In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone

In the Shadow of the Empress: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters

The vibrant, sprawling saga of Empress Maria Theresa—one of the most renowned women rulers in history—and three of her extraordinary daughters, including Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen of France.

That is the blurb on this very interesting look at this Empress and her daughters. And with Nancy Goldstone as the author I knew this would be good. She has such a way of making Non-Fiction read like the best story you can imagine. Never dull or dry. I adored this book.

This is the story of eighteenth century Maria Theresa, a strong woman who ruled the entire Habsburg Empire. We also learn about her daughters, who were also strong rulers in their own right. The Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands, Maria Christina. Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and of course, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and the one you have probably heard the most about.

But all of them were extraordinary. The imagery of the royal courts is well done. The research put into this book is astounding. Reading this was a history lesson inside a story. A story of hope, desire, betrayal and every hardship one could imagine.

This is one I shall keep and share for a long time.

NetGalley/ September 21st, 2021 by Little, Brown and Company

Ethel Rosenberg An American Tragedy by ANNE SEBBA

Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy

New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba’s moving biography of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes defined the Cold War and horrified the world.

In a case that shook the nation and left a lot of people wondering what the truth was and how it could involve electrocuting a woman for espionage with evidence as shaky as jello.

This is the first look I have seen at Ethel by herself. Who she was as a person, as a mother and wife, and what her dreams were. What is the truth? There has been new evidence found since her death and this book looks at all of it. The bulk told through letters with her husband, her lawyer, and her psychotherapist during her three years in jail. Two of those in Solitary.

Ethel wanted nothing more than to be an opera singer a good wife and a good mother. But in the 1950’s she finds her self caught up in the political witch hunt that was the McCarthy era. Anti-Semitism, Male dominated society and all the other injustices that women were forced to endure.

When they came for her husband, she never said a word. Her love and loyalty was so great she refused to incriminate him in anything. Her brother wasn’t as loyal or kind. He perjured himself to incriminate his own sister. The government knew this. And yet they were both found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union and put on Death Row.

In June of 1953, Julius walked into the death chamber and was electrocuted. A horrible way to die. A few minutes later Ethel was led in and courageously and calmly let the government kill her.

That seems like a long time ago, but much of the same is still going on. Government is still running roughshod on the rights of the people and still condoning the hate.

I hated reading this and I needed to read this. Confronting our history is the only way to change it.

NetGalley/ June 08, 2021 St. Martin’s Press





THE GLORIOUS GUINNESS GIRLS by EMILY HOURICAN

Everyone has hear of the Guinness family but I’ve never known much about the girls. This clears all of that up and very well.

This was a book of truths and an imagined tale. The author has done her research and this was a joy to read.

These girls seemed to have it all. The money, the name, and all the tight restrictions of the time. Fliss isn’t one of them and yet she is. It is her story most of all and it was an emotional one.

With their mother indisposed with some vague ailment, Fliss is charged with chaperoning the girls. She sleeps with them and eats with them but she knows she is not one of them.

The girls led very interesting and tragic lives and it is all here in this captivating book.

The author writes beautifully and the energy jumps off the page. Very Well Done!

May 4. 2021 Grand Central Publishing

VALCOUR-The 1776 Campaign That Saved The Cause of Liberty by JACK KELLY

Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty

The wild and suspenseful story of one of the most crucial and least known campaigns of the Revolutionary War when America’s scrappy navy took on the full might of Britain’s sea power.

Valcour is about the people involved in the 1776 three-day battle of the fledgling American Colonies against the pesky Brits. In the summer of that year, word came that the British were coming from Canada.

The Americans had wanted to maintain their hold on the upper rivers and knew that to do so they would have to make a stand. And what a brave stand these soldiers who were really just volunteers, made. A stand that would change the course of history.

You will recognize the names. Washington, Schuyler, a General who would become Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law by marrying Eliza. We also see a different side of Benedict Arnold. A bit rougher than some, but a brilliant strategist.

While Washington routed them in Trenton, Arnold sent the British Gates packing in a three-day battle on Lake Champlain and forced a retreat.

This is a well-researched book. I think we all are familiar with Benedict Arnold as a traitor, but he really is so much more. These men were young and untried but passionate about not being under the thumb of Britain. This was more than a history lesson. These were real people who overcame incredible odds to hold up our fledgling country against more powerful enemies and prevailed.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

NetGalley/ April 6th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell

So good ❤️📚

An artist lost to history, a family abandoned to its secrets, and the woman whose search for meaning unearths it all in a sweeping and expressive story from the New York Times bestselling author of Letters from Paris . 

Cady Drake had a rough start in life. Orphaned and shuffled through the foster system she lucked out the day Maxine, owner of an antique and junk shop, takes her in for good. From Maxine, Cady learns about life and restoring to life beautiful pieces of the past that have been abandoned or neglected.

