Blog Book Marks Life

November & December Book Marks

November is a month of extremes.  We enter it stuffing our faces with leftover Halloween candy and we exit it stuffed like a turkey.  In the middle is Veteran’s Day, a time to pause from work, school or life and think about patriotism and those who serve our country, no matter what your politics.  To that end, I’ve included two books with a military theme.

We transition to December with the warp speed of Black Friday.  Online, in-person, malls and Holiday Markets, home made and home-baked, re-gifted and handed down… tis the season to give.  And nothing makes a better gift than a good read.  Whether it’s a hard cover, gift certificate, audible, audio book or e-reader, give the gift of books this holiday season and forever after.

In keeping with the spirit of Small Business Saturday on Nov 25th, I’m linking each book to Indiebound.org, a community of Independent Local Bookstores you can purchase from online.  Put your feet up on Black Friday and avoid the crowds.  It gives you more time to read!

 

Military Theme:

Craig & Fred – A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other, Craig Grossi

Another dog/buddy story, you ask?  We’ve had “Marley and Me” and ”A Dog’s Purpose” and oh so many more, but the fact is we can’t get enough of our four-legged friends. As I prepared to open what could have been a formulaic book, I was immediately sucked in.  Toggling back and forth between a present day cross-country road trip and the war in Afghanistan, the story focuses on the author, who has returned home dealing with PTS and struggling to fit back into civilian life.  Craig joined the military after 9/11 and while deployed, he breaks the rules and adopts a stray dog he names “Fred.”  The tale of that friendship, and the against-all-odds story of how Fred gets back to the states will warm the cockles of your heart and every other body part in between.  Craig & Fred enjoy a huge fan following on instagram and for anyone who understands the power of animals to fill the empty places with unconditional love, you’ll enjoy this book on every level.

 

8 Seconds of Courage-A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor, Flo Groberg with Tom Sileo

I’d be farting through silk if I had a dollar for every time someone threw around the word “hero.”  But this book is truly about an ordinary person who did something extraordinary, without thinking twice.  Flo’s story moves from his immigration to the United States to his honor at serving in the military to sacrifice and heroism.  His dramatic injury and painstaking recovery culminate in receiving the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for acts of valor.  It’s the stories about individuals that connect us as a people.  And for those of us completely unconnected to the less than 1% of the population who volunteer to serve our country. Flo’s story reminds us of what really does make America great.

 

Fiction:

The Paris Secret, Karen Swan

The title might suggest a destination romance novel complete with wine, cobblestoned streets and some croissants thrown in for good measure, but don’t be fooled by the cover.  This is a lively story based on the real life discovery of more than 100 paintings, found in a Paris apartment that were looted and hidden by Nazi sympathizers.

The protagonist isn’t some lovesick gal with time-bomb ovaries but a serious art agent who gets swept up in the history and secrets of a powerful French family and in the process, uncovers the past.  Maybe there’s a little love along the way, but I’m not telling.  It’s worth the read and the twists and turns to lead to a very surprising payoff at the end.

 

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

Does giving birth make a mother, or is it love?  This question lies at the heart of this wonderfully complex book, layered with parenthood’s complexities and the connections between parent and child across generations and couples.  Add to that the elements of race, love, rules, friendship, secrets and betrayals and you have a rich and enjoyable read.

Set in suburban Ohio, a bohemian mother and her daughter move into the manicured and law abiding town of Shaker Heights.  The ascetic lifestyle of the artist mother chafes against the conventions of the landlady, who digs into the past and unearths some uncomfortable truths for everyone in the novel, giving rise to the title “little fires everywhere.” Through a secondary character of an immigrant Chinese mother, Ng cleverly inserts race juxtaposed against privilege and prejudice.

The story both unwinds as it simultaneously builds to a crescendo and my thoughts returned to it many days after I finished it.

 

Fiction-Fantasy:

Hiddensee-A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker, Gregory Maguire

Just in time for the holidays, the famed author of “Wicked” and other fairytales takes his pen to the ancient roots of the beloved nutcracker story.  The tale begins deep in a forest with an older couple and their adopted son.  The writing is rhythmic and magical, in an “olde tyme” tongue that both lulled and transported me back to reading fairy tales as a child.

Planted in the soil of the 10th century German romanticism, the themes of death, afterlife and the fantastical are woven through the story.  But more than anything, this tale is about the power of transporting someone to a magical realm.


Non Fiction:

Fifty Years of 60 Minutes, Jeff Fager

Full disclosure, Fager (everyone calls him by his last name) is a friend and a fellow alumnus of Colgate University.  As Executive Producer of “60 Minutes” for more than 14 years, he stepped into the legendary Don Hewitt’s shoes and made them his own.  Fager’s book feels as if you’re strolling down the halls and editing rooms of this iconic news program, revealing the back stories, the inside scoop, the personalities and the simple secret to “60 Minutes” longevity (they look for stories that can be developed after the story.) It’s hard to imagine that “back in the day” TV execs were skeptical that current events could be presented in a compelling and human way.  Here we are, fifty years later, tuning in on Sunday night to the best story-telling on the airwaves.  Hands down.  Listening on audible, with the inclusion of audio news clips, makes it even more engrossing.

 

Member of the Family-My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties, Dianne Lake

With the recent passing of Charles Manson at 83 ( of natural causes!) the world lost one more monster, and this book is even more of a timely read. The Manson murders were the first truly horrific news story I remember as a kid.  It frightened a nation and effectively ended any semblance of hippie innocence and the summer of love.

I’ve always been intrigued by what must go so horribly wrong in childhood to allow a young woman to be programmed to kill on command. I remembered a passage in Manson’s biography where the women allowed themselves to be lined up against trees while he practiced knife throwing. That repelled and fascinated me.

You can find all of those Daddy issues and more in Dianne Lake’s honest and unvarnished memoir of her years with the Manson family.  Her father’s slow dissatisfaction with society and decision to sell everything and “drop out” is heart-breaking to read.  As her parents turn to drugs and the commune-like culture, Dianne is cut loose, introduced to acid at age 14.  The tale weaves from Minnesota to Malibu, through Laurel Canyon and San Francisco at the height of the hippie hey day, with poor Dianne looking for love in all the wrong places. Don’t skip the part where Diane gets to bite the umbilical cord in half during one of the Manson family births.

 

In this season of gifting and packages, I’ve discovered a new product that can “thief-proof” packages and send delivery notifications when you aren’t around and it makes me way more comfortable than having the Amazon guy let himself in my house, check this out….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lUIfaYtC2s and go to packageguard.com.

2 Comments

  1. Carolyn Newman

    November 22, 2017 at 8:14 am

    My book groups Love Celeste Ng. She is a favorite local author. Carolyn

  2. Mal O'Hara

    November 22, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Looking forward to Fager’s book. Best to you for Thanksgiving, Mal

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