Graphic Novel Review – Kusama by Elisa Macellari

Kusama: The Graphic Novel
by
Elisa Macellari

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In an effort to learn more about graphic novels, I picked up Kusama by Elisa Macellari. It’s all about the famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who came to New York in 1958 when she was in her twenties and became a pop art sensation, all the while struggling from severe psychic disorders. To cope with her anxiety, hallucinations and intense feelings of depersonalization, she used art as a form of self-medication.

In her early years, she drew and painted and later moved to performance art, sculpture, installation and other forms of abstract art. Her art represents feminism, sexuality, minimalism and surrealism. Much of her expression is represented in red and white polka dots and her naked performance art, representing free love and homosexual sex during the sixties, often occurred in public places. I’m not an art expert, so I’ll stop there, but you can find plenty of information about her online.

By Terence Ong – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1237671

So, on to the graphic novel. Graphic novel is an umbrella term, but this one is actually a graphic biography. I was struck by how powerfully the illustrations, all in red, white and black, and the words came together to depict Kusama’s life, especially her childhood and her fragile mental health. Her parents fought, her mother berated her and her father was unfaithful. I thought the author/illustrator did a fantastic job showing Kusama’s hallucinations, sadness and feelings of detachment while chronicling her life. Through the pictures, I could tell how lost she felt and understand the therapeutic power of her art.

Macellari also tells how Kusama, desperate to leave her unhappy home in Japan, wrote to the American modern artist Georgia O’Keeffe for advice. The two began a correspondence and O’Keeffe offered to show Kusama’s art at galleries in New York. Soon after, Kusama made the move to New York.

Kusama returned to Japan in 1973 and disappeared from the art scene for twenty years. The Japan she knew had changed and she had trouble fitting in. She admitted herself to a psychiatric hospital to treat her fragile mental state where she used art as therapy. Slowly, her art became recognized in Japan. At ninety-three, she continues to create and is recognized worldwide.

Now, Kusama reflects on her life and career and her parents. “My entire life I have swung between feelings of love and hate for my parents. If I have got to this age, I owe it only to them. They prepared me for the light and shadows of life and death.”

A note about adult graphic novels. These are not kids’ books! They are colorful and inviting, but the pages inside are for adult eyes. I found this book compelling and extremely readable. I read it twice to let it all soak in. There are plenty of biographies about Kusama. This is a good place to start. Its minimalist presentation fits perfectly with the artist’s style.

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Book Review: House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery
by
Liz Rosenberg

Illustrated by Julie Morstad

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I read about House of Dreams over at Bookshelf Fantasies and was immediately interested in reading about Lucy Maud Montgomery, Canadian author of twenty novels, including Anne of Green Gables and hundreds of short stories and poems. Montgomery was Maud to family and friends and she used L.M. Montgomery as her professional name. I confess I have not read the children’s book Anne of Green Gables, but now I want to. I also knew nothing about Maud Montgomery and her life.

Maud was born in 1874 and grew up in a village called Cavendish on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Her mother died when she was two years old and her father soon moved to Saskatchewan. Maud went to live with her maternal grandparents, Lucy and Alexander Macneill. They were already in their fifties and although they provided Maud with all the material things she needed, they were not affectionate or supportive, leaving Maud to feel sad and alone. Her grandfather was particularly hard on Maud. Despite this upbringing, Maud felt a deep attachment to Cavendish.

Maud was destined to become a writer. From an early age, she kept a journal, made up stories and when she was older submitted them to newspapers and magazines for publication. “I cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author,” she wrote.

Maud was merry on the outside (merry was one of her favorite words), but inside she battled mood swings and seasonal depression: it was a lifelong struggle. Mental illness was not widely talked about, accepted or treated in Maud’s time and she and others suffering had to tough it out alone. She wrote happier stories to escape the gloom. “Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life—I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.”

