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Book Review: Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea

Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea

By Edwin Colin

with Deb Silva

As an eight-year-old, Edwin Colin, the author of this book, knew Shorty. It was 1953 when Colin’s father wars hired to be a full-time foreman at Corriganville, a Movie Ranch in nearby Simi Valley. Corriganville was owned by the famous stunt rider, Crash Corrigan, who was also and friend of Shorty Shea. So begins Colin’s fascination with the man who will be killed by Charles Manson and his followers right before the infamous  Tate and LaBianca murders.

Charles “Shorty” Shea was many things in his life. He was a horse wrangler, stuntman, husband, a U. S. Military Veteran and a victim of Charles Manson and his Family. Shorty wanted to be an actor in Westerns, but he seemed to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. By the time he made enough connections in the business, Westerns were not getting the funding to be produced as audiences no longer flocked to them.

He spent his last years working on the Spahn Ranch. He took care of the livestock, did some Wild West shows for dwindling crowds and had the unfortunate fate of meeting Charles Manson. Manson and his Family basically moved into Spahn Ranch and took it over. The owner, George Spahn was getting older and was nearly blind by the time Manson and his followers descended upon his property. For whatever reason, he let them stay.

Some say that Shorty’s death was a direct result of not ignoring Charles Manson. Not one to ever back down from confrontation, he did not like Manson and everyone knew it. Sadly, his stubbornness was most likely the reason Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Bruce Davis and Steve Grogan murdered him in cold blood on August 26, 1969.

Colin weaves a sordid insider look at the murder of Shorty Shea and subsequent deaths of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas. With Deb Silva, the duo uncovered death certificates, autopsy results and firsthand accounts of the horrific crimes committed by the Manson Family. The small facts that surrounded the Spahn Ranch and those that lived there are fascinating to me. There are connections to famous actors, TV shows and events that most have heard of, but from a different, closer perspective. For example, one of men that participated in Shea’s death is now out of prison and another one is up for parole this year – but has dementia.

Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea is an entertaining work of non-fiction. The book is fascinating, but at times disjointed. There was a bit of repetition, as the author seemed to give the facts ahead of the timeline, then repeated with more detail later. Overall, it was an interesting insider look into the lives of the Manson Family as well as Shorty Shea and all of the people they encountered during this brief period of history.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/charles-manson-and-the-killing-of-shorty-shea-edwin-colin) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Girls of Pearl Harbor – Page Turning Historical Fiction

The Girls of Pearl Harbor

By Soraya M. Lane

 

Sisters April and Grace, along with their best friend Poppy are on an adventure. At least for now that is what it feels like. The girls have been close for years, and when April decided to follow her dream to become a nurse in the military, Poppy and Grace went along. They were far from dedicated in the beginning; Grace couldn’t even stand the sight of blood. But all of them made it through nursing school and enlisted. Their assignment was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was 1941 and they seemed to spend more time on the beach than nursing, which was working out fine for Grace.

Then tragedy struck. Pearl Harbor was attacked. Life as they had grown accustom to was forever changed. People very close to them died that day and the wounded needed the nurse’s care more than ever before.

After the initial tragic days, it was evident the girls might not be staying in Pearl Harbor because they needed to be closer to the action to help our wounded soldiers. When April decided to go to Africa, her sister insisted on going also. They were needed there, but the living conditions were poor and the injuries were much worse than they encountered in Hawaii.

Their personal lives were in turmoil as well. Grace trying to be her own person and April always trying to mother her didn’t help. The girls love and depend upon each other, but even sisters have secrets they don’t want to share.

The Girls of Pearl Harbor allows the reader to enter an historical event from an angle different than most. All Americans as well as most of the world have heard about the attack that brought the United States into the war, but the characters bringing the reality to readers from each of their different perspectives was very interesting.

I also liked that choice of the girls going to Africa instead of the South Pacific as was expected. I didn’t realize that much fighting during the war was based there, as well as the brave nurses and other medical personnel that were needed to care for the wounded.

