Heads up!

The movie version of Mulberry Child by Jian Ping is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime! I trust you will enjoy it. I loved the book!

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Founding Father

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin is an enlightening book. Surprisingly, it set right many misconceptions I had about this interesting man. For many years I believed Benjamin Franklin was quite a character and womanizer. After reading his autobiography, I came to believe exactly the opposite. He was a very deep thinker and accomplished man. He came from an extremely large family which could not afford to pay for his college education, but what he did over the course of his life was to self-educate himself by reading many books written by the great authors. He founded public libraries and a university.

He was an extremely hard-working, industrious man and, as many of you may know, quite an inventor and a man of science. I was surprised to read that he never chose to file patents on his very successful inventions such as the Franklin stove. He was hard on himself to the extent of keeping a list of virtues which he sought to emulate over the course of his life. His little book contained the virtues and he put check marks in it when he noticed he’d strayed and carried the book with him throughout his life.

He made many efforts throughout his career to assist others in need of a boost. Oftentimes he ended up losing money because of this, but he truly believed in helping others as much as he was able to do so and never went after anyone to collect debts owed to him.

This short autobiography contains many words of wisdom and quotes from famous people which I found inspiring. I do hope you will choose to read this book because it is very interesting. The appendix to the book contains several stories one of which is entitled The Whistle which really touched my heart. I recommend it!

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Where Did He Go?

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The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer is the fictional tale about Alina, an elderly Polish immigrant who is near death. At her hospital bedside are her only daughter and granddaughter Alice.

I found the story extremely hard to follow as it bounced back and forth too often and the person telling the it changed just as frequently leaving me, the reader, confused. What really annoyed me was the angry voice of Alice who has a bad relationship with her husband in addition to an autistic son. In my opinion, the only reason I could contrive for the autistic son was the author used him because she thought it would be a clever way to inject an IPad into the story which could be used by the dying Alina as a way to communicate her wishes after suffering a stroke. It was lame and lent absolutely nothing to the story as far as I’m concerned.

What might have been an interesting story about the plight of people in Poland during World War Two turned into a disconnected story of a grandmother and her granddaughter who had absolutely nothing in common. In addition, Alina’s daughter has another life story which only served to further jumble the plot.

As you can guess, I recommend avoiding this book altogether. Its potential was there, but unfortunately, got lost along the way.

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Forgotten Victims

The Five: The untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold is a well researched book about the women who, for over a hundred years, have been publicly misrepresented. Due in large part to the times, late 1800’s, and Victorian morals and beliefs, the five women who were brutally murdered during a short span of time in London were portrayed as prostitutes. This in fact was only the case with the last victim.

The author has gone to great lengths to research and make record of all of the victim’s circumstances and lives in order to set the record straight. In so doing, she recreates a series of heartbreaking tales of great suffering and loss which bring home how the victims lived, struggled and ultimately died.

Picture the London Dickens vividly portrayed in his many novels; the cruel fate of the poor who ended-up in workhouses or debtors prison; people who were unable to find work in order to feed their children or themselves. These murdered women lived during those dark days. Each story is overwhelmingly sad. What’s even worse is they were judged unjustly, and subsequently, forever labeled as “prostitutes”. This was not true! Even if it were true, they were innocent victims of a psychotic killer who was never identified or punished. These women’s lives mattered.

I recommend this book and want to clearly state this is not a who done it tale. It is not graphically gruesome either. A fact which made it much easier for me to read! I’m very impressed by the research which went into this book and amazed that so many historical records still exist!

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Silly Old Bear

Along with many people across the world, due to Covid-19 virus restrictions, I’m sheltering at home. One added component in my personal experience, is the fact that I recently underwent brain surgery. Although many unexpected complications arose during and after the surgery, gratefully I’m alive and fighting my way back from an emotional and physically traumatic experience.

It’s taken a couple of weeks for me to regain a sense of order and peace afterward, but I am eternally grateful to report I’m beginning to make progress. That in large part is due to being able to listen to soothing music (Mozart) and audiobooks. What I found difficult was making a selection on a book which might provide much needed company, and at the same time, peace of mind. Lucky for me, I chose Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne. What a delight! Over several decades, this novel has crossed my life many times and it’s always been enchanting. Both on and off the page, Winnie, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, and Owl are faithful friends who remind us how simple life can be even during the toughest of times. Their many adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods remind us we are never alone and reinforce the meaning of friendship. These days I think they are important footholds we can all benefit from.

It may take much more than a pot of honey for the world to regain a sense of normalcy, but remember, for every problem, there’s a solution and we will come to it! As for this struggling “bear of feeble brain ” in the Wisconsin Woods, whatever would we do without literature and music? I for one, am grateful. May God bless and keep you all.

 

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Continue reading

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Druids and Damsels

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is one of the Top 150 novels of the last century. It is one of a series of novels by the author based on the legend of Camelot.

What I loved about this lengthy novel was that it is told in the voices of the many women who loved King Arthur and Sir Lancelot. Surprisingly, it’s sexually graphic, but this is a story about ancient pagan beliefs being challenged by the rise of Christianity so it kind of made sense because it demonstrated the conflict between ideologies.

In addition to checking another Top 150 novel off my list, I enjoyed the story’s perspective on the times. I’m a real fan of books about this era anyway! It’s often repetitive, but overall, I recommend it.

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Kentucky Blue Bloods

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is another recent novel based on the Pack Horse Library Project in the 1930’s. Told in the first-person by the fictional character named Cussy, the story is powerful and moving. Much of it centers on the fact that Cussy, aka Bluet, suffers from a rare genetic condition known as methemoglobinemia which causes the afflicted person’s blood to lack adequate oxygenation. Hence, the person’s skin appears blue.

Ostracized because of her condition, Cussy is thrilled to find purpose and acceptance when the WPA implements the Pack Horse Library Project in 1936 in the hill country of her Kentucky homeland. Even though not everyone accepts her, Cussy’s caring nature and commitment to her job, benefits her self-esteem as well as furthering the accessibility of educational material to the poorly educated, starving, isolated people she serves.

I found this novel very moving and learned a great deal from it. It is similar in ways to The Giver of Stars by Moyes, but in my opinion, much better because it has a heart component I didn’t feel while reading the Moyes novel. I recommend this novel wholeheartedly.

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At Cross Purposes

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch is an eye-opening history which explores facts about a little known or recorded plot to kill General George Washington during the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.

I truly enjoy history books and found this one quite interesting. Written much like a mystery novel, I got caught-up in it from the start. It takes place in New York as George Washington and his ill equipped, poorly trained, ragged army of American patriots are arriving in anticipation of the mighty British ships loaded with stellar fighting men which are on their way to restore order in a British colony gone astray.

As the story unfolds, we discover that the former Governor of New York and the current mayor are in cahoots and conspiring to thwart the plans of the patriots being led by Washington. These politicians hold allegiance to England and are going to great lengths to convince others to turn against Washington as soon as the British soldiers arrive.

The secret plot becomes known through a series of seemingly disconnected events and the rest as they say, is history! But what a story it is!

I have only one issue with the book which pertains to Martha Washington because I read in another book that she always accompanied her husband no matter where he was during the fight for independence. In this book, she is strangely absent, but the authors mention the possible presence of George Washington’s mistress. What?!

Either way, I acquired additional knowledge of President Washington, our fight for independence, and the infancy of espionage in this land I gratefully call my home. I recommend this book and look forward to watching the new History Channel mini-series about our first President.

https://www.history.com/shows/washington

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Survival

My Home Is Far Away by Dawn Powell is a semi-autobiographical book which I brought home from a library book sale. It turned-out to be another stellar find.

In this story told in the third-person, we find the Willard family of five in rural Ohio in the early 1900’s as they move from one town to another. Mrs. Willard isn’t happy about moving, her three young daughters are excited, and her husband is overjoyed. Thus begins a sad tale of losses, gains, and hardships as seen through the innocent eyes of the middle daughter, Marcia.

I have chosen to tell very little of this story which is similar in many ways to The Dutch House, because it is one which sweeps the reader into its embrace and holds on even after it has ended. I fell in love with the author’s lyrical prose and sincerely hope I will be able to acquire more of her novels. Her writing is just that good! Highly recommended!

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Perspective

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a thrilling suspense novel which reinforced my belief that I’m very easily misled when it comes to discerning “who done it”!

In this novel which we find a criminal psychotherapist in London named Theo Faber whose fascination with an artist named Alicia leads him to use any means possible to obtain a position at the Grove, a mental institution, where artist Alicia is a patient ever since she supposedly shot and killed her husband. Alicia hasn’t spoken a word since she was discovered standing with slashed wrists next to her husband’s corpse in the living room of their home months prior. Her silence led to her admittance to a mental institution. Based on his own life experiences, Theo thinks he’s the one person who can bring Alicia back to reality.

I think this suspense novel is one of the best I’ve ever read. It contains several twists and turns and a few likely suspects. The ending took me completely by surprise! As stated previously, I am not the best detective when it comes to mystery books, but I’ll wager the ending will amaze many readers with greater knowledge of suspense stories. This is a mystery I highly recommend!

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