The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd has become an extremely popular writer, especially when her novel The Secret Life of Bees enjoyed a huge success in the past. Her latest book, The Invention of Wings, is a wonderfully moving, interesting and powerful historical novel centered around a slave-holding family, the Grimkes, in Charleston, South Carolina during the first decades of the 1800's. It is indeed routed in historical fact. Sarah and Angelina Grimke, each young girls as the story begins, led very unique lives as the Grimke family was a staunch defender of the rights of white Southerners to own slaves and benefit from the slave labor system. Sarah, with Angelina's support, eventually became one of the first female abolitionists in the United States after the two sisters fled Charleston and resettled in the North.
With Kidd's writing, both Sarah and Angelina come vividly alive as they develop into two women who grew to abhor slavery. The slaves held by the Grimkes are strikingly created, with Handful, a slave given to Sarah on her 11th birthday, becoming a key character. The horrors of slavery are essential to the story and the reader gets an insightful look at the evils of this southern labor system. After Sarah and Angelina flee to the North, they strive to promote the abolitionist cause. As Kidd details, this was not an easy task at times. Kidd continues her story of Handful and the other slaves owned by Grimke family who were trapped in their lives of bondage after the sisters moved north.
When Sue Monk Kidd was featured in the Library's Author Live Series, she spoke about her endless hours of research into the Grimke sisters lives and the historical detail she uncovered for her book. The Invention of Wings is a very moving story, based on historical fact, about the horrors of slavery and the bravery of two women who were determined to speak out the need to abolish the slavery system. This book would be a great choice for a book club.
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Paris Architect, by Charles Belfoure
The years the Nazis occupied Paris during World War II can be a great setting for historical fiction and Charles Belfoure has added an interesting book, The Paris Architect, to the genre. His main character, Lucien Bernard, is an architect who is approached by a fellow Frenchman to build a hiding place so a French Jew can hopefully live through the Nazi rule in Paris. Bernard is thrown into a moral crisis and he does come to a resolution of how he will handle the situation. Belfoure's writing of occupied Paris is often gripping with the evils of the Nazi rule evident in so many facets of Parisian life. The characters the authors has created are well drawn, especially the Coco Chanel-type fashion designer who collaborates with the Nazis. The Paris Architect might make good reading for book groups as it can raise good discussion points as Bernard tries to deal with the issues that arise in times of war.
The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith
Lovers of mystery writing, especially of authors who set their stories in Britain, can take note of a new (by name at least) author, Robert Galbraith, who is beginning a series of stories that will feature a memorable private detective. The Cuckoo's Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, a disabled veteran of fighting in the Middle East for Britain, who is struggling to organize a detective agency. The family of a super model engages him to determine if she did indeed commit suicide or was murdered. While the story might ramble at times, this is basically a fun read. Galbraith (a pen name, as has been widely discussed, for J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame) sets his story within the celebrity world of London models, actors and movie executives and the reader gets a good trip with those assorted characters as Strike solves the mystery. A humorous subplot is Strike's fumbling attempt to add a secretary/office assistant to his detective agency. Galbraith has published a second mystery featuring Strike and The Cuckoo's Calling is a good way to start this series.
I recently viewed the PBS American Experience DVD War Letters. It's a very touching, and sad, documentary. What struck me most was the common thread of bravery, fear and loneliness that every soldier faces when fighting in a war - from the Revolutionary War to more recent conflicts like the war in Iraq. It's also a testament to those willing to answer the call of their country. Young people have always risked their lives to protect the United States - regardless of their politics. I would like to think that someday there will be no war; but until then, I'm afraid young men will continue to exhibit the qualities that make the average person do heroic things.
Shack Out on 101
I recently viewed the DVD remake of the Shack Out on 101, and was pleasantly surprised! The cast includes such famous actors as Frank Lovejoy, Lee Marvin and Keenan Wynne. It's a suspense thriller about spies trying to steal secrets from the Los Alamos atomic testing grounds. All the action takes place at a "greasy spoon" restaurant, owned by a man named George. A mysterious man named Professor Sam is dating the only female waitress, Dotty. George tries to protect her from the lecherous cook "Slob", who is making unwanted advances. Dotty is horrified to find out that her boyfriend may be working with "Slob" to steal government secrets and may be a traitor. There is an interesting twist at the end. If it wasn't for the superb acting, the storyline would be a little "shaky"; but the acting makes this a movie you would enjoy seeing. It's a great tribute to the action films of the forties and fifties.
