Saturday, August 19, 2017


"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."

I loved these words....but I am not sure just where they come from.  Perhaps I will get that figured at the library meeting on Thursday.  

I balked at reading this book for the selection of the library group this month.  I read the first two books a long time ago (before  I began to blog) and thought to myself that I was finished with this author.  But I do like to go to the meetings and I do like to have read the Friday, I bought this on audible. 

It was pretty much a shoot m up until tonight.  And suddenly Dan Brown got my attention.  I love the part of the Medicis!  The fact that the money that they spent supporting struggling artists was the main reason for the renaissance.  This book said that they actually moved Michelangelo into their home during his young life.  That it is their gift to the world ....the wonderful works of these young artists!  A rich family that supported monetarily the art being produced by artists who were living in their own lifetimes.  Such a simple concept.  Why does it jump out at me when I read it in a book of fiction while reading history analysis or the history section in a travel book I totally miss the concept entirely.  

Dan Brown also gets my attention as he describes so many of the sights in Florence.  His description of the Porto Romano area is altogether different from what one might read in a travel book.  

The Porta Romana, once known as the Porta San Pier Gattolino was the southernmost gate in the 13th-century walls of the Oltrarno section of Florence, region of Tuscany, Italy. It stands at the confluence of a number of roads: accessed from north by Via Romana, Via de' Serragli, and Viale Francesco Petrarca. In addition, a central road along the Boboli Gardens begins near the gate, and allowed the inhabitants of the Pitti Palace to exit and enter Florence with minimal travel on city streets. Beyond the gates are the Via del Poggio Imperiale and Via Senese. The latter led to Siena and points south such as Rome, hence the name. When the majority of the defensive walls of Florence were razed in the 19th century, only a few, and sometimes partial gate structures were left standing including Porta San GalloPorta San Niccolo, and this gate with a snippet of merlonated wall.

While I was looking for the name of the Porta Romana, I found the below site in which the author discusses some of the sites mentioned in Dan Brown's Inferno.  Don't want to loose that idea.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

More WWII books from book club

I made my report at out book club at the Guyandotte library on Thursday.  My report was about my WWII jag.  And the main idea is that it is like the story of the blind men who "see" an elephant.  One feels his legs and compares him to a tree....another feels his tail and compares him to a rope.  Etc.  My books have been a bit like that.  Each of the books that I have read have told about how the war affects different places in that time period: Berlin, Germany, France, Italy, and the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.

I had thought that perhaps I would get off this "jag" and read something else, but by serendipity others had read WWII books as well.  So whether I read them now or later, I wanted to put down some of the ideas,

Here are the WWII books that were suggested:

Kinderlater by Milton Gay Mieuwsma about the children of the Holocaust (need to check spelling)
Skeletons at the Feast about East Germans who farmed
The Maggie Bright about England and Dunkirk
And If I Perish a book about nurses in the Philippines
We Band of Angels about nurses in Africa
Story Teller by Jodie Picolt about the Holocaust

A couple of other books were mentioned of interest to me:

First I killed my Father (Cambodia) by author of Lucky Girl which tells about her life after she comes to the US
Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott about women spies during the Civil War in US
Frog Music by Emma Donahue

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Before the Dawn

I couldn't decide between reading one more WWII book or starting something else.  Sitting on the porch, the first book that I came to as I went down the audible list was Before the Dawn.  I have barely started, but I already have two ideas that I want to put down on the blog.

First is that almost the only thing that we have from the time period of the wonderful paintings on the walls in France is just that:  the wonderful paintings on the walls in France.  And those paintings were done by my own ancestors according to the DNA.

Second is the idea that it has only been since 2003 that the full sequence of the human genome has been available as a tool for understanding the history of the human.  I have been involved in DNA for genealogy for what seems like such a long time that I forget that it is such a new study.  I find my interest in the book waning and ebbing.  But I feel sure that I will finish it as I am truly interested in so many of the ideas put forth.  Last night I paused long enough to add a blog post to my main blog about the author's information about some of the caves that have been painted on in France.  The experts believe that some of the caves have paintings from at least two entirely different time periods.  And I remember in the Auel book called the Painted Caves, the people in the time period were beginning to paint in caves that already had paintings on the wall.

