Archive for the ‘Books’ category

The Black Thorn

April 18, 2019

41lCC6CPC2LJust finished reading “The Black Thorn”  by John Desmond. John Desmond is also a history teacher at Billerica Memorial High School. Our son, Mike, had him for an AP History course back in the late 90’s.

This is the story of Eamonn McDonagh, a Irish tenant farmer in the 1850’s who struggles against his English landlord in his town. He creates a secret society called the “Black Thorn” that proceeds to fight the oppression by the English.

He son, Joseph, witnesses the death of his father at the hands of the English. Joseph leaves Ireland in a “Coffin Ship” bound to America. Then the story tells of Joseph’s life in a coal mine and then in infantry of the Civil War.

Then Joseph comes back from the war to the coal mine. He then proceeds to form a union to fight the unfair labor practices of the mine owners.

Then there is violence in the murder of one of the mine owners. Joseph and his men get the blame and go to trial.

If I said anymore it would be a spoiler alert.

The story is historical fiction. The characters are not real but are based on real events in the Irish potato famine and the civil war.

Great read. I learned much about the civil war and other events of the time. I could hardly put it down. It took me only about five days to read cover to cover.

Books

March 21, 2019

Eric Idle Cover ShotSo what is everyone reading these days? Currently, I am reading Eric Idle’s biography. (Actually titled: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiogtaphy“. This is the story of Eric Idle’s very interesting life from Monty Python to Spamalot and much more.

So I discovered this book after seeing Eric Idle’s appearance on the Stephen Colbert show. Interesting book, but that’s not what this post is really about.

Michele Obama Cover ShotI recently finished Michele Obama’s autobiography titled, “Becoming“. This is another interesting autobiography.

I tend to read a lot. I often get books to read ideas from appearances of authors on late night television. The problem is that I can’t keep up with the many books that I discover.

When I learn of a new book that I might want to read, I download the Kindle sample to my Apple iPad Kindle App. Right now, I have about a dozen books that I have downloaded waiting for me to start reading them. If I continue to watch late night TV, my unread list is just going to get longer. Oh, well.

So in no particular order here is my list of books waiting to be read by me.

  • Where the Crawdads Sing” By Delia Owens. I saw a piece on CBS Sunday Morning about this book. Interview with the author, etc. Sounds interesting. It’s been on the NY Times Best Seller list for a while now.
  • Wild Bill: The True Story of the Frontier’s First Gunfighter” by Tom Glavin. I forget where I saw this mentioned. I read the sample. Seems interesting.
  • HOME (The Portal Series, Book 3): An Alternative History” by Richard Bowker. Okay, this is a shameless plug. Rich is my brother who happens to be an author. This book will start shipping on April 2. While you’re waiting you can go back and read books 1 and 2.

  • Yeshiva Girl” by Rachel Mankowitz. This is a story of a fifteen year old Jewish girl from Long Island. This is also another shameless plug. Rachel writes a blog titled: “Rachelmankowitz” It’s worth taking a look.
  • Dark Sacred Night” by Michael Connelly. This is a crime novel. I have read many of Mr. Connelly’s crime fiction books. Most of the stories are located in the LA area. Main character is Det. Harry Bosch. It’s a pleasant change from all of the non-fiction books that I read.
  • Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents” by Pete Souza. Pete Souza was Barack Obama’s chief photographer. Souza probably spent more time than anyone else following President Obama.

Okay, one final thought. The more popular the book is it seems that the price is higher. Pete Souza’s book is $15.99 and Crawdad is $12.99. The only bargain in the list is Rich Bowker’ book at $6.99. Yeshiva Girl is sorta free, being that it’s included with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. It seems that the more popular a book is the more that Amazon charges.

The Tatooist of Auschwitz: A Novel

November 15, 2018

TatooistI just finished a book titled “The Tatooist of Auschwitz” about a young Slovakian man who was imprisoned at Auschwitz during World War 2.

