INDIANAPOLIS by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic

Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man

A human drama unlike any other: the riveting and definitive full story of the worst sea disaster in United States naval history.

Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis is sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she is struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship is instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sinks within minutes. Some 300 men go down with the ship. Nearly 900 make it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battle injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 will survive.

Coming from these two authors, I knew this was going to be a good book. And it was. I don’t usually do Military history. But something about this story pulled at me.

A true account of what happened to the ship and crew of the USS Indianapolis. After delivering precious cargo that would effectively end the war with Japan, she has limped on a course to complete the repairs that were not finished before they were pulled for a special top-secret mission. But they never made it. Torpedoed by the enemy and sank.

A story of bravery, of teen-aged boys stepping up when needed. Of the fight to survive for those left alive in the dark water surrounded by deadly oil slicks and sharks. I am not going to lie, it was hard to read some of this but then these young men sacrificed their lives and as we learn more about each one we become invested in their survival.

A story of how a crew and an enemy came forward to save their Captain from an unjust court-martial.

Any military fans will love this in-depth look at our military history. I know I will never forget this one.

Netgalley/ Simon and Schuster  July 10, 2018

 

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LOVE AND RUIN by PAULA McLAIN

Love and Ruin

The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.

This was a great work of historical fiction. Coming after The Paris Wife, where we read about Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives, this to me was even better!

Martha Gellhorn is a well-known name in journalism and I loved her fierce independence and the way she knew herself so well. Instead of getting lost in the shadow of the great Hemingway, Martha was the one that got away. The one that left him and made her own star shine so brightly. I have great admiration for this woman and this was a very good look at two passionate people and the ups and downs of their relationship, but this was truly Martha’s story.

What a great story!

Netgalley/Ballentine Books  May 01,2018

THE HELLFIRE CLUB by JAKE TAPPER

The Hellfire Club

The debut political thriller from Jake Tapper, CNN’s chief Washington correspondent and the New York Times bestselling author of The Outpost — 1950’s D.C. intrigue about a secret society and a young Congressman in its grip

Charlie Marder is an unlikely Congressman. Thrust into office by his family ties after his predecessor died mysteriously, Charlie is struggling to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, DC, alongside his young wife Margaret, a zoologist with ambitions of her own. Amid the swirl of glamorous and powerful political leaders and deal makers, a mysterious fatal car accident thrusts Charlie and Margaret into an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a plot that could change the course of history. When Charlie discovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of governance, he has to fight not only for his principles and his newfound political career…but for his life.

I enjoy listening and reading Jake Tapper, the journalist. I was excited to see this book.

I know it is set in the 1950’s but Charlie is not a stupid man. He knows right from wrong, he served our country in the military. He has principles. Oops, not a good thing to have as a politician.

You don’t even need to  have average intelligence to know that Washington is one big game of who you  know, who you owe, and who owes you. Trust no one and keep your mouth shut.  I can’t believe with his famous father Charlie didn’t grasp that quickly. If you didn’t figure out what was going on by Chapter 2, after the car crash, well keep those rosy glasses on.

Other than a lot of political name dropping and the mix of fact and fiction, there wasn’t a lot of meat to this book. The characters were vague and some a bit over the top. All in all I was bored.

But I sure hope Mr. Tapper keeps up the journalistic career!

NetGalley/April 24th 2018 by Little, Brown and Company

Release Day for The Slave-Traders Letter Book! by Jim Jordan ( University of Georgia Press) Congratulations!

In 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.

THE PRAGUE SONATA BY BRADFORD MORROW (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The Prague Sonata

From the critically acclaimed author Bradford Morrow, a literary quest novel that travels from Nazi-occupied Prague to turn-of-the-millennium New York as a young musicologist seeks to solve the mystery behind an eighteenth-century sonata manuscript

Music and war, war and music—these are the twin motifs around which Bradford Morrow, recipient of the Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has composed his magnum opus, The Prague Sonata, a novel more than a dozen years in the making.

