Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island
by Claire Prentice

Why did you choose this book? I’d heard of this tribe’s history at the 1904 World’s Fair
When did you read this book? October 2014
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy history
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of The Lost Tribe of Coney Island from TLC Book Tours

Readers of Erik Larson will love this tale of sex, greed, and the American dream: A huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Island’s Luna Park, and two cultures collide.

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.

Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New York’s social elite. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island  is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream.

My Review

I chose to read this book because the St. Louis connection caught my eye immediately when this book came up as part of the book tour. I didn’t know the name of the Phlippine tribe (Igorrotes), but I did know that they appeared at the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis, and that a neighborhood on the former Fair site is known as ‘Dogtown’. Legend is that the tribe that took up residence there during the Fair ate dogs. Stories have been told about the tribe stealing pets and eating them; something I now suspect was exaggerated after reading  this book!

Throughout much of the book, I took breaks to wonder. This all took place only a little over 100 years ago, and I kept realizing how much things have changed! The very idea of putting humans ‘on display’ as if they were in a zoo is so off-putting to us today, and yet, in some ways I can understand why it happened. People did not have the ability to travel to distant parts of the world, and one could not simply google ‘Igarrote’ to learn about their culture, so this was a way to let the common many learn about them. Coupled with the fact that they were, at least at the beginning, willing participants, you can ALMOST excuse this as actors in a perfomance. ALMOST! But that was BEFORE I learned that they were cheated out of their salary and basically held prisoner by Dr. Hunt!

The other thing that forced me to keep reminding myself that this was a century ago was the actual chase for Dr. Hunt. It seemed almost unbelievable that he wasn’t tracked down almost immediately. He took ‘his’ tribe and scurried from town to town, always avoiding the authorities. Of course now, someone would take a selfie with one of the Igorrotes and post to Facebook and the authorities would know immediately where to go to arrest Dr. Hunt. But news traveled much more slowly at the turn of the last century.

I have to admit that until I read this book, I didn’t know much about Coney Island or the ‘amusement park’ industry of the early 1900s. I am lucky enough to live in a library district that offers e-borrowing of videos and found one about Coney Island. It really didn’t tell much at all about the Igorrote tribe; I think it was literally one sentence. But I’m glad I watched it first because it gave me a little background into the competition between the amusement park owners of the day, and let me see some of the building and attractions, and gave me some insight into why exhibits of humans might be seen as acceptable in those days! If you live in a district that offers Hoopla service, be sure to check this video out!

This story was engrossing and kept my attention! There were so many characters, and at the beginning I kept confusing them, but it didn’t take long at all to get to know their personalities and keep them straight. The book is well-researched, with plenty of historical detail, and an entertaining read! If you enjoy history and learning about the attitudes of the early twentieth century, be sure to pick this one up!

About Claire Prentice

Claire Prentice is an award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The Washington Post, The Times of London, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, BBC Online, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire.  

Connect with Claire on her blog,

My Rating:  ★★★1/2  3-1/2 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes and have written an honest review which appears above..
Claire’s Tour Stops
Monday, October 13th: Sophisticated Darkness
Monday, October 13th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, October 14th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, October 14th: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, October 15th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, October 16th: 50 Book Project
Friday, October 17th: Padre Steve
Monday, October 20th:  girlichef
Monday, October 20th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, October 21st: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, October 22nd: She Treads Softly
Thursday, October 23rd:  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, October 24th:  Dwell in Possibility
Monday, October 27th: BookNAround
Monday, October 27th:  Mental Foodie
Tuesday, October 28th:  Lisa’s Yarns
Wednesday, October 29th: A Bookish Affair
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
by Jess Walter

Why did you choose this book? I won a book club set
When did you read this book? November 2013
Who should read this book? anyone reading for the scenery
Source: book club set from Reading Group Guides
Here is a synopsis of Beautiful Ruins from Goodreads
From the moment it opens—on a rocky patch of Italian coastline, circa 1962, when a daydreaming young innkeeper looks out over the water and spies a mysterious woman approaching him on a boat—Jess Walter'sBeautiful Ruins is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to the back lots of contemporary Hollywood, Beautiful Ruins is gloriously inventive and constantly surprising—a story of flawed yet fascinating people navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.
My Review 

This book was a major disappointment to me! I noticed the beautiful cover right away and I’ve heard so much good about it. So I was excited when I won a set for my book club. Unfortunately, for me, the book did not live up to it’s hype.

The book got off to a good start in the first chapter, set in Italy in the early 1960s. But it quickly went downhill from there. The story bounced between decades and locations, which usually doesn’t bother me. But there were so many characters, mostly unlikeable, and so many side stories, mostly uninteresting. There were two main characters, with an intersting storyline, and two or three more who had necessary supporting roles. But there were some characters who really did not need to be there, who added nothing to the story, and who made the book incredibly slow. There is a problem when I am reading a book, and at the end of each chapter I ask myself….”Is it over yet! Please!” And the storyline involving Richard Burton was a negative, too. I don’t understand why he was brought into the story. I personally think the story would have worked better using a fictional movie star in the same role. But maybe that’s just me?

Actually, I enjoyed the end of the book (discounting the epilogue), which was set where we started out, in Italy, and featured the same two characters from the first chapter. If we could have eliminated some of the characters and cut some of the chapters, I may actually have enjoyed this book!

I obviously am in the clear minority here, as most readers rate this book very highly, so please do not let me review deter you from reading this if you are considering it. Take a look at some of the other reviews before you decide this is not the book for you.

My Rating:
  ★★   2 Stars
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Ripper's Wife

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine in which we spotlight upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating!

The Ripper’s Wife
by Brandy Purdy
Expected Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads

It begins as a fairytale romance — a shipboard meeting in 1880 between vivacious Southern belle Florence Chandler and handsome English cotton broker James Maybrick. Courtship and a lavish wedding soon follow, and the couple settles into an affluent Liverpool suburb.

From the first, their marriage is doomed by lies. Florie, hardly the heiress her scheming mother portrayed, is treated as an outsider by fashionable English society. James's secrets are infinitely darker-he has a mistress, an arsenic addiction, and a vicious temper. But Florie has no inkling of her husband's depravity until she discovers his diary — and in it, a litany of bloody deeds...

Why I am waiting....
A fictional Jack the Ripper story….sounds interesting!
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday Memes: Leaving Time

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Today I am spotlighting Leaving Time by Jodii Picoult

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.

Opening Paragraph

    Some people used to believe that there was an elephant graveyard — a place that sick and old elephants would travel to to die. They’d slip away from their herds and would lumber across the dusty landscape, like the titans, we read about in seventh grade in Greek Mythology. Legend said the spot was in Saudi Arabia; that it was the source of a supernatural force; that it contained a book of spells to bring about world peace.

    Exploreres who went in search of the graveyard would follow dying elephants for weeks, only to realize they’d been led in circles. Some of these voyagers disappeared completely. Some could not remember what they had seen, and not a single explorer who claimed to have found the graveyard could ever locate it again.

    Here’s why: The elephant graveyard is a myth.

My Teaser

    Serenity shudders as if I’ve hit her with a Taser. “She’s not.”
    As she closes the door in my face, I wonder if this is a flat-out lie, too.
page 33

(These quotes are from uncorrected advance proofs. Please refer to the final printed book for corrected quotes!)

So...what do you think? Is this one you would pick up? Leave a comment below!
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