Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Ray Saunders, Author Of Winds West

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Ray Saunders. He’s here to share not only his novel, Winds West, but also a mostly non-fiction account of frontier life in Colorado (Gunnison Country) written by his mother, Betty Wallace. Don’t forget to check out the ebook giveaway at the end of the post!

What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?

No real mystery in my past, but Alternate History would be me having decided to be a poet instead of a computer maven. It would be a very convoluted plot, involving Greenwich Village, off-grid living in the Rockies and becoming God.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

The lost contents of the Library of Alexandria and every poet since 500BC.

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

I would prefer to forget my teen years, but if I had to pick it would probably be the 1920s for the radical politics.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

Liza from Winds West would get along well with Sayward Luckett from Conrad Richter’s The Awakening Land trilogy. Both were strong women who knew what they wanted and had the courage to go after it.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The movies Amalie or Casablanca. And any of Maurice Walsh’s writingThe Quiet Man, The Small Dark Man, Trouble in the Glen, etc. (I love the way the Irish use the English language, both in prose and poetry. The Scots, on the other hand, use English like they still hold a grudge over Culloden).

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

The Americas before European contact.
Central Asia before Islam.
Celtic Europe before Caesar.

If you could own a famous or historical art work, what would it be? Would you put it on public display or keep it privately?

Picasso’s Guernica – displayed as publicly as possible.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

John Masters, Maurice Walsh, Stephen Vincent Benet, Charles Bowden and A.A.Milne.

We’d all eat pizza. And drink lots of wine.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I always gush over my favorite writers at every opportunity, to the point of irritating those who’ve heard me for the umpteenth time. (I think it’s more awkward for them than for me). Don’t know if this counts, but a young lady wrote a glowing review of Winds West, albeit expressing surprise at my “uncanny insight into the female psyche”. LOL

Places to Find Ray Saunders

Website

Steele Park Press Facebook

Ray’s Facebook

GoodReads

Amazon

About the Author:

I grew up in a small western town, steeped in both pioneer culture and writing, my mother being a reporter, editor, English teacher and local historian. By the time I finished high school I was well versed in poetry and the Beat Generation, properly prepared to appreciate the ‘60s in Greenwich Village, which added folk music to the mix. To pay the bills, I spent 50 years doing cutting-edge computer work, then retired and now I’m back to writing poetry and songs and the occasional novel.

Book Blurb for Winds West

Home maker at 10, grown at 15 – what future awaits Liza as she head West? Young woman goes West on a voyage of self-discovery. “Winds West is a thoughtful account of Liza Woods, a young woman’s coming of age story set in early 20th century Ohio. At 13, Liza takes a job as a governess/housekeeper, but has a wisdom beyond her years. She yearns for the freedom generally afforded only to men, however, and what follows is her subsequent journey to Colorado, where she settles down, making a life for herself on the frontier.” – Granny’s Pantry review.

Book Blurb for Gunnison Country:

History of Gunnison Colorado and surrounding areas. Betty Wallace was born near Lake City, CO, in 1913. She spent her youth among the ranchers and miners who settled the Gunnison Country. Herself a child of pioneers, she understood the world they faced and how they coped. As a reporter and editor she worked to preserve the stories of those early days, from the displacement of the Native American by gold-seekers to the uranium prospectors of the 1950s. She researched the old newspapers and interviewed many Old Timers in a tireless effort to make sure their stories were preserved for future generations.

GIVEAWAY!

Ray is offering up one ebook copy of Winds West and one ebook copy of Gunnison Country. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments to be entered into the giveaway. 1) What special collections would the library of your dreams hold? 2) Which book would you prefer to win (Winds West or Gunnison Country)? This giveaway is open world wide and ends August 1, 2017, midnight.

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Stories from Herodotus by Lorna Oakes

Narrator: Catherine O’Brien

Publisher: Essential Audiobooks LLC (2017)

Length: 1 hour 43 minutes

Author’s Page

If you’ve ever tried to read Herodotus, then you know that most translations have a lot of repetition and ramble on a bit. Now Lorna Oakes gives us some great stories from Herodotus distilled down into thoughtful, sometimes action-packed, stories that will delight adults and entertain kids.

The book starts off with a little bit about Herodotus. He traveled extensively during his lifetime and wrote down historical events as best he could. Many of the events he wrote about happened generations before his time, so there’s bound to be some inaccuracies. Yet there’s a charm to his works as well. He made a grand attempt at recording the known world’s history and that account has survived to this day. All around, that is extraordinary. I, myself, have only read a bit of Herodotus but Oakes’s book makes it easy to absorb the essence of the tales Herodotus was trying to capture.

