Recommended Theme Reads – Baby Stealing, Water Ecosystems & Houseboat History

Theme-based reading recommendations; unknown aspects of American history, water ecosystems, and houseboats.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours accomplishes something I relish while reading for pleasure – it taught me something. The story is about a Tenessee baby stealing ring, Depression-era shantyboat culture, and institutional mistreatment of children.

For me, the most intriguing storyline follows a riverboat family from the ‘before’ time. Descriptions of nature knowledge gained while living on the Mississippi River are lush and sensory. It reminded me of the next book on this list.

The heartbreak, terror, and powerlessness suffered by poor birth families taken advantage of while at their most vulnerable and children separated from loving parents, and further – siblings from each other – was worthy of the strong emotions it stirred.

This book strengthened my convictions about the support needed for defenseless populations and about prosecuting those who value money over humanity.

A Secret History of American River People


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The “Marsh Girl” is an enigma in the backwater settlement closest to Catherine’s (aka Kya) home.

Abandoned by her mother, siblings, and eventually, by her abusive alcoholic father, the youngster navigates on her own through her teen and young adult years. She becomes an avid self-taught naturalist who delves into life the cycles of the animals and plants in her South Carolina marsh environment.

‘Fear of other’ and class bias causes her neglectful community to turn against her when the son of a prominent family is found dead.

Where the Crawdads Sing will delight natural history readers while highlighting the social and emotional damage caused by indifference and loneliness.

‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ Author Delia Owens Has A Strange Connection To A Real-Life Murder Mystery


Floating Point by Shelley Buck

Shelley Buck’s contemporary memoir gives the reader a viewpoint of life on a houseboat in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You’ll never look at a marina quite the same.

Shelley is a dot.com spouse with a high school-aged son attending a financially challenged charter school. While developing her author career, she seeks out a creative housing solution in uber-expensive Silicon Valley. Her journey takes the reader into a fluid dock community, repairs and maintenance unique to houseboats, and waterfront real estate under constant pressure from developers.

Buck’s canine-loving and nature appreciating observations intermingle with poetic narratives and moments of anxiety as she navigates through her soon-to-be empty nest and approaching retirement years.

If your reading mood calls for nature and water and you’ve got emotional reserves to explore traumatic children’s issues, Before We Were Yours and Where Crawdads Sing are great choices. If you want an uplifting family saga fraught with kids, pets, and mechanical challenges, Floating Point should hit the mark.

Best Wishes for Compelling Reading!

For ten more book recommendations from a historical fiction author/ reader, visit World of Mailman.

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Peggy’s Book Club Reads

Censorship & Politics

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

 

Kristen: …one of those books you don’t appreciate when tasked with reading it in high school, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you read it as an adult.

Graphic Novel | Fantasy

Notes on a Case of Melancholia or A Little Death by Nicholas Gurewitch


Lisa:
The Grim Reaper’s child doesn’t want to follow in Dad’s footsteps. Listed as an NPR editor pick, this was a surprisingly charming story.

Graphic Novel | Native American | Folklore

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembricki

Lisa: This book was on my bookshelf when I started reading Crossing the Owl’s Bridge by Kim Bateman. I attended a lecture of Dr. Bateman’s at a writers conference where she spoke about using the trickster and humor in writing. It was a perfect compliment to her book.

Grief & Loss

Crossing the Owl’s Bridge by Kim Bateman, PH.D.

Lisa: Through folklore, Dr. Bateman explores the grief process humans share across cultures and time. Contemporary grief client vignettes make this a timely read.

The love we have in a relationship doesn’t die with the body. It helps us heal.

I read this book as SARS-CoV-2 was breaking out. Bracing myself for difficult times ahead.

 

History

Sister Queens by Julia Fox

 

Mary: A true accounting of the lives of the daughters of Ferdinand and Isabella. Taken from their personal letters, court records and historical documents. An interesting perspective on somewhat unknown but important historical figures.

 

The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe

 

 

 

 

Peggy: True, inspirational, funny stories. Easy read, great if you need short, interesting, individual stories. Seems like it would be a great book to give as a gift to anyone. I might buy a hard copy (got it from the library)just to pass around.

 

Historical Fiction

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor

 

Lisa: Inspired by true events surrounding a group of fourteen women who were emigrating to America from Lahardane in County Mayo, Ireland. Eleven from the group died in the Titanic tragedy.

Of all the passengers, this group represents the largest loss from a single region. http://addergoogle-titanic.com/

Mystery

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Windspear

 

Karen: Starts out around WWI time period and goes forward from there. Great details about young woman solving mysteries. There are fourteen books in this series!

 

Mystery | Detective

The Old Success by Martha Grimes

 

 

Mary read this book.