When Maxine dies, Cady is adrift. Terrified to be alone and her good friend Olivia thinks she has the answer to Cady’s problems. A book. Not just any book, but a book about the carousels of Paris. Cady has her own carousel rabbit. Gus, who in a fit of frustration Cady gives a good kick, unlocking a hidden compartment containing a box and a photo with a full carousel in the background. As a photographer, Cady is intrigued by the photo and how old it is. And in that moment she takes the commission and heads to Paris.

She loves taking pictures of the beautiful carousels in Paris but she really wants to find this Chateau Clement in Provence and find out if her Gus is part of their carousel.
What she finds is a long neglected château, and an angry old man who wants nothing to do with her or anyone else. But Cady isn’t one to take no for an answer and soon she has everyone involved trying to put the carousel back and find out who this mystery woman is.

Told in the past and the present, this was such a beautiful story. No, the characters weren’t perfect. And the past isn’t always pretty. But it’s only when secrets and misunderstandings come out in the light, that healing will begin.

I’m quite sure I will never miss a novel by Ms. Blackwell!

*****

BOOM TOWN by SAM ANDERSON

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

A lively and introspective look into Oklahoma City, where colorful city officials business leaders, artists, and sports fans have turned an unassuming Southwestern city into a thriving metropolis with a dazzling basketball team.

Sam Anderson–award-winning critic and journalist–makes his long-awaited debut with a stunning, insightful, and raucous portrait of Oklahoma City, an iconoclastic outpost in America’s heartland.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I’ve lived in Nichols Hills since Hurricane Katrina spit us out of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The entire state has been a mystery to me.

I had never heard of Sam Anderson, sorry Sam, but I won’t forget him! This was the best unvarnished look at who makes the rules here and what the powers that be have envisioned for the city.  Oklahoma City is a huge sprawling area of tiny pockets of old-established neighborhoods. While there have been huge improvements to downtown OKC, beyond the city center the homeless linger under bridges and overpasses and oil and gas rules. Unemployment is rampant unless you are an oil field worker and even then you may only have a job until it’s bonus time.

From the Land Run to Aubrey Mclendon’s spectacular exit from his oil and gas woes to the Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne, whose house I have been in and it is just as weird and wacko as Sam will tell you about.

I laughed so hard all the way through this book. Sam has captured the city perfectly as well as all of its most colorful residents.

Very Well Done and I look forward to more from this author!

Netgalley/August 21st 2018 by Crown

 

Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford

Chariot on the Mountain

Once old Mastuh be dead, you be workin’ in the fields just like the rest of ’em. That day comin’ soon.” 

Based on little-known true events and brought vividly to life by Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist Jack Ford, here is an astonishing account of a time when the traditions of the Old South still thrived, a treacherous journey toward freedom–and a testament to determination, friendship, and courage. 

Kitty’s story takes place a about 20 years before the war between the states. Kitty was a real person and this story is full of historical information with some fictional conversations that may have taken place. The facts are documented very well and Mr. Ford has done a masterful job of weaving them into a believable story.

Set in Virginia, Kitty is the daughter of her master and a slave woman. She has been raised in the house, educated and allowed to have a relationship and children.

But what is going to happen when her master dies? Will his widow sell them just to not have to face her husband’s proof of infidelity?

Mary Maddox was a wonderful lady. She decides to honor her husband’s last wish which was to free Kitty and her children.
To do so she must work with the underground railroad and take Kitty and her children to freedom in Pennsylvania. Along the way the two women develop a relationship based on trust, kindness and love.

But we have to have a bad guy and that guy was the master’s own evil nephew who has no plans to let Kitty remain a free woman when she would fetch a nice price to help clear his many debts.

No sooner is Kitty a free woman than another man of color sells her out and she is beaten and tossed in a wagon and taken back home. But dear nephew has no idea what a few women on a mission can accomplish.

This book was hard to read in some parts, but true. Miraculous things happen when women get together and refuse to back down. The fact that this is some well documented history makes the story even better.  I won’t spoil any of it for you though. It is a wonderful story and I am richer for having read it!

Netgalley/Kensington July 31, 2018

The Slave-Trader’s Letter-Book by Jim Jordan ( University of Georgia Press)

n 1858 Savannah businessman Charles Lamar, in violation of U.S. law, organized the shipment of hundreds of Africans on the luxury yacht Wanderer to Jekyll Island, Georgia. The four hundred survivors of the Middle Passage were sold into bondage. This was the first successful documented slave landing in the United States in about four decades and shocked a nation already on the path to civil war.

In 1886 the North American Review published excerpts from thirty of Lamar’s letters from the 1850s, reportedly taken from his letter book, which describe his criminal activities. However, the authenticity of the letters was in doubt until very recently. In 2009, researcher Jim Jordan found a cache of private papers belonging to Charles Lamar’s father, stored for decades in an attic in New Jersey. Among the documents was Charles Lamar’s letter book, confirming him as the author.

