Elizabeth Cobbs has written a history long overdue. While that, in itself, would be a fantastic contribution to anyone's U.S. History book shelf she gives us a bonus of tying the history of America's first women soldiers to that of a second great struggle that stretched across the globe from California to the furthest reaches of Siberia for the 70 years prior and for really the next hundred years as well.
At its core this book is the story of the 223 American women who served in the Signal Corps in the First World War at the express request of General John Pershing because they could do what the men could not - operate the complicated switchboards of the telephone systems of the day better than the men. Cobbs explains why this was so as well as carefully detailing the horrors of war that the operators, as they were called, had to endure, including bombing and shelling, co-located with their male counterparts.
But she also tells the story of how their service furthered greatly the cause of suffrage for women in the United States. She also details how many men saw them as a threat and did everything in their power to diminish their service, including denying them veterans benefits upon their return. Finally, she also details the men who saw them as co-equal and eventually helped the few survivors see justice within their lifetimes - recognition of service, military honors, and their place in history.
The only negative I would mention is that Cobbs ends up being a little repetitive and could come off, a few times, as pedantic. However, the book is well-written, well-edited, and well-researched.
Robert Bruce, through mostly vignettes of the interactions between President Lincoln, the military officers responsible for testing and purchasing new weapons, and the inventors and backers of the many schemes for new weapons weaves a fascinating story. The President, with an open mind and a Let's Try attitude, the inventors mostly earnest and patriotic though often "odd", the backers many painted as unscrupulous, and the military who ran the gamut from progressives to stalwart conservative who would have used the weapons of their fathers if given the chance.
Bruce shows that the time was one of immense technological advancement. Among the many "modern" weapons getting a first look were the machine gun, the breechloading rifle, the rifled cannon, the submarine, and the torpedo. Lincoln had two notable successes in his dealings with the Ordnance chiefs - the introduction of the machine gun and the acceptance of breechloading rifles. He pushed many weapons which ended dubiously and the machine gun that was ordered, the Coffee Mill Gun, did poorly in the field but it lead to the much-improved Gatling gun which faced none of the largest hurdles to service acceptance.
The author introduces enough background on each of the characters to give the reader a good grounding of the events then related in the vignette. He also makes sure to complete each story so that the reader is left satisfied that each small story is complete.
While not a book about the great decisions of Lincoln, the battles, or the campaigns and generals, this is a fascinating look at the technological and bureaucratic end of warmaking, at a time of rapid technological advance. It paints a side of Lincoln, the mechanic, the tinkerer, not often seen.
John Goldstein and Joel Krenis have created a fantastic photo collection of the incredible diversity of India. Fabulous color photos with clear, insightful, and personal text tell a story of India, for Americans, that carries the complex picture that is India.
John and Joel have traveled extensively and are both excellent photographers and excellent observers of what they are photographing. They give you not only the image, but the story behind the image, what is really going on, what is being portrayed, which is often much more than one can see on a superficial glance.
The book opens with chapters on the People, the Architecture, and the Animals of the subcontinent to provide a general understanding. Then they take the reader on a series of in-depth adventures - to a camel fair, to the Taj Mahal, and a series of the city of Jaipur from the perspective of a hot air balloon. The book finishes with chapters on the sacred traditions of India and then three chapters of tourist adventures - the view from the road, several unique hotels, and the Palace on Wheels train.
John and Joel self-published with Blurb.
I have had the pleasure of reading Jessica Mehta’s fine collection of poetry, Secret-Telling Bones. This is a collection of incredibly personal poems; I felt Ms. Mehta's soul as I read each one. They are deep poems, with layers of meaning. I found myself re-reading them at different times of the day and in different moods and each time the words told a different story. And yet, they are easily read; you grasp the first story, whatever it is, in the first reading, the first breath. They are also, deeply connected poems, connected to their objects, their experiences, their secret-tellings.
Ms. Mehta tells of experiences I can only imagine. They become real. Her NDN heritage is front and center, you can feel the emotion of identity and heritage, pride and shame, and hope and triumph. The poems bring a cross-culturalism, with humans and animals that is intense, honest, and unique. The emotions are often raw, the telling unvarnished and for that, all the more powerful and real and compelling. My favorite was “Landmarks Made of Stone”.