Nonfiction | Time Management

Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee

Lisa: Another timely topic – rethinking how we spend our time. Book Quotes: “In 1965 a Senate Subcommittee predicted that by the year 2000 Americans would work fourteen-hour work weeks. And take nearly two months of vacation time.

“Do not let corporate values determine how you spend your days and what your priorities are. You are a big-brained social animal currently constrained by unrealistic demands and expectations.”

Thriller

The Whistler by John Grisham

 

Kristen: Action-packed. Really enjoyed it!

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Taking Guesswork out of Finding Good Books for 2019

For a reluctant, hold-your-breath-and-swallow type of shopper, the NPR Book Concierge gives me a reason to look forward to the holidays. It’s become my go-to place for every bibliophile on the Santa list.

Satisfied reading experiences bring good cheer well into the new year.

With the ability to filter titles by categories such as; Book Club, History Lovers, Thrillers, and Graphic Novels the site makes finding what you’re looking for easy. Book descriptions are concise, not more than a few sentences…and I enjoy reading them, often saving titles on other wish lists.

I do frequent the giant South American river online retailer, but I use Smile.Amazon.com to send a portion of the sale to a local nonprofit.

May this pointer make your holiday shopping more efficient and laser targeted.

Happy Gifting and Reading!

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THE POWER by Naomi Alderman

Everybody does it; toddlers, teens, CEO’s, women, and men. Everyone daydreams what they would do if they had more of it—power.

While fantasies are entertaining, rarely do they resemble reality when we’re faced with something life-changing.

Alderman’s book clutches hold of the fantasy, sears it to a crisp, and leaves us with a wretched, awful truth.

Before beginning to read, you know the author’s going to lead you through an alternate reality where the male/female power axis is flipped.

Alderman cleverly addresses reader expectations when, in pre-story correspondence, she says, “I think I’d rather enjoy this “world run by men” you’ve been talking about. Surely a kinder, more caring and—dare I say it?—more sexy world than the one we live in.”

From religious leaders modifying culture to government officials justifying actions, Alderman increases the voltage on the eclectic chair she builds for you.

We grow uncomfortable with Tunde, a college-age investigator, as he follows breaking stories.  His anxiety and PTSD symptoms worsen as he publishes insider news reports and comes to understand ‘it’s never going to be alright.’

Alderman’s story makes you feel the axiom, “If power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The emotional load is lightened with skillful wordcraft and interdimensional storytelling; illustrations, chapter titles, the correspondence, and curiosity about an unseen character.

Toward the end, the invisible one says, “I don’t know where you all think you get off labeling humans with simple words and thinking you know everything you need… It’s more complicated than that, sugar. However complicated it is, everything is always more complicated than that.”

Great job, Naomi, shaking it up!

5 out of 5 Amazon | Goodreads stars

 

 

If you liked this review and you plan to read the book, you may also like Haylee. She’s also a dangerous handed woman. Haylee’s involved in a personal struggle with power and must solve the ‘why’ of her unusual affliction before it makes her destroy everyone she loves.

 

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Something Wicked by Lisa Jackson & Nancy Bush

The pages practically turn themselves.

I Loved this book. It went by too fast. 

5 out of 5 Amazon stars

A women’s compound deep in an Oregonian forest protects girls with special abilities. Something’s gone wrong.

A workaholic detective in the ninth month of a surrogate pregnancy is investigating them.

Easy, flowing style. Interesting characters and scenarios.

I read this book out of order in the series. It held together and made sense.

The most interesting relationship(s) in the book —for me—was between the female detective who is carrying a child for her sister and the spark of forbidden attraction with the baby’s father.

Possibly more interesting than the book was how it entered my reading sphere. Most of my favorite books arrive through word-of-mouth, recommendations from trusted curators, or editor picks. This one, in true sci-fi fashion, was selected by Artifical Intelligence on a linguistic profile matching site for authors.

My bookshelves are now filled with Lisa Jackson books!

If you liked this post, check out Your Famous Author Match Helps Target Your Readers.

 

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The Murder’s Maid, Erika Mailman – Historical Fiction Book Review

Legendary murder crime story with a contemporary edge.

Bridget Sullivan is the Borden family maid. She’s an Irish immigrant and a witness to rising family tensions before the famous Lizzie Borden murders.

I liked the contemporary timeline tie-in with Brook’s (barista) character.  Mailman does a superb job drawing parallels between people working in service sector jobs while illustrating the persistence of racism and prejudice over time.

Borden Murder Details Enhance Reading Experience

The fine details in the Borden story give evidence to the many hours the author logged while researching the famous murder, combing through trial documents, visiting the crime scene, and studying forensic photos. While details can sometimes bog down historical fiction pieces, Mailman uses them to enhance the reader experience.

If you enjoy thinking about historical events beyond what was recorded in history books and newspapers, or if you are a true crime, murder mystery enthusiast, you’ll enjoy The Murder’s Maid.

