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Archive for the ‘Good Reads’ Category

Good Read – Pogue’s War: Diaries of a WWII Combat Historian

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Pogue’s War: Diaries of a WWII Combat Historian
by Forrest C. Pogue

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With a foreword by Stephen Ambrose and a preface by Franklin D. Anderson Forrest Pogue (1912-1996) was undoubtedly one of the greatest World War II combat historians. Born and educated in Kentucky, he is perhaps best known for his definitive four-volume biography of General George C. Marshall.  Pogue’s War is drawn from Forrest Pogue’s handwritten pocket notebooks, carried with him throughout the war, long regarded as unreadable because of his often atrocious handwriting. Supplemented with carefully deciphered and transcribed selections from his diaries, the heart of the book is straight from the field. He not only graphically – yet also often poetically­­ – recounts the extreme circumstances of battle, but he also notes his fellow soldiers’ innermost thoughts, feelings, opinions, and attitudes about the cruelty of war. Franklin D. Anderson, Forrest Pogue’s nephew by marriage, is a longtime educator. He lives in Princeton, Kentucky.

Todd Hill says:

From the war-time diary of combat historian Sgt. Forrest C. Pogue, long time Murray resident and professor at MSU. Incredible story of coming ashore at Normandy. Just after the June 1944 invasion… Highly recommended!

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Good Read – I Am Not The Same Girl: Renewed

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I Am Not The Same Girl: Renewed
by Stacy Lattisaw Jackson

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“I Am Not The Same Girl: Renewed” is the life story of Stacy Lattisaw. As a young Rhythm and Blues (R&B) singer, she completed a total of 12 albums and toured with Michael Jackson and the Jacksons. She traveled the world as a singer and shared the stage with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Teddy Pendergrass, Stephanie Mills, Johnny Gill, and a host of others. As she began to mature in age and mind, her desires began to change and she cried out to God and asked him to fill the void in her life. Soon after Stacy walked away from the secular music world and dedicated her life to the Lord. Today she is renewed and walking in the destiny that God has set for her life.

Brian Clardy says:

West Tennessee did not have the type of cosmopolitan glamor of its more urban counterparts, but young people were still able to stay current on the latest music by innovative artists. Whether it was Prince, the Rolling Stones, or the Charlie Daniels Band, area listeners bought records by artists that appealed to their imagination and sense of having good clean fun. One of those artists was Stacy Lattisaw.

Brian Clardy spoke over the phone with the author about her book.

Click here to listen to the interview.

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Written by Matt Markgraf

July 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – The Return of the Native

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The Return of the Native
by Thomas Hardy

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One of Thomas Hardy’s most powerful works, The Return of the Native centers famously on Egdon Heath, the wild, haunted Wessex moor that D. H. Lawrence called “the real stuff of tragedy.” The heath’s changing face mirrors the fortunes of the farmers, inn-keepers, sons, mothers, and lovers who populate the novel. The “native” is Clym Yeobright, who comes home from a cosmopolitan life in Paris. He; his cousin Thomasin; her fiancé, Damon Wildeve; and the willful Eustacia Vye are the protagonists in a tale of doomed love, passion, alienation, and melancholy as Hardy brilliantly explores that theme so familiar throughout his fiction: the diabolical role of chance in determining the course of a life.

Kate Lochte says:

In February the National Symphony Orchestra performed Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe in the Carson Center in Paducah.  Its thrilling layered themes were enchanting.  Music for a ballet that debuted in Paris in 1912, the Ravel made me think the Hardy novel, Return of the Native.

Returning to the book, it was wonderful to come upon Hardy’s chapter “The Figure Against the Sky” when the tragic heroine of the book is listening to the wind on Egdon Heath (the wild setting of the intensely romantic tale):  “Part of its tone was quite special; what was heard there could be heard nowhere else.  Gusts in innumerable series followed each other from the northwest, and when each one of them raced past the sound of its progress resolved into three.  Treble, tenor, and bass notes were to be found therein.  The general ricochet of the whole over pits and prominences had the gravest pitch of the chime.  Next there could be heard the baritone buzz of a holly tree…” Ravel’s composition evokes the complicated music of the world turning as well.

Return of the Native’s main characters are either deeply at home on the Heath or yearning to escape its hold.  That’s the conflict as much as the unwise decisions about marriages less motivated by genuine affection than by desire to mate in one’s own class or above it, but certainly not below it.  Hardy’s love of descriptive prose clothes these simple plot lines in the beautiful dark finery of the natural setting.

If you enjoy being carried away into the wildness of the world and the human heart, this book might just be a good read for you, too.