This book has two parts. The first recounts the flamboyant and reckless life of Lamar himself, including Lamar’s involvement in southern secession, the slave trade, and a plot to overthrow the government of Cuba. A portrait emerges at odds with Lamar’s previous image as a savvy entrepreneur and principled rebel. Instead, we see a man who was often broke and whose volatility sabotaged him at every turn. His involvement in the slave trade was driven more by financial desperation than southern defiance. The second part presents the “Slave-Trader’s Letter-Book.” Together with annotations, these seventy long-lost letters shed light on the lead-up to the Civil War from the remarkable perspective of a troubled, and troubling, figure.

As a history buff and researcher, this title appealed to me right away. I am from the Brunswick/Jekyll Island area and my family has been there since before we were a country.

Lamar is a reckless and troubled man. Having his livelihood pretty much handed to him by his father, he proceeds to run every business he touches into the ground.

The book give the reader quite a bit of information that even I haven’t seen before. These letters are a valuable piece of history not only for Georgia but for the entire country. I would hope that this information would be widely spread in our schools.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone searching for answers about our beginnings and what almost tore our country apart.

Netgalley/University of Georgia Press  January Release.

White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by [Isenberg, Nancy]

In her groundbreaking  bestselling history of the class system in America, Nancy Isenberg upends history as we know it by taking on our comforting myths about equality and uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present, always embarrassing—if occasionally entertaining—poor white trash.

“When you turn an election into a three-ring circus, there’s always a chance that the dancing bear will win,” says Isenberg of the political climate surrounding Sarah Palin. And we recognize how right she is today. Yet the voters who boosted Trump all the way to the White House have been a permanent part of our American fabric, argues Isenberg.

The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement to today’s hillbillies. They were alternately known as “waste people,” “offals,” “rubbish,” “lazy lubbers,” and “crackers.” By the 1850s, the downtrodden included so-called “clay eaters” and “sandhillers,” known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.

Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society––where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics–-a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ’s Great Society; they haunt us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty. Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.
 
We acknowledge racial injustice as an ugly stain on our nation’s history. With Isenberg’s landmark book, we will have to face the truth about the enduring, malevolent nature of class as well.

This was a really good and a really hard book. Ms. Isenberg  does a great job of going through the different evolutions of the idea of “white trash”.

It’s an always evolving term as explained by Ms. Isenberg. She takes the reader through the present day, and links it back to the civil war and to the revolutionary war.

All the talk of that one percent has brought a lot of discussion on who they are and the dynamics behind them. We overlook the fact that privilege is deeply embedded in our culture. Racial injustice is a nasty blot on our history and maybe now we’ll take a hard look at class in America. We pride ourselves on being progressive and tolerant when in fact we are neither.

Please do not mistake this as a political book. This is a historical narrative at it’s best.

Highly recommend this book!

xxPP

Woman of God by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Woman of God by [Patterson, James]

The world is watching as massive crowds gather in Rome, waiting for news of a new pope, one who promises to be unlike any other in history. It’s a turning point that may change the Church forever. Some followers are ecstatic that the movement reinvigorating the Church is about to reach the Vatican, but the leading candidate has made a legion of powerful enemies who aren’t afraid to kill for their cause.

Faith has never come easy for Brigid Fitzgerald. From her difficult childhood with drug-addled parents to her career as a doctor healing the wounded in Sudan to a series of trials that test her beliefs at every turn, Brigid’s convictions and callings have made her the target of all those who fear that the Church has lost its way–dangerous adversaries who abhor challenges to tradition. Locked in a deadly, high-stakes battle with forces determined to undermine everything she believes in, Brigid must convert her enemies to her cause before she loses her faith…and her life.

Spanning the globe–from the drug dens, high-powered law firms, and churches of Boston to the horrific brutality of a civil war in the Sudanese desert to the beauty, violence, and spiritual enlightenment of the Holy Land–Woman of God is an epic, thrilling tale of perseverance, love, trust and nothing less than what it means to live in a fallen world.

Maxine Paetro is one of my favorite co-authors for James Patterson.

Our story begins twenty years prior to the story, a short beginning with everyone waiting in the square to see the smoke when a new Pope is announced.

We follow Brigid from the dangerous Sudan, where she and her fellow doctors do their best to patch up the wounded flocking to their compound, to Rome, and all over the globe. Surrounded by factions that are killing any and everyone. When Brigid is injured and sent home to heal, she has no idea what to do. Her faith is questioned at every turn and at one point she turns away from the church.

A story of faith, struggles, and how the Catholic Church is moving forward into unfamiliar territory. As usual, there are the those on the fringes who are going to advocate violence rather than change the church and Brigid must let her faith in God be her guiding light into the future of the church and in her own tortured life.

How does one keep the faith when all the things you hold dearest are continually being taken away? How much loss is one woman capable of enduring? Will Brigid find her purpose and is that purpose being the next Pope?

You will have to read it and see! I was very happy to see this at my local library when it came in.  My favorite JP books are the ones with Ms. Paetro. The writing flows nicely and there is a female presence that is obvious in the book.

Lovely Book!