One of the most surprising statements in the book is that all of the people who now live other places besides Africa are descendants of a very small group of humans who left Africa (I can't do the date from memory...I'll try to look this up and add later) in one small group.  The first place that they settled was India.  But they were hunter/gatherers, so they probably moved there slowly as they followed the game.  Making sure that each move had fresh water, game, vegetation.  From there some moved East and some West.  There is DNA evidence that even the indigenous people as far south in South America as south Chile have a connection to this very small group of adventurers.  The people who came across the continent that existed between Asia and Alaska came in three groups.  All of them are the ancestors of our Indians as well as those indigenous people of South and Central America.  The last group to come across are the ancestors of the Alaskan indigenous people.

The author also explains that they were entirely different from the Neanderthals and it would seem that the Neanderthal people disappeared .....perhaps from having been destroyed by the new more modern men and women who moved into their territories.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

From Sand and Ash

I started From Sand and Ash tonight.  I like it a lot so far!  It starts with a priest trying to make it to safety.....that is not accurate.  He is trying to make it to a religious sanctuary that he knows.

And then the story goes to his childhood.  He is born in the US, but goes back to Italy to the home of his grandparents.  So.....I am listening to the conversation of two children both of whom have lost their mothers.  And he describes his mother as soft.  He says that his grandmother is trying to give him love....but his mother WAS love.  Hmmmmm....I do understand.

I finished the book last night.  It was a good book in spite of the fact that it was a bit of a romance.  Just a bit too much physical passion and the ending was a bit contrived.  Typical of a romance novel.  But the very good story line helped me overlook the fact that the romance genre is not my favorite.  It was a good story.  It is about the love between a Roman Catholic Priest and a Jewish woman.  It takes place during WWII when the young priest promises the father of the Jewish woman that he will protect her no matter what.  And he does.

I read it via audible.  I think that it was a good addition to my WWII books.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Irena's Children

In anticipation of attending the reading group's next meeting, I decided to read Irena's Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo as my next audible selection.  I have decided that instead of reviewing one book of my choice, I will comment on the fact that I have been on a WWII jag in 2017.  I was never a huge fan of this historical fiction subject.  But I read City of Women first .....what was happening in Berlin during this time period...then the Nightingale which told a story of what was happening in France in this time period.....then the Women of the Castle which was about life in Germany as the war broke out and as it ended....and then Under a Scarlet Sky which was about what was happening in Italy during the German Occupation.  This new book is about Poland from what I have read.

The Secret Wife

Gill Paul's book, the Secret Wife, is very entertaining.  It is a "what if" book based on real people who are documented as having lived at one time.  The story is told from the point of view of the great-granddaughter of Dmitri and in alternating chapters from the point of views of Dmitri himself many years earlier.

It is at the same time another story of the possibility that one of the Russian Romanov family members might have escaped death at the time the massacre the was ordered by the upcoming communist regime occurred.  This time it was not daughter, Anastasia, but an older daughter of Czar Nicholas, Tatiana.

I always like when the book ends with historical notes explaining that some things are proven true while the rest of the story is pure imagination.  And the author does do this for this book.  Apparently there are actual documents with information that Tatiana and Dmitri did indeed know each other during the time in which Dmitri was hospitalized for his leg wound.  And also documenting the fact that he gave Tatiana a dog as a gift.  But it is likely that both died in the early 1900s and that the rest of the story is a product of the author's imagination.  I was quite entertained.....If you are looking for a light read that moves quickly and does give one a bit of felling for an era, I recommend The Secret Wife.  I read the book via audible.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

It seems that I am on a WWII kick.  In the last year I have read two books about Germans during WWII, one about the French resistance and now this one about what was going on in Italy during WWII.  The plot in this book is about a young Italian boy who is living in Milan during WWII.  His parents send him to the mountains for safety.  Instead of safety he is drawn into helping Jewish families escape across the alps into Switzerland.  As far from safety as one can get.  Then he is brought back to Milan and his parents insist on his joining the ....well.....let me paste into this a review from Amazon:

An Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.
Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, USA Today bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.
Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.
In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.
Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.
Fans of All the Light We Cannot SeeThe Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.

