My father and his wife recently moved into a retirement community in Iowa and are enjoying their active lifestyle in the independent living wing of this very nice facility, called Grand Living at Indian Creek. For years they have walked at least two miles almost daily, and in the early days of the Fitbit craze, Dad (currently 83) was the first in our family to buy this gadget. I got my first Fitbit about a year after he did, and he was quick to send me his weekly Fitbit progress report that showed how far behind him I was in daily steps. (In my defense, I work full time and he is retired. And because he spends October through April in Arizona, he can pretty much walk outside year-round, while I am stuck in a six-month long Minnesota winter.)
When I went to visit him a few months ago at Grand Living, the latest thing trending in his life was a stainless steel magnetic wristband that attaches to any Fitbit, is adjustable to any wrist size, and keeps the band securely in place without the awkward buckle function. He enthusiastically demonstrated the magnetic prowess of this band and pointed out that the steel mesh loop construction provided good ventilation, something that serves him well on the Pickleball court and golf course.
I agreed that this band was far superior to the plastic version that comes “factory-standard.” He then had Judy, my stepmother, hold up her wrist to model the pinky bronze version he had purchased for her, and then promptly pulled out his laptop, navigated to eBay (he loves eBay) and ordered one for me.
It was thus I learned Dad had become The Fitbit Guy among his new neighbors, many of whom aren’t as technologically inclined as my father. As of this writing, he has ordered Fitbits on eBay for six residents, downloaded the app onto their devices and shown them how to navigate the dashboard, sync their data, and send and accept friend requests.
While this is a sweet, endearing story, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Dad has always understood the impact of technology, and the value it brings to one’s life. It started in the early 1980s when he bought an Apple IIe computer for our family. Personal computing really took off for the first time around 1977, so Dad wasn’t far behind.
Fast forward to when I was a young career woman, and hand-held personal digital assistants (PDAs) become all the rage. Not only could you keep your calendar and contacts on it, you could take notes, surf the Internet, and a lot of other cool things that in the late 1990s seemed pretty revolutionary. The Palm Pilot was the first of the hand-held computers that paved the way for the smartphone era.
I remember Dad telling me that when he attended business meetings, whether in his company or for various boards he served on, he would take his Palm Pilot from his pocket and put it, and the accompanying stylus, on the table in front of him. He wanted his colleagues and peers (especially those who were younger) to know that, despite his greying and thinning hair and advancing age, he was a Renaissance man who was quite capable, thank you very much, of keeping up with the technologies evolving around him.
So enamored was he of the Palm Pilot, he insisted that I get one. And when I didn’t, he promptly ordered one for me on eBay (I told you he loved eBay).
Dad had a Facebook account before I did, and I’m pretty he sure he was on LinkedIn before me. In a way, this makes me sound behind the times. But I have bested him when it comes to Instagram and Twitter, and I did get an iPad first and showed him how to play backgammon on it. Point for me. Point for Dad: He started using the iPhone’s voice-to-text function before I did.
His final two frontiers on the technology landscape are (1) placing and retrieving his electronic boarding pass via his mobile wallet, and (2) using Apple Pay. However, I’m travelling with him in September and can show him how it’s done. I have no doubt he will easily master both of these processes, just as he has everything else. And who knows, before too long, the residents of Grand Living might be paying their rent with Apple Pay!
Have you ever awakened in the morning and the first thought you have is, "I just had the strangest dream!" Well, that was my feeling when I finished The Bonerunners (The Chronicles of Corvacadia Book 1), by Karen Turkal. But I felt this in a good way. The book is filled with magic and mystery, well-developed and interesting characters, a well-paced story line, and settings brought alive by the essence of the tale.
The story is built around a group of people, known as Corvids, who have survived an outbreak of a very strong strain of flu and suddenly begin to grow “outer bones,” which are literally bones that grow on the outside of their bodies. The Corvids are hunted by the “bonerunners,” the evil-doers who will stop at nothing to harvest the bones and reap their special powers. Grim, right? Yes, but very well done.