Maud had many suitors, turned down several marriage proposals and broke one engagement after “a year of mad passion” with another man. That relationship was not meant to be, however, and she later married Ewan Macdonald, an aspiring minister. They had two sons, Chester and Stuart. Ewan, however, also struggled with mental illness and their marriage was not happy. To combat their depression and mood swings, they took sleeping pills, tranquilizers, bromides and other medicines. Maud died of an overdose in 1942 at age sixty-seven. In 2008, her granddaughter revealed that her death was a possible suicide.

I knew from the description that this book talked a lot about depression and mental health, but I had no idea that an author as beloved as Montgomery had suffered so much. She endured many losses and heartbreak, but hid these feelings from the public. This book is supposedly geared to readers ages 10-14, and the writing style is definitely simpler. It’s also illustrated, which makes it look like a middle-grade book. In my opinion, the content is more appropriate for an older reader, although I can see it being used as a way of talking with kids about mental health problems.

That said, I found it interesting and easy to read and it has sparked my interest in her books.

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Book Review: Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer

Capote’s Women
by
Laurence Leamer

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about how Truman Capote befriended New York’s high society women during the 1950s and 1960s, a group referred to as his swans because of their elegant style and beauty. Before I get into that and this book, here’s a brief back story about the American novelist, screenwriter and playwright. His most famous books are Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood and he died before he could finish what he referred to as his masterpiece, Answered Prayers. Its unfinished version was published posthumously in 1986.

Born in Louisiana, Truman’s parents divorced when he was a two and sent him to live extended periods in Monroeville, Alabama. That’s where he met Harper Lee and the two future writers became childhood friends. Truman’s mother remarried when he was eight and they moved to New York. Drawn to the lifestyles of the upper class, most of Capote’s friends were from wealthy, well-connected families and his fascination with high society continued throughout his life. But Capote betrayed his swans in “La Côte Basque,” a chapter from Answered Prayers, in which he revealed their darkest secrets.

Capote’s Women is a look at these seven swans, Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Slim Keith, Pamela Harriman, C.Z. Guest, Lee Radziwill and Marella Agnelli. In these brief biographies, Leamer focuses on their upbringings, multiple marriages, tremendous wealth and largely unhappy lives. Some were born into their wealth. Some had humble beginnings. But all were ambitious in their drives to marry rich. They married Hollywood producers, agents, directors, Broadway producers, business tycoons, princes and politicians. They weren’t always friends with each other, however, and especially disliked Pamela Harriman, whose notorious affairs with married men came a little too close to home. Pamela’s second husband, Leland Hayward, was Slim Hawks’ ex-husband and her affair with William Paley (Babe’s husband) is the subject of “La Côte Basque.”  Their connections are as complicated to read as they are to explain!

Truman Capote was also a complicated person, both a serious writer and notorious gossip. He hit a slump after In Cold Blood and spent most of his time schmoozing with his swans, and gathering material for Answered Prayers.

I thought this book was just okay. I’ve read a lot of other accounts of Truman Capote and his swans and much of this same information is available on Wikipedia. Leamer’s writing is loose with the facts, a little disjointed and the book reads like a 300-page People magazine. I much preferred Melanie Benjamin’s fictionalized account of Capote and his swans, The Swans of Fifth Avenue. I did enjoy thinking about the connections between these people, however, and imagining a period of time long gone.

Ultimately, I found it hard to feel sorry for any of the swans or of Truman Capote. I still think Capote’s writing is brilliant, however, and felt that Melanie Benjamin did a much better job portraying the swans as women caught in a time and mindset of perceived perfection.

If you want to go down the rabbit hole, you can read more about Truman Capote here!

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Book Review: Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo

Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship
by
Charles Casillo

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’ve always been interested in Hollywood glamour during the 1940s and 1950s, so when I saw this book at our library, I grabbed it. Most everyone knows about Elizabeth Taylor, her legendary beauty and her eight marriages. I’d heard of Montgomery Clift, remembered him as handsome and that the two costarred in some films, but I was curious about their relationship.

Elizabeth and Monty is a well-researched biography of Taylor and Clift and a history of their friendship. Although at times repetitive and a little cheesy, I enjoyed reading about their backgrounds and relationship.

They developed an intense emotional frienship and, even during gaps when they didn’t see each other, they were closely bound. Over time, Elizabeth became more of a protector, as Monty struggled.