I could hardly put the book down. This is the story of a young Slovakian man named Lale who was imprisoned in 1942 in Auschwitz. Somehow, Lale survives and manages to get a job of  “Tatooist” which was a person who inscribed inmates with their identification number on their arm.

It is a story of one man’s survival in a German prison camp. Lale manages to survive and even thrive. He manages to not only survive but meet a woman named Gita and fall in love. Then, after the war become his wife.

One of the skills that Lale had that helped him survive was that he was fluent in over four languages. He was useful to the Germans. I really enjoyed this book. I could hardly put it down. I went through it in about three days which for me is light speed.

Go ahead and download it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

The Leisure Seekers: A Novel

February 25, 2018

Leisure SeekerOne of the books that I am currently reading is “The Leisure Seeker: A Novel” by Michael Zadorian. This is a story of an aging couple (John and Ella) that go on one last road trip in their motor home. They are traveling along the old rte 66 from Michigan to Los Angeles.

I discovered this novel while watching the coming attractions a couple of weeks ago while seeing “The Darkest Hour”. The trailer was for a film of the same name. It stars Donald Sutherland and Hellen Mirren. So I saw that the film was based on a novel and I thought for once I would read the book before I saw the film. Besides, the film isn’t in theaters yet.  We’ll probably get to see the film eventually.

So here’s the story line. John and Ella are in their 80’s. John is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Ella from cancer. They decide to take one last road trip in their motor home they call the “Leisure Seeker”. They load up and hit the road. They start in Michigan and head for California on the old Rte 66.

The book is in the voice of Ella. She speaks of the anguish of dealing with a loved on who is suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s. I feel your pain.

They try and stay on rte 66 but sometimes that is not possible. So occasionally that are forced to use the insterstate. You miss so much on the interstate.

They have a cell phone but it was turned off. John and Ella’s grown children gave them the phone but they turned off and put in the glove box to be used only in an emergency.

So far I have read as far as Texas. I keep flipping back to the other books that I am reading (“Leonardo” and “Maestros and Their Music”). I’ll probably finish all three at the same time.

I’ve got to stop reading the NY Time Book Review. It just adds to my reading list.

Darkest Hour

January 28, 2018

Darkest HourLast week we went to see the movie “Darkest Hour” starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Of course, we had to get a sitter for Mary. It was good to get out with her.

I enjoyed the film, but the theater had the audio turned up a bit too loud. That made the audio a bit mushy and you combine that with the English accents one gets trouble understanding what’s going on. It seems that a lot of theaters run the audio loud on films (in this case it was an AMC theater.)

The timeline for the story is May 1940 starting with the sacking of Neville Chamberlain.  And carrying Great Britain through the days of exploring the idea of a negotiated peace with Hitler.

I was subliminally comparing the portrayal of Churchill in this film with the performance of John Lithgow as Churchill in the Netflix series “The Crown”. Both were fine performances but I kind of liked Lithgow just a bit more.

Interesting to read IMDB on the costuming and makeup for Gary Oldman. Another bit of trivia, film had a budget of $30,000 for cigars. They used about 400 cigars during the filming. Gary Oldman got nicotine poisoning from smoking the cigars.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by Anthony McCarten. Indeed, Anthony McCarten also wrote the screen play. I’ve just started reading the book. I think I would have been better off if I had read the book first. I wouldn’t have felt so confused at times during the film.

Oh, for fine dining, we ate at Denny’s. The film was about 2 hours long, so all the restaurants hadn’t closed for the evening when we pulled in.

Here’s a bit of information that I learned. The restaurants on the west side of Western Ave are in Rancho Palos Verdes. And as such, they are required to close at 9:30 PM on Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the Denny’s that we went to is open all night.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – A Novel

January 3, 2018

img_0593Latest book that I’ve been reading is “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” written by Mark Sullivan. This is the true life story of Pino Lella, an Italian resistance fighter in WW2. The starts with introduction of Pino, a normal Italian teenager who wants nothing to do with the Nazis and the war. I am amazed at the amount of research it took to write this book.