There’s 4 parts to this book. Part I is all about King Croesus in Lydia, which is in modern-day Turkey. He has a portentous dream and is concerned about his reign. I really like how he tested the various oracles. Very clever! Yet he then relies on the foretelling of the Delphi Oracle, misinterpreting the true meaning. Oakes does a great job here of just telling this tale, showing us how arrogance can color the meaning to any oracle riddle. It provides a great discussion point for adults and kids alike.

Part II is the Story of Cyrus. Part I flowed into Part II as both Cyrus and King Croesus are both influenced by the Delphi Oracle. This tale tells us how Cyrus came into power. It’s significant because Cyrus united two major families and became a significant Persian ruler. Cyrus was slated for death as a babe but he was saved by a cowherder and his wife. Later, of course, this is discovered and a reckoning must come out of it. I love that Oakes doesn’t leave out a rather bit of gruesome in this story. She doesn’t linger over it either and I feel it was essential to show motivation for one of the character’s vengeance.

Part III is about Herodotus’s time in Egypt. Of course, he visits the great pyramids and writes about how they were constructed. Herodotus gives us his version of how Psammeticus became king of the 26th dynasty of Egypt. This sections also includes the tale of King Apries and how he was overthrown by General Amasis and rebel forces. For me, it was the bits about the Great Pyramids that stood out most in this section.

Part IV is all about the Greeks and Persians. There’s some famous stories in this section, including the tale of Leonidas and how he and his small force repelled Xerxes’s army. This is a captivating story and the retelling of it here is well done. This section also includes the esteemed Greek physician Democedes. He was taken captive and bounced around a bit, sometimes as tribute. He ties Polycrates of Samos to the Persian king Darius.

All around, it’s a great collection of ancient tales based on Herodotus’s works. I love that Oakes has made these tales so accessible and I think this is a great way to introduce kids to ancient history.

I received a free copy of this book via Audiobook Boom!

The Narration: Catherine O’Brien did a great job with this book. There are several people and place names I had not heard pronounced before, so I can’t speak to the accuracy, but I can say she was consistent in her pronunciations all the way through. She was also great with portraying the emotions of the various characters. She sounded engaged and interested in the work all the way through.

What I Liked: Herodotus’s tales made easily accessible; great for kids and adults alike; great narration; lovely cover art; the tale of Leonidas; the Great Pyramids; testing the oracles; Cyrus as a cowherder’s son.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great bit of history and entertainment.

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Looking for Betty MacDonald by Paula Becker

Scroll to the bottom to check out the giveaway!

Narrator: Paula Becker

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 8 hours 10 minutes

Author’s Page

This biography of one of America’s iconic women captures Betty MacDonald from top to bottom, from her grandparents to the relatives that survived her death. Her books shined a humorous, if sometimes critical, eye on certain aspects of living in the Pacific Northwest as one the last frontier lands in the country from the 1920s-1940s. Now Paula Becker draws the curtain back and shows us some of the things that Betty herself was reluctant to put in her semi-autobiographical novels.

After having listened to Betty MacDonald’s four novels, and having read her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books as a kid, I felt like I knew her somewhat. This biography filled in some of the blanks and had a few surprises for me as well. Getting to know more about Betty’s ancestors and her first husband was an interesting place to start. I loved that her mom was a no-nonsense kind of person and happily traveled with her husband (who worked for a mining company – if I recall correctly). This job took the family to some of the most rugged areas of the US.

Later, when Betty starts publishing novels, Becker gives a somewhat detailed account of what each one is about. While these books aren’t described one after another all in a row (but are sprinkled in among the biography along the timeline of when they were published), I did find the descriptions a little tedious. However, I have recently finished listening to them and they are still fresh in my mind. I think that if you haven’t read the books in some time (or perhaps you haven’t read all 4 of them) then this would be a good refresher for you.

For me, the most interesting parts were in the last quarter of the book – all that stuff that happens after Betty’s fourth novel, Onions in the Stew, was published. While Betty’s second marriage was evidently much happier than her first, it wasn’t untroubled. There were money problems which surprised me. Betty’s books were very well received in their day, complete with radio and TV series along with a movie. Yet success doesn’t always prepare one to manage money well, especially if one turns that responsibility over to a spouse. Betty was in the unusual position of being the breadwinner for the family and yet also feeling socially obligated to play the merry housemaker. Becker gives us details on this without falling into gossip. I really appreciate that she stuck with known facts and extracts from MacDonald letters to paint this picture of Betty’s and Don’s marriage.

While I had read on Wikipedia about Betty’s legal troubles (several people were not happy with how they were supposedly portrayed in her books), Becker gives us many details. Plenty of those complaining received a bit of fame. Some of them really seemed to enjoy it so it was hard to say that the portrayals in Betty’s books did them any harm.

