Book Review: The Discovery

Last week I posted a photo of some books from my to-read stack. Today I’m going to share my review of one of those books, The Discovery by Dan Walsh.

The DiscoveryI’ve read two of Walsh’s previous novels, The Unfinished Gift and The Homecoming. They were both set in the World War II era, so The Discovery is a bit different from those because it’s set in modern times. But – Walsh still shares his love of WWII tales with us because The Discovery actually is a story within a story.

Here’s part of the back cover blurb:

When aspiring writer Michael Warner inherits his grandfather’s venerable Charleston estate, he settles in to write his first novel. But within the confines of the stately home, he discovers an unpublished manuscript that his grandfather, a literary giant whose novels sold in the millions, had kept hidden from everyone – but which he clearly intended Michael to find. As he delves deep into the exciting tale about spies and sabotage, Michael discovers something that has the power to change not only his future but his past as well.

So … an aspiring novelist, a story set in Charleston, and some spies and sabotage. The combination hooked me from the get-go.

DSC00893 (1)
The top of the St. Augustine, Fla., lighthouse. I learned a lot about World War II spies when we visited a few years ago. Some of those same things were in The Discovery.

You’re about 60 pages into the book before Michael comes across his grandfather’s hidden manuscript. From there, The Discovery alternates between Michael’s present-day life and the story within the old manuscript – which you read along with Michael in its entirety. I felt like the “hidden” story dragged a bit in a few places, but it wasn’t so bad that I wanted to stop reading. I think it was partly because I anticipated some things and was ready for them to happen. But at least I didn’t jump to the ending to make sure things worked out like I wanted.

Basic fiction tools like flashbacks and back story can be tricky to work into a story, and what Walsh attempted here was much bigger than that. But he managed to pull it off and reward his readers with not one enjoyable story, but two. If you’re looking for a novel about young love during World War II that stays more “light” than “grim,” The Discovery could be worth checking out.

Your turn: What good World War II novels have you read? Do you have a favorite author who writes about that time frame?

And … I had the chance to interview Dan Walsh on the Novel Pastimes blog when his debut novel, The Unfinished Gift, was released. You can read Day 1 of the interview here and Day 2 here.

What’s On Your Reading Pile?

I’ve been a reader all my life, and always have a stack of books waiting to be my next literary get-away — plus plenty on my haven’t-bought-yet list. I’ll admit it makes me a little crazy and a little sad when I hear people say they don’t like to read. Don’t they know how much they’re missing?!

That’s why I love this quote from J.K. Rowling that I saw online this weekend:

JK Rowling quote
Source: BuzzFeed UK; http://bit.ly/1WZBESB

My sentiments exactly! Whether it’s suspense, romance, sci-fi, dystopian, Western, mystery, historical, or something completely different from the non-fiction part of the world — everyone can find something they enjoy reading if they take time to dig a bit. I’ve said it to plenty of my kids’ friends in the past few years.

TBR pile
What are you reading next?

Me, I’m always looking for another “right” book. Here’s what’s left of my to-read pile at the moment. Since there are only six (two of which I’m partway through), I obviously need to get moving on my haven’t-bought-yet list!

Your turn: I’d love to know what you’re reading or what you want to buy next. Share in the comments and we’ll all have some good books to explore.

Thankful Thursday: 3 Life Lessons Daddy Taught Me

I’m so thankful to both my parents for all the things they’ve taught me over the years – more things than I could ever list. The older I get – and the older my kids get – the more I appreciate those life lessons and the memories that go with some of them. Since yesterday was my dad’s birthday, today I’m going to share a few important things he’s taught me through some favorite memories.

thankful Daddy lessonsMemory 1: We went camping – a lot! – when my sister and I were growing up. Sometimes we went with a group of friends, but a lot of times we’d go by ourselves. One of my favorite spots was Indian Springs State Park because it had the biggest swing set I’d ever been on. I LOVED to swing – and Daddy was always ready to push me. He would get me going so high that he’d have to jump to grab the seat and push me again. I would laugh, he would laugh, and at some point Mama would start telling us that he was pushing me too high. I would yell, “Higher, Daddy!” and he’d keep me going as high as he possibly could.

The lesson from Daddy: Going high might be scary, but it might also be the best thing you’ve ever done. But you’ll never know until you have someone there to help push you.

