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Books, Books and More Books

Stop by and read a few sentences about the books I love and the books I hated. Leave a comment or two. I am a former librarian and a voracious reader.

Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theater Disaster, 1903 by Anthony Hatch

Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903 - Anthony P. Hatch
Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theater Disaster, 1903 by Anthony P Hatch 
Six hundred and two people, mostly women and children, lost their lives in the fire even worse than the Great Chicago Fire that destroyed most of the city in 1873. The Iroquois Theater was advertised as “absolutely fireproof.” It was not.
Hatch has written a very readable, but scholarly, look at the causes, failings, politics, and machinations of the owners, builders, managers, politicians, firemen and inspectors charged with safeguarding the lives entrusted to them.
Illustrated by 30 pages of photographs and drawings and supported by personal interviews with survivors and voluminous research, he details the fire itself and the changes that resulted from the fire.
Any group interested in history, fires or politics will find this an interesting and revealing look at the fire, what lead up to it and the changes it forced.
5 of 5 stars


FLIGHT OF DREAMS by Ariel Lawhon

Flight of Dreams - Ariel Lawhon
Field of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Using the real people who lived and died on the dirigible Hindenburg, Lawhon tells a fascinating story of what might have occurred during the Hindenburg’s last flight. Impeccable research into the passengers and crew lend credibility to the characters who include an acrobat, a family from Mexico returning home, businessmen conducting business, a spy, a murderer, a stewardess who wants out of Germany, a navigator who loves her, and a 14-year-old cabin boy among others. Her characters sparkle with life.
Although we will never truly know why the Hindenburg exploded, Lawhon presents a credible answer as she relates how a dirigible stays aloft and what it is like to float 600 feet above the ocean in a luxury hotel.
In the author’s notes she gives the website (www.facesofthehindenburg.blogspot.com) that details all that is known about each of the passengers and crew. This is a worthwhile site for those interested in the before and after of each of them.
5 of 5 stars.


Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

Savannah Blues - Mary Kay Andrews
SAVANNAH BLUES by Mary Kay Andrews
Okay, yes, it is chick lit. BUT, it is GOOD chick lit. Andrews is my favorite author for when I am mad at the world (don’t ask) and I need a picker-upper. She gives me a good story with interesting characters, some local touches, a lot of romance, a bit of “southern” and good writing with a few laughs on the way to getting the bad guy and having a happy ending.
Weezie, the wronged wife and soon to be divorcee, has been consigned to the “coach house” while hubby lives with wife number two in the “big house”. Best friend, Bebe, comes to the rescue when Weezie is caught standing over the bloody body of wife number two. Bebe brings along the hunky chef of the best restaurant in town who tries to help with interesting results (he must have a great staff because he is rarely at said restaurant).
Lots of fun and skullduggery, a bit of antiquing and home repair, along with many twists and turns in the romance department make this a great read for a quarantine summer.
5 of 5 stars

How The Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

How the Penguins Saved Veronica - Hazel Prior


This is a lovely story about an 86-year-old curmudgeon who decides to go to a scientific station in Antarctica to see the penguins. What ensues is gently humorous, scientifically factual, and full of family, love, disappointment, sorrow, overcoming setbacks, relationships, and coming to terms with yourself.

Prior writes warmly, gracefully, and clearly. Her characters live and grow and endear themselves to the reader. I enjoyed the relationship growth between the characters as they dealt with isolation and extreme cold along with the hardships of living and working in the unforgiving environment of an Antarctic scientific base.

The relationship of Veronica and her grandson develops in a natural way as they alienate each other on first meeting and then write notes and letters to each other as they each attempt to make amends.

A lovely book by a newish author. This is her second book. Her first, ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER, is also worth your time.

5 of 5 stars

Women survive a wagon train trip across country in 1852

Westering Women - Sandra Dallas
WESTERING WOMEN by Sandra Dallas
Characters are all important in this book that relates what it might have been like for a group of women, two ministers (who arranged the trip), and a few men (to drive the teams) traveling by wagon across the country from Chicago to the gold fields of California in 1852. The object was to provide the men working the male dominated gold fields with honorable women as brides and co-workers.
The women, their reasons for making the perilous journey, their personalities and their growing sisterhood are the basis for the book. Dallas excels at characterization and the book shines because of her deftness in examining the women through the hardships and dangers of the trip. Maggie, the main character, carries lies, burdens, secrets, and fear with her as do many of the other women. None are prepared for the trek through plains, mountains and deserts as they make their way across the country.
Although the hardships of the journey are made clear, this book is about the women. The epilogue informs us of the resolution for each of the women the reader has come to know intimately.
Book groups will find much to discuss, including answering the questions “Would you have made this trip?” and “Would you have survived?”
5 of 5 stars