I was saddened to learn of Betty’s death and this probably sounds quite odd as I’ve known since I picked up The Egg and I so many months ago that she was deceased. However, I’ve really come to enjoy her company through these books. As Becker’s biography walks us through her last months, I really felt for Betty. She died young by today’s standards but I doubt there was much more medicine could have done then. After reading her book about her lengthy stay in a tuberculosis sanatorium (The Plague and I), I can guess that she faced her final illness with the same pointed wit.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Paula Becker narrated her own book and since this is nonfiction, it worked pretty well. She tried her hand at doing a few voices when necessary and those performances were passable. For the bulk of the book, she does a great job of maintaining an even speed and giving slight inflections here and there, letting us know that she’s just as engaged in the book as us listeners are.

What I Liked: Lots of good info on a deceased author I’ve come to enjoy; most of those claiming defamation by Betty’s books didn’t seem to be suffering from said defamation; some details about Betty’s and Don’s marriage and their financial difficulties; Becker sticks to the facts and doesn’t fall back on gossip.

What I Disliked: This isn’t much of a dislike, but I don’t think the image of Betty used for this cover really suits her. She kind of looks like an evil stepsister witch.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Author & Narrator Paula Becker:

Paula Becker is a writer and historian living in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the book Looking For Betty MacDonald: The Egg, The Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I (University of Washington Press), and co-author (with Alan J. Stein) of the books The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair And Its Legacy (Seattle Center Foundation, 2011) and Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington’s First World’s Fair (History Ink/HistoryLink in association with University of Washington Press, 2009). More than 300 of Paula’s essays documenting all aspects of Washington’s history appear on HistoryLink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington state history, where she is a staff historian.

Connect with Paula: Website

Synopsis of Looking for Betty MacDonald:

Betty Bard MacDonald (1907 – 1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and The Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters.

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

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About Betty MacDonald:

AuthorBettyMacDonaldBetty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters. 

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island). 

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ YouTube ~ LinkedIn ~ SoundCloud ~ Pinterest

GIVEAWAY!!!

Post Hypnotic Press is doing yet another one of their awesome giveaways! Enter one or all of the giveaways below. Each ends April 30, 2017.

$100 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press

Looking For Betty MacDonald Giveaway #1

$80 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press

Looking For Betty MacDonald Giveaway #2

$20 Amazon Gift Card

Looking For Betty MacDonald Giveaway #3

Tippi: A Memoir by Tippi Hedren

Streak loving on a good book
Streak loving on a good book

Publisher: William Morrow (2016)

Length: 288 pages

Author’s Page

Tippi Hedren is known to most as either that cat sanctuary lady or that actress that did those Hitchcock films. I first noticed her for her film Roar which involved many of those big cats she and her family came to care for. In college, I read and really enjoyed her book The Cats of Shambala which she co-wrote with Theodore Taylor. So when this book became available, I couldn’t resist.

Hedren gives an interesting and straightforward account of her life. Granted there are far more details about her early to mid-life than there is about her golden years, but I quite enjoyed learning about her early modeling career, her entry into the movie world, and then her animal sanctuary. While there is quite a bit of good-natured humor in the book, Hedren also provides some serious bits that balance the book out. In the end, I felt like I had come to know much about the real person known as Tippi Hedren.

I didn’t previously know that Hedren had been a model who migrated over to the film industry. First, it’s one of those amazing bits of luck that Hedren found an open door into the modeling world and then years later, another bit of luck that Alfred Hitchcock wanted her to star in not one, but two of his movies. Throughout the book, Hedren often acknowledges her luck and gives thanks to the people involved in furthering her career, even if things didn’t necessarily end well (like with Hitchcock).

The film industry was quite a bit different in some ways back during Hitchcock’s day and this is one of those things that I was vaguely aware of, but Hedren’s accounts of her time in the film industry really brought it home. Once the contract was signed with Hitchcock, he and his film company practically owned her. It’s really a little creepy how much of her life was controlled by this giant of the film industry. Hedren does a great job of talking about not only her horrendous time with Hitchcock but also the wonderful time she had with the cast of both Hitchcock movies (The Birds and Marnie) and the support crew. According to Hedren, Hitchcock had a history of being obsessed with one young woman after another, to the point of making things uncomfortable for her. In filming The Birds, that was apparent when Hitchcock required multiple takes of the bird attack scenes. Hedren remains a bit obscure on just how far Hitchcock takes his obsession but I was mightily relieved for her when she severed her contact with him and his film company.

