Thursday, July 30, 2015

Two Good Reads

It's been a little while since I finished the first two of these, so I'm trying to get a little caught up in sharing them both.  The first is Unlikely Allies by Joel Richard Paul.  The second line of the title says "How a Merchant, a Playwright and a Spy Saved the American Revolution."  That's exactly what this delightful book was about...three men you have probably NEVER heard of because they were not "major players" in our nation's history.  Yet, their contributions were extremely significant, and learning about them was fascinating.  The book is an easy read, and will be a delight to anyone who enjoys a good tale, or who is fascinated with our unknown American history.  It also sparked my interest in learning more about Benjamin Franklin, which led to one of the books I am reading now.

The second book was very different...a true crime book called Death in a Prairie House by William Drennan.  It is about the mass murders that occurred in Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin House that took the life of his live-in girlfriend, her two children, and various workers who were all at lunch in the home in different areas.  The book is an interesting look into the life of Wright, and his time.  I enjoyed reading about him, and the crime itself was horrific.  Drennan explores with great detail the investigation of the crime, as well as the theories of why it happened.  Really interesting book!

Now, share what you have been reading!

Saturday, July 25, 2015


I finished it!! And, all I can say is Wow!!

I just read "Song of The Exile" by Kiana Davenport.

I could not wait to do a review but I am hesitant to recommend it. Why, you might ask? Because it is so heart wrenching, so tragic, so emotional. 

But, now, I know you will want to read it. Don't say I didn't warn you!!

The book, 382 pages, weave a tragic and passionate tale of love and survival. It's characters are unusual, compelling, drawing. The story starts in the late 1930s in Honolulu where Keo Meahuna is haunted by his love of music, not Hawaiian music but the new jazz that is sweeping the mainland. He learns to play a trumpet, very well, and travels to New Orleans to play where Jazz was born. He leaves behind the love of his life, Sunny Sung. 

Faced with racial disturbance in the South, Keo moves on to Paris where he is an instant hit. Sunny follows but the Nazis are edging closer and closer and finally she flees. Keo can't leave his music so they are parted. 

Pearl Harbor is bombed, Sunny is in Shanghai where she is captured and kept as a P-Girl (prostitute for Japanese soldiers) and is brutally tortured. She sees and endures more than any human should. The war ends and Keo begin searching for Sunny. The suffering, tragedy and survival of Keo and Sunny runs through each chapter tying them in the past and the present from the 1930s, through WWII, Hawaii's statehood and after.

There were times I did not think I could read one more page, as Davenport is very graphic in description of the horrors of the war, of prison camps, of death, of struggles. But, then I'd turn to the next page totally immersed. I didn't want to read it. I did want to read it. I couldn't put it down. 

In doing a little research on Kiana Davenport I was pretty proud to find out that her Dad was a sailor from my home state, Alabama. He was stationed in Hawaii and fell in love with a full-blooded native Hawaiian. Their daughter, Kiana, is the author of the book.

The fact that my husband was a sailor and he, me and our little family lived in Honolulu for a time made the book all that much more interesting. I recalled streets she mentioned, food, flowers, it just brought it all back to me. We were there when the Hawaiian islands were U. S. territories. Statehood came shortly after we left there. 

So, read it. I think you will be captured by the spellbinding way Davenport writes. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review Snippets

It's been awhile since I've offered a review of a book and its not because I haven't been reading.  Just never got around to reviewing and posting here.  So rather than review a single book I'll give you snippet reviews of three books I've read recently.  You can then read more about them elsewhere and decide if they're of interest to you.

1. Here is Where - Discovering America's Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll
The author criss crosses the US writing about places and the important events that have been almost lost to history.  For instance did you know that the Spanish flu pandemic started in the midwest? Did you know that Robert Todd Lincoln was saved from certain death after falling in front of an oncoming train?  Did you know that a 14 year old farm boy dreamed up what we now take for granted: television?  This is the kind of book that you can read over a long period of time.  I kept it at my bedside to read a chapter at a time.  Interesting stuff.  [There is even a volunteer organization now to mark some of these historic sites.]

2. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
This was the last book written by this author before she died.  Set in the present day each chapter is devoted to one character's story and then woven into the overall story of an old house being converted to a holiday house.  Chicky's story starts it off as she returns home to Ireland and a new life renovating the house and serving as the hostess.  It sounds like it would be a difficult read but Binchy pulls it off easily and you get wrapped up in each character's story and look forward to whether Chicky's endeavor will work out.

3. Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler by Trudi Kanter
A friend pointed me to this book.  It's a memoir of survival during WWII.  The author successfully leaves Austria for England as the Nazis begin their reign of terror on the Jews.  She's a milliner with quite a reputation for her hats.  She writes simply but clearly tells her story.  The book was originally self published and only rediscovered by an editor recently and republished.  The sad part is that Trudi had no children and the publisher has not found anyone to give the royalties to.  A quick read, but well worth it.

Here are some other book titles to explore that I enjoyed reading in the last weeks:

The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchett

Vintage by Susan Gloss

Girl on the Golden Coin - A Novel of Frances Stuart by Marci Jefferson

The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack by Ian Tattersall

Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey

What have you been reading?

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills

Oh I thought someone else might do a review by now, so since they have not I am going to go ahead with my next one.  I am a little behind in getting mine posted...

If you love Harper Lee like I To Kill a Mockingbird....and always wanted to know more about her, then this book is for you.  Late in Harper Lee's life (called Nelle by everyone who knew her)  she and her sister Alice decided it seems that it was time to set the record straight.  There had been so much speculation about her, and un-authorized biographies that she did not participate in, that the two sisters felt it was important that the world knew what was correct and what was not correct concerning them.  Nelle had withdrawn from public life after she was overwhelmed by the unwanted attention, and she had not spoken on the record for many years.  That doesn't mean she was unkind to anyone who came upon her in a restaurant and wished to speak with her, because she was indeed a very kind person.  But, she was also a private person. 

The choice of Marja Mills to tell their story was interesting to me since there had been many other journalists and writers who had tried to interview them and who were sent packing.  There must have been something special about Marja, something Nelle and Alice could relate to, and of course, TRUST.  They knew she would not sensationalize her connection to them.  It started slowly...she was invited into their home to speak with Alice first.  Over time, Nelle began speaking with Marja as well.  The three women became good friends, and they invited Marja (who was suffering with lupus) to come live next door to them for a time, renting the empty house there.  They made sure Marja came to know and love Monroeville and its people.  They told her anecdotes and stories about their lives.  And the result is an amazing, wonderfully intimate account of one of America's greatest writers, and her world.  I just couldn't put this book down.  I hope you also will read and enjoy this wonderful memoir.