“Alexander Hamilton” Ron Chernow

Rated 5 stars ***** 2004. Penguin Books. 818 p. (Includes “Acknowledgements”, “Notes,” “Bibliography,” “Selected Books,” “Pamphlets, and Dissertations,” “Selected articles,” and an “Index.” (Also includes period photographs.)

AlexanderHamiltonAfter almost a month and a half of squeezing in reading during 10 minutes of lunch at work, between doctor appointments, and whenever I could find a few minutes, I FINALLY finished this massive biography. I was inspired to read it after listening to the music of Hamilton for a month in preparation for watching the musical. I loved Lin Manuel Miranda’s version so much, I promptly bought tickets to watch it again a week later. As a result I became hooked on all things “Hamiltonian,” which necessitated reading this massive tome.

Ron Chernow left no stone unturned in his quest to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly about Alexander Hamilton as he follows him from his island home of St. Croix to the American Revolution to his years as Treasury Secretary. Hamilton’s political and personal highs and lows, the love he had for family, and his death by duel with Aaron Burr are all painstakingly detailed. Hamilton’s friendships, and the love/hate relationships he had with his enemies are laid bare, buttressed by words from his own pen taken from primary source material Chernow unearthed from numerous sources.

Of all who had a hand in laying the foundation of our nation, only Hamilton would recognize the United States of America’s commercial rise since those early years, as he seemed to be the sole voice predicting that she would financially rise and grow. Chernow outlines the battles Hamilton endured to ensure that our country would prosper, and the many ways he is remembered today – from Wall Street to Banks, to the Coast Guard to the still running New York Post newspaper and more. Reading “Alexander Hamilton” enlightened me, and helped me see parts of American history that I either didn’t know or hadn’t thought of in years. I know it will do the same for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Hannah’s war” Jan Eliasberg

Rated 5 stars **** ARC. To be published March 3, 2020. 313 p. (Includes Author’s note, Further exploration, and Reading group guide.)

Hannah's warLise Meitner,  a physicist who discovered nuclear fission, is an unknown figure to those of us not part of the scientific world. Eliasberg wrote “Hannah’s war” to get Lise’s story “out there,” and to explain why Hitler’s scientists were never able to produce an atomic bomb of their own.

Hannah Weiss, a brilliant scientist who lived in Germany during Hitler’s brutal reign, has been denied her rightful place among scientists because she’s female and Jewish. When her arrest by the Gestapo was forthcoming she was whisked away to the United States where she joined other scientists to work on the Manhattan Project, (the American race to create a bomb before Hitler).

In time the commanding officer of the Project was informed that there was a spy amongst the scientists, which led to Major Jack Delaney being assigned to the case. His dogged determination to uncover the spy’s identity, and the revealed secrets that follow, are the basis for this historical fiction tale of romance, intrigue, and betrayal during a time that forever changed our world.

I really enjoyed “Hannah’s war,” and know other readers will also enjoy it.

Recommended for Adults.

“Lost Autumn” by Mary-Rose MacCall

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. ARC. Published by G.P.Putnam’s Sons. To be published March 3, 2020.

Lost AutumnIn 1920 seventeen-year-old Maddie is learning how to be Prince Edward’s correspondence secretary on his train tour of Australia, feeling overwhelmed by her proximity to royalty.

In 1997 Victoria, a reporter, is asked to cover the death of Princess Diana, but finds herself at a loss for words.

In 1981 Maddie finds herself coming to terms with the loss of everyone she’d ever loved, wondering what she can to do right old wrongs.

In 1918 Helen, an ambulance driver in France, and Rupert, batman to the Prince of Wales, meet on the battlefield when she transports him to the hospital against the rules. They fall in love, but fate steps in to tear them apart.

The author bounces back and forth between these years as she tells stories of love, betrayal, broken relationships, strength and survival. Grief and loss, tinged with hope, survival and strength are woven throughout these stories.

I thought each storyline was interesting, and would have preferred to have each in its own standalone book. A particular favorite of mine was the World War I love story between Helen and Rupert, which inspired Maddie to write “Autumn leaves.” However, having so many storylines in one book was very confusing. In the many switches between timeframes, I had to constantly reread to figure out what had happened to that character earlier in the book.

Therefore I was a half fan of “Lost Autumn,” and will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

Recommended for Adults.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“All the way to the top: How one girl’s fight for Americans with disabilities changed everything” by Annette Bay Pimentel; pictures by Nabi H. Ali

All the way to the top

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published March 2020. Includes a foreword by Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins as well as back matter with “The road to the top” (information on activism), “Life before and after the ADA,” a Timeline, and a Bibliography.

Now that she was finally old enough, Jennifer couldn’t wait for kindergarten to start. Unfortunately, because she was in a wheelchair, she was denied admittance to school. At the next school she was allowed to attend – but only if she came after lunch. Jennifer and her family join a group of activists, determined to find a way to change the law to allow better access to public spaces for those with disabilities. Courageously Jennifer and the activists took their protests to Washington D.C., where they abandoned their wheelchairs and crawled up the Capitol steps to make Congress aware of why they were protesting.