The Prisoner's Wife - Maggie Brooks
THE PRISONER’S WIFE by Maggie Brookes
Based on a true story, THE PRISONER’S WIFE tells of a Czech farm girl who falls in love with the British POW assigned to work on her family’s farm. When it becomes apparent the POW’s will be moved to another area, Izabela and Bill decide to marry and then have Izabela pose as a mute British soldier.
The privations and terror of prison camps, hard forced labor, fear of discovery and then a forced march ahead of the Russian Army as the German’s face defeat make up the whole of the book.
The characters are well defined and grow and change as time passes. Each of the POW’s is a complete and complex person. The guards are more “stock” characters. The situations are believable and grab your attention from the first pages.
My one complaint is – I want to know the outcome of all the characters we have become so intimate with, what happened to them when the POW camps were disbanded and they returned to civilian life, were they able to achieve their desires as war’s end? My desire to lnow more confirms the writer’s ability to draw me in to each character’s story.
Book groups might discuss the decision’s that were made, the morality of various deaths, the culpability of civilians, the actions of the guards, the treatment of POW’s in time of war, the endurance of the human spirit, etc.
5 of 5 stars


You need to read this book

American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins
AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins
This is an important book. Anyone who thinks all illegal aliens are criminals should read this book. It is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It will grab you at the first page and not let go until the last.
Sabastian is a journalist who writes an expose of a drug boss. His family suffers because of it. His wife and 8 year old son flee to el norte to escape the retaliation. This is the story of their journey to el norte from Acapulco. Along the way they meet kindness and terror, friends and enemies, hunger and thirst, murderers and robbers, and worse.
Read this book.
5 of 5 stars


a love story with a hurricane approaching

The Promise - Ann Weisgarber
THE PROMISE by Ann Weisgarber
If you are looking a book long description of the devastating hurricane of 1900 and its aftermath, this not the book for you. While an accurate and terrifying description of the storm does appear, it is brief and secondary to the love story.
If you looking for a description of life on a hardscrabble Texas farm along with a family story, this is the book for you. The book is well written and well researched.
Catherine is clearly portrayed as is Oscar. Catherine is a pianist with a problem. The man she loves is married and now everyone knows and condemns her. In a desperate effort to get a new start Catherine chooses to marry Oscar, a man she hasn’t seen in years, and start a new life in Galvaston, Texas in August of 1900.
4 of 5 stars


Frothy bit of Russian history

A Countess Below Stairs - Eva Ibbotson
If you are enamored with the Russian Revolution and the Tsar’s family or you are a fan of British TV you will like this sweet story of a Russian Countess reduced to serving as a housemaid in England.
Anna is almost too sweet and industrious to believe, but this tale written for middle and high schoolers has just enough heft to be an enjoyable romp. You will learn a bit about the Revolution and quite a lot about being an immigrant in a country that is not quite welcoming to the impoverished Russians flowing into England.You will also learn a bit about how wealthy and titled Brits ran their households and treated their servants and fellow gentry.
Ibbotson produces well written books with engaging and well developed characters. This one is well worth the effort to read it.
4 of 5 stars


Lots of history, a bit of love

Next Year in Havana - Chanel Cleeton
NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA by Chanel Cleeton
A two generation story of Cuban refugees centers on Elisa, 19, when her wealthy family is forced from Castro’s Cuba because of their support of Battista, and Marisol, Elisa’s granddaughter, who travels to Havana when the country reopens to tourists. Marisol carries her grandmother’s ashes with the directive to scatter the ashes in Elisa’s home country.
Secrets abound as the story looks back to Elisa’s activities leading up to the family’s escape and in the present as Marisol befriends a politically active young Cuban. Strong characterizations and a healthy dose of history (not always favorable to America) make this a tale of revolution, passion for freedom, morality, friendship, politics and loyalty.
Complicated love is a strong element that carries the story along for those not so interested in the history neatly interwoven in the tale of family pride and love of country. Book groups will have much to discuss. This would be a good book for teen daughters and their mothers to discuss.
4 of 5 stars


a compelling read

The Glovemaker - Ann Weisgarber
THE GLOVEMAKER by Ann Weisgarber
I almost stopped reading this novel because of the stream of consciousness style of writing and the repetition of a certain phrase. However, by page 20 I was hooked.
Samuel is missing and Deborah, his wife, is waiting for his return when she is surprised by a stranger knocking on her door and seeking assistance.
Utah Territory in the 1880’s is the setting for Junction, a tiny hamlet of Mormon saints who are not anxious to have the official LDS church or the law visit them. The mysteries of Samuel and the stranger make a compelling tale.
The tension of the community builds almost to the breaking point. Weisberger handles the tension and the setting very well. Deborah, and Nels, her neighbor and Samuel’s best friend, are realistically written. The forbidding climate and terrain become a part of the story as the tension builds.
A good story, a good writer, and interesting, well drawn characters all combine to make this read well worth your time.
4 of 5 stars