Once the Hitchcock phase of her life was over, Hedren went on to bigger and better things, in my opinion. There’s plenty of interesting stuff that happens in between Hitchcock and the big cat sanctuary, but I really enjoyed the tales of Shambala and filming Roar the most. It took years to film Roar and there were plenty of hair-raising incidents along the way. First, I really appreciated that Hedren took us through the learning curve that she and her family went through. Like so many, Hedren and her family had big cat cubs in the house, raising them as part of the family and while they took some precautions, in retrospect, more could have been done. There were some little scares – a few injuries and a few escapes. Later, once the sanctuary is up and running, the big cats spent most of their time there surrounded by trained and experienced handlers and crew.

The filming of Roar had some serious incidents, along with several humorous events. Big cats bite and pounce and claw and can do all that to their favorite humans and not feel one second of grief or sorrow over the injuries they dish out. In retrospect, many of the live human/cat tricks and stunts captured in Roar are very dangerous. Despite all the injuries and near misses, the movie gave Hedren and her family the sanctuary and a continuing purpose for the care of these big cats (plus some other beloved animals such as a pair of elephants).

After the stories of Roar and the sanctuary, the book gently peters out. Hedren has had a full and adventurous life but the book glazes over the details once the bulk of the sanctuary stories are told. She does speak about her third marriage briefly, and there are a few bits about her volunteer work sprinkled throughout the book. Basically, I think her golden years plus her overseas volunteer work could probably make another book based on the brief mentions given in this book. Tippi: A Memoir was charming and entertaining. It was also educational as it covered the span of several decades of the film industry when it was in flux. Even if you’ve never heard of Tippi Hedren then I think you would fine this book interesting.

I received a free copy of this book via Bookstr.

What I Liked: Good balance of humor and serious parts; interesting details about Hedren’s life; the Hitchcock days; the filming of Roar; the establishing of Shambala; learning about big cats; all the pictures.

What I Disliked: I felt the golden years of Hedren’s life were sparsely covered but perhaps there is a second book that will cover those years in more detail.

What Others Think:

A Classic Movie Blog

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author of Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up?

MukherjeeWillTheRealAlbertSpeerPleaseStandUpFolks, please give a warm welcome to author Geetanjali Mukherjee. Her books range from self-help to poetry to history. She’s offering a giveaway of her book Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect. You can read more about the giveaway at the end of the post. Now, on to the interview!

If you could be an extra on a historical documentary or historical drama, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Definitely, I would like to be anything, anyone, to get on the set of Downton Abbey! Unfortunately, the show is over, but maybe since this is wishful thinking, it’s still possible! Failing that, I would want to be in War and Peace or something. But to be really honest, acting isn’t quite my forte; (even though once in college, I played Joan of Arc in a play!) I would much prefer to be behind the camera, maybe as a script writer or director.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

I’m not really into book clubs, unless its one of those ones where you eat chocolate and drink wine and talk about anything but the book. In that case, I would invite the most scandalous and/or interesting people I can think of – Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Bennet, Hercule Poirot and Oprah (because who doesn’t love Oprah). And with such scintillating company, we wouldn’t need to limit ourselves only to books, but talk about a wide range of topics, which I imagine most book clubs do anyway.

MukherjeeIllusionsIf you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The Harry Potter series. I came really late to them, holding out for ages and then finally succumbing and wondering why it took me so long. I would love to re-experience them again for the first time (I do read all the books every few years). In terms of TV series, I have a long list of series I would like to re-experience – some to have an excuse to watch them again, and some like Friends, because they are so familiar to me that I have forgotten what it was like to watch an episode where I didn’t know every single line of dialogue.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I haven’t had enough jobs yet to say which might have been my worst one. I did have a few very tedious ones that I hated at the time, but now realize that boredom is probably not the worst quality in a job. I have also had ones where I worked with people I didn’t particularly like, or ones where I constantly felt like I didn’t know what I was doing or felt inadequate. In hindsight, those are the situations where I learnt the most, so in a way I am glad I had those experiences.

In some ways writing is the hardest job I have ever had, even though it’s one that I have chosen. I think the aspect that makes it the hardest is not having someone to show you the ropes, not having a blueprint or a pre-existing path that you can follow. This combined with the fact that you often don’t get feedback on your work for long stretches of time, makes writing for me much harder than anything else I have done, even other creative work. If you design a book cover or create a piece of choreography – within a few days, even a few hours, you can show your work to someone else and get feedback. As a writer, especially of books, I find that I am reluctant to show my work to anyone unless it is as polished as I can make it, which means for weeks and months I work in a vacuum, with no idea whether my work is good or not. On the other hand, one is just sitting at a laptop or scribbling in a notebook, so one really shouldn’t take it all that seriously, compared to the dozens of dangerous, grueling or plain difficult jobs that are out there.

MukherjeeFromAudenToYeatsWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in researching your own work?