Elizabeth and Monty first met in 1951, on the set of A Place in the Sun. Elizabeth was already a beauty at seventeen and Monty, thirty-one, was an established and handsome star. Despite the age difference, the two were drawn to each other emotionally. And Monty, one of the first method actors, helped Elizabeth understand her character in the film. They were a gorgeous couple and Hollywood loved promoting them as one, but Monty was gay. Elizabeth fell in love with him anyway and hoped for more.

Casillo does a good job explaining how, during this time, homosexuality was mostly closeted and especially taboo in Hollywood. Many gay men married women and kept the image of being husbands and family men, forced to hide their sexuality. Elizabeth’s father was a closeted gay man and perhaps this experience made her more sensitive to Monty’s situation. In addition, both Elizabeth and Monty had sheltered childhoods and domineering mothers.

Monty developed an early dependency on alcohol and drugs and, after a devastating car crash in 1956 altered his appearance, he descended into alcoholism and addiction. Monty never fully recovered physically or emotionally and struggled to find work, but Elizabeth helped get him roles. He began acting strangely in public and with friends and was unreliable on the sets of new films, often arriving late and drinking all day. He died in 1966 at forty-five.

During this time, Elizabeth continued to make films, including Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer and Cleopatra. And she married, a lot! First to Conrad Hilton, Jr., then Michael Wilding, Mike Todd, Eddie Fisher (big scandal!), Richard Burton, John Warner and Larry Fortensky. Elizabeth had many health issues, including alcoholism and drug addiction and was constantly featured in gossip magazines. In her later years, she was an HIV/AIDS activist, had her own fragrance and jewelry brands and supported Jewish and Zionist causes. She had four children and died in 2011 at seventy-nine.

If you’re looking for an easy, fast and fun read about Hollywood and a couple famous actors from the 40s and 50s, I think you’ll like Elizabeth and Monty.

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Book Review: Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman

Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise
by
Scott Eyman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I just finished this new biography of Cary Grant and now I’m in the mood to re-watch some of my favorite movies starring this legendary actor. Scott Eyman has written an excellent and thorough book, a detailed account of Grant’s life, beginning with his childhood in Bristol, England.

Long before he became a famous movie star and heartthrob, Cary Grant was a neglected child from a working-class family. He was Born Archibald Leach in 1904 to an alcoholic father and an overly protective and controlling mother, who one day disappeared from his life. It would be years before he learned that his father had committed her to a mental institution. Archie spent much of his youth on the street and joined a troupe of vaudeville acrobats where he learned physical comedy. He arrived in New York at sixteen and, after traveling with the Bob Pender Troupe, made his way to Hollywood, where he signed with Paramount Pictures and changed his name to Cary Grant.

Grant starred in over seventy films, including Bringing up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, An Affair to Remember, Suspicion, Notorious, North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief. His numerous famous co-stars included Ingrid Bergman, Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly, and Sophia Loren.

If you remember Cary Grant, you most likely think of him as a handsome, sophisticated and smooth-talking comedic actor and irresistible leading man, but this was a carefully crafted persona. Underneath he struggled with depression and feelings of abandonment and spent his life trying to reconcile these very different sides. He also struggled with relationships and married five times.

Grant longed to be a father and was thrilled when his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon gave birth to their daughter, Jennifer. To find inner peace, he experimented at least 100 times with LSD (when it was still legal) sometimes under a doctor’s care and other times by himself, proclaiming this was the reason he finally forgave his parents for abandoning him.

In addition to showing how Grant worked at achieving this goal, Eyman provides a history of the movie business and how it changed, from the 1930s through Grant’s retirement in 1966. Classic movie fans will enjoy reading about the greats he worked with, including talented writers and directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Donen and Leo McCarey.

Although friends and colleagues complained about his unwillingness to pick up the tab at dinner, Grant was a smart businessman who understood how to negotiate contracts and was one of the first to demand not only an actor fee, but a percent of gross and profit and ownership of the negatives. He often made deals as a free agent, an almost unheard-of arrangement.

