Truly Free

41ja9w-6ihl._sy400_.jpgNo Dogs or Indians by Lisa Hare is a beautifully written novel about a young woman named Clara who owns and manages a sanctuary for wild mustang horses in Nebraska. In addition to training the horses, Clara and a therapist named Portia conduct equine-assisted therapy for troubled youths.

After suffering several life-altering losses, Clara’s favorite horse is killed when a drunk driver from the nearby Indian reservation hits and fatally injures the animal. Soon afterward, the driver ends-up at the ranch as ordered by the court. The entry of the angry youth and his father Joe Black Hawk set wheels in motion which unearth Clara’s prejudices, and eventually, change her life in ways she never imagined.

This is a thought-provoking story about loss, anger, and the plight of Native Americans. I especially appreciated its spiritual nature. It brought back fond memories of a vacation I spent learning to ride horses on a ranch owned and managed by a blind man and his wife. This beautiful story made me miss the excitement of viewing the world from atop a cantering horse. It also brought to mind a paper I wrote in college about the inhumane treatment of the American Indians robbed of their freedom so many years ago. This book captures part of their story. We still have much to learn.

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What History Teaches Us

51cbu76ho8l._sy400_.jpgRules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey is a powerful, beautifully written novel about an old man who has recently lost his beloved wife. Bereaved and waiting for his own death, the history professor stocks his pantry, holes himself up in his home, and proceeds to write his final story. At the same time, Robert MacIver, reminisces about his achievements and the events and people who most impacted his life.

Robert lost his father in World War I, served in World War II, and had a son who served in Vietnam. He also wrote a book about men who had been injured in World War I based on oral histories he conducted personally.

I discovered this book while searching for another and as I firmly believe, ’twas the book that found me! So much of the book is poetic and deep in meaning. It forces the reader to step outside of the story to think about the meaning of life and the consequences of actions. I was deeply moved by the novel and profoundly affected by its contents. I will lovingly add it to my permanent collection.

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Three Ring Circus

a1g8apdynvl._sl1500_.jpgMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs impressed me as a cross between Lost Horizon and Brigadoon with a touch of The Wizard of Oz. I don’t often read young adult books, but every now and then, I peruse the best sellers. A movie version of this book is scheduled for release at the end of September, 2016.

In this fictional story, a sixteen-year-old boy named Jacob is a privileged rich kid with one teenage friend. He has a close relationship with his grandfather who has regaled Jacob with many strange stories. The death of Jacob’s mysterious grandfather sets in motion an adventure beyond belief on an island in Wales where Jacob discovers there is truth behind his late grandfather’s fantastic tales.

As this is a work of fiction, pretty much anything is possible and the author takes full advantage of this creating imaginary characters and monsters endowed with unusual attributes. Jacob becomes the knight in shining armour and rescues the poor peculiar children caught in a time warp. The story doesn’t end happily ever after and is followed by sequels.

I can see why this book was so popular. It is fantasy and many young adults and adults enjoy an escape from reality. I enjoyed the book, but the end confused me. I didn’t understand how the peculiar children crossed-over to modern times without consequence. Perhaps the sequel clarifies what I don’t understand.

It is doubtful I will read the sequel to this book, but I admire creative ideas and books which get kids reading. I do hope however, that these same readers find their way to books like Lost Horizon and the works of L. Frank Baum, which in my mind, are “timeless”!

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51cxwndofcl._sy400_.jpgThe Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy is a bittersweet novel about a young widow in India whose husband lost his life while on a mountain climbing expedition. Because she married a man of a different faith, Maya is estranged from her wealthy family. After her husband’s death, she does not repentantly return to her family, but chooses to begin her anew life in a remote mountain village where she knows no one.

The town and its inhabitants are vividly portrayed by the talented author and I was impressed. This is a story unlike many which end predictably wrapped-up like a present with a bow. I especially liked that. It was refreshing! Roy has written a touching, emotional novel which is reflective of real-life and human frailties. Beautiful! Continue reading

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Nothing but the Truth

515b12fq1l._sy400_.jpg.jpgMy Father & Atticus Finch: A Lawyer’s Fight for Justice in 1930’s Alabama by Joseph Madison Beck is the remarkable true story of the life of the author’s father, Foster Beck. An attorney in Alabama, Beck defended an African-American male named Charles White who was accused of raping a white female in a small town in July of 1938.

I imagine anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird will find this book as fascinating as I did. Similarities to the fictional novel abound and I became engrossed in the story to the extent that I read it in entirety last night.

Foster Beck was an extraordinary man with morals, integrity, and conviction. He believed in justice for all and represented Charles White as he would any other man, regardless of the accused’s skin color. To have done so was a great accomplishment in his time. To this day, prejudice pervades not only our courts of law, but every day life. This book provides something for everyone to consider. I think it is excellent.

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Not Laughing

51ddmes9ebl._sy400_.jpgFunny Girl by Nick Hornby was a recent off the shelf pick which ended-up being a disappointment to me. Hornby wrote one of my favorite stories – About a Boy – leading me to anticipate another I would love. I was wrong.

This novel is about the characters involved in a BBC sitcom in the sixties. Sophie and Clive are actors who play a young married couple in the show. With dreams of stardom and an obsession for Lucille Ball, Sophie arrives in London from a small town named Blackpool. She is discovered and from there begins a new life. Her fame however, doesn’t replace her naivet√©. The other members of the cast and crew are a diverse assortment of personalities, most of whom come to love Sophie and her comedic ability.

The only part of the story I found enjoyable was the writer’s meetings where two men bounced ideas off each other in order to create the sitcom episodes. I stuck with this book until the end and closed the cover with a sigh of relief.

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Promises Made

51zrzcccbul._sy400_.jpgAmerica’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is a captivating historical fiction novel based on the life of President Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph.¬† Known for much of her life as Patsy, she spent the majority of it in close proximity to her father. A witness to the early history of our nation and the beginnings of the French Revolution as a young girl with her father in Paris, her memories encapsulate a wide range of famous leaders and events of the era.

Prior to the early death of her mother, Patsy promised to take care of Thomas Jefferson. It was a promise she took to heart. Ever vigilante, she became his close confidante and protector. Her father never remarried, but Patsy did marry giving birth to twelve children.

This is a fascinating, revealing novel filled with intimate details of the lives of the people in it. As noted by the authors, much of the information is based on fact.

What I found very interesting was the fact that Thomas Jefferson’s wife and Sally Hemmings, Jefferson’s slave/mistress, were half-sisters. The topic of slavery is prominent in the story. I came away from it thinking that both Patsy and Sally were owned by Jefferson — granted in different ways, but still, both were dependant on, devoted to, and controlled by Jefferson.

Even though this is a romanticized version of the lives of the Jefferson family, I enjoyed it, learned from it, highly recommend it. I would love to see this book converted into a mini-series on PBS!

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