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12 Oct
2017
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Book Review: “The Underground River” by Martha Conway

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The Underground River by Martha ConwayMae Bedloe is the seamstress and all-around support for her more famous cousin Comfort Vertue. In 1838 they are in search of new opportunities in the theatre for Comfort who has booked them on the steamboat Moselle headed to St. Louis. After six days on board the Moselle, it sinks on the Ohio River.

While Comfort is hired to give lectures for an abolitionist, Mae ultimately finds work with a struggling acting troupe that performs on a floating theatre. Mae makes a place for herself with the troupe helping with costumes, ticket sales and other support tasks. As she takes on more assignments, and finds acceptance from members of the troupe, her confidence grows. I enjoyed the character development as Mae moves from a quiet and reserved subordinated cousin to an independent competent young woman taking risks to ferry slave babies to freedom.

The story is engrossing and a “page turner.” What a surprise when Mae boldly steps on stage putting the acting troupe in danger in order to take morally correct but illegal action. I found myself cheering Mae for her boldness and moral commitment at the same time I worried about her survival. The author, Martha Conway provides a well-researched historical context of another divisive time in our history which foreshadows the bitterly fought Civil War a few decades later.

I highly recommend this book.

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17 Aug
2017
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Book Review: “No One Helped: Kitty Genovese, New York City and the Myth of Urban Apathy” By Marcia M. Gallo

 

Book Reviewed by Beverly Scott

"No One Helped" by Marcia Gallo, book reviewSome of us remember and many of us have heard the story of Kitty Genovese’s rape and murder in New York in 1964. I remember as a young woman hearing about her murder and being terrified to go to New York City. I also believed that New Yorkers were an uncaring bunch. Most of what we have heard is wrong.

Based on thorough and detailed research, Marcia Gallo examines the accounts of Kitty Genovese’s tragic death beginning with the early reports the New York Times and other papers. Gallo shines a light on how the details of her attack, her lesbian relationship and the actual response of her neighbors were either ignored or inaccurately reported. She demonstrates how the emphasis of the Times, and especially editor A.M. Rosenthal’s personal interpretation of inaccurate facts of the case, has created and perpetuated the myth of the moral apathy of her neighbors. His version of the events has lived on for decades.

Gallo presents a clear and accessible historical narrative which includes: the public reporting, the residents of the neighborhood of Kew Gardens in Queens where the murder took place, the emerging lesbian and gay community, the issues with reporting a crime during that time, Kitty Genovese’s family and lover, and the many other influences which have often been ignored. This is historical narrative that does not have the emotional drama of crime fiction. It is a well written and detailed analysis of a significant historical and cultural event. As described on the back cover, “No One Helped traces the Genovese story’s development and resilience while challenging the myth it created.”

Book at Amazon

More about Marcia Gallo (LinkedIn)

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9 Aug
2017
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Book Review: “Rosette: A Novel of Pioneer Michigan” by Cindy Rinaman Marsch

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Book Review, Historical Fiction, Rosette by Cindy Rinaman MarschThe book opens in 1888 with Rosette’s reflection on her decision to leave her marriage two years earlier, abandon her children who are mostly grown and take the train from Michigan to Dakota Territory to live with her oldest son. This reflection written by the author, emerges from the fragment of a journal entry where Rosette has crossed out her description of her wedding day and inserts “Unholy and Unhappy bonds of marriage” and describes her feelings as “sincerely DETEST and ABHOR.”

Marsch then takes us back to an earlier life, introducing the journal of Rosette Cordelia Ramsdell in September 1856. Rosette is an amazingly literate woman, school teacher and accomplished seamstress living in rural Michigan. The story follows Rosette through the courtship, marriage and births of her children and introduces us to members of her family. Marsch uses the brief excerpts from Rosette’s journal to provide authenticity to the story.

Marsch presents a story consistent with the journal, which she found and translated, and continues much of the language from it, inventing facts in the story only when necessary. Confessing that she is “fascinated by books that reveal whole persons by unearthing and sometimes embellishing the primary source materials,” she has offered a gift to the memory of Rosette and her family. Other than the journal, she found only scraps of information. Rosette and her husband Otis have disappeared into history.