I totally enjoyed this biography and learned a lot about Grant and the movie business during that time and I recommend it to all readers.

Here are a few quick videos about Cary Grant.

The Hidden Origin of Cary Grant – from Simon and Schuster
Cary Grant: From Vaudeville to Hollywood | BFI video essay
Cary Grant receiving an Honorary Oscar®

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Book Club Mom’s recommended biographies and memoirs

Here are twelve fascinating biographies and memoirs of important historical and influential figures, and some regular people too. I like reading all kinds of life stories and recommend these:


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – an excellent collection of mini biographies of twelve famous personalities, explaining their known or likely battles with mental illness.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – a remarkable and amusing record of Franklin’s life in America during the mid- to late 1700s.

Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover – Westover’s account of breaking out of an isolated and abusive childhood, with a violent sibling, a controlling and paranoid father and a mother who deferred to her husband.

Helen Keller – The Story of My Life – the story of an American girl from Alabama who lost her sight and hearing as a baby and determinedly overcame these obstacles to become a writer, a social activist and an advocate for the blind and deaf.


Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske – the story of a dashing billionaire inventor, pilot, and a filmmaker who used money to and control his business and personal life.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – I avoided Lab Girl at first because I am not a science person. But this memoir is for all readers. Jahren writes beautifully about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – a great story about being different and making it anyway. In some ways, it is a classic success story about perseverance, but mostly, it’s a shout-out to anyone who’s not mainstream.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Using notes stored away for nearly thirty years, Hemingway began working on a memoir of his days in Paris, where he was part of the expatriate community of writers, artists and creative minds, known now as the “Lost Generation.” He died leaving the book unfinished, but his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, edited the manuscript and the first edition was published in 1964.


Night by Elie Wiesel – Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more.

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore – an in-depth look at the lives of two young men with the same name, who grew up on the same streets in Baltimore, Maryland and took two divergent paths.

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman – a young woman from West Virginia dreams of becoming a concert violinist and gets a job playing in a prestigious touring orchestra, only to discover that the microphones are turned off. Listeners instead hear music that sounds suspiciously like the score of the popular 1997 film, Titanic.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – a young doctor at the crest of a brilliant career as a neurosurgeon and scientist, Kalanithi was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. During the short time he had left, he was determined to live a life with personal meaning, so he continued working, fathered a baby girl and wrote this book.

What biographies and memoirs have you read? What do you recommend?

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Short reviews from 2013: Twisted, The Shoemaker’s Wife and Steve Jobs

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.


Twisted
by
Laurie Halse Anderson

This book is a little bit like a modern Catcher in the Rye and I liked it for that reason. Twisted was on our school district’s summer reading list for rising ninth graders a couple years ago. There is some mature language and content, but I think it is realistic. I think kids want to read something contemporary that has an edge to it and Anderson understands how to incorporate this element into quality writing.

In Twisted, Tyler returns to his senior year of high school, after being punished during the summer for vandalizing the school. He struggles with a poor self-image and how others, most importantly his father, perceive him. Tyler navigates through adolescence and important relationships and, like many coming-of-age stories, learns the true meaning of family and friendship.

Final scenes with his family are raw and emotional and show Anderson at her best.


The Shoemaker’s Wife
by
Adriana Trigiani

I liked this family saga of immigration, near-misses in love and brushes with greatness, with the appropriate doses of disappointment and sadness. It is a light and entertaining read. I enjoyed reading about Italy at the turn of the century and life in the Italian Alps. The author does a nice job bringing the main characters to life.

I think the author’s strengths lie in the story’s initial setting and characters. Her early descriptions of Ciro, Eduardo and their mother are moving. In addition, Trigiani’s descriptions of the Ravanelli family show warmth and devotion. It is the foundation of a really great story.

Ciro’s success as a shoemaker and his assimilation into New York life move at a believable pace. I enjoyed this part of the story much more. Despite the unlikely nature of meeting Enza on her wedding day, we all know it is coming and accept the feel-good moment.

