Posted tagged ‘books’

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.

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.

Captain John Smith

July 12, 2015

Great RogueI just finished reading a book titled “The Great Rogue: A Biography of Captain John Smith” by Noel Gerson. John Smith was one of truly great English explorers. He was one of the founders of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia in 1602, The book was actually written quite a while ago (the copywright notice says 1978). It was only recently published on Kindle.

The book tells the story of his early life and through his exploring and colonizing of the new world. The Jamestown colony came almost twenty years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

it was enjoyable read. A couple thoughts seemed to jump out at me. First that the English investors in the New World had this idea that gold, silver and precious jewels would be found as soon as the colonists landed in the new world.

The second idea was that the path to the Pacific Ocean was just around the corner and up the stream. It took John Smith a long time to persuade the investors that there wasn’t gold in every hill.

He did however that other natural resources were just as valuable. Those resources included lumber, furs and many other goods that were traded with the indians. He also discovered that fish and whales were abundant. Whales were valuable for their oil (used in lamps) and ambergris. Ambergris is a substance found in the digestive system of whales that was valued by perfumeries.

John Smith wanted to go on the Mayflower expedition but the leaders didn’t think he was a good fit. Instead they chose Miles Standish.

John Smith an outstanding job of mapping the New World. When he returned to London in 1609 after suffering serious burns, Smith returned with maps, charts and data about the new world. He never got to return to the new world but he certainly affected the development. It’s a good read.

Books That I Never Finished

May 5, 2015

So, I’ve read blog posts describing books that people have read. Sometimes the titles are like “Books I Read Last Year”. So I thought I’d write the books that for whatever reason I haven’t managed to finish. Having books on my Kindle makes it all too easy to amass books. If these were real printed books, I would have stacks of books piled up to the ceiling.So here in no particular order is my list.

Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

I got most of the way through Book One. I foolishly bought the entire five book set on Kindle, all 4000 odd pages of it. One would need a companion book to keep track of the various characters and the related mayhem. Paula and I watched most of season one on HBO. HBO is doing season five right now. Maybe we’ll get to it one of these years. I come to believe that one can watch any episode and know that there is going to be someone getting skewered with a sword and someone having sex with some wench.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This time I only bought the first volume of the series. We’ve been watching the series on PBS. Sometimes I wonder if the authors get paid by word count or in the case of the physical book, by the pound. Once again the minutia is killing me. I am trying to keep up with many people that Thomas Cromwell interacts with. I haven’t quite given up on the read. But I’m getting to close to dumping into the bit bucket.

Eternity’s End (Star Rigger Universe) by Jeffrey Carver

This is a science fiction book. I occasionally read some science fiction. I bought this on the recommendation of by brother (the writer). Sorry Richard.  I think my biggest problem with the book was that this title is book six in a series. I was getting confused as to what a “star rigger” was and how the main character was jumping around the universe. I began to lose my way about half way through. Maybe one of these days I will go back to book one.

Speaker for the Dead (Book 2 of The Ender Quintet) by Orson Scott Card

I enjoyed (and finished) Book 1 (Ender’s Game). So when I discovered that Orson Scott Card had done a five volume series, I thought I would give it a try. I just sort of got lost. Time travel will do that to you. Luckily I didn’t buy the entire quintet.

Ulysses by James Joyce

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “Ulysses”. I barely got out of the first 50 pages without getting totally lost. There was a reason why I majored in Electrical Engineering and not English Lit. It reminds me of my freshman year at Northeastern University where we were required to read “Crime and Punishment” for an English for Engineers course. We (the engineers) didn’t want to be there, neither did the instructor. Our “Crime” was that we were engineers and our “Punishment” was we had to spend a summer reading and discussing this crap. The instructor was probably a grad student majoring in English Lit and drew the short straw. Of course, one can down load the Kindle version for free. Still costs too much.

No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I like reading Doris Goodwin, but sometimes she just goes too deep. I got about half way through when I just got bogged down in way too much detail. David McCullough is another history author that I read from time to time. He can also get bogged down in minutia from time to time.

Victoria: A Life by A. N. Wilson

Last but not least, I want to talk about Victoria. I actually haven’t read it, but have thought about getting it. The problem is that the price for the Kindle version is still way too high. When it first came out, it was $29.99. Now it is down to $18.99. Are you kidding me, $19 for a tome on Queen Victoria. I hate paying any more than $10 for a Kindle edition. Sometimes I will go a little bit higher for a name brand author like Stephen King. But $30, that’s nuts. I suppose it’s better than getting sleeping pills.