Although I wished for a little more mystery and drama as I read the story, I admire what Marsch has accomplished and followed the story to the end. Rosette gives us an authentic picture of rural life in Michigan in the last half of the 1800’s. That makes it fascinating for those of us interested in history. Book Website

 

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26 Jul
2017
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Book Review: “A Crooked Smile” by Terri Tate

Book Review: "A Crooked Smile" by Terri Tate

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Terri Tate’s memoir is powerful, touching and intimate. She takes the reader through the excruciatingly painful journey of cancer discovered under her tongue. She shares her fears, her longing, her love and her gradual acceptance of who she has become.  Anne Lamont says in the foreword that she “has paid through the nose to stay alive.” She also paid with losing part of her jaw, her tongue and re-arranging her face. She takes us into the depths of her despair, her childish dependence on her husband and her search for faith and belief in a Greater Power as well as in herself.

Terri is an excellent writer. I felt as if I was right next to her as she struggled for her survival. She tells a story that is honest and revealing. Terri shows up as a whole, loving, spiritual human being by the end of her story. And, speaking of the end, I thought it ended a little too quickly. Suddenly she was healthy, single and a successful. Despite that minor issue, “A Crooked Smile” is a  beautiful, intimate story of survival and triumph.

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6 Jul
2017
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Book Review: “Nicola’s Leg” by Natacha Pavlov

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Book Review by Bev Scott AuthorThis book is the true life story of Nicola, told from the perspective of his leg. Nicola is taken when his parents flee the Russian Revolution to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. Although his father, Nikita, is captured and presumed shot during their flight, his mother, Natacha continues and ultimately finds refuge at the Russian Orthodox Convent on the famous Mount of Olives. The story follows when Nicola as an adolescent he is encouraged by Natacha to go visit relatives in Eastern Europe; during his military service in Egypt in World War II; to his marriage to Maura and his role as a father to five children. He is imprisoned and tortured during Israel’s Six-Day War. His injuries result in the loss of his legs. It is this tragic loss that is the basis for the unusual title, “Nicola’s Leg.”

The author, Natacha Pavlov, writes a very engaging story about Nicola who is her grandfather. She uses the omnipotent voice to describe the travails and joys of Nicola’s life including his deep religious faith. The omnipotent voice is not as popular a style today as it was in the past and thus is unusual. It took me a few chapters to get used to it. However, Pavlov uses it well and draws the reader into Nicola’s story. I also enjoyed learning from a more personal level the impact of events in the first half of the twentieth century.

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9 Feb
2017
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Book Review: “Colorado Dream” (The Front Range Series) by Charlene Whitman

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Colorado Dream by Charlene Whitman, book reviewed by Bev ScottMy first book by Charlene Whitman kept me engaged through most of the story to the happy ending.  The writing is excellent and the story line is unique, a young Italian girl comes from New York to commission a violin from an exceptional violin maker in Greeley, Colorado in 1877.  Of course, Angela meets a handsome cowboy, Brett.  Although she is drawn to him she rejects him as uncouth, uncultured and dangerous.  Brett falls hard for her but believes she is too sophisticated and cultured to care for a cowboy.  He is sure she rejects him and will return with her new violin to New York.  A sweet romantic story, but I found the constant description of the physical and emotional attraction between the protagonists as way over-done.  Consequently, I lost interest toward the end.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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20 Dec
2016
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Book Review: “Role Montage: A Creative New Way to Discover the Leader Within You” by Jan Schmuckler

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Role Montage by Jan Schmuckler, Reviewed by Bev ScottLearning how to be a leader is a challenge for newly appointed managers or supervisors and finding a mentor to help is often not possible. Jan Schmuckler has provided us with a clear and helpful process to find our own leadership style within ourselves. How I wish I had such a guide when I was a new, young manager! With an emphasis on self-awareness which is key to becoming a successful leader, the reader is guided through the steps of identifying the qualities in others both real and fiction that we admire, and creating the “montage” of the leader we would like to be.