Importantly, this collection is published by the operating system which is dedicated to keeping books in print, on paper. I whole-heartedly recommend Secret-Telling Bones. Follow the link buy new from an Indie bookseller recommended by Ms. Mehta.
Molly Katz started writing for the Candlelight Ecstasy Romance series in 1984. Worth His Weight in Gold was her 5th novel for that imprint. She had some success in the serial romance genre but stopped in 1987 when the series shut down and pursued a career in stand-up comedy. She penned two psychological thrillers in the 1990s but is best known for her humor books, most notably Jewish as a Second Language.
Worth His Weight in Gold is a typical Ecstasy Romance, the woman falling for the man improbably and deeply. Ecstasy was a competitor to Silhouette and Harlequin in the 1980s, during the heyday of the serial romance. If you like the classic sereial romance novel from the 1980s, relatively clean and short. this is a good one, and much of Katz's humor comes through.
Ecstasy series are highly collectible and rare, especially in good condition. The series had strong authors but could never break through against the larger series, despite the backing of Dell.
From the jacket: "He was waiting for her--and she ran into his trap! Ruth Barrett was being held at gunpoint for trespassing when Frank Gordon, chief of the police force she'd publicly embarrassed, came to arrest her. But the real trouble began when the lithe blond runner passed the handsome giant on a country path and fell into the lake in surprise. Suddenly she was in his strong arms, unexpectedly warm on that cold February day. Why did she yield to his masterful embrace? Why couldn't she say 'No!' before he swept her off her feet, filling her with desire for everything she'd tried to reject?"
The creek ran cold and clear, rushing over slates made from the mud of an inland lake millions of years before and rapidly eroding back into mud. Water striders slid across the water where it eddied and dragonflies patrolled just above the surface of the riffles. Rushes and grasses grew lush along the banks and in many places willows and birch overhung the gurgling water.
But Charlie wasn’t interested in any of that. He was laser-focused on what lay beneath the smaller slates in places not quite in the most forceful stream but not in the quiet backwaters either. He stood still, bare feet immersed to just above the ankle, bent at the waist and gently lifted one flat rock with his left hand. His patience and care was rewarded as a two-inch long blue-black crayfish was exposed.
Stunned by the sudden light it was stationary and Charlie reached his right hand slowly around the tail-end of the crayfish moving to lightly pinch it just behind the extended pincers. At the last moment the crayfish sensed the hand stealthily approaching and burst backward with a powerful flick of its tail and disappeared into the shadows of the nearby bank.
Undaunted, Charlie replaced the rock in his left hand and lifted another with his right. Again he was rewarded by an adult crayfish temporarily dazed by its exposure. This one had a white splotch across its carapace. Charlie noted it without thinking and reached his left hand in, repeating his previous maneuver from the other side.
This time the crayfish was none the wiser until his small fingers closed on its thorax and he managed to gleefully extract the crustacean from its watery home. The crayfish snapped ineffectually at the air in front, Charlie’s expert grasp effectively pinning the pincers so they could not reach him.
Charlie stood up straight and held it directly in front of his face, staring at it eye to eye. “Hello,” he said in a conversational way, “hope you are having as good a day as me!”
Then he bent down again and returned the crayfish to the creek, releasing it a few inched below the surface but not quite at the bottom. A couple strokes of its tail and the crayfish disappeared under another rock.
Some days Charlie could play this game for hours but today he only caught 5 (and missed 4) before he decided to take a break. He sat on the bank, dangling his feet in a slightly deeper pool and watched the tiny dace flit back and forth in the deepest part of the pool. Suddenly a slightly larger fish burst from the school and broke the surface to plunge back to the “depths”, a mayfly larvae barely fitting into its fully distended mouth.
“Good catch!” Charlie said aloud as if to encourage the fish.
He lay back in the grass and looked up at the sky. Clouds were coming up, big ones that had not been there when he had walked down to the creek. Unconcerned, he lay on the bank plucking the seed heads off the grass and watched as the clouds scudded across the sky until one eventually blotted out the sun.
A cool wind followed the cloud and Charlie reluctantly stood up, pulling his wet feet onto dry ground. The sun returned briefly and he let it dry his feet as much as he could before it vanished behind the next cloud. He slipped his shoes onto his now only damp feet and, socks in hand, started up the hill toward home, another day of “fishing for crawdads” at an end.