Throughout the book the main character, Dia, must deal with this unspeakable evil and violence, and she does so with the help of a peculiar but likeable group of new friends. In addition, she draws on the magical powers she learns she has inherited, and must rely on the sometimes puzzling guidance of her grandmother, Gram Spina. Dia is haunted throughout the book by a personal tragedy which opens the story, and plunges her into the horrific world of the bonerunners.
Turkal's considerable imagination has conjured up a compelling story that can be described as a cross between a fairy tale and a horror story, with the underlying struggle of good versus evil intertwined. Her talent for world-building immerses the reader fully into Dia’s surroundings.
The author’s respect for and knowledge of nature is also evident. There are even a few adorable animals. As this first book in the series comes to a close, the reader is introduced to the wonders of Corvacadia, a magical and beautiful world with surprises of its own. Readers will be eager to know more about Corvacadia in subsequent books in the series, and will certainly want to keep up with Dia and her tribe of unusual but capable allies as she navigates an increasingly complicated maze where magic and evil come together.
As I read this book, I was constantly amazed at the author's ability to keep all the events, characters, plot twists, and surprises straight, but she managed to do so, and do it well.
After you’ve read this mesmerizing book, be sure to check out books two and three, The Corvids and Corvacadia.
Connect with Karen on Twitter and Goodreads.
I was delighted in January when my friend Mary suggested we organize a book club by mail, just for the two of us, and I jumped at the suggestion.
When we first met in Virginia fifteen years ago, Mary invited me to join her long-time traditional book club, and I participated enthusiastically until I moved out of state. I never did get back into another book club, and not for a lack of trying. Somehow, I just didn't find the right one. Some met during the day. Others were dedicated to just one genre. One had too much socializing and not enough book discussion. Another was too much book discussion, and presided over by a leader who might as well have had a ring of keys at her waist and be named Matron.
But Mary's book club fit just right! Our rules, if you can call them that, are loosey-goosey, to use a technical term. We will send each other books we have enjoyed and if we feel like it, we will exchange insights and commentary by text, email, and/or phone.
It began when I received "If the Creek Don't Rise," by Leah Weiss, an author from our Central Virginia town. This beautifully written book made me practically weep with its perfectly executed prose and solid expanse of time and place. In exchange, I sent Mary "The Flight of the Maidens," by Jane Gardam, a post- WW II coming-of-age story. We were off to a good start!
Then we moved on to "The Dollhouse," by Fiona Davis, and Mary sent me "Angel," by Elizabeth Taylor.
I have to pause here to say that "Angel" perfectly exemplifies the point of book clubs. This is a book I never would have picked up, and had it not been for Mary's endorsement, probably would not have kept reading. The main character has only one redeeming quality, and that is her love for animals, something that Mary and I have in common. I ended up loving this book, in a macabre kind of way, and will read more by this author.
We exchanged biographies of Wallis Simpson and Beatrix Potter. I'm currently reading "Normal People" by Sally Rooney, and recently sent Mary a book of short stories, "An Evening in Paradise," by Lucia Berlin. As a birthday present Mary slipped in a copy of "A Woman of No Importance," by Sonia Purnell, about an American woman super spy in World War II. She bought a copy for herself, too, and for the first time we're reading the same book together!
I find myself thinking of Mary when I buy a new book. Yesterday, at my local library book sale, I purchased a copy of "The New Woman," by John Hassler, thinking to myself, this looks like something Mary would like, too!
Another bonus of our little book club? It reverberates beyond just the two of us. I've shared copies of books Mary has sent me with my sister in New York and a friend in Virginia, who in turn shares them with her daughter in South Carolina, and Mary shares my books with her sister in Maryland.
Books are indeed the gifts that keep on giving.
Read our literary insights, exchanged via texts, in the slideshow below.