Thursday, August 02, 2007

Book with a View August 2007

Sentinel of the Seas: Life and Death at the Most Dangerous Lighthouse Ever Built Dennis M. Powers
Citadel (2007)
ISBN 0806528427
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

“Sentinel of the Seas” reads like a novel. Dennis Powers has written another classic masterpiece which chronicles man battling the sea. As in his earlier works “Treasure Ship” and “The Raging Sea,” Powers has thoroughly researched his work. He spent five years in preparation, searching archives, original journals, dairies, ship logs, Lighthouse Board Reports, and doing personal interviews of survivors, and their families. The lighthouse was built on St. George Reef which is one of the most hazardous reefs off the West Coast.

Powers recounts the history, engineering and construction of the lighthouse. He also explains the various lighting and sound warning devices used over the history of the lighthouse. Powers masterfully weaves into the record heroic stories of the men and women who designed, built, and maintained the St. George Reef Lighthouse from it’s completion in 1892 until it’s abandonment in 1975, and renewal in 2002.

“Sentinel of the Seas” heralds the career of Alexander Ballantyne, who supervised the project, as well as the careers of George Roux, and Fred Permenter the lighthouse keepers. Powers details the work of the “wickies,” lighthouse life, the history and the development of other U. S. lighthouses. He shows a deep appreciation for the courage the lighthouse keepers demonstrated in the midst of crashing waves, tumultuous storms, and hurricane force winds which they faced on a recurring basis.

Turnover among the personal was significant. Powers explained it this way: “This station was one of the least sought-after assignments in the service. Potential wickies had already heard what duty would be like on Dragon Rocks. It had earned its reputation.” I personally enjoyed the insight into the contrast between routine work and boredom of the assignment with hazardous way of life of the lighthouse keepers. Powers uses descriptive phrases that made me feel “the enveloping curtains of cold mists” or hear the “barks of the seals, cries of the seagulls, and the crashing surf.”

This is great adventure reading, brilliantly written. I highly recommend “Sentinel of the Seas” to everyone who loves epic adventure stories of the adventure of the sea, shipwreck, and nautical history.

I Don't Want to be Your Guru, but I Have Something to Say (New Edition)
Joyce Shafer (2007)
ISBN 9781430314110
Reviewed by Narissa Johnson for Reader Views

“I Don't Want to be Your Guru, but I have Something to Say” is Joyce Shafer's gift to me. This book, short and easy-to-read, makes me realize that other books, sharing wisdom that I have read, were merely building up to this book. The book could be read in one afternoon, but why would you want to? I took my time reading this book and intentionally did not mark in it, highlight or flag any part of it. I want to read it again before I really pull the lessons out of the text.

Through an easy going conversation in a cafe, lessons about how we view ourselves and the world around us are shared between two people. Each lesson is one which I want to savor – like a delectable amuses-bouche. An amuses-bouche is bite-sized morsel served before the first course of a meal. And its intent is to tantalize (or amuse) the mouth and indeed tease the diner with what the chef has prepared for the following courses. “I Don't Want to be Your Guru” serves up an array of amuses-bouche – each lesson teasing me with the possibility of how my life could be altered, bettered, lifted by integrating these lessons into it.

In “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru,” the loose story which surrounds these lessons is a young woman named AJ (though I suppose it could be a man, but as I am a woman I suspect Ms. Shafer intended me to view AJ as a woman) who is returning to the site where she had this life-changing conversation with Old Bill. She is returning ten years after the conversation – and I suspect that of everything she learned in her conversation with this “guru,” it could take ten years to really integrate and reflect on these lessons as part of your everyday life. And I, for one, can't wait to get started!

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