Memory 2: Daddy is a man of few words. I think he’s always been that way, but living for years in a house full of word-loving women didn’t give him much chance to live differently. But, just because he wasn’t always in the middle of the conversation didn’t mean that he wasn’t listening or that he didn’t have his own opinion. Believe me, when he did speak up we all listened! And learned.

The lesson from Daddy: Open your mouth when you need to, not just because you can. I’ll be the first to admit I’m still working on this, but like to hope that I’m better than I used to be about listening instead of automatically jumping into the conversation.

BiblesMemory 3: My parents are Christians and they raised us in a Christian home, which included being involved in multiple things at church. During the rest of the week they both live their faith in quiet, everyday ways. All my growing up years, Daddy got up much earlier for work than the rest of us did for school. I’ll never forget one morning when I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. I padded down the dark hall and glanced through the den into the kitchen. Daddy sat at the table with his steaming mug of black coffee, reading his Bible. I’d never known that he read his Bible or had any kind of devotional time before going to work. I’d never thought about it, actually. But that image of him reading in the semi-darkness struck me in a special way and has stayed with me ever since.

The lesson from Daddy: No matter how early your day starts, no matter what time that alarm goes off, there can be a few minutes for God. And, faith should be a built-in part of your day and who you are, whether other people see it in obvious ways or not.

Of course, there are lots of other lessons I’ve learned from Daddy (and Mama, too). These three are resonating with me especially much these days, so that’s why I shared them. I hope my kids will someday realize that I’ve set a good example and taught them some valuable lessons, too.

Your turn: What’s a lesson you learned from a parent or other adult while growing up that has a favorite memory or still resonates with you?

Folding the Flag: How It Honors Our History

Today is President’s Day, and I’m forever grateful to our Founding Fathers who made it possible for us to live in America today. But I’m also forever grateful to our military men and women – and their families – and the sacrifices they all make to keep us free.

DSC03968I got a fresh reminder of that at a memorial service this weekend for a member of my husband’s extended family who was a Vietnam veteran. Even though I was only around him a few times since marrying into the family, I remember him being a warm, caring, and funny man. That was emphasized ten-fold during his service as people spoke again and again about his love for family, friends, and God; his willingness to offer help before it was even asked for; and how everyone always knew he was a friend who “had your back.”

He was also very active with local groups supporting Vietnam veterans and disabled veterans, which I hadn’t known. But, it didn’t surprise me because of the kind of man he was. Several veterans participated in the service, but a good number of others attended out of respect and love for him. That says a lot.

Maybe it was because I haven’t been to a military service in a few years, but the ceremonial parts were especially touching. Each of his military friends still carried themselves with pride and with ingrained habits, from their measured steps to curling their fingers as they stood with their arms by their sides. And there’s still something special about a military person in dress uniform, no matter how gray the hari might be.

All of it got me thinking about the history behind parts of the service, which of course meant I went Googling. And I learned some interesting things along the way …

  • Draping the casket (or table, at a memorial service) with the national flag began during the Napoleonic Wars in 1796-1815. The dead were covered with a flag when they were carried from the field of battle on a caisson.
  • The U.S. flag is placed so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the person who served. It is not allowed to touch the ground.
  • The familiar Taps tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call. It was composed by General Daniel Butterfield of the Union Army during The Civil War. Originally used to signal “lights out,” the somber tune became a traditional way to honor service members, eventually becoming a staple at funeral services to honor the extinguishing of a life.
  • After Taps has been played during the servcie, the flag is carefully folded into the symbolic tri-cornered shape. A properly proportioned flag will fold 13 times on the triangles, representing the 13 original colonies. The folded flag is emblematic of the tri-cornered hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, no red or white stripe is to be evident, leaving only the blue field with stars.
  • Each of the 13 folds of the flag symbolizes something in particular. To read about each one, visit this page on the American Legion’s website .
  • The folded flag is then presented as a keepsake to the next of kin or an appropriate family member. Each branch of the Armed Forces uses its own wording for the presentation. You can read them here on the Military Salute website.

folded flagAfter an American flag has been used for a military or veteran’s funeral, it should never be flown again or displayed in any other way than the tri-fold shape it’s folded into before being presented to the family.

I’m proud that we have the flag from my father-in-law’s service and am even more proud of what it stands for, now that I’ve had my history refresher. God bless America, and all the men and women who work so hard to keep us free.

Your turn: What is the most moving part of a military funeral or memorial service for you?