I write mostly non-fiction at the moment, although I am experimenting with writing memoir and fiction as well. The number of nonfiction books that have influenced my work are too numerous to list here. I read extensively while researching each book, but additionally I am sure I was influenced by all the books I have read before. Writers assimilate everything, and no matter how we try to make something original, everything that has gone before has an impact on our work. In a bid to get better at writing nonfiction, I have been reading the best examples of each genre that I can find, which although is quite educational, can be an intimidating exercise, as I realize how far I still have to go in my skill and craft.

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

The aristocratic Russian society that is depicted in Anna Karenina or War and Peace – I would give anything to be a fly on the wall of those parlors and listen to those conversations. I would equally love to be a guest at Downton Abbey, or perhaps at Blandings Castle, in their heyday. The third time period would be Calcutta, India during the first few decades of the previous century – I have heard countless stories about that time, and the lives led by my great-grandparents.

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Almost every book that appears on the 100 books to read in this lifetime sort of lists that I wasn’t forced to read in school, and therefore haven’t read yet – including most of Shakespeare’s plays, many of Dickens’ novels and classical works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey and the works of famous philosophers. I have read excerpts or abridged versions or seen adaptations of some of these works, but I have this recurring fantasy that one of these days I will read them all. Actually I recently read a book by Steven Pressfield where he describes going through a phase while writing his first few novels, when he was also reading the classics to become a better writer, and it made me realize that I will soon have to stop kicking myself and just dive in. The problem also is that along with the classics there are many contemporary books that I want to read, and end up prioritizing them instead.

MukherjeeAnyoneCanGetAnA+What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

I am not really a neat person, although I like the idea of being one, so I am forever making a mess, then neatening up, then reverting to that mess not much later. I have recently moved, so haven’t quite set up my writing space yet, but I have many potential writing nooks in my new place (which was one of its main attractions).

I used to have my writing table facing the sea, an ideal space for working, but somehow I found I couldn’t write first draft there. I tend to find writing easier in temporary writing spots – such as coffee shops, planes, and even the living room sofa. Where I can write depends to a large extent on the kind of book I am writing and how it’s going. I am always on the lookout for the perfect cafe or restaurant to turn into a writing space, mostly because it’s rare to find any coffee shops with comfortable seating and a guarantee of finding an empty table where I live. In the meantime, I write when and where I can, mostly on my bed, and spend far more time thinking about and preparing to write than actually doing it. Editing on the other hand, I can’t do anywhere other than in a quiet room, usually at my desk or sitting up in bed. I have tried editing at the library or in coffee shops, but usually I can’t concentrate or make the kind of progress I need to.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

My aunt had given me a large selection of children’s books that were basically abridged versions of fairy tales and other common children’s stories, beautifully illustrated, and each of them came with a recording so that you could follow along with the book. My parents used to read to me from those books, and I remember reading Peter Pan aloud by myself one day, and then eventually, all of the others. I still have those books, because I couldn’t bear to give them away.

Author Bio

GeetanjaliMukherjeeAuthorGeetanjali Mukherjee is the author of 6 books, and her latest book Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades was written to help students of all ages improve their study habits and get better grades with techniques based on the latest scientific research. She has a law degree from the University of Warwick, UK and a Masters’ in Public Policy from Cornell University. Geetanjali also interviews authors and writes about creativity and productivity on her blog Creativity@Work. 

Places to Connect with Geetanjali

Website

Facebook

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Book Blurb for Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect

MukherjeeWillTheRealAlbertSpeerPleaseStandUpHe presented many faces to the world, but which one was genuine?

Over the years Albert Speer has been given several titles – ‘the good Nazi’, ‘Hitler’s architect’, ‘future Reichchancellor’, and even ‘the only penitent defendant at Nuremberg’. There is no doubt that there are many faces to Albert Speer: he was a man who had far greater power during the war than any other aside from Hitler, and was widely believed to succeed Hitler; his tremendous powers of organization raised German production to its peak at a time when resources were at an all-time low; and it was expected by all, including himself, that he would receive the death sentence like the other Nazi leaders, instead escaping the noose with only twenty years.

In light of his extended involvement in the Nazi party, both as Hitler’s architect and the Minister for Armaments, and his contributions to the illegal war waged by the regime, the question naturally arises: did Speer receive adequate punishment? Did the verdict reflect the perception that Speer was somehow ‘less culpable’ than the other defendants, or did he mastermind his defence in a way that reduced his sentence? The events leading up to the Nuremberg trial, and the trial itself, provides clues to answering these questions: what can we learn about the personality of Speer from the evidence available, and why does it matter?

GIVEAWAY!

Geetanjali is giving away 5 ebook copies of Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up?, in any format, worldwide. You can do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) What is a historical time period/location you would like to visit? 2) Leave a way for me to contact you. Giveaway ends January 16, 2017 midnight my time.