Mailman’s seamless storytelling, from the maid’s point of view, is fresh and immersive.

Because I have similar interests in re-examining historical events, Brook’s statement, “If you had been killed in a barbaric way, would you want strangers tramping through your house in 150 years and looking at photos of your brain spilling out of your skull?” struck a powerful chord.

When pop culture glamorizes horrific historical events, what does that say about society?

Additional Resources

The Irish filled the most menial and dangerous jobs, often at low pay. They cut canals. They dug trenches for water and sewer pipes. They laid rail lines. They cleaned houses. They slaved in textile mills. They worked as stevedores, stable workers, and blacksmiths.  – History.com – When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis

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Gold Rush Stories Book Review & Video Series

Gold Rush Stories; 49 Tales of Seekers, Scoundrels, Loss and luck by Gary Noy

“History, warts and all,” is the essence of what Gary Noy delivers. Noy’s meticulous research, ferreting through dusty archive boxes for photos and first-person accounts, makes his gritty, sometimes enormously disturbing, and often entertaining Gold Rush story vignettes radiate with life.

In the lawless immigrant melting pot of California dreams, “accidents, disease, murder, natural disasters, [and] mob violence, … took a heavy toll during the era. Some estimates indicate 20 percent of all forty-niners died within six months of reaching California,” Noy writes.

I had the pleasure of attending a lecture Noy delivered at a writer’s conference.

An introduction after the conference led to the creation of a series of videos featuring several stories from this book – https://followingdeercreek.wordpress.com/interviews/

From the extinction of California’s Grizzly Bear, environmental destruction, and racist atrocities to situations engendering multi-cultural cooperation, Noy links California’s haunting past to contemporary issues still playing out today.

 

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tuesdays with Morrie Book Review

Our culture sells concepts. If we make lots of money, have a beautiful house, send kids to good schools, and travel we’ll be successful. This will make us happy. But does it?

In tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom, a sportswriter on life’s fast track, slows down to visit his dying college professor.

Morrie Swartz has ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. He’s spending his last moments sharing lessons for a meaningful life.

Keeping a supply of tissues at hand, I read this book in two sittings. It touched tender spots; missing loved ones after relationship breaks, forgiveness, the meaning of family, grief and loss, the decision to have children, and saying good-bye.

[Scroll to the end for still images with quotes for social media sharing.]

“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” ~ Morrie Schwartz.

In a series of interviews with Ted Koppel and audio recordings taken by Mitch, Morrie gifted his wisdom to people who never knew him. He wanted to bring dignity to death.

Morrie accomplished what he set out to do. Wherever he is now, I thank him for it.

Note: I remember where I was and what I was doing during the O.J. trial, the time when tuesdays with Morrie first came out. It wasn’t until after the book celebrated its 20th anniversary, and I’d run Phases of Gage (historical fiction novella) through the ScoreIt! linguistic analysis program that I finally read Albom’s book. Gage and Morrie are a match.

Perhaps I’m too close to my work to see similarities beyond neurological challenges and giving death dignity, but I’m glad to have read Morrie’s story no matter how it happened.

Full-length movie

Resources

ALS Association

 

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Filling Her Shoes by Betsy Graziani Fasbinder – Book Review

A Care-Full Mother’s Memoir Lights a Path of Enlightened Parenting.
Betsy Graziani Fasbinder author of Filling Her ShoesFilling her Shoes a memoir of an interited family

If we are open to the intricate, and sometimes surprising, facets of love, and strive for healthy relationships, we make can make contributions toward elevating our village, one family, and one child at a time.

When I was a step-kid, I first became conscious of the words Betsy talks about in her memoir. ‘We,’ ‘us,’ ‘ours’ is positive and binding. While, ‘me,’ mine,’ and, ‘you’re not my real ____,’ painfully divide.

As a young woman, coming into a family with teens, I shared Betsy’s anxiety and musings about belonging while co-parenting.

From Fasbinder’s special crafting of her name (and her second son’s name) to her sensitive handling of changes and losses experienced by her oldest son, Betsy shows how love and mindfulness have the power to heal.

Later, when I was widow and mother of a toddler, I experienced the incredible blessing of a wonderful step-in parent joining our family.

Betsy is right again; grief and loss are the flip side of the coin that also holds joy and gratitude.

I like thinking that Max’s first mom has always been a huge fan of Betsy’s. What greater gift could there be than knowing a loving someone picked up where you left off?

With a thoughtful approach to the vulnerability of parent-child relationships and a strong commitment to unraveling a legacy of domestic violence and adverse stepfamily stigmas, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder wears her own shoes while showing others how to walk a path of enlightened parenting.

Read more about Besty Graziani Fasbinder and her books.

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