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The Absolutist
The Absolutist by John Boyne (1910s)
An extraordinary story that tells of love, of war, and which ultimately reveals a secret that has haunted the life of Tristan Sadler who, in later years, became an acclaimed author. And then? A surprise ending. A good read for both its history and its humanity. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/25/2014

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Thunderstruck
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (1910s)
In a fateful way, the lives of H. Crippen and G. Marconi intersect. Ultimately, Marconi's invention of the telegraph is responsible for the apprehension of Crippen who is making a trans-Atlantic escape after murdering his wife. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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A Marriage Made in Heaven
A Marriage Made in Heaven by Erma Bombeck (1960s)
It's been a long time since I've read any of Bombeck's work. I'm delighted that I accidentally came upon this book and returned to her humorous writing. A light, pleasant read. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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Still Foolin' 'Em
Still Foolin' 'Em by Billy Crystal (2000s)
Billy Crystal tells of his years as a writer, standup comedian, and actor. As his career winds down, he looks back on having worked with the best in the entertainment industry as well as the changes in his personal life. Since I'm nearly the same age as he, I could relate well to the times, the TV shows, and the movies he tells about. It was a walk down memory lane for me. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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The Death of Santini
The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy (2000s)
Perhaps my favorite of Pat Conroy's books has been "The Great Santini" partially, I'm sure, because I so like the movie of that book starring Robert Duvall and Blythe Tanner. "The Death of Santini" takes the reader through the years as he writes each of his books, culminating with the death of his father, an ace jet fighter pilot, who was always known as The Great Santini. This also takes him to the stunning realization of how much--how deeply he had actually loved his father. I do hope that with this book's review of those times and titles, he is not retiring from writing. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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Fallen Women
Fallen Women by Sandra Dallas (Other)
Sandra Dallas's historical fiction has always drawn me to her books and this one is no exception. "Fallen Women" takes on the topic of prostitution in the 1800's. It's the story of two sisters who are very different in personality. One is a proper lady; the other is a rebellious teen and ultimately is ordered out of the home by her parents whereupon she resorts to prostitution. She is murdered and our heroine helps to solve the mystery that surrounds the crime. All of this comes together as a most unusual story given its time in history. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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Orange Is the New Black
Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman (2000s)
Piper Kerman as a new graduate of Smith College gets caught up in smuggling drugs and laundering the money from drug transactions as a favor to a friend. She does it for the excitement, never seriously considering the danger and illegality of what she's doing as her involvement is only occasional. Ten years after she committed her last trip, she was arrested, found guilty at trial, and sentenced to prison. Her seventeen months there provides her with the material for the narration of this story which tells what it's like to be a woman in today's prison system. Informative but told in a very readable manner. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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Empty Mansions
Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman (1990s)
Hugette Clark was the daughter of W.A. Clark, a man who acquired an immense fortune, starting with copper mining and then branching into other investments that simply added to his riches. This is a fascinating story of a woman who eventually became very reclusive, actually living in a hospital the last twenty years of her life instead of enjoying any of the fabulous mansions she owned or enjoying any of her great wealth except in the ways she could generously give it away. She lived to be 104 and died just recently (2007) in her room at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. She was not ill but simply felt most secure there so administrators finally allowed her to stay. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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Tallgrass
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas (1940s)
Sandra Dallas is a writer of historical fiction who never fails to tell a very readable, informative story of some event in American history. This one tells of the incarceration of Japanese who are feared as the enemy although they are American citizens. There are, of course, the American families who treat them well, employ them, and enjoy them as neighbors. There are, of course, those who are blindly prejudiced and treat them badly. As with her other books, Dallas's research is impeccable and bring the reader to new understandings of a time and place essential to society's growth. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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The Invisible Woman
The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin (1910s)
The Invisible Woman is a young lady who became the mistress of Charles Dickens when she was just 18 and he was 45. Because she was an actress and thus considered to be morally compromised, and because Dickens was married and the father of nine children, the scandal would have been a disgrace in mid-1800's England. Dickens left his wife, provided a home for her as well as one for himself and the finest of all for Nelly Ternan, his companion for 13 years. Their relationship was kept secret and Nelly all but disappeared from all society, thus being now known as "invisible". An intriguing story. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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The Invention of Wings
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Other)
The story tells of the Grimke sisters' work to abolish slavery in the early 1800's The daughters of a northern judge, they were born into lives of privilege but early on developed thoughts and feelings that caused them to abhor what they saw in their own home and in the surrounding area of their home in Philadelphia. As adults they worked against this institution, eventually becoming Quakers so they could follow that group's work against the holding of slaves. Their work as public speakers was unlike what was expected of women at that time. This is an excellent account of the time highlighting the work of the sisters as well as that of their parents' house slaves as it alternates chapters telling first of Sarah Grimke and then Handful, the name of her personal slave given to her on her 12th birthday. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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The Water Is Wide
The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy (1960s)
This is the story of Pat Conroy's year as a teacher on an island off the coast of South Carolina. These black children were, from the day of their births, given no advantages of the mainland school corporation which had jurisdiction over them. They were a part of the prejudices of that era (the '60's) in the deep south. None of them had ever left the island; most were illiterate. Conroy fought the bureaucracy that had ignored these children, ultimately paying the price of being fired from his job but not before he had opened up to them a world they had never known. Pat Conroy is a master wordsmith; the reader may find him/herself addicted to his writing and turn to his other books after reading this one. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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Mao's Last Dancer
Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin (1950s)
This is the current Carmel Reads selection, and I'm glad it was brought to my attention. I learned much about China during the Mao period as Premier and I also learned much about the world of ballet. An extraordinary journey in the life of this young man. -- Added by mrhofferth on 02/20/2014

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