(c) 2018 Greg Schroeder
Janice Kaiser was first published in 1985 and has written at least 32 books, primarily series romances for Harlequin under their Superromance and Temptation lines. Private Sins is a standalone romantic political tale that uses Ms. Kaiser's education as a lawyer in addition to her experience as a romance novelist. Private Sins was her second mass market, standalone, novel, published in 1995.
The novel got good reviews and is given a 4.00 rating on Goodreads. It still reads as contemporary - the private scandals of politicians and other prominent people make the news every day - this novel is a fictionalized account of the stuff of the news.
Private Sins can be had for as little as $3.97, including shipping, on Biblio.
From the back jacket:
BRETT-the stunning, brilliant attorney tested and tempted beyond reason when she falls in love with her husband's son. AMORY-the new supreme court justice who will put his heart on the line to keep his young wife and his life on the line to defend his beliefs. ELLIOT-a political attache trapped by his contempt for one woman and his forbidden love for his father's new wife. HARRISON-a senator whose scandalous private life may cost him much more than his career. Only by exposing the private sins and secret passions of this very public family can they fulfill a destiny that is theirs for the taking .
Celia is a breathlessly paced story full of deception, desire, despair, and decolletage. It is set in England in the early 17th century. A young King Charles I, recently and unreadily thrust onto the throne is compelled into a political marriage with Princess Henrietta Maria of France.
The King would rather not and the new Queen is greeted unkindly due to her Catholic faith in a time when England had only very recently overthrown the Pope and was a leader in the Protestant Reformation. Thus a political tension creates a backdrop where a poet becomes a sensation and leads all the wrong people to fall for all the wrong people in a hilarious merry-go-round of courtiers and commoners, royals and parliamentarians.
While the author does play a bit loose with the history, what is historical fiction if not a re-imagining of history from a new perspective? The changes she makes push the story along at furious speed and add much of the humor and tone, in my opinion, enhancing the tale that is told.
I especially like the way the story turns at the end, at how the author reveals some truths and adds one last deception to finish at a satisfying conclusion where each player gets what they have earned or deserve.
I fully recommend Redding Walters fantastic second novel, Celia!
Available on Amazon for paperback and Kindle. For more on Redding and her earlier novel, Even Seahorses are Free, see our Profile.
Four poems this week that caught my eye last month and led me to think about the insights into the human condition that some people seem to make effortlessly (like these poets) where the words are often difficult to come up with.
First up, Vikki (@VWC_Writes) talks of deep love. She brings all the senses together beautifully:
The night becomes us,
a hint of jasmine and wild berries
competing with salt winds
evoking our senses to the delicate
seams of moonlight,
our fingers coaxing stories
from each other's souls
as we marvel at the purple skies
pooling behind our silhouettes.
Then @an_angsty_teen tells us that acts and deeds are different in the life of anyone:
sorry isn't always enough
it can be a bottle trying
to hold a waterfall
or a band aid
covering a stab wound
sorry is not a magic word
that suddenly makes
everything you do okay
sorry means you regret
it doesn't mean
the same hand
won't strike again
@alanlovespoetry gives a dark Resume but it is true - life will end, I think he's saying make the most of it, because it won't matter a whit to you when you're dead:
Once I am dead
will it matter
if it was a stabbing or a stroke
does it matter
that only mom saw me graduate
that at 18
I made so many nice people cry
no math in it
it adds up exactly to nothing
not enough even for one good
And finally, back to love and hope, so perfectly crafted by @ZanneQuinn:
Open you mouth, my love
and taste my promises
Use both hands
hold tight to my chances
Open your eyes
and paint my body
Write a little poetry on my pale
Give me hope
If you like these works as much as I do, please give these writers a read, a follow, and your appreciation.
Above, the deck was a shamble of rigging and pieces of the masts that were still attached to the hull and each other. They swayed and skittered and slid back and forth across the deck as the ship tossed in the heavy sea. Adam could see instantly that the waves were smaller and felt the wind abating from the peak of its fury. The question was, Adam ruefully asked himself, would the crippled Anson stay afloat or would it take its unshackled prisoners with it in a final plunge to the depths of the Atlantic.
The Africans had all made their way across the pitching, rain-swept deck to the captain’s cabin. The door had smashed itself to pieces at some time while he had been working below deck. Peering at Adam as he emerged from the hold were at least a dozen eyes, plastered against the two small windows or staring out through the splintered door.