Bright, full-color illustrations, as well as information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and those who fought for its passage, make this an important book to have in all public and school libraries. I was moved by the crawl up the steps of the Capitol, and Jennifer’s determination on the YouTube video of the event is clear to see.

Highly recommended for ages 7 to 12.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“This light between us: A novel of World War II” by Andrew Fukuda

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Tor Teen. To be published January 7, 2020.

This light between usAlex was ten years old in 1935 when his teacher forced him to become pen pals with a girl named Charlie who lived in Paris, thousands of miles away from his American home on Bainbridge Island. Despite his initial horror at being paired with a girl their friendship deepened as, letter after letter, year after year, they shared their innermost thoughts.

In 1941 Alex’s life forever changed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Though he was an American citizen, and his parents had emigrated from Japan, they were treated as enemies by neighbors who’d known them for years. A law was passed saying all Japanese, regardless of their citizenship, had to relocate to holding camps. Alex and his family were sent to Manzanar where they, along with 10,000 others, lived as prisoners surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers.

Meanwhile Charlie was experiencing her own prejudice due to being Jewish, and their letters helped keep them grounded. As the war dragged on Charlie was forced into hiding to avoid roundups, and her letters ceased. Alex enlists in the 442nd Battalion, created solely of Japanese-American soldiers, partly to get his father released from prison and partly to find out what happened to Charlie. While in Europe he experiences the horrors of war, but thoughts of finding Charlie kept him sane. He is determined to find her and live out the dreams from their letters.

I absolutely LOVED this amazingly well researched book, and couldn’t put it down. The author did an excellent job in his descriptions of what it was like for Japanese American citizens to be interned for no crime other than for their ancestry, and in describing the battles endured by the 442nd. He brilliantly fused together the prejudice experienced by both Parisian Jews and Japanese Americans and, I will have to say, I cried at the end.

I don’t want to give out spoilers as to why I cried, so will leave it up to you to read it and find out for yourself. Maybe you’ll shed a tear too. I predict this book will win lots of awards in the 2020 cycle. You read it here first!

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“The Handmaid’s tale” by Margaret Atwood

Rated 2 stars ** ebook. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The handmaid's taleIn a futuristic dystopian world, women have become chattel. Since diseases, sicknesses and other events had caused women to become infertile, it was believed women of childbearing age should become handmaidens to bear children for the wives of rich officials. Rachel’s maid Bilhah had done so with Jacob in Biblical times, setting the stage for these modern day handmaids to do the same.

In addition to securing a future with more children in it, the rulers sought to remove societal blights of all types. This included anyone who didn’t worship the same, who didn’t believe in their way of doing things, or who otherwise caused the status quo to be questioned. Though secret groups of resistance existed, it was clear resistance was futile.

Readers are introduced to this dark world by a handmaiden who tells her story of how she became a handmaiden and, bit by bit, reveals how she lost her best friend, mother, daughter and lover.

I failed to figure out why such a big deal is being made over this book because of the tv series by the same name. In fact, I found the book to be very boring, and it took every ounce of willpower to read it in its entirety. I was sure it would pick up, but that never happened. Perhaps I’m missing the author’s reasoning for why she wrote it, but I could barely keep from nodding off every time I picked it up.

Though I was not a fan, I’ll leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“They called us enemy” by George Takei

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Top Shelf Productions. 204 p.

They called us enemyIn 1942, when George was almost 5 years old, his Japanese-American parents had their bank accounts frozen, and his father lost his business. Ordered out of their Los Angeles home with only what they could carry, they were forced to live in several different internment camps for four years. What was their crime? Their “crime” was that they were of Japanese ancestry and, thus, considered enemies by their own country – the United States of America. They, along with hundreds of thousands of other American citizens, were incarcerated in these camps.

Simple black and white illustrations convey George’s story to readers as he talks about his parents, and what it was like for them to navigate through years of being stabbed in the back by their own country. Their strength, fortitude and creativity were traits that got them through hard times, and enabled little George to feel as if he was on an adventure. Some of his memories of that time came through clearly, while at other times he relied on his father’s memories to flesh out his own.

America’s intolerance towards others because of how they looked during World War II comes across loudly and clearly, especially in the ways our current government has sought to keep out people of different nationalities. Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This phrase bears repeating because the rhetoric and events unfolding since 2016 in the United States are leading our nation into the gutter, where we spent too much time in years past. It’s time for a new narrative to take over our land.

George TakeiI, along with thousands of other librarians, had the privilege of hearing George Takei share his story and talk about this book before it was released at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Washington this past June. He was very passionate, telling us his parent’s generation kept their stories hidden from their children because they felt shame in how they’d been treated by their own government. It’s time for their stories to be told.

Copies of “They called us enemy” should be in every public and high school library in our nation, and used in book groups all across the country.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.