The Fountains of Silence - Ruta Sepetys
Sepetys writes teens beautifully and accurately. Her teens are impetuous, naïve, full hearted, empathetic, selfish, quick thinking and foolhardy. THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE tells of teens caught up in the tyrannical world of General Francisco Franco in the aftermath of the Spanish Revolution of 1939.
In 1957 as Spain was beginning to open up to the outside world, a family of American citizens, including their teenage son, entered Franco’s world. Daniel, a camera buff who wants to become a photojournalist, meets Ana, his family’s assigned maid. Ana’s family, formerly professors and Republicans, has been decimated by the Nationalists.
Through Daniel and Ana, Sepetys tells of tyranny, torture, death and bull fighting, friendship, kindness and a people’s yearning for freedom.
As good historical fiction does, she teaches us painlessly the truths of dictators and freedom fighters and the good people caught between them. Written for teens, this book will resonate with adults as well. It offers a multitude of topics for book group discussion. This is an altogether worthy read.
5 of 5 stars



The Rise of Magicks - Nora Roberts
This third and final installment in the CHRONICLES OF THE ONE gives a satisfying and fully anticipated conclusion to the series. Roberts is a good writer who has command of her characters and story line.
While the conclusion is apparent from the first pages of the series, that does not take away from the tension and dread of the survivors of THE DOOM who are establishing a new, kinder, gentler world – after 20 years of killing and war, of course. And, yes, beloved characters succumb to the evil of the Dark Uncanny and the Purity Warriors.
If you started this series, you must finish it. If you haven’t started it, do begin at the beginning. These are not stand alones and while you may enjoy the books if you read them independently, you will find yourself wondering what everyone else knows that you do not and being slightly befuddles by some of the references and the meanings of various actions. Do yourself a favor, read them in order.
5 of 5 stars


Partly lovely, partly disappointing

I so wanted to like this book. And I did –parts of it anyway. Doshi in some places (mostly descriptive parts of the book) is lyrical and enchanting, but in other parts (mostly conversations and character development) she is stilted and unpolished. Did she need a good editor? I also found the general outline of the book to be confusing as it jumped back and forth in time.
That said the maturing of the relationship between the sisters grows and changes in lovely ways. Both sisters and Teacher developed as the book progressed. Mother, however, seemed static, even as Grace reveals more and more of her personality and their relationship. Lucia was my favorite part of the book and was sympathetically drawn. I found my smiling as she made her wants and needs known.
Overall, I give the book 3 out of 5 stars for the parts of wonderful writing and Lucia. It is not a book I would recommend wholeheartedly.
3 of 5 stars



Shot Through the Hearth - Kate Carlisle
When a multimillionaire throws a conference in a small town, attendees start dying. If you can overlook a “small town” with hotel accommodations for over a thousand people, a well-planned conference with no apparent security, a police force that chooses to stop for a steak dinner instead of investigating the second murder at said conference, and a number of other improbable incidents, this is a pretty good mystery.
Those murdered aren’t very likeable, the main characters are likeable and red herrings abound in this cozy mystery by a well known author. The characters are well developed, the plot is interesting and intricate, and writing is more than adequate.
A fast, easy read for a lazy afternoon. Carlisle fans will like this outing in the “fixer-upper series.
4 of 5 stars


BEFORE AND AFTER (Before We Were Yours)

BEFORE AND AFTER - Judy Christie and Lisa WIngate
BEFORE AND AFTER by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate
BEFORE AND AFTER gives the real stories of the children that were the impetus and inspiration for the bestselling novel BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Wingate. The stories of the children – what happened to them then and where they are now – are interspersed with comments by Christie and Wingate, pictures provided by the families of the now grown children and the “reunion” of the children and their families that was organized by Christie and Wingate.
The stories are heartrending. It is easy to identify which children were the prototype for each of incidents in the novel. It is reassuring to hear positive stories and sad to read of children further victimized by Georgia Tann, Tenneessee and cruel adoption laws.
An essential read if you read BEFORE WE WERE YOURS.
5 of 5 stars