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A Concise History of Modern Europe by David S. Mason

MasonAConciseHistoryOfModernEuropeWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Charles Henderson Norman

Publisher: University Press Audiobooks (2016)

Length: 8 hours

Author’s Page

In general, this book covers happenings in Europe from 1789 (the French Revolution) through 1989 (the fall of Communism). There’s a little bit after that on the formation of the European Union and what current hurdles Europe as a whole faces. The book doesn’t focus overly on one country or another, rather covering significant events and people who shaped Europe for better or worse.

Having been raised in the American public school system, there were bits and pieces of European history that I knew some little about, but this book does a great job of putting them into perspective. I’m really glad I gave this book a listen because it makes me feel smarter for it. What follows here in my review are some of the little interesting nuggets I took from this book.

During and after the French Revolution, women demanded legal rights and some of those rights were granted; however, they were denied the right to education. Alas, then came Napoleon who was very fond of the patriarchal family hierarchy: Women and children were subject to the rule of the man of the house. Oddly, his laws on many things remain a cornerstone to French law, law within parts of Turkey, and law in the state of Louisiana. Ha! That does explain some things….

One of things that helped lead England into the Industrial Revolution was the use of turnips. Yep! Behold the mighty turnip! The English started farming turnips which did two things for them: turnips help add nutrients to the soil, so a field could be used longer; and also turnips can be fed to winter livestock, allowing the English to winterover more of the flocks instead of doing a major slaughter and preserving prior to snows setting in. Alas, boiled turnips did very little to excite Europe over English cuisine.

Karl Marx spent much of his life in poverty (along with his wife and kids) dedicated to his writings and studying so he could make more writings. He had patrons here and there that allowed him to occasionally keep a roof over his family’s head and the kids fed. Karl Marx gave us an interesting piece of political philosophy (The Communist Manifesto), but I think his family would have appreciated him having some kind of steady job instead. Only 11 people attended his funeral.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was published and it took some little time for most European countries to accept it. The US was (and perhaps still is) one of the last major world powers to accept the Theory of Evolution. Darwin happily married his first cousin and they had 10 kids together. The Crimean War was the first war covered by journalists and also the first war where women were officially allowed to serve, but only in the Nursing Corps (i.e. Florence Nightingale).

Ethiopia and Liberia avoided colonialism during the rush to claim Africa, though Liberia was primarily a colony for liberated native Africans and remained mostly under US control until they gained their freedom. In Asia, Japan remained free from colonialism while many other Asian countries (in part or in total) were colonized. I’ve always known that the term ‘first world country’ refers to places like western Europe, Canada, the US,  while the term ‘third world country’ usually refers to much of South America, Asia, and Africa. However, I didn’t know if there was a ‘second world country’, having never heard the term. Turns out that phrase refers to the communist Soviet block. One of the outcomes of World War I was the League of Nations proposed by US President Wilson. However, the US didn’t join it, nor did  Russia. Germany was prohibited from joining it until 1926. So it wasn’t particularly effective.

So those are just the little nuggets of info I pulled out of this book. I am sure there are plenty more that I would pick up on or understand better on a second read through. Mostly, I am grateful for the perspective this book gave me, how one event feeds into another. The author did a great job of providing a few key dates here and there, but not inundating the reader with a ton of dates that will be quickly forgotten. After all, this is an overview of 200+ years of European history, not a blow-by-blow recounting of it.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the narrator (via Audiobook Boom) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Charles Henderson Norman did a great job narrating this. He has a voice somewhere between a news reporter and a story telling uncle. His personal interest, and sometimes even joy, in the subject comes through clearly in his narration.

What I Liked: I never felt bogged down with dates, names, or places; this book really put the events in perspective; no single country was the focus of the book; I learned several interesting facts that will either boost my standing at the next work party or kill it entirely.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a great addition to European history books!

The Golden Valley: The Untold Story of the Other Cultural Center of Tibet by David C. Huber & Dave Glantz

HuberGlantzTheGoldenValleyHeldigWhere I Got It: Review copy

Publisher: David  Huber (2015)

Length: 202 pages

Huber’s Page  Glantz’s Page

Part history book, part art book, part documentary, this book is a real treasure trove on the Golden Valley of Tibet. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much was covered! There’s maps of the area, photos of the art, a written record of some of the oral histories of the place, and a beautiful section explaining numerous images used in Tibetan art. While I am a newbie to much of this, I felt this book is a good resource for both those new to Tibetan art and those who have a dedicated interest.

