500 houseIf you have ever lived in the City of Detroit, you certainly won’t want to miss reading Drew Philp’s memoir of refurbishing a house in the Poletown section of Detroit beginning in 2007. Philp, a young and idealistic graduate of the University of Michigan, decides to make his home in the city to make a difference and lead a more authentic life. His fascinating story of rebuilding the house he bought at an auction details the crumbling surroundings of homes in the neighborhood, suspicious fires, crack houses on his street, break ins, police harassment and more but, it is also the story about the wonderful neighbors that befriend him and the tight community that exists set amid this neighborhood of 'urban prairie' with a few houses here and there. It is a hopeful story of neighbors helping out neighbors, watching out for each other and the strong connections they form.

The Queen Anne styled home he purchased was basically a shell sitting on a  crumbling brick foundation, missing windows, heat, water, electricity, and a very leaky roof. It makes the refurbishing of homes on This Old House look like a breeze. Through sheer determination and some help from his father and grandfather, Drew slowly begins the process of rebuilding his home after a rough start of removing 10,000 pounds of trash. Through recycling and restoring pieces that were given to him or even pilfering pieces out of abandoned houses, he gave his home a new life.

On second thought, even if you have never lived in the city, this is a book well worth the time to read on many levels from a history of the downfall of Detroit, to a single young man’s efforts to try and improve his city, to the strong interconnectedness of a community.

last daysThe author takes the reader back in time to the late 1800’s  when Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse were locked in a legal battle over who invented the light bulb and therefore held the right to power the country . The author based his historical novel around many actual people including the young lawyer, Paul Cravath, who Westinghouse hired to represent him in the long legal fight against Edison and Nikola Tesla, the brilliant and tortured physicist.

Easy to read, riveting story with inventors, lawyers, hucksters, double dealings and greed-everything that will keep you turning the pages!

As historical fiction, the author weaves both fact and fiction into a fascinating story but unlike many other authors, Graham Moore provides a section of notes at the end where he separates facts from fiction and suggests further reading.

I knew little about this facet of history and found it to be educational and highly entertaining at the same time!

news1Set in the post-Civil War era, former Army Captain Jefferson Kidd makes his living reading to residents of various towns from the newspapers. During one of his readings, he is asked to bring a 10 year-old girl named Johanna, captive for four years among the Kiowa, to her aunt and uncle. She's the only survivor in her family from an Indian raid and because she was so young at the time of the kidnapping, she sees herself as a Kiowa and is very reluctant to allow the Captain to take her away.

Nonetheless, when Kidd does accept the responsibility to take her back to her aunt and uncle, the novel takes us on a 400-mile journey across Texas to get her home. The story is both about the physical voyage as well as the internal journey as they bond with each other. I highly recommend the book. The writing is really superb and the author captures the Wild West era perfectly. Most importantly, it is the relationship between the two characters that was unforgettable. Heartbreaking, tender, inspirational-the novel will stay with you a long time.

New odysseyAn eye-opener of a book, an important and enlightening book to read for people like myself who did not totally grasp what is happening with the refugee crisis. Written by Patrick Kingsley, the migration correspondent for the London Guardian, the book reads like adventure fiction with people smugglers, deadly treks through the Saharan Desert, and dinghies overly packed with refugees floating through the seas to their deaths-except it is all true. 

Kingsley’s eyewitness reporting shows how deplorable their current conditions are and why they must leave their countries in the Middle East and Africa and equally how horrendous is the journey to find a future in European countries. There is a story of one specific refugee whom Kingsley often accompanies as he flees his native Syria which kept me wondering and hoping that he would make his destination out of such unimaginable adversity. This is an easy to understand and compelling book. What surprised me was how well educated many of the people are and how similar their lives are to ours except they live without any hope for themselves and families in their home countries wrecked by political chaos. A very humane and compassionate writing of a catastrophic crisis that does not appear to be abating.

GeorgiaHistorical fiction about the adult life of American painter Georgia O’Keeffe and her relationship with husband-photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Gorgeously written, the author reveals O'Keefe’s hopes and dreams, her disappointments and her joys. The book begins with her first meeting with her husband and brings us to her later years in Taos. As an art fan of O’Keefe, I loved this very intimate portait of the artist! “Tripp inhabits Georgia’s psyche so deeply that the reader can practically feel the paintbrush in hand as she creates her abstract paintings and New Mexico landscapes.” From USA Today review

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