protected.

Young Fred has discovered some old papers from his great-great-great grandfather's journal documenting a story of surviving a shipwreck and a map to a treasure he has buried. This is like a godsend to Fred with his family in dire straits and his mother ill with cancer. If he can only find the treasure. The map is very clear, but the buried treasure now sits in a federal heritage site. He and his friends go to an open house at the Fortress at Louisbourg, the biggest reconstructed site in North America. The public is allowed to do some archaeological digging, but unfortunately not in the area where Fred's three-times great grandfather buried his treasure. From the first moment an overzealous re-enactment soldier finds them digging to the end of the book, the teens are on a thrill-ride of trying to avoid detection by the assortment of villains who are after them.

With his mother working in the restaurant despite her illness, his father seeming to act in a clandestine manner with one of the men watching their every move, and so many eyes watching them, the young people are on high alert...yet, three of them only know a very small part of the story. What other secrets are buried at Louisbourg?

Although Fred actually found the box wth the treasure, the problem is to keep it safe until they can take it home. But are they committing a crime, taking something from a federal heritage site even with the documents? Mai thinks they are and is terrified something bad is going to happen. Jo Ann Yhard makes the adventure exciting with this well-written book. History, mystery, action and adventure all rolled into one. With a cat and mouse chase on a replicated 1770s sailing ship at sea, Fred and his friends must escape the villains, but how? All other passengers left the ship in the only launches. Exciting fare aimed at young to mid-teens, but others would enjoy it, too. I look forward to reading other books by this Canadian author.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Published by Quirk
Vintage Photos from Collections listed
A most peculiar book, monsters and shadows, are they all based on Jacob's grandfather's fears as a Jewish child in Poland pre-WWII and the only one of his family to survive? He was sent to an orphanage on an island in Wales in the earliest part of the war. But according to Jacob's grandpa, this was no ordinary home. This, Ransom Riggs' first novel, grows on you as you read. There are several vintage photographs to go along with the stories Jacob has heard all his life of the wonderful and unique home, the safe place. The children most certainly have special abilities one could call peculiar, but Jacob is not sure how much to believe now that he is in his teens. Stories of circus acts, stories of terrible monsters, can they possibly be real? Some very strange things can turn out to be real and some that seem real are not to be believed.
When his grandfather dies a horrible death and Jacob catches a glimpse of what he has only heard of before, he begins to suspect there is more to the stories. With his last breath, his grandfather cryptically tells him to go to the island, so he can be "safe", and gives him a date: September 3, 1940.
So begins this incredible journey where reality and unreality meet head on. If it weren't for Jacob's father's compulsive interest in Ornithology, and the island noted for its birds, the journey might never have begun. It's on the island where the story really takes on a life of its own. A story of lightness and darkness, magic and horror, atmospheric, a life that only Jacob appears to see. Ransom Riggs will entertain you, transfix you, make you think a bit about spatial displacement, where seemingly ordinary children can be truly extraordinary (especially if one is invisible) and everything you thought was a fairy-tale of ogres and monsters in the woods can be true. I really enjoyed this wonderfully strange journey into the author's imagination... or is it all true...
Copies of authentic Vintage Photos used in this novel and provided from various Collections are listed in the back of the book attributed to the Collectors where known. These photos spread throughout the book provide a real backbone to the story.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

Published by Bethany Books

I love this book! A good old English romp with mystery abounding. Fans of the old-type English mysteries will find this debut series reminiscent of bygone eras, Dorothy Sayer's Lord Wimsey in particular comes to mind.

Placed in the year 1932, a not so typical rich, single young heir Drew Farthering, whose best friend Nick is the son of the butler, lives with his mother and step-father in the family mansion. On the eve of one of his mother's spectacular parties, three young girls arrive from America for a visit. One of the young ladies is the niece of Drew's step-father and a beautiful handful she is. But Drew is not the only admirer at the party. The fiend after prey, Lincoln, has also got his eye on the prize, much to her consternation. Between Madeline, Drew and Nick, he is disgraced and disappears outside with Drew's mother. Shortly afterward, Drew and Madeline stumble across Lincoln's body, or is it? Difficult to tell since his head is blown away.

This is the beginning of a story that will take the reader through many twists and turns. Julianna Deering writes with all the wit the English delivered in pre-WWII mysteries. Nostalgia overtakes me as I read.

As Drew and Nick, sometimes assisted by Madeline, decide to try to solve what has become a string of crimes, there are more mysteries, more deaths. Are they related? It's a possibility, but difficult to link. The more they investigate, the more danger they are in. Yet, the young people feel they are close to the solution often, only to find it to be a red herring. Will they learn the culprit or culprits before the police? Will they learn the true victims of the case? An exciting yet labyrinthian chase through odd places gives added excitement to the quandary. Too many suspects then suddenly too few suspects. Fun and games until it hits too close to home. A different twist to the old-style mystery keeps it fresh. With a surprising ending, I really enjoyed it and look forward to more in the Drew Farthering series.
Disclaimer: I won this book in a contest on Library Thing. I was not influenced in any way, the words and rating are mine alone.