The very interesting thing about his being a spy in the book is that we see the war from both the perspective of the resistance and of the Nazis who are serving in Italy in this time period.  I recommend this book as an opportunity to get a feeling for what was happening in Italy during WWII.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Women in the Castle

I don't usually write ....hmmmm that is not true....often I make notes as I read.  But tonight the words caused me to rush to my computer to "get them down" for my memory!

As the women and children spend the night somewhat in hiding as the Russian troops were in their "yard".....

Marianne and Anya sit in the kitchen.....they are waiting for the Russians to come to the door to get the last of the Snapps .....when the knock at the door comes, the women answered it together.....

The horse is on the spit...the men leave with the liquor.  And as the women sat together in the dark, a weird peace descended on Marianne:

She had found a partner and for the moment this was enough.

At this point, there are only two women who have joined her in the castle:  Conny's wife and son and Anya and her two sons.  Conny's wife does not seem to be a partner.....but this woman who Marianne has rescued and did not know before seems to pull her weight.  She cooks....something that Marianne is not well versed in.  She add something to the group!

So I will add one of the reviews or blurbs so that the blog post makes sense:

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined.....
 Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

Olive Kitteredge

I usually put some sort of review into this space.  But none of the reviews that I read tonight captured the essence of this book for no review.

When Olive goes to her son's house to meet her new daughter-in-law who has brought children with her into her new marriage and is now pregnant with Olive's grandchild, I thought to myself:  I DON'T like this woman!  I don't care what happens to her....I am through with the book!

But I turned the phone back on and finished the book.  And was not sorry.  The last scene when Olive decides to climb into bed with her new friend gives one hope that indeed Olive will continue to LIVE and give her new friend reason to live as well.  That is what life is about.  Not living the perfect life, but making one's imperfect life work.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

From a review:  
“Fantasy of the very best.” Wall Street Journal
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

I read this book because it is the choice for book club this month.  I am not sure that I will be able to attend, but the book was a quick and easy why not?  I liked the book.  My thoughts as I read this book were:  hmmmmmm...Why do we read?  To be entertained?  To learn?  To have something to do while we knit?  There are a million reasons.  I believe that this book was all about being entertained and listening to a story while I knitted.  That is OK.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Rosie Effect

I didn't like this sequel to the Rosie Project quite as well as I liked the the Rosie Project.  But I don't finish books that I don't like....and I did finish it.  Don is so likable....Rosie is likable as well.  You can't help but hope that their marriage "makes it" in the long run....with a little help from their friends!

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Place Called Freedom

I was a bit slow reading this book.  I thought that the book was a bit silly.  Too many coincidences keeping the characters entwined and too many overly dramatic experiences.  But I did like the fact that the author used an excellent imagination to give the reader a feeling for so many things that are a part of our history.  Starting with the coal mining in the 1700s and the terrible conditions of the coal miners in the British Isles, he moves on to many, many other parts of everyday history:  London in the 1700s and the TERRIBLE plight of the poor as they struggled to make ends meet.  The people who were hung for small crimes and only if lucky enough to have someone of importance to plead for them were they lucky enough to be transported instead.  The terribleness of the ships that transported the prisoners.  The brutal fact of life if one was a black slave or a white person sold into slavery in Virginia.

I also enjoyed the explanation of a young couple moving towards the Cumberland Gap from Fredericksburg, Virginia in the era before the Revolutionary War.  And also the description of the Fredericksburg area in the time period.  Jay Jamison was probably not far from being what the real plantation owners were ......younger sons....and not necessarily good business men.  He lacked an interest in running his plantation himself and was very contented to leave the management to an overseer who was not necessarily a good and honest leader with lack of real understanding of the farming practices that led to a good plantation.  It was an interesting read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


The book club is reading Wonder this month.  I forgot.  At knitting today Mitzi said that she had finished the book and had liked it....I looked it up....I don't think that I'll read this one.....hmmmmm....Mitzi said she liked it.  That is what book clubs are about:  reading books you might not read otherwise.