The Wrong Enemy, by Carlotta Gall
Suffice it to say, the United States is once again stuck in a quagmire that is the War on Terrorism. Author and New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall lays out the proof that we have been fighting The Wrong Enemy in attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. As evidenced by the location of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan just down the street from the Iraqi military academy, Pakistan has provided aid and comfort to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Unlike other wars, there is no clear cut enemy. The coalition we are fighting is engaged in a "Jihad" of Islam, which embraces extreme religious zealots from many countries (Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan). Gall has information about Pakistani ISI (intelligence operatives) attending high level briefings of Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders. Unfortunately, the collateral death of innocent civilians has turned some into mortal enemies. Furthermore, some have joined the Taliban for money to support families as their economies have been destroyed by war. This is indeed a story of shifting alliances. And she states we missed a golden opportunity to end the war when the Taliban was weakened by unrelenting American bombing. This book, which is available in print and electronically, will give the reader a new perspective on war in the Middle East.
Floors, by Patrick Carman
The Whippet Hotel is a strange place full of strange and mysterious people. Each floor has its own quirks and secrets. Leo should know most of them - he is the maintenance man's son, after all. But a whole lot more mystery gets thrown his way when a series of cryptic boxes are left for him . . . boxes that lead him to hidden floors, strange puzzles, and unexpected alliances. Leo had better be quick on his feet, because the fate of the building he loves is at stake . . . and so is Leo's own future!
The Show Must Go On, by Kate Klise
When Sir Sidney, a kindly old circus owner, becomes too tired to travel with his show, he places a Help Wanted ad in the newspaper. Enter Barnabas Brambles: "I have a degree in lion taming from the University of Piccadilly Circus." But does Leo the lion need taming? Will Elsa the elephant still get her gourmet peanuts? And what will Brambles say when he discovers Bert and Gert--two mice who travel with the circus on popcorn cleanup patrol? Brambles has big plans: More cities! More shows! No more free popcorn. Soon he's made a big mess of Sir Sidney's Circus, but Leo, Elsa, Bert, Gert, and the rest of the performers agree: The Show Must Go On! -
The New Yorkers, by Robert Herman
The New Yorkers is more than just a photo study of the people and places in the Big Apple. It's a tool that author Robert Herman used to help him cope with his years of mental illness. Initially, he studied at Boston University; but when his father suddenly died In 1975, he found himself in a deep depression and became withdrawn. Herman was given medication and electroconvulsive therapy. He decided to return to college and attended the NYU Film School. Although he thought he would become a filmmaker, he became interested in photography. After graduation, he became a serious street photographer. Between 1978 and 1984, he took the pictures that make up The New Yorkers.
There's a knack to taking photographs with meaning, and I think Herman has the skill. The photos capture not only the various neighborhoods and people of the city, but also serve as social commentary on humanity. Herman credits photography with helping him overcome his mental illness by making him focus on his art. Knowing this gives the reader a different perspective when reading his book. I'm anxiously awaiting the publication of his next book.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a documentary about the Chauvet Cave in France, which contain man-made art dating back 20, 000 years. The cave was sealed by a landslide thousands of years ago, until it was recently uncovered. This helped preserve the art drawn on the cave walls, which amazingly depicts the movement of ancient animals. Although many animal skulls and bones were found scattered throughout the cave, no human bones were found. This supports the idea that the cave may have been used for animal sacrifices in religious-type ceremonies. Man may not have wanted to be trapped inside such a cave, but preferred roaming in open land. The stalactites and stalagmites are particularly striking. The cave is only open for short periods of time, and a metal "sidewalk" has been constructed to preserve and protect the soil.
This is a very interesting documentary with amazing photography. Man's ability to produce such art may change our impressions of early humanoids. We may have to rethink how long man has existed on earth. This is well worth your time.
The Cross and the Towers
Although the events of September 11th will never be forgotten, I found a DVD that I feel has helped me in the healing process. It's titled The Cross and the Towers. It chronicles the experiences of the many volunteers (firemen, policeman, clergy, etc.), as well as family members who lost relatives in this horrific event. It's also the story of hope as the human spirit is uplifted by the unselfishness of strangers trying to rescue survivors. Anyone who was directly involved at ground zero was deeply touched by the tragedy. The dramatic discovery of steel cross beams in the shape of a cross became the symbol of hope, not only for Christians, but people of all faiths.
Eleven, by Patricia Reilly Giff
Sam explores the attic for hidden birthday presents, and finds a newspaper article with his picture and the word "missing". Sam begins to doubt what he knows about his grandfather and his family. As his old memories begin to resurface, Sam recruits new girl Caroline to help him solve this mystery.