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Good Read – Across the Universe

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Across the Universe
by Beth Revis

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Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next. Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Matt Markgraf says:

One of the most anticipated young adult novels of the year. Publisher’s Weekly raved about the first chapter, when it was released several months before the book. I caught a glimpse then and was floored by the vivid detail, the rich and colorful details and the easing into the ‘rules’ of the science fiction world. The story begins with young Amy being freezed in a cryochamber as her family attempts to flee Earth. The second perspective follows Elder, the young leader-to-be of the spaceship Godspeed. Things, of course, go awry and their paths cross. Both characters are believable and refreshing and the spaceship is a fascinating microcosm of an idealistic sustainable earth. Any fan of sci-fi with a little romance will love Across the Universe.

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Written by Matt Markgraf

June 27, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – Sinatra! The Song Is You

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Sinatra! The Song is You: A Singer’s Art
by Will Friedwald

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Frank Sinatra remains the greatest entertainer of our age, invigorating American popular song with innovative phrasing and a mastery of range and emotion. Drawing upon recent interviews with hundreds of his collaborators as well as with “The Voice” himself, this book is the only full-length work to chronicle, critique, and celebrate his five-decade career. Friedwald examines and evaluates all the classic and less familiar songs with the same astute, often witty, perceptions that earned him acclaim for Jazz Singing. With an authoritative discography and rare photos of recording sessions and performances, Sinatra! is an invaluable resource for enthusiasts and an unparalleled guide through his vast musical legacy.

Todd Hill says:

Excellent book about the singing career of Frank Sinatra. Skips the all-too-often sensationalized aspects of his personal life and concentrates on his apprenticehip as a band singer (with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey), the era of “The Voice” on his Columbia Recordings with arrangements and orchestras led by Axel Stordahl, the Capitol Recordings with Nelson Riddle, Billy May and Gordon Jenkins and the Reprise years with diverse writers/leaders such as Neal Hefti, Johnny Mandel, Quincy Jones and Count Basie. If you only know the Sinatra of “Strangers in the Night,” “My Way” and “New York, New York” – not to mention the dreadful and over-produced “Duets” CDs of the 1990s – then educate yourself with this book and seek out the worthy recordings. Sinatra, more than any other performer, defined the “Great American Songbook” and many of his recordings are definitive.

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Written by Matt Markgraf

June 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – Water for Elephants

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Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen

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Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Katie Villanueva says:

Water for Elephants!! Yeah, it’s that exciting. I read this and was amazed about the mysterious lives of circus folk. This is an amazing book about love and about one guy standing up for what he believes is right and wrong. A coming of age tale that could be described as a true baptism through fire. The movie was announced to be coming to theaters shortly after i finished reading the book, and you can bet I will be first in line to see it. This book is for animal lovers, men, and women alike. Read it. See it.

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Written by Matt Markgraf

June 13, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – Chasing the White Dog

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Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine
by Max Watman

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From these moonshine pioneers, to the bathtub gin runners of the 1920s, to today’s booming bootleg businessmen, journalist Max Watman traces the historical roots and contemporary story of white lightning, which has played a surprisingly large role in American history. It touched the election of Thomas Jefferson, the invention of the IRS, and the origins of NASCAR. It is a story of tommy guns, hot rods, and shot houses, and the story is far from over. In this fascinating, centuries-long history of illicit booze, Watman infiltrates every aspect of small-scale distilling in America, taking us from the backwoods of Appalachia to the gritty nip joints of Philadelphia, from a federal courthouse to Pocono Speedway. Along the way, this unrepentant lover of moonshine profiles the colorful characters who make up white whiskey’s lore and hilariously chronicles his own attempts to distill hooch from his initial ill-fated batch to his first successful jar of ’shine.

Angela Hatton says:

“Some call it white lightning, hooch, red-eye, and bootleg. The moonshine still is an iconic, but clichéd image of Appalachian culture. Max Watman knifes through the stereotype of bucktoothed backwoods hill-billies with a book that’s as sharp as uncut corn whiskey.

“Watman intertwines chapters on famous moonshine rings and stings, with his own bumbling attempts at illegal distillation. In one chapter, Watman sweats his way through buying still equipment at a brewer’s supply store, guiltily avoiding intrusive questions like, ‘what are you making?’

“Watman interviews dozens of distinct characters like a police officer who busted a multi-million dollar moonshine operation in West Virginia. He talks to distillers who’ve gone legit, slippery distillers who keep avoiding arrest, and one who has turned his illegal liquor into a tourist attraction.

“Chasing the White Dog traces both the personal and the political heritage of moonshine. Watman’s passion for the craft and his keen journalistic perceptions come through with every word.”

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Written by Matt Markgraf

June 6, 2011 at 11:45 am

Good Read – Killing Mister Watson

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Killing Mister Watson
by Peter Matthiessen

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Drawn from fragments of historical fact, Matthiessen’s masterpiece brilliantly depicts the fortunes and misfortunes of Edgar J. Watson, a real-life entrepreneur and outlaw who appeared in the lawless Florida Everglades around the turn of the century.

Kate Lochte says:

“Matthiessen tells a story of a man thought to be a killer who is eventually killed by a mob. Matthiessen’s narrative flows through fictional voices of early twentieth century residents of the Ten Thousand Islands on the west coast of Florida adjacent to the Everglades. There are some gruesome and unaccountable murders in it as well as a devastating hurricane. Dark, moldy, itchy. The swamplands are miserable, yet fecund. ‘In the hurricane’s wake, the labyrinthine coast where the Everglades deltas meet the Gulf of Mexico lies broken, stunned, flattened to mud by the wild tread of God. Day after day, a gray and brooding wind nags at the mangroves, hurrying the unruly tides that hunt through the broken islands and twist far back into the creeks, leaving behind brown spume and matted salt grass, driftwood.’ This is an example of Matthiesen’s fine and true crafting of setting for this haunting, slowly told examination of character that took me a couple of years to finish. Mathiessen sets the hook and lets you play out the line until you’re reeled back in and landed at the finish.”

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Written by Matt Markgraf

March 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

Good Read – With Billie

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With Billie
by Julia Blackburn

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Few jazz singers have become icons like Billie Holiday. In With Billie, we hear the voices of those people who knew Billie best: piano players and dancers, pimps and junkies, lovers and narcs, producers and critics, each recalling intimate stories of the Billie they knew. What emerges is a portrait of a complex, contradictory, enthralling woman, a woman who — contrary to myth — knew what she wanted and what really mattered to her. Julia Blackburn has pieced together an oral history of this jazz great, creating a unique and fascinating view of an astonishing woman.

Todd Hill says:

“The author serves as editor on previous research done by another through a series of interviews by those who knew the legendary Billie Holiday. The only weakness is that there are not more musicians (focusing on the music) who worked with her, although we do hear from many who did. If you are a Billie Holiday fan or just want to dispell the garbage that William Dufty invented in “Lady Sings the Blues” this is a great read. Gritty. Real.”

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Written by Matt Markgraf

March 12, 2011 at 11:59 am

Good Read – Battle Cry of Freedom

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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
by James McPherson

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James McPherson’s fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War including the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. From there it moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself–the battles, the strategic maneuvering by each side, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson’s new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union’s victory.

Todd Hatton says:

“I think anyone who completes a reading of James McPherson’s 869-page Battle Cry of Freedom could be forgiven for feeling as though they themselves have lived through the U.S. Civil War. But that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s enlightening. And it’s largely due to McPherson’s thorough and compelling history of the events and issues leading up to, and beyond, the war. McPherson’s fellow historians, along with reviewer after reviewer, have found Battle Cry to be the indispensible single-volume history of the conflict. For what it’s worth, I’ll add my voice to the chorus. If you haven’t read it, your understanding of the war is at best incomplete.

“Southern apologists have taken issue with McPherson over the causes he gives for the Civil War, misunderstanding or mischaracterizing his study as a simplistic contest over slavery. They argue the conflict was more accurately a principled dispute over sectional economics and political philosophy. A reading of Battle Cry of Freedom makes clear the problem with that thesis. The causes of the Civil War really were many and complex, but African slavery lies at or near the roots of any cause the South cared to name. McPherson makes it clear: no slavery in America would likely have meant no American Civil War. And what’s worse (well, for southern apologists, Lost Cause advocates, and neo-Confederates, at any rate), is that McPherson meticulously sources his work from the words of the southern secessionists themselves. It’s awfully hard to argue that the war wasn’t about slavery when Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, Robert Toombs, and Edmund Ruffin say it was.

“Nevertheless, Battle Cry of Freedom is not a political tract. It is a rich account of a quintessential American identity crisis. Who are we as a nation or a people? And who do we want to become? Prior to 1861, we referred to ourselves as Kentuckians, Tennesseans, and Illinoians and said that the United States are. It wasn’t until after 1865 that we began calling ourselves Americans, saying that the United States is. This book is a profound insight into why.”

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Written by Matt Markgraf

March 10, 2011 at 11:59 am

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