I am listening to it on audible and I think perhaps listening is the absolute best way to read this book!

The marriage of Mr. Tushman and Miss Butt.  Oh my gosh, how perfect is that!  Perhaps it is the sense of humor that both Augie and his dad have that saves all!

I asked a young girl on the plane last night if she had read it and she said yes....when she was in the 5th grade.  And she and I agreed that we liked the book a lot.  Her comment about it was that she liked the way much of the story was told from other character's perspective....just the comment that I made at book club!  Good read!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Books for Living

I did not like this book by Will Schwalbe as well as I did The End of Your Life Book Club.  Somehow I also did not get around to making a list of the books from his list that I might like to read.  I am not sure that I found the books he named as appealing as those in his first book.  But I did finish the book which I never do if I really don't like a book.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mary's link to an article on reading

Mary sent me a link to an article about adding more reading in one's life that she said reminded her of me

hey mom, this article made me think of you

My comment back to Mary was:

No wonder it made you think of me!  It is ALL about me ……every part of it!  Well except perhaps the turning on the TV part…..I loved the article!  

I am putting it on my blog!  And interestingly enough, I don’t have a problem with trying to read too many books….but I just put into place the rule about not having more than three knitting projects going at any one time.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class through the author’s own story of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town 
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck. 
The Vance family story began with hope in postwar America. J.D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history. 
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Underground Railroad

From the Barnes and Noble Site:

The National Book Award Winner and #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South

The book caught my attention because it is a Oprah choice.  And the book held my attention as it moves along quite well.  Some of the scenes that the author paints are hard to read....but I am squeamish and found that I didn't have to actually put the book down because of the content even though much of it was TERRIBLE!

I read/listened to the book via audible.  Don't get caught up in the impossibleness of the underground train system in the time period being explored.  It is a means to an end in the story....and it really does work.  Of course, there were not actual underground railways in that time period.  But there were conductors and people who risked their lives to help runaway slaves.

I liked the information found at this link:


I lifted a review from the Audible site that sums the book up a bit and keeps me from having to take the time to write what has already been written:

There is an epidemic of narcotic abuse in this country. Dreamland tells the story of how this epidemic emerged. It follows an arc that begins with an enterprising region in Mexico that can produce heroin to the small towns across America that discovered a cheaper alternative to the prescribed narcotics like OxyContin. Narcotic abuse is rampant and prescribing habits may be contributing. Apart from the facts, this is a gripping the story.

The book is a bit long and repeats much of the material ....I found myself considering stopping in the middle and almost called a buddy to see if there was new "stuff" later on....but then I was caught up in the story again and was glad that I finished.  I would say that if Sam Quinones did as much excellent research in all of the places that he visited as he did in Portsmouth and Huntington, his research is beyond awesome.  When he talked about people and places that I know first hand, his information is right on!  I recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand addiction and the current epidemic of overdoses.  I read/listened to it via audible.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Audible and light books

My book collection is so heavy on history and historical fiction that when it is time to choose a new book, it isn't always simple.  Audible sent an e-mail today with a list of light, entertaining books.  I didn't buy one, but I don't want to loose the list.  Access it in my inbox with search terms:  Easy on the Ears.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chosen by a Horse

Below is taken from blurb on website:  
The horse Susan Richards chose for rescue wouldn’t be corralled into her waiting trailer. Instead Lay Me Down, a former racehorse with a foal close on her heels, walked right up that ramp and into Susan’s life. This gentle creature―malnourished, plagued by pneumonia and an eye infection―had endured a rough road, but somehow her heart was still open and generous. It seemed fated that she would come into Susan’s paddock and teach her how to embrace the joys of life despite the dangers of living. 

This book came across audible on one of their buy one and get one free sales.  I probably wouldn't have bought it normally nor read it otherwise.  But having just finished The Rosie Project and being in the middle of Christmas craziness, I was looking for something a bit light.  Not the best book that I ever read.  But the lady had a story to tell, and the story was nice.  Listened to the book via