In the early days of the new millennium, pages of a worn and weathered original sonata manuscript—the gift of a Czech immigrant living out her final days in Queens—come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. To Meta’s eye, it appears to be an authentic eighteenth-century work; to her discerning ear, the music rendered there is commanding, hauntingly beautiful, clearly the undiscovered composition of a master. But there is no indication of who the composer might be. The gift comes with the request that Meta attempt to find the manuscript’s true owner—a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart—and to make the three-part sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorák and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn’t the only one after the music’s secrets.

Magisterially evoking decades of Prague’s tragic and triumphant history, from the First World War through the soaring days of the Velvet Revolution, and moving from postwar London to the heartland of immigrant America, The Prague Sonata is both epic and intimate, evoking the ways in which individual notes of love and sacrifice become part of the celebratory symphony of life.

Music and War. All wars begin with music her father tells her just before he leaves to never return. Entrusting her with a portfolio with a mysterious sonata.

A look at Prague during WWII. The story is less a history lesson than a personal memoir of Otylie, who protects the piece the best way she knows how as her country is overridden by Nazis and neighbor turns against neighbor. While her own husband goes underground to join the resistance, she is left to survive and protect the sonata the best way she knows how.

In New York, many years later a chance meeting with an old woman from Prague brings Meta, a musicologist, into that same world. By giving her the piece of the sonata that Otylie entrusted her with and begging her to find the other two parts and return them to Otylie.

And so begins a journey that is told through various characters eyes. At times difficult to read, even knowing how this war would turn out, I cried for the people of Prague. One of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to and now have a much deeper appreciation for.

A story of hope and love and the power of music. Every one of the great composers is here as well as the great writers. We travel from WWI to the end of the Nazi regime.

It is a long read but well worth reading especially today.

Thank you Mr. Morrow!      Netgalley/Atlantic Monthly Press

Something Like Family by Heather Burch

Something Like Family

Abandoned by his mother when he was young, twenty-two-year-old Rave Wayne knows all about loss. That doesn’t mean he’s used to it. After he’s dumped by the girlfriend he assumed he’d spend his life with, Rave is longing more than ever to connect.

Then, as if by miracle, he receives an invitation from his grandfather, a man he thought was long gone, to come for a visit in rural Tennessee. Loyal, honest, and loving, dear old Tuck is everything Rave could have hoped for. He’s family. Soon, Rave finds himself falling for a down-to-earth local girl, and he thinks his life is finally coming together.

But the past isn’t through with Rave. When his mother returns after many long years, looking to reconcile the terrible mistakes that once defined her, Rave struggles to put together the unsettled pieces of his heart. Will this once-estranged family be able to come together to understand the meaning of unconditional love, the fragile bonds of family, and the healing power of letting go?

This is a beautiful book. So well written it involves every emotion you can think of!

None of these characters are perfect. They are all flawed in some way exactly like most families. A story of love, hope, courage and forgiveness. It shows us that what we believe isn’t always the truth. The truth is always more complicated.

Doing the right thing is sometimes the hardest thing to do. But it usually turns out to be the best thing.

Heather Burch is a storyteller of the best kind. From the first page to the last you cry, laugh, mourn and feel every emotion her characters feel. I don’t know how she does it but I’m awfully glad she does!

This book will be released on September 12, 2017 by Lake Union Publishing.  Netgalley

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow Land: A Novel by [Kostova, Elizabeth]

From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes a mesmerizing novel that spans the past and the present—and unearths the troubled history of a gorgeous but haunted country.

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by political oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

Elizabeth Kostova’s new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss.

In the beginning of this book, I thought, oh we have a mystery on our hands. A mysterious trio who have left one of their bags mixed in with Alexandra’s in front of a hotel in Sofia.

When a nice looking and very helpful taxi driver insists on helping her, she takes him up on it, not knowing that he is not who or what he says he is.

They travel to villages all around Sofia, and find some relatives and hear the stories of the family they are chasing. And that is when this became a gripping and heartbreaking look at what war does to people and how each person bears their burdens differently.

The descriptions of the country, the wars, the people were so complete. I love a book that can not only entertain me, but leave me thinking long after I’ve read it.

I loved every minute of our journey to Bulgaria!

Thanks Netgalley and Ballentine!

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