Some other parts I like include Ciro’s relationship with Sister Teresa at the San Nicola Convent. I also like how Ciro is accepted for who he is at the convent, and how the nuns do not force him to be a believer.

An entertaining read and a great way to escape to another time and place!


Steve Jobs
by
Walter Isaacson

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them.

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Book Review: Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

Howard Hughes: The Untold Story
by
Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

Rating:

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about Howard Hughes when I opened this biography. Most of it happened before I was born and I was too young to understand what happened later in his life. But I knew his name and I had a vague knowledge of his involvement in aircraft and the movies. That was it.

Hughes had a lot going on in his life. He was a dashing billionaire inventor and pilot, ran two giant corporations, built a major airline, was a filmmaker and used his money to get and control whatever he wanted, including a shockingly long list of glamourous women.

Born in Texas in 1905, Hughes grew up an only child, smothered by his mother’s obsessive attention and fear of germs. Already different and uncomfortable around other children, he preferred to play alone in the workshop his father built for him, where he tinkered with many inventions. He became a millionaire at nineteen, when his father died and left behind a successful oil drill bit business (Hughes Tool Company). The timing of his life, his engineering genius and business instinct resulted in decades of profits in the tool, aircraft and government contract businesses. With all this going on, he plunged into movie-making and made many successful films.

But there were many things askew in Howard Hughes. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that was less understood at the time and often untreated or self-treated, affected all aspects of his life. More than a dozen head injuries, a syphilis infection and an alarming drug habit no doubt contributed to an increasingly bizarre and reclusive life.

He surrounded himself with staff and security who would do anything he asked, including hunting down beautiful stars and starlets, some of them in their teens, setting them up in bugged apartments, with detectives reporting on their every move. He seduced hundreds of famous women, including Jean Harlow, Kathryn Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, married twice, and was engaged to multiple young women and girls at the same time. He declared his love to all of them and some of them bought it. Hughes’s behavior with women was glamorized at the time, but from a modern reader’s perspective, it is disturbingly predatory.

Despite these conditions, he continued to negotiate huge deals for Hughes Tool Company, Hughes Aircraft, RKO Pictures and Trans World Airlines. He was also a political contributor, sometimes to both parties and had ties to President Richard Nixon’s adversary, Democratic National Committee Chairman Larry O’Brien. It’s believed that Nixon’s interest in knowing more about O’Brien’s relationship with Hughes was one of the reasons for the Watergate break-in.

In his prime, Howard Hughes was deemed an American hero, but in his final years, he was barely lucid. And it turns out, his loyal staff had their sights on his riches and pumped him with shocking amounts of codeine and painkillers. He died at age seventy in 1976.

There is much more in this book, too much to mention and better to read first-hand. There is no question that Hughes’s unbelievable life story fits Mark Twain’s observation that “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

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Fiction or nonfiction? Twitter reading poll results

The results are in on my small Twitter poll. Eighty-seven percent of those who responded on Twitter prefer fiction over nonfiction. And I had six write-ins on my blog. One for fiction, one for nonfiction and four readers who say it’s kind of even.

Despite these results, I feel as if readers are reading more nonfiction than ever. I’ve always preferred fiction over nonfiction, but I’m reading more nonfiction than I ever did in the past.

Here are some recommended nonfiction books I’ve read since I started my blog.


The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – I wasn’t sure I would enjoy reading this, but I was happily surprised to find Franklin’s memoir a remarkable and amusing record of time in America during the mid- to late 1700s. I also enjoyed refreshing my memory about the colonies before the American Revolution and the steps that led to independence.


Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. – Dedman was intrigued by two vacant but fully maintained mansions and two large apartments on Fifth Avenue in New York, owned by reclusive heiress, Huguette Clark. Clark, by choice, spent the last twenty years of her life in a hospital bed and gave away large amounts of money to her caretakers and advisers. When she died at age 104, who was to inherit her $300 million fortune?


Helen Keller – The Story of My Life – If you grew up in the United States, you very likely learned about Helen Keller in school.  She was an American girl from Alabama who lost her sight and hearing as a baby and determinedly overcame these obstacles to become a writer, a social activist and an advocate for the blind and deaf.