This is a must have guidebook for every new or developing leader.

Author information: Jan Schmuckler.

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8 Dec
2016
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Book Review: “Fire Lilies” by Cynthia Leal Massey

Fire Lilies, by Cynthia Leal Massey

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The story of two beautiful and rebellious sisters in early twentieth-century Mexico hooked me with the opening chapter, and continued to move at a fast, engaging pace. The loves and passions of these two sisters is intertwined with the political intrigue and upheavals of the Mexican Revolution. The author provides an engaging historical context which adds depth and interest to the unfolding romances of Dolores and Alicia.

Dolores, forced by her father to marry an older man who is cruel and demanding, falls in love with a vaquero working on her husband’s hacienda. She takes amazing risks for her life, defies the expectations of her family’s social class and struggles to control the carnal desires expressed by her sister’s husband.

Alicia, the younger sister refuses a marriage arranged by her father and marries the man she loves but with lower social standing. Her love and trust of her husband results in the birth of fifteen children which is almost beyond belief, but, perhaps tolerable if one has servants. Ultimately, she is forced to cope with unfaithfulness, the disruption of the revolution, death and the loss of her comfortable way of life.

I highly recommend this historical romance set in a little known period of Mexican history.

More information: Cynthia Leal Massey

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1 Sep
2016
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Book Review: “Dakota: Or What’s a Heaven For” by Brenda K. Marshall

Dakota, by Brenda K. MarshallReviewed by Bev Scott

This complex historic epic brings together politicians, the Northern Pacific Railroad, land-hungry men, European immigrants, especially Kristen and her family from Norway, with the main protagonist Frances Bingham in the Dakota Territory of the late nineteenth century. Frances is married to Percy, an educated but lazy man addicted to his flask of brandy. They live in Mr. John Bingham’s house (Percy’s father), with his disabled sister Anna, who Frances admires and longs for unconventional intimacy. Kristen, who becomes the housekeeper, offers her naive observations directly to the reader which reveal many hidden truths of the story. Frances manipulates the members of the household to achieve her own desires only to find in the end that she is rejected, turned away and without any means of support. The story describes the political and economic intrigue and greed which drives the personal and social lives of the Bingham family while crushing many poor immigrant farmers.

The characters are finely drawn by Marshall, leaving the reader with a sense of personal knowledge of not only their behavior but also their motivations, emotions, and secret longings. The descriptions of the landscape provide a photographic image of the Dakota Territory at the time. The tales of manipulation and the exercise of power by the political and economic elite offer a fascinating historic context despite the sometimes boring descriptions.

I found this book to be engaging and engrossing. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and is willing to learn from the complex historic context of the story.

Author: Brenda K. Marshall

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6 Jul
2016
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Book Review: “Bodie” by Anne Sweazy-Kulju

Book review: Bodie, by Anne Sweazy-Kulju

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The story of Bodie, an abandoned mining town in the California desert, knits together the violent and mysterious events of 1879 and two Oregon sisters in 1993. The sisters, who share the same vivid dream set in Bodie, seek professional guidance from an academic therapist-hypnotist to understand their dream. This meeting triggers a series of events: clandestine meetings in Washington, DC, murder, and the suspense-filled tracking of the sisters by a hired killer in the abandoned town of Bodie. Interwoven in the story of the sisters is the psychic or intuitive ability of one of the sisters and her daughter.

The descriptions are vivid with convincing characters and active dialogue. Bodie is an engrossing story which moves at a good pace. The historical background of Bodie is well researched and provides intriguing twists to the story. However, I found it somewhat confusing to switch back and forth in chapters with different characters, settings and times. The author’s approach to the story does seem to require this chapter switching. Perhaps it would be helpful to readers like me who get confused if the chapter headings (which give dates and location) more clearly and boldly announced the new context.

Despite these issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The complexities of the plot provide an absorbing read.

A complimentary copy of the book Bodie was provided to me by the author with no obligations.

Author website: Anne Sweazy-Kulju.

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