The last man, the singer, met Adam at the door. In the half minute it had taken to cross the deck, Adam had sketched out a simple, desperate, plan. As he reached the door the man reached out with his right hand and took Adam’s in a firm handshake. To Adam’s surprise he also grasped Adam’s right wrist with his left hand.
The man nodded and touched his chest, “Irungu,”
He gathered himself, pointed to a stay that flapped nearby but still was belayed tightly to the hull. Motioning for Irungu to follow he grasped the stay and made his way back across the deck to the amidships’ tools locker. “Come, Irungu, please!”
Relieved, Adam felt the man follow him. He said a silent prayer at the locker and pried the heavy lid open. Four axes greeted him, nestled in their cradles in one end of the box. He pantomimed for Irungu using the axes to cut away the debris on deck. The African vigorously nodded understanding and turned immediately away from Adam, hanging onto the stay as another wave dashed the ship, struggling to the cabin.
Adam watched him go, hoping against hope that Irungu had understood and not just given up. Irungu made it to the cabin door and spoke quickly, urgently above the howl of the wind. There was some jostling on the far side of the door and three men emerged, following Irungu back across the open space.
When they arrived at the locker it was Irungu who motioned and spoke. The three men each grabbed an axe. Adam took the fourth and showed them quickly the use of the tool and tried to explain, also quickly, as another wave drenched them all to the waist, not to cut their lifeline ropes. They fell to their task with a will.
Meanwhile Irungu had gone back to the cabin and brought 4 more men. Quickly, with Adam pointing, Irungu speaking, and the other seven swinging the axes and tossing overboard the massive remnants of the two masts, they cleared the decks. Once a man was hit by a wave and lost his grip on the safety line but Irungu managed to grab him before the water could sweep him away.
Next Adam showed Irungu the tiller wheel and the idea of keeping the ship pointed into the waves. A tall, muscular man who identified himself as Kijani volunteered to man the wheel. Next they rigged a pair of small staysails to try and held keep the ship pointed into the wind and waves. Finally, Adam showed Irungu the main pump.
In shifts, men and women energetically worked the pump from then through the long day and the following night. The storm weakened throughout the day, until only the overcast blotted the stars that night and finally Kijani relinquished the wheel. Adam and Irungu caught a few hours sleep after confirming the water in the hold was decreasing with the efforts of the entire crew.
Dawn sought Adam’s eyes with the promise of a child on Christmas morning. He stretched his muscles slowly, luxuriously, in the warming, drying first rays of sunlight and carefully picked his way around other sleeping forms. On deck he opened the hatch to the rear hold and lowered himself carefully down the ladder into the darkness below.
He was both reassured and grateful when only a small sloshing of water greeted him at the bottom of the hold. He felt along the racks where the barrels of biscuit and salt pork, pease and salt fish were stored. Intact. He carefully opened the nearest barrel of freshwater and tasted it. No worse than it had been before the storm. At least they would not immediately starve or die of thirst.
The meal was one of great celebration with singing and improvised drumming and a rhythmic call and response. Adam was amazed at the culture and resilience of the “heathens”; he even heaved his tired bones up off the deck to join in the dancing and chanting.
The next days were spent in a spurt of hard work and rudimentary training. Together they pumped the hold as dry as it ever had been since its maiden voyage. They rigged a sail on the stump of the foremast and another on the mizzen. They fashioned a kind of spritsail and, with practice, learned how to aid the steerage with deft changes to that sail. They also fashioned, as best they could, a course for return to Africa. Then they waited.
The long days of clear weather and light winds and excruciatingly slow progress granted time for Adam to learn of the culture of the Kikuyu, for indeed all the Africans had been captured in a single raid from that tribe deep in the heart of Africa and sold, by stages, from one trader to another until finally reaching the coast and the waiting ship. He learned of their struggle and the wrenching of family members and death at the hands of one trader after another. And he gained a fuller comprehension of the soul of these people.
Seventeen days after the storm they sighted a bird. The next day a matting of vines and branches that Irungu excitedly identified as land-based. Twenty days after the storm, as the sun began to set behind them, they sighted land.
The long walk back to the lands of the Kikuyu still stretched in front of them, and many perils, but they had survived and for that they gave each other both credit and thanks.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)