Posted tagged ‘books’

The Nickel Boys

September 11, 2019

NickelThe latest book that I just finished was “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead, This is the fictional story of two black boys sentenced to a hellish juvenile reform school called “The Nickel Academy” near Tallahassee, Florida. The author says it’s fictional but it sure felt like the real thing.

The book is set in the 1950’s to early 1960’s, when race relations were just starting to change,

If a boy were to die while incarcerated, the body would be unceremoniously buried in an unmarked grave behind the school. No one either in government or the public seemed to care or even know about the place.

All it took was a seemingly minor mistake and one would be convicted to the reform school during the Jim Crow era in the south.

I could hardly put the book down. The follows Elwood and Turner through their life at the “Nickel” where one could be put into a hot, solitary confinement for any minor infraction.

There was a building for the black boys and one for the whites, but one gets the impression the black boys had it much worse.

Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for his previous book “Underground Railroad“. I will get to that book when I get through by backlog of other books to read.

I’ve got to stop watching late-night television. Invariably, there is someone pitching there new book that they would like you to buy and read. And usually, I add the books to my Kindle reading list.

Other books that I am working on are “Home (Portal Series Book 3) by Richard Bowker. (Shameless Plug: Rich is my brother, and he would love to have you reading his books that are available on Amazon, either paperback or kindle.)

And finally, the other book that I am working on is “The Inn” by James Patterson. Book about an ex-cop living in Gloucester, MA.

Call the Midwife

July 21, 2019

Call the MidwifeI just finished “Call the Midwife” by Jennifer Worth. “Call the Midwife” was the basis for a PBS series of the same name. This book is actually book one of a three book series, but stands alone pretty well on its own.

The books tells the stories of midwifes, nursing and medicine in the East End of London during the 1950’s.

Paula and I had watched the PBS TV series a few years ago and our friend Roberta recommended that we read the books that were the basis for the TV series.

Indeed, the TV show is still going strong with season 8 just released. I just checked the PBS web site and found that Call the Midwife is on season 9. Still going strong. Click here to see the PBS site for Call the Midwife.

I really enjoyed reading book one and I will probably go back and read books two and three when I get around to it.

One of the comments in the book is about family size. It says that women in the East End typically had about 10 children over their child bearing years. Indeed, I learned later in life that my father had about 10 siblings. I only knew three of his brothers who we saw often when we were growing up. Many of his siblings had never reached adulthood, having died of a variety of diseases that are preventable in this day and age.

The book probably goes deeper into the lives of her patients in the East End. It seems to me that there are stories in the book are a bit too much for television.

Where the Crawdads Sing

July 11, 2019

crawdadsWhere the Crawdads Sing” is a both a love story and a murder mystery. It is the story of Kya, the marsh girl, who lives deep in the wetlands of North Carolina. The book has been on the Amazon best seller list for 43 weeks now.

Kya’s story starts with her mother leaving her to be alone with her drunken father. She learns to adapt to the marsh lands of North Carolina. Eventually her father leaves her, never to be heard from again. The story follows her learning to adapt and survive in her surroundings.

The story jumps between Kya adapting to her situation in the wetlands of NC and a murder investigation of a young man who was romantically involved with Kya. Did Kya do it? You will have to read it to find out.

I would write more but that would give away too much. This is a great story. Definitely worth reading.

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.

 

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.