The story starts with Pina escorting Jews over Alps to Switzerland. Then his parents force him to enlist in the German army in the hopes that will save him from harm.

After he is injured he ends up becoming the personal driver for a German general who is Hitler’s right hand man in Italy. From that point on he is busy spying for the allies and the partisans.

Good book, worth reading. Here’s a wikipedia article on the Italian resistance movement in WW2

Here’s a short excerpt:

They crossed the Po River, and long before dusk, while the countryside still lay blanketed in summer torpor, the train squealed and sighed to a stop amid gently rolling farmland. Pino carried a blanket over his shoulder and climbed after Carletto to a low grassy hill above an orchard that faced southwest toward the city.

“Pino,” Mr. Beltramini said, “watch out, or there will be spider webs across your ears by morning.”

Mrs. Beltramini, a pretty, frail woman who always seemed to be suffering some malady or another, scolded weakly, “Why did you say that? You know I hate spiders.”

The fruit shop owner fought against a grin. “What are you talking about? I was just warning the boy about the dangers of sleeping with his head in the deep grass.”

His wife looked like she wanted to argue, but then she just waved him away, as if he were some bothersome fly.

Uncle Albert fished in a canvas bag for bread, wine, cheese, and dried salami. The Beltraminis broke out five ripe cantaloupes. Pino’s father sat in the grass next to his violin case, his arms wrapped around his knees and an enchanted look on his face.

“Isn’t it magnificent?” Michele said.

“What’s magnificent?” Uncle Albert said, looking around, puzzled.

“This place. How clean the air is. And the smells. No burning. No bomb stench. It seems so . . . I don’t know. Innocent?”

“Exactly,” Mrs. Beltramini said.

“Exactly what?” Mr. Beltramini said. “You walk a little too far here and it’s not so innocent. Cow shit and spiders and snakes and—”

Whop! Mrs. Beltramini backhand-slapped her husband’s arm. “You show no mercy, do you? Ever?”

“Hey, that hurt,” Mr. Beltramini protested through a smile.

“Good,” she said. “Now stop it, you. I didn’t get a wink of sleep with all that talk of spiders and snakes last night.”

Appearing unaccountably angry, Carletto got up and walked downhill toward the orchard. Pino noticed some girls down by the rock wall that surrounded the fruit grove. Not one of them was as beautiful as Anna. But maybe it was time to move on. He jogged downhill to catch up with Carletto, told him his plan, and they tried to artfully intercept the girls. Another group of boys beat them to it.

Pino looked at the sky and said, “I’m only asking for a little love.”

“I think you’d settle for a kiss,” Carletto said.

“I’d be happy with a smile.” Pino sighed.

One more thing. The author mentions the aria “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot several times in the book. The title translated to English means “None Shall Sleep”. Click here to get a full translation of the lyrics as well as a performance by the late great Luciano Pavarotti.

Origin: A Novel

November 9, 2017

51oICD9UWKLOrigin: A Novel” is the latest book by Dan Brown that I just finished reading. Once again it features Professor Robert Langdon as the main character.

This time Langdon is in Spain meeting with a scientist named Edmond Kirsch who is about to announce to the world some amazing discovery that will put an end to organized religion.

So the story starts with Kirsch having a big announcement ceremony where he promptly gets shot and dies. Langdon of course comes to the rescue to chase the killers and find out what Kirsch’s big announcement was going to be.

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) persona is introduced with the name “Winston”. Of course, Winston and Langdon team up to find out all the answers.

The NY Times seemed to love the book. They wrote an absolutely gushing blurb (see the Kindle page on Amazon). They probably didn’t have to pay $14.99 for it.

I guess I was expecting more from Dan Brown. I’ve read all of his previous books. I was totally underwhelmed. Save your $14.99 for the Kindle edition. If you really must read it, wait until the price drops next summer or fall.

The next book that I will be reading is “Leonardo Da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson.