Readers’ Blog

May 2020 Blog with Book Cover images  

We want to hear from you. Please send a blurb about something you’ve read and want to share with CML.  Postings will be published seasonally. Next posting will be in Summer 2020. Send your recommendations to

jadelbergCML@gmail.com
This month’s blog has 13 entries from enthusiastic readers.  Try some of these selections.  Recommend to your friends, neighbors, and fellow readers. We all have so much to share.

Non-Fiction

The Everglades: The River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas (Environment/Natural History) 

During the first week of March Noel and I visited the Everglades. When we got home, I wanted to know more about that wondrous place. I decided to read Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s “The Everglades: The River of Grass.” I found that we have a paperback copy, a 1974 revised edition. From the moment I read that first line “There are no other Everglades in the World” and continued into the first few pages of chapter one I was captivated.

The author’s recounting of how the Everglades was formed is amazing.I can’t think of adequate words to summarize or explain her portrayal of the weather and her descriptions of the plants, the water, the rock, the animals and the people who have lived there. And the way she synthesizes the early history and discovery is awe inspiring.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas spent 5 years researching for the book; she spent time with a geologist. The book was published in 1947 when she was 57.  She worked to defend the Everglades and advocated for conservation until she died in 1998 at 108.  She wrote several books and many short stories. She also was a journalist, an advocate for suffrage, civil rights and equal rights.

Reviewed by Cynthia Pelliccia

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance during the Blitz by Eric Larson (World War II History)

I read this wonderful book back in late February, just when our lives got upended and I was taken by how re-assuring Churchill was to his country.  He had a vision, worked tirelessly, told hard truths, and expected everyone else to do the same. A bigger than life character who was the right man for that moment in time.  Eric Larson’s in-depth studies of a particular time are always a great read.

Reviewed by Mary Jean Cowing

MBS, the Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman, by Ben Hubbard (Contemporary Mideast Affairs)

When Mohammed bin Salman leap-frogged over a multitude of other family members and was named Deputy Prime Minister of the wealthiest country in the world, there was new found hope that the status of women would change and Saudi Arabia would finally enter the modern age. What unspooled was a sinister plan to eliminate rivals, kill free speech, and secretively take over several key powerful positions in the kingdom. (At least the women can drive now.) The author has lived in the Middle East for several years, and is currently Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times. He formed many friendships with people in MBS’s orbit, and the result is a well researched, 360 perspective of this cruel and mercurial leader. It is difficult to read about Jamal Khashoggi, a gentle man who only wanted the best for the kingdom. 

This is a good read, and it also offers a surprising look into the machinations of our own country. I do confess to being fearful for the life of Ben Hubbard. 

Reviewed by Chris Jones 

Fiction                 

American Dirt by Jeannine Cummins (Contemporary Fiction)

 Given the politics of the day, we have all heard about the thousands of Mexicans and citizens of Central America trying to enter the United States.  We heard that families gave their last cent to see their children free from the crime and brutality of their areas, so why do we need another reminder.

When I read American Dirt, I knew immediately that the descriptions of the brutality were too graphic for our Teachers’ Book Club, but I also knew that it had to be read.

American Dirt is the story of the brutal murder of an entire family, everyone but a mother and her young son.  The mother recognizes that, for the cartel to complete the job, she and her son must be tracked down and killed.  Her only hope is asylum in Estado Unidense.

Reviewed by Lucy DiRenzo

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (Fiction)     

 A marvelous National Jewish Book Award Winner book. It is a great tale rotating between the 1660’s and 2000-01, describing letters secreted in several cavities in an old house near London. The letters reveal the life of the times and the writer as well as the lives of the researchers who translate them. The lives intertwine in fascinating ways. Tis a long book, but well worth the time invested.

Reviewed by Judy Danielson

Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer (Maine Fiction)

 Inhabiting a small island off the coast of Maine left to her by her uncle, solitary artist Hannah seems resolved that this will be her life.  One day she finds a dog washed up on the shore and this begins to change her outlook.  Her first comment to the dog is to the effect that she isn’t sure the island is large enough for both of them. Soon a teen-age boy is sent to live with her and life moves on in very different ways than she had assumed. The characters in this book are interesting and pull you into their stories.  Very enjoyable fiction published back in 2005.

Reviewed by Connie Locashio

The Awkward Squad, by Sophie Hénaff (Mystery)

 Commissaire Capestan was home wallowing in her six-month suspension from the Paris Police Department, having fired one bullet too many. She was suspicious, then, when she was called into the office to discuss a new opportunity. Her assignment: she will command an innovative new group of police officers. The catch: this group will consist of ‘The drunkards, the thugs, the depressives, the layabouts, and everyone in between…’ who hamstring the department and can’t be fired.

I feel that the author is France’s answer to Louise Penney; her writing is clever, crisp, funny and the mystery keeps you guessing – a thoroughly satisfying read! (The Cary will be ordering this one.)

Reviewed by Chris Jones 

Stick Together, by Sophie Hénaff (Mystery)

 The second book in this series could be a manual for new managers as Commissaire Capestan deftly motivates her ragtag band. Somehow each officer’s unique flaws contribute to the Gestalt of the whole, and it works. I appreciate observing the character development, and look forward to book 3 in the series. 

Reviewed by Chris Jones

Long Range by C.J. Box.  ((Western/Mystery)

 Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett is on the trail of a victim of a grizzly attack when he is called back for an emergency. Someone shot the wife of a prominent judge. The shot from 1600 yards away leads to a very special shooter.  Another winner from C.J. Box

Reviewed by Steve Dodge

My Name Is Eva by Suzanne Goldring  (Historical Fiction)

 My Name is Eva is historical fiction which takes place in England and Germany during the war
and after the war ended and again in a nursing home in 2019.
The format is letters Eva writes to her husband Hugh who is killed in Germany. She volunteers to work for the occupation in Germany and oversee the repatriation of Poles and Germans and meet’s Hugh’s commanding officer. The story picks up later in England where she meets him again. It is a page turner.


Reviewed by Lucy DiRenzo

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman (Fiction)

 “my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry”, a novel by Fredrik Backman was published in Swedish in 2013.  It is the author’s second book.  The following is a quote from the last chapter in the book.  “You never say goodbye in the Land-of-Almost-Awake.  You just say, “See you later.”  It’s important to people in the “Land-of-Almost Awake that it should be this way, because they believe that nothing really ever completely dies.  It just turns into a story, undergoes a little shift in grammar, changes tense from “now” to “then.”  How do you live a life? 

Elsa is seven years old and different.  Her Grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy.  She is also Elsa’s best and only friend.  When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins.   This is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights, the right to be different.  

I admit that it took me several chapters to get into the rhythm and style of the writing, but soon I was carried away to the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the tales of the people. Probably one of the most unusual books I have ever read. Give it a chance. You won’t be sorry you did.   

Reviewed by Jill Howes

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Historical Fiction) 

 This book won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2013. McBride’s novel takes the reader back to the years before the Harper’s Ferry raid that took place in 1859.  The author depicts an incredibly charismatic John Brown, AKA “The Old Man” who worked for years in the Kansas territories battling slaveholders and working to free slaves however he could. Brown is depicted with affection and humor. His dream was to rescue all enslaved people by staging an uprising back east.  

McBride is a wonderful writer, and the dialect he uses is not only effective in telling his story but also greatly entertaining in a Mark Twain kind of way.  Abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman make appearances. The narration is terrific, told through the eyes of a rescued slave boy–but oh wait, he disguises himself as a girl. Loyalty is a main theme of the book–to the Old Man and to the Abolition movement–and it becomes a matter of life and death. I learned a lot and enjoyed the action-packed story, which as we know would end unsuccessfully. John Brown’s indomitable spirit lingered long after I finished. McBride is the author of The Color of Water, a moving and much-loved memoir.  

Reviewed by Janet Adelberg

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Fiction)

 A back Texas Ranger goes into Aryan Brotherhood territory to solve the covered-up murders of a Chicago black man and a local white woman. A good read for the murder mystery fans.         

Reviewed by Steve Dodge