The characters were interesting and multidimensional. The growth in the nurses, as well as the way each of them handled their job as well as their personal losses, was an integral part of the plot and well done. The only thing that didn’t ring true was the amount of time they spent holding each other’s hands, grasping hands, clutching hands…it seemed as though they could not walk anywhere without all of them holding hands like toddlers. I even asked my aunt who lived on the base at Pearl Harbor while her husband was stationed there in the late 1940s if women held hands all the time. She answered no, they did not. I understand once in a while when someone is upset, but it got to be too frequent for me, taking away from the story.

Overall, The Girls of Pearl Harbor was very interesting and the characters likeable. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction and women’s fiction.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Making of a Milliner – Hats off to a Great Book

The Making of a Milliner

Hat-Making Projects

By: Jenny Pfanenstiel

The Making of a Milliner is a book that gives detailed instructions to make beautiful hats, but it is so much more. It begins with explaining exactly what a Milliner is and the history behind the art of creating hats. Originating in the sixteenth century and hailing from Milan, Italy the English called the hat merchants Milaner – which evolved to “milliner” as it still is today.

Not so many years ago, women of all ages and socioeconomic levels would have never left the house without a hat. Then hats slipped to holidays and special occasions. Now, unless you are attending a formal even, are a member of the British Royalty or going to the Kentucky Derby, you most likely don’t even think about wearing a hat. But a quote from a woman on the very first page resonated with me, because my very active eighty-something aunt always says people no longer see her anymore. Ms. Pfanenstiel shares Julie’s quote, “ …That hat was like magic.” and “…at least 20 men and women tell me they loved my hat.” Maybe it is time for women of all ages to embrace hats again.

A Milliner’s world is full of skill, color and beauty. Full color photos beautifully pull the reader into the past then on to the present. The art and skills involve wool, hat blocks, feathers, beads and almost any other kind of adornment you can imagine. I am fascinated with the different types of hat blocks that are shown and the uses for each are detailed. I love the Puzzle Block. It would look so cool on a bookshelf and would surely become a conversation starter with or without a hat on it.

The materials a Milliner uses are pictured with paragraphs next to them detailing the use, availability and pros and cons of each. For example, horse hair, also known as crinoline, cannot be blocked, but can be used to create effects, can be frayed, or used on a brim or as a veil. I love learning new and unexpected facts. I would have never guessed the old crinoline slip of my mother’s was made of horse hair!

The instructions to make your own hats are accompanied by a list of materials and where to purchase them, as well as detailed instructions of the techniques. As in the previous sections, the color photographs help show exactly what the instructions outline.

Another thing that pulls me into the story of hat making is the fun facts that are listed along with each hat. Did you know Coco Chanel created the first cloche hat? Or that the term “mad as a hatter” relates to the effects of the exposure to mercury vapors milliners experienced while working with the wet wool?

I loved reading the history and art of Millinery. While I don’t think I am up to making a hat of my own, I am going to pay more attention to hats in the future, and cannot wait to pick one out for a special occasion. If you are wondering why someone would even consider wearing a hat, muh less making a hat in these casual times we live in, read this book. Hats are elegant, charming and reflect the wearer’s taste and personality. Even though I am more likely to smack a baseball cap on my head, I love trying on posh hats and have been known to purchase a few to keep the hot summer sun off of my face. Think of Julie’s quote – she felt beautiful wearing her hat and you should too.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: We Hope for Better Things – History Wrapped In Mystery

We Hope for Better Things

By Erin Bartels

We Hope for Better Things is a remarkably memorable story that winds through the lives of a family from the civil war to today. Focusing on three women that are more alike than different, the story alternates between them giving the reader characters and a story that spans 150 years. Each of these women are vastly different, but still curiously alike.

Mary is a young woman who has to take care of the family farm while her husband is fighting in the civil war. Without thinking of the consequences, he sends a freed slave to Mary and asks her to help keep him from harm. Her husband doesn’t stop there; she soon has a house full of men, women and children who are recently emancipated or on the run from their former owners. The backlash in the community is only one of the problems she has to contend with. Mary soon cares deeply for one of the men sent to her home.

Nora falls in love in the turbulent 1960’s. Her life was forever changed when she meets a young, talented photographer. Will she be willing to give up her family, her wealth and her comfortable life to be with a man who loves her, but society does not approve of?