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Many believe that Truman Capote was the pioneer of the nonfiction novel genre. In a 1966 New York Times interview with George Plimpton, Capote explains his decision to write a book about the brutal 1959 murder of a Kansas family: “The motivating factor in my choice of material—that is, choosing to write a true account of an actual murder case—was altogether literary. The decision was based on a theory I’ve harbored since I first began to write professionally, which is well over 20 years ago. It seemed to me that journalism, reportage, could be forced to yield a serious new art form: the ‘nonfiction novel,’ as I thought of it.”


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – Here’s a book I resisted reading because there was so much hype that I took a step back. I also avoided it because I am not a science person. But then my book club chose Lab Girl and I committed to reading it. So, wow. This book was excellent. Jahren writes beautifully about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.


Night by Elie Wiesel – I had read other books about the Holocaust, but never Night, Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more. In 1944, Wiesel was deported by the Germans from his town of Sighet, Transylvania and sent by cattle train to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. He was just a teenager. His account of this experience is a horrifying reminder of a terrible period of history.


Notes from a Public Typewriter – edited by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti – Here’s a quick book that is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. It’s about the owners of the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When they set up the store, they put out a typewriter and paper for anyone to use. It wasn’t long before customers began to type random, sometimes whimsical and often heartfelt messages for all to see. Notes is a compilation of these messages.


Have you read any of these?  What are your favorite nonfiction books?

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Book Club Mom’s May recap – books, birthdays and a graduation

I don’t know what happened to May, but here we are at the finish. It’s a big month for birthdays in my family and we squeezed in a college graduation too! It’s always nice to settle into a comfy chair during the down times and relax with a book, a show or a puzzle.

I’ve become a bit crazy with a word game I have on my ancient Kindle called Every Word: Crossings, and I have been playing it obsessively. I never look at that as a waste of time, though. Things like that always help me sort out my day.

And I went a little overboard with my Barbie doll posts (see below), but it’s been fun (for me, at least!) sharing something that I loved as a girl.


This month, I read and reviewed three regular books:

 

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd – if you like mystery series, this is the first of the Bess Crawford stories, set in England during World War I. I enjoyed both the characters and the historical setting. The author, Charles Todd, is actually a mother-son writing team.


More and more, it seems, fiction books are being co-authored and this month I wrote a post about this very thing!

Author teams and pen names – if the story’s good, does it matter? Not to me!


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – in this memoir about becoming a female scientist, Jahren writes a compelling personal story about family, love, friendship, mental health and the difficulties of earning a living as a scientist. (Jahren made it big, after a long road, and has won many awards.)


The Beneficiary – Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of my Father by Janny Scott – a biography of Robert Montgomery Scott, written by his daughter. A tale of four generations of a wealthy Main Line, Pennsylvania family and their 800-acre estate and the complicated relationships among family members.


As I mentioned above, I also started a series that celebrates books about the Barbie doll’s 60th birthday. Here are the first two posts, indulging my obsession. I’ll share my final Barbie post next week.

Dressing Barbie: A Celebration of the Clothes That Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them – Carol Spencer

Look what Barbie’s wearing! Barbie Fashion 1959-1967 by Sarah Sink Eames


May was a busier indie author month. I introduced three hard-working writers:

Richard Doiron
Lucia N. Davis
Frank Prem

If you are an indie or self-published author and would like to be featured on Who’s That Indie Author, please email me at bvitelli2009@gmail.com. To shake things up, I’ve updated my interview with a new set of questions!


Next week, we’re starting a Summer Reading program at the library where I work, so I’ll be signing up for that. I plan to work these two books onto my list:

June book previews: Lot – Stories by Bryan Washington and Miracle Creek by Angie Kim


And last, I was sorry to see that American author Herman Wouk died on May 17, at age 103. I’ve enjoyed many of his books and think I will go back to some of them this summer. I had a fun time looking at these book covers – did you notice that the last two, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, fit together to make a bigger picture?

Remembering American author Herman Wouk, 1915 – 2019

I hope you had a good month, out in the world and between the pages. I’m looking forward to a good summer!

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