Now the book does jump right into a very lengthy, and somewhat dense, background info section. Quite frankly, I skipped this the first time through (except for the maps because that info is useful to start with) and started flipping around the book looking at all the art of various media. The Tibetan monks don’t just art up one or two things, they art up all sorts of stuff. From their wall hangings to their furniture to their prayer wheels, I bet their monasteries are a veritable feast for the eyes! I quickly saw there were repeated images and themes on much of the art and I didn’t have the knowledge as on what the significance was of those particular images. Never fear! This awesome book has a whole section (near the back) on what certain images/themes mean in Tibetan culture. I love how they had photographed examples for each image. Ever wonder what red corral means to the Golden Valley? Curious as to what a Zipak is? Just how important are the Mahamudra mists? This section of the book quickly became my favorite part as I studied a piece of art and flipped back to learn in detail what all the symbology meant. My favorite by far was the mongoose both eating and… uh…  releasing (perhaps laying?) Cintamani jewels of wisdom. Before I consulted this section of the book, I thought the mongooses were perhaps rabbits.

Several things have affected the survivability of early Tibetan art. I found the most interesting reason to be the practical take of most Tibetans that if it is worn and dirty, toss it and paint/create something new and vibrant. It’s interesting to see how the interest of Western collectors and scholars has started to change that attitude and some older works have survived. Also, Tibetans tend to preserve the physical objects of great teachers. So, oddly, we have lots of every day use objects from them as well as greater works of art. It makes it a rather eclectic collection when taken in whole. Once again, this was just a very fascinating book to delve into.

When I jumped into this book, I thought the cloth art would interest me the most, however I found it was the little portable reading desks. It combines the woodworking arts as well as painting the useful piece. The photographs show how stunning these small pieces of furniture are and they must be a delight to read on.

The authors also include some photos of the modern monasteries in the Golden Valley. I really liked this touch because it shows how much of their lives haven’t changed in all these centuries and what little has changed stands out. I think this book appeals to several audiences. Whether you’re thinking of traveling to the area, are a Tibetan art collector, or want to enrich your understanding of the Golden Valley and the Tibetan culture from afar, this book is a good, solid resource. Just a FYI: the book has a contents page, a few appendices, and a detailed index. These three things make it an extra useful research book.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author (via Word Slinger Publicity) in exchange for an honest review.

Photography: Nearly all of the photographs were taken by author David Huber (what few weren’t, are noted upfront in the book). The photos, all of which are color, range in clarity and lighting but there are plenty of them. This book is fully illustrated. Since there are so many great examples of the various art forms captured visually in this book, I think it would make a great resource to any Tibetan arts dealer or owner. For me, as  someone who has little knowledge on the subject, I reveled in all the photos. It definitely brought this region and art to life. All the photos are well labelled with descriptions, making it easy to flip through the book and gain some info just by looking at the photos.

What I Liked: Lots of photographed examples of the various art; the explanations of the  symbols/themes; maps!; a detailed history of the region; great cover!

What I Disliked: Nothing! It’s a great book on the region, suited to many audiences.

A Pea Coat Goes Home by Les Rolston

RolstonAPeaCoatGoesHomeWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Gary A. Mason

Publisher: Revival Waves of Glory Books & Publishing (2015)

Length: 47 minutes

Author’s Page

This is the true story about a coat, the author (Les) and his father (Ken). Les discovered the coat in the attic when he was 6. Even then, he was drawn to it. By the 9th grade, Les was wearing it to and from school until he grew too big to fit into it. This Navy pea coat became a touchstone for Les, who delved into family history.

Ken’s father (Earl) was a dairy farmer and, Ken felt his job choices were limited since he lacked a high school education. He joined the Navy and made it through WWII. Les retells his father’s tales of his time in the military, both the good and the bad. It’s a refreshing look at WWII times without being overly dramatic or glorifying the cost of the war in body counts.

Ken met Les’s mother while on leave but they didn’t tie the knot until near the end of the war. Les grew up in a three-generation household, and his strong sense of family ties comes through clearly in this story. The women are mentioned in passing in this tale (and, of course, I would have liked to know a bit more about them) but this is, after all, primarily a tale about Les and his father and the sharing of family history.

I enjoyed this short non-fiction work. It felt like a touching story instead of dry, dusty history being told in a monotone voice. Both Les and Ken exhibit feelings through out the retelling of war tales. The pea coat is now part of a museum and that seems a very fitting end for it.

I received a copy of this book from the narrator at no cost (via the GoodReads Audiobooks Group) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Gary Mason did a pretty good job. While the narrative didn’t call for many character voices, Mason used a story-teller voice to full effect. When Les or Ken exhibited emotion, Mason did a good job of getting those emotions across to the listener. My one criticism is that the production sounds a little tinny. It is consistent throughout, so after a few minutes it is easy to tune out.