Lastly there is Nora. She works as a successful journalist but is abruptly fired after standing her ground about a story she is passionate about. Randomly, a man contacts her about her Great-Aunt Nora. Since she is adrift in her professional life, she travels to see her aunt. There she unwittingly begins to dig into her family’s past. She has no intention of staying in the house that has been inhabited by Mary and Nora, but the deeper she digs the closer she feels to them and the ghosts of our nation’s past. Her investigative nature will not let her stop digging until she solves the mystery of the past she encounters

The characters are interesting and full. They come to life on the pages, pulling the reader into each of their lives and stories. As the author masterfully alternates the lives of the three women, I read long into the night to find out what was happening in the different decades. The farm house each of them lived in further links the women together as it whispers of the past and adds hope for the future.

Erin Bartels gives her readers a gift wrapped in history, shrouded in the past and present race relations in the United States. Her beautiful prose pulls readers into the story and lives of the characters. This is her first novel, and I am anxiously awaiting her second novel that will be published in fall of 2019.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Bookish and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Irena’s Children, Young Readers Edition – True Story of Courage

irenas-childrenIrena’s Children

Young Readers Edition

By Tilar J. Mazzeo

Adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Tilar J. Mazzeo tells the true story of Irena Sendler. A woman who risked everything to save Jewish children she didn’t even know from the brutality of the Nazi’s in Poland during WWII. The things she saw happening around her frightened her, but she also became angry. She joined others in secret meetings that grew into a network of brave people that helped save hundreds of infants and children from certain death.

The brutalities and atrocities of the Nazi invasion of Poland have been widely documented. This book takes the reader into the burning buildings, the disease infested ghettos and in the brutal prisons of Poland. Irena and her group of brave, everyday heroes suffered greatly for their acts. Some lost their lives, some were arrested and tortured and others lost everything they had, but all of them worked tirelessly to save just one more child every moment of every day.

Through it all, Irena encouraged, helped and understood when others didn’t have the energy to go on. She kept lists of the children so that one day they could possibly be reunited with their families. If that wasn’t possible at least they would know their names and Jewish heritage and the love and sacrifice of the families that hid them and raised them as their own.

Irena lived through all of the danger, uncertainty and brutality she suffered to be reunited with some of “her children” in the 1980’s. She died peacefully in 2008 at the age of 98. Countless survived because of Irena and the network of others devoted to Irena’s children no matter what the cost.

This book was an amazing story of triumph over one of the worst things that happened in world history. It is told in story form with information from archives, historical sources, Tilar Mazzeo’s personal knowledge, personal interviews, historical photos (many included), maps, books and Mazzeo’s original book.

I absolutely enjoyed this book from the standpoint of history, WWII and the courage of people bringing hope to the youngest members of a nation in situations that seemed hopeless. It is not easy to read about the torture, pain and death of the group of innocent people. But not reading about it doesn’t make it go away. It is a painful part of history that needs never to be forgotten.

This is the young reader edition, based upon Mazzeo’s original book, and has been adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell. There is no way to “tone down” the events discussed in the book. The language may be an easier form for young readers, but it is still about a time a group of people were singled out and methodically murdered, maimed and tortured just because they were Jewish. It was a scary and difficult time for adults and children alike.

If they are interested in history, I would highly recommend Irena’s Children. They may have questions that would require further discussion. Adults should read this also. While it is the story of undeniable horrors, it is the story of hope and the triumph of human spirit that encourages all of us to help one another and to make the world a better place no matter who we are or where we live. Everyone can help in his or her way.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Love From Boy – Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother

Love from BoyLove From Boy

Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother

Edited by Donald Sturrock

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in return for my fair and honest review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

This is a fascinating collection of letters Roald sent to his mother from 1925 to 1965. He begins writing to his mother from St. Peter’s School, followed by Repton School in Derby. He then traveled to Nova Scotia, Norway, Canada, Tanganyika, Kenya, Iraq, Egypt, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Texas, and New York and back to Buckinghamshire. From these posts the reader gets an inside look at historical events and Roald’s opinions of what he sees and experiences.

Before I read this book I pictured him as a writer, toiling away at his desk on some of my favorite books. He actually was a story teller in the letters to his mother, painting pictures with his words about the places where he lived and worked.

