Tag Archives: history

Book Review: Fortunate Son – Memoir That Reads Like a Novel

Fortunate Son

The story of baby boy Francis

By Brooks Eason

Pregnant girls were hidden in the 1950’s, most of them giving up their children at birth or shortly thereafter. This is the story of one such child. Paul Brooks Eason was born in New Orleans to a college student, and came to live with his adoptive parents and sister (also adopted).

Fast forward to 2004, Tupelo, Mississippi. Brooks’ father, now 82, receives a phone call from a lawyer in New Orleans who is looking for a man named Paul Eason, age 46. Apparently, there has been a nationwide search for the man that was adopted because he is potentially the heir to a fortune.

So begins Brooks’ journey to find out about his birth mother, and the wealthy family he was born into. He dropped his first name and is known by Brooks to friends, family and the clients who retain his services as a lawyer. He has done quite well for himself and is happy with his life both as a child in a loving family and as a grown man with a family of his own. He is intrigued by his newfound connection with his birth family.

Life has a way of repeating itself, and this family is no different. But the way they react is absolutely opposite from the way Ann Lowrey (Eason’s birth mother) and his daughter Ann Lowrey’s pregnancy was approached. His mother honestly had no choice but to give up her child. His daughter, made the choice to continue going to school, bring her daughter into the world and raise her as a single mother with the full support and love of her family.

The author takes us through a first hand account of history through the eyes of his adoptive family as well as the family he was born into. It is fascinating to hear details from 1886 to the present through the filter of someone who lived them and passed family stories down to each generation that follows. Honestly, it is like sitting down to dinner with my dad, listening about his childhood. Adding a human touch and warmth to experiences we’ve read about in history books is exactly what Eason has done to pull the reader in and hold you until the last pages of Fortunate Son.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Oldest Student – How Mary Walker Learned to Read

The Oldest Student,

How Mary Walker Learned to Read

By Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Illustrations by Oge Mora

Mary Walker was born into slavery in 1848 and always dreamed to be free. At fifteen, she and her family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. As fabulous as freedom was, she still worked long hard days for very little money.

She really wanted to learn how to read, but there was no time for that. She received a Bible that she cherished but could not read. The time she would have spent learning to read was taken up with working and raising her family. She still longed to make sense of the squiggles she saw in books.

At age 114, she was living in a retirement home. A new reading class was announced in her building and Mary was determined to follow her dream of learning to read. She studied long and hard and finally the scribbles turned into words. She could read her beloved Bible. The US Department of Education proclaimed she was officially the nation’s oldest student.

The Oldest Student shares the true-life story of an amazing American, Mary Walker. The easy to read story is perfect for children ages 5 to 9, but not limited to this age group. It will spark inspiration to children who may be having trouble with reading or learning to do something else they are struggling with and inspire them to never give up just like Ms. Walker.

Award winning author Rita Lorraine Hubbard is also the author of several other books. One of which, Hammering for Freedom, I have read and enjoyed.

Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The House on Maple Street – Spectacular New Author

The House on Maple Street

By Heidi Slowinski

Student Hillary Altman procrastinated until two weeks before school started to find housing. Fueled by waning options and a tight budget, she was excited to see two signs as she cruised around the small town. “Maple Street Boarding House” read the sign by the curb and a hastily written “room for rent” in the window made her stop. The creepy landlord almost made her change her mind, but the charm of the home overrode her anxiety.

Settling in with the other boarders came easily, but she avoided Keith, the landlord. Evelyn, an older woman that actually worked at the college Hillary was to attend, is diving into the layers of the history of the Maple Street home and shares the fascinating facts with the other boarders. Dr. Immerman also works at the college as head of the history department. Then there was Robert. Hillary met him on the day she moved in and became infatuated with the handsome man who seemed rather shy. He doesn’t join them for dinner in the evening and, as a matter of fact, none of the other tenants have seen or talked to him. In addition to the boarders, Beatrice takes care of the home. She cooks and cleans for them and is related to Keith, the landlord.

Shortly after moving in, Hillary encounters a woman and her young son in the home. Apparently, Keith has a family. Sadly, Hillary overhears the fights and sounds of abuse from Keith’s rooms. No one else seems to know anything about it but she is determined to help, even if it puts her in danger.

The House on Maple Street on the surface is a well-done mystery. As the pages unfold, the reader is pulled into a story that is multi-layered with a delightfully surprising ending. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was surprised to find out I was totally wrong even though all the clues were there for me to see. Kudos to Ms. Slowinski for creating an unexpectedly spectacular twist in the final chapter.

This is the first book written by Ms. Slowinski. It is exciting to find a new author that jumps out of the gate to lead the pack. I highly recommend The House on Maple Street. This fast-paced book engages the reader immediately and is  must read for anyone who loves a mystery.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. https://reedsy.com/discovery  Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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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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