What I Liked: The cover art; touching story of family; multi-generational story; WWII without being over dramatic of focusing solely on the body count; fitting end for the pea coat.

What I Disliked: Would have liked a bit more about the women in the family; narration was a little tinny.

Hip to the Trip: A Cultural History of Route 66 by Peter B. Dedek

DedekHipToTheTripWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Michael Rene Zuzel

Publisher: University Press Audiobooks (2015)

Length: 5 hours 53 minutes

Author’s Page

Dedek explores the common and uncommon aspects to the history of Route 66. The first part of the book covers the chronology and dives into the national need for well-maintained highways. This concludes with the official closing of the road and then a cultural investigation begins. Route 66 has featured in several well-known works, such as The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. Yet Dedek doesn’t stop there. He touches on the negative sides of the times, such as prejudice and lack of equal rights for women; Route 66 is a part of that history.

I learned quite a bit about Route 66 from this book. Quite frankly, I was stunned to hear that the route was officially closed as I have driven on parts of Route 66 many times. Through this book, I learned how the major interstates replaced such roads in commerce. Hence, much of 66 is officially closed and abandoned, no longer maintained. Here in NM, chunks of it are still alive and thriving (hence my ignorance on the matter). Also, I was unaware that 66 had stretched so far east. Truly, I just thought it was a desert Southwest thing. Yet when I reflect on all the TV, movies, books, music that reference 66, so much of those references are set in the desert Southwest.

As the automobile rose in popularity and families started taking meandering holidays, transportation by railroad declined. Route 66 had a hand in that, making much of the west accessible. With all these tourists came a change in advertising, hotels, diners, and cultural attractions. The native cultures of the desert Southwest were definitely encouraged to modify their wears to make them more attractive to tourists. Plus there were the little roadside acts, like cowboys versus Indians trick riding shows. Many Route 66 buildings added facades to their street side face that made them more attractive to tourists. I’m sure whole books have been written on the architecture of Route 66.

Dedek includes a section on the nostalgia of Route 66, the various preservation organizations, the fan clubs, etc. Coupled with that he includes a short section on how the freedom of Route 66 was not for everyone. For much of the history of 66, hotels and diners would not cater to non-Whites. It was also highly unusual for unaccompanied women to travel the route. I really appreciate that Dedek makes this nod to reality instead of clinging to the fantasy of the perfect road trip. He also went to the trouble to dig up postcards from the ‘good old times’ that travelers mailed home back east. Not everyone was taken with the charms of the desert Southwest. All around, this is a pretty comprehensive history of Route 66 that refuses to turn a blind eye to certain realities.

I received this audiobook from the narrator (via the Audiobook Blast Newsletter) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Michael Rene Zuzel did a pretty good job. He sounded interested in the subject and seemed to enjoy narrating the book. His pacing was good, not rushing the listener along. There were a few times he pronounced a local word (like ‘kachina’) oddly and I had to stop a moment to figure out what he meant. I am sure some regional dialect uses his pronunciation, just not mine. These instances were few & far between.

What I Liked: Educational; held my attention all the way through; comprehensive history; covers the negatives and doesn’t get caught up in the nostalgia; provides some info on the preservation societies and fan clubs; nice cover art.

What I Disliked: A few oddly pronounced words in the narration, but this is a very minor point and wouldn’t keep me from recommending the book.

What Others Think:

Project Muse

Route 66 News

The Practice of Autosuggestion by the Method of Emile Coue by C. Harry Brooks

BrooksThePracticeOfAutosuggestionWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Jack Chekijian

Publisher: Piotr Obminski (2014)

Length: 3 hours 26 minutes

Author’s Page

As the title suggests, this book is about the practice of autosuggestion. The method is covered in detail and several examples are given as to how to use it in day to day life. Emile Coue used autosuggestion to treat many physical ailments and examples of the progress of many of his patients are sprinkled throughout the book.

From a historical point of view, this book could be interesting. Today, we know so much more about the placebo affect and how it can and does affect the health of people. So I think much of this book is now out dated. Also, I have to point out my own reservations about the power of the mind, using any method, to permanently cure injuries and illnesses. So it is with some skepticism that I dove into this book. However, I do like the central message of ‘Have a positive attitude’

While this book isn’t one for me, others might find it interesting especially if they are finding it difficult to stay positive concerning a health issue. This book does provide a structured way to tackle that. So, coupled with the historical aspect, the book was a little interesting.

I received a copy of this book at no  charge from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Jack Chekijian did a nice job. The text didn’t require different voices or such but Chekijian gave a nice reporter-like performance.

What I Liked: The message of ‘Keep Positive’ is nice; could be interesting from a historical perspective.

What I Disliked: I’m very skeptical that the mind has the power to heal all;  could be summed up in a short scientific paper on the placebo affect.