We also see his compassion. He was worried about his mother finding out how horrid the conditions were at the boarding school. Disease was rampant and the teachers were, in many cases abusive. He wanted to spare her from concern so sugar-coated many of the events when mailing her weekly letters home.

He was also concerned for his family’s welfare. Roald repeatedly implored his mother to move to the countryside so she and his siblings would be out of harm’s way once the inevitable bombings of the war began. She never left her home, but thankfully was okay. He had access to items that were unavailable in England due to the war and frequently wrote asking her and his sisters for lists of things they needed him to send to them.

He experienced sadness and loss in his personal life. One of his children died at a very young age from an illness and another was in an accident, leading him to become a co-inventor of a shunt for children with brain injuries.

If you haven’t read any of his books that aren’t for children, you may be surprised by the salty language in his letters. But if you have read My Uncle Oswald, you might not be. It is a very funny, and quite bawdy.

I truly cannot pick out one or two of my favorite letters, there are just too many. He met dignitaries and presidents. And he dined with movie stars and the owner of the famed Hope Diamond – who wore it to dinner which Roald found a bit too much. He worked with Walt Disney!

If I haven’t convinced you yet, Roald was a gifted photographer and many of his photos as well as some of his drawings are included in this book. It is an amazing compilation of newsy letters that were saved by his mother, enabling the reader to glimpse into life as Roald experienced it. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history, Roald Dahl, WWII or Hollywood.

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Book Review: A Very Vintage Christmas – Nostalgic Look at Christmas Past & Present

Very Vintage ChristmasA Very Vintage Christmas

Holiday Collecting, Decorating and Celebrating

by Bob Richter – Foreword by Christopher Radko

Rowman & Littlefield
Globe Pequot

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

Bob Richter has always been enchanted with all things Christmas. As a very young boy his father gave him a box of vintage Christmas ornaments with the comment, “It’s time you started collecting something…and I know you like Christmas.” Little did his father know this would be the beginning of a lifelong love and devotion to all things Christmas.

Richter begins with the history of Christmas decorations. From candles to lights was an expensive leap for most Americans. The earliest lights needed their own generator. Only the wealthy could afford them. He includes fun facts like the first year the White House had an electrically lit tree and the cost of the colored lights that the president and his visitors enjoyed.

He continues with decorations both inside and outside of homes. Ornaments, trees and decorating inside and outside the home are highlighted.

Most of the early Christmas ornaments were from Germany until the mid-1920s. Ornaments back then were of two categories; either imported mercury glass ornaments, glittery die cut paper ornaments or homemade. Strings of popcorn and cranberries and hand-cut paper ornaments were popular.

Advertising for Christmas became popular in the early 1930s. Books, movies and magazines were and still are popular ways to celebrate the holiday season. Richter gives many examples, along with delightful pictures that will bring back many happy memories for readers of his book.

Christmas doesn’t have to be expensive, but can be. Richter gives decorating and gift options for all price ranges. He suggests flea markets and even lists the top US Flea Markets for Christmas items. I love the fact that he encourages purchasing vintage gifts for friends and family. If it is the perfect gift for someone, it doesn’t have to cost a lot or be brand new.

Full disclosure, I am and always have been crazy about everything Christmas. I love the lights, the decorations, the shopping (especially finding someone the perfect gift), the food, the fun and the love. This book fed my addiction with luscious photography and words that took me back to my childhood.

Many of the decorations, wrappings and pictures are of items I have in my basement. The storage tips Richter gave will be used this year when we put everything to bed after the holidays. The nostalgia and vintage feel of A Very Vintage Christmas was like a warm Christmas hug the whole time I read it. While I don’t do posh decorations, I do have one tree with only glass ornaments, many of which are my grandmother’s and mother’s. One of the ideas to showcase the ornaments that don’t fit on the tree was to put a few of them under a glass dome. This would solve my worry over a few of the more fragile ornaments I worry about falling off of the tree onto the hardwood floors.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Christmas. It would make a perfect holiday gift and if your copy is left on a side table during holiday gatherings, I am sure your guests would love the pictures and bits of Christmas trivia and traditions that are waiting to be discovered within the pages.

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