PachinkoVast in scope, the book is a saga about four generations of a poverty-stricken Korean family that are essentially forced to live in Japan in exile.  Ethnic tensions exist between the Japanese and Koreans due to Japan's colonial rule over Korea and this tension of prejudice and racisim pervades the entire story. 

This is a  character-driven novel so well-drawn that it makes you actually care about what happens to them. The courage of the family members against so many hardships was extraordinary.  But while it is a tale of family relationships, it is also about a fascinating culture including the Japanese occupation of Korea, the existence of pachinko parlors, the underworld in Japan, the racism in Japan of Koreans and more.

I

only woman in room smHistorical fiction about the actress Hedy Lamar whose well-known beauty was far more than skin deep!  Born in Austria to a Jewish family, Hedy escapes to the U.S. (and an abusive, controlling husband) as WW2 heats up. While she goes on to become a famous star in the 1940’s and 1950’s, she has an idea to help the war effort.  Based on all that she gleaned from her husband’s business in arms manufacturing, she along with a co-partner, invent a secret communications system that could have kept the enemy from interfering with a ship’s torpedoes.  While the U.S. Navy did not adopt their invention until the 1960’s, their invention eventually led to the creation of Bluetooth and ultimately WiFi and the cell phone! Years later she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 for this invention. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

Great portrayal of this actress/inventor. Fast read and highly recommended reading of a little known part of history.

paragon hotelsm2The main character, Alice "Nobody," travels by train from her hometown of Harlem to Portland, Oregon in 1921 to escape from a shady character back home. As a white woman, she comes to live in the all-black Paragon Hotel .  Her world on both coasts is filled with the Mafia, prostitutes, crooked cops, the Ku Klux Klan and jazz musicians. “Nobody” eventually ingratiates herself with the locals and gets involved in a missing child case.

The author explores the issues of racism, discrimination, and the inequality of blacks that existed both in Oregon and in Harlem during the 20’s.

Richly developed characters, thought-provoking and original exciting plot with plenty of surprises!

love and ruin1Fictional historical account of the daring foreign correspondent Martha Gellhorn and her tumultuous marriage to Ernest Hemingway, his third wife. The book’s time period centers around the Spanish Civil War, the home and lives they built just outside 1930’s Havana, and their exploits in China and Europe during WWII. While Gellhorn’s independence, strong will and determination are what Hemingway was so attracted to-in the end it was also these same qualities after marriage that Hemingway saw as a betrayal and ultimately destroyed her heart.  An insightful look into a slice of Gelhorn’s life, a talented, courageous woman far ahead of her time and in her own way as accomplished as Hemingway.

Bierce

Following service in the Union army during the Civil War, Bierce became a prolific journalist, short story writer, poet, and memoirist.

Bierce’s acclaimed collection of Civil War stories, In the Midst of Life, includes the well-known and widely reprinted, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”; while his collection of supernatural & psychological horror tales, Can Such Things Be?, remains one of the best of the genre. Second only to his contemporary Twain, Ambrose Bierce was a celebrated and acerbic wit in his own right—which is brilliantly displayed in his satirical lexicon, The Devil’s Dictionary. The book is an excellent introduction into the dark, witty and ingenious world of one of the great  satirists of America.

Later in life he returned to the Civil War in a series of memoirs, Bits of Autobiography, before mysteriously disappearing in Mexico during their revolution in 1914.

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