Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shelf Control: Abe and Molly

Shelf Control is a weekly meme created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies. The idea of this meme is to create a post about a book on your shelf (print or electronic) that is waiting to be read. Because I use my library so much, I may also use my library ‘to be read’ shelf. I’m hoping this may help me to rediscover and finally read some of the books that have been waiting for their turn to be read for way too long!

This week I am featuring Abe and Molly by Frederic Hunter

Title: Abe and Molly
Author: Frederic Hunter
Genre: Historical Fiction - Presidents and First Ladies
Year Published: 2010
Length: ~260 pages + notes
Goodreads Rating: 4.09

Riffle Synopsis:

A novel with extensive historical notes about this true story. "A wonderful book" -- James M. McPherson, Historian and Pulitzer Prize winner for Battle Cry Of Freedom When Abraham Lincoln courted Mary Todd, rejection, poverty, lack of polish and background, all tried to deter him. He was a self-taught young lawyer, plagued with debts and raised in log cabins. She was of aristocratic background and highly educated. Everyone in Springfield, Illinois, thought them badly matched. Did they just get married and live happily ever after? No. Her family interfered, told Lincoln he was unworthy. Did he believe them? Well, he broke the engagement. Then he went into such a tailspin of depression that friends thought he might commit suicide. Her family refused to let Mary go to him. She had to seem unconcerned, her witty and vivacious self. They did not see one another for 18 months. Then they resumed meeting -but in secret. This secret courtship got Lincoln challenged to a duel. Not your sweetness and light path to marriage. Were they in love? Lots of controversy about that. In Abe and Molly Frederic Hunter provides the details. A special feature of this novel is a section with extensive notes about the historical sources for this story and why Hunter interpreted them as he did.
How I Got It: I found a copy on the sale shelf at the library and it was in pristene condition! (It still is, I’m sorry to say, because I haven’t yet made time to read it.

When I Got It: Oct 2014

Why I want to Read It: I’m an ‘Land of Lincoln’ girl so I am a little obsessed with everything Lincoln. (In fact, as i write this I am preparing to visit The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum tomorrow.) I know the basic facts of the marriage of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd from elementary school, and have picked up a lot more through my reading of Civil War era fiction, but I’m sure this book will tell me things I never knew. I really need to make time for it soon!
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Learn More About.... James A. Garfield

James A. Garfield

This is the first in a new series of posts I'm doing called "Learn More About…”. I love historical fiction, history, and learning in general. Long time readers of my blog know that one of my marks of good historical fiction is the motivation it gives me to google to learn more about a subject. Sometimes this leads me to another book, a video, or even a class. Those finds really excite me, so I've decided to start sharing my finds here. Obviously there is no set schedule to this, because I can't predict when I'll find something worth sharing.

I was inspired to do this post when I came across a PBS documentary, Murder of a President. This is based on a book I reviewed recently, Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard, and the author appears several times in the documentary. The documentary was every bit as interesting as the book. I still recommend reading the book because there is a lot more detail, but if you aren’t inclined to do that or don’t have the time, you can watch this video and learn of what was contained in the book. If you have read the book and enjoyed it, you will enjoy this documentary as a nice review. There a plenty of supplemental materials on the website for those who are looking for even more about the short Presidency of James Abrams Garfield.

You can watch a very short preview of the video here.

You can watch the full video free (at this time) on the PBS website. You can also watch with the PBS app on your Apple TV and other devices. Here is the site to help you get PBS on your device.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shelf Control: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

Shelf Control is a weekly meme created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies. The idea of this meme is to create a post about a book on your shelf (print or electronic) that is waiting to be read. Because I use my library so much, I may also use my library ‘to be read’ shelf. I’m hoping this may help me to rediscover and finally read some of the books that have been waiting for their turn to be read for way too long!

This week I am featuring Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Title: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard
Author: Susan Meissner
Genre: Women’s Fiction - Historical Fiction - Hollywood
Year Published: 2016
Length: 400 pages
Goodreads Rating: 3.68

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

How I Got It: I won a copy of this book from BookReporter.com in the Women's Fiction Author Spotlight Contest

When I Got It: Feb 2016

Why I want to Read It: I was first attracted to the cover with the starry sky, the pretty pinks in the gown, and the HOLLYWOOD sign in the background. I’d recently read All The Stars In The Heavens by Adriana Trigiani, a fictionalized version of the Loretta Young - Clark Gable affair. I loved the movie Gone With The Wind, and of course, Clark Gable, so I really enjoyed that novel.  I’d read American Blonde by Jennifer Niven early, and while I didn’t love that one, it did get me interested in reading novels set in the glamour era of Hollywood, so I was quick to grab onto this one. For some reason though, it has been languishing on my shelves for a year. Last summer I read A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott, a novel about Carole Lombard and Clark Gable that I enjoyed. I still haven’t bitten, but I took another step closer after reading A Bridge Across the Ocean by the same author earlier this year. I enjoyed the writing in that one very much!  I’m hoping maybe I can get my book club to join me in reading this one so I can finally cross it off my list!
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Windy City Blues

Windy City Blues
by Renèe Roseni

Why did you choose this book? I’ve read and enjoyed the author’s previous books
When did you read this book? March 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of historical fiction; especially those with an interest in mid-century Chicago or music
Source: library ebook
My Rating: ✰✰✰½    3½Stars

Here is a synopsis of Windy City Blues from Goodreads

The bestselling author of "White Collar Girl" and "What the Lady Wants" explores one woman's journey of self-discovery set against the backdrop of a musical and social revolution.
In the middle of the twentieth century, the music of the Mississippi Delta arrived in Chicago, drawing the attention of entrepreneurs like the Chess brothers. Their label, Chess Records, helped shape that music into the Chicago Blues, the soundtrack for a transformative era in American History.
But, for Leeba Groski, Chess Records was just where she worked...
Leeba doesn't exactly fit in, but her passion for music and her talented piano playing captures the attention of her neighbor, Leonard Chess, who offers her a job at his new record company. What begins as answering phones and filing becomes much more as Leeba comes into her own as a songwriter and befriends performers like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Etta James. But she also finds love with a black blues guitarist named Red Dupree.
With their relationship unwelcome in segregated Chicago and shunned by Leeba's Orthodox Jewish family, she and Red soon find themselves in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and they discover that, in times of struggle, music can bring people together.

My Review

I’ve had most of Renèe Rosen’s novels on my TBR list for quite some time, but had not read one until now. I’d read a review for Windy City Blues recently, so when I was looking for something quick and fun to read and this popped up as ‘available’ on Overdrive, I downloaded it. I’m glad I did.

This was a quick read and very interesting.  The book is set in post-WWII Chicago and tells the story of Chess Records and the evolution of blues. Though I was unfamiliar with the label ‘Chess Records’, I was familiar with much of the music.

The story is based on real events, but many of the main characters are fictional, including Leeba, a Jewish woman who falls in love with a black man, Red Depree, also fictional. The civil rights movement arose during this time, and many of the events of the movement were woven into the story. I really gained some insight on what it must have been like too be black or a Jew during that period.

One thing I really liked was that at the end of the book the author took some time to explain what characters were fictional and where she took poetic license with the facts. I was a little disappointed to learn that Leiba and Red were not real! One thing that left me confused was the relationship of Leonard Chess with his wife and his high school sweetheart. I was left wondering how much of that was based on fact. I was also left a little sad for his family, particularly his wife.

Like all good historical fiction, this one had me googling to learn more. The author provided a bibliography at the end of the book with suggestions for books and films to learn more. There is also a set of discussion questions provided.
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