Thursday, July 9, 2020

Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen Children's Stories Easy Classics

I love books that introduce children to the great classics. 

My own introduction to the classics was through the Classics Illustrated Comic Books. My large collection included favorites The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, Lord Jim, Ivanhoe, and Jane Eyre. By the time I was eleven I was tackling the novels themselves. When our son was growing up I found abridged paperbacks of the classics which inspired him to read his favorites which included H. G. Wells and Jack London.

What could be better than Jane Austen for young readers! 

Pride and Prejudice has been adapted as plays and for movies and television since at least 1890 according to Devoney Looser in The Making of Jane Austen. The bare bones of the plot sequence is so well known by nearly everyone. 

This Easy Classics book includes all the expected scenes. But this retelling also catches Austen's irony. 

Chapter 1 begins with, of course, Mrs. Bennet telling her husband about the rich man who has moved into the neighborhood a good news. Mr. Bennet is described as reading his newspaper and "growing tired of his wife's excitement." Proclaiming that their daughters may benefit because the single man "must want a wife" causes Mr. Bennett to exchange a smile with Lizzy. 

Pride and Prejudice is part of the Jane Austen Children's Stories  which includes Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Love and Friendship. The UK edition includes a free audio book download. The series is suitable for children through Middle School.

What a wonderful resource!

The book is fully illustrated.

I was given a free ebook by the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen Children's Stories
by Jane Austen,  adapted by Gemma Barder
Sweet Cherry Publishing
Pub Date July 9, 2020 
paperback £6.99 (GBP)
UK (plus audio) edition ISBN: 9781782266136
US (Americanized) edition ISBN: 9781782267553

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

American Follies by Norman Lock

Norman Lock's American Novels have historical settings and characters but they are more than 'historical fiction;' America's character and development is revealed in his books, shedding light on the issues that we still struggle with today, including the treatment of African Americans and women's continuing struggle for equality.

I have been lucky to have read a number of Lock's seven books in this series. His newest installment, American Follies, is startling and disorienting, the characters morphing into action heroes, reality twisting into a nightmare.

A pregnant Ellen Finley seeks employment as a typist for the infamous suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Ellen tells them her husband has gone to California to start a newspaper, but noting their displeasure at her married state, Ellen weeps crocodile tears and admits she is unmarried. The women sweep Ellen into their household as their latest pet project.

Ellen meets Harriet, a diminutive woman from Barnum's circus. Harriet takes a shine to Ellen and introduces her to the other circus performers, contortionists and clowns and sideshow acts whose differences excluded them from society.

After the birth of Ellen's baby, her world becomes unrecognizable. Her child is discovered to be mulatto and the KKK steals the babe. The suffragettes and Ellen, aided by Barnum and the circus folk, set on a journey across the country to save the child.

Ellen's postpartum delirium reveals the sickness at the heart of America. The poor are the enemy, filling the asylums and workhouses. Walls are built to keep out the Mexicans. Women seeking self-determination are to be burnt as witches. And the child of miscenegration is to be sacrificed at the altar of White Supremacy.
History is one smashup piled on top of another, the shards glued together with irony.~ from American Follies by Norman Lock 
"I wrote of the nightmare that was, and is, America for the disenfranchised and powerless," Lock writes in the Afterward.

American Follies takes us into the madhouse that is America, tracing the serpentine and insidious illness of hate that has infected our 244-year history.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss. My review is fair and unbiased.

American Follies
Norman Lock
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Trade Paperback $16.99 USD, $22.99 CAD, £12.99 GBP, €17.99 EUR
ISBN: 9781942658481, 1942658486

Read Lock on his series here
Read my review of previous books in the series
 A Boy in his Winter here
The Wreckage of Eden here
The Feast Day of the Cannibals here

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell

Having some trauma was called being alive.~ from The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell

In one day, the lives of the residents of a New York City apartment building are forever changed.

Caroline lived in the penthouse and had fancy dolls and a beautiful view and a distant, unreliable, father.

The superintendent's daughter Ruby grew up in the basement apartment down the hall from the garbage and laundry and boiler rooms.

Caroline and Ruby played dolls and make-believe as kids. They both studied art in college and graduated during the recession in 2008.

Caroline is supported by her parents as she creates marble sporks.

Ruby must support herself and takes the only job available, working in a coffee shop, her childhood dream of creating dioramas on hold.

When Ruby's boyfriend decides she isn't ambitious enough, they part ways and Ruby has nowhere to go but home, knowing her dad Martin will fume over the waste of an expensive education.

I graduated in 1978 with an English major. Jobs were scarce and I had to work at a department store before 'stepping up' to customer service in insurance and then moving into sales. Our son graduated in 2008 with a creative writing major. It was two years before he got a job, $9/hr work from home in customer service. Ten years later, he is doing well as a data analyst. We do what we have to do.  Ruby's predicament resonated with me!

What would Martin's dream job be? He never had one. He had jobs for getting by.~ from The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell

Martin is hard working, stressed, and frankly, bitter. He uses meditation to tamp down the stress. But he is on-call 24-7, asked to do all the dirty jobs. Pull out hair clogs in the bathroom drain, killing the pigeons that nest on the window ledges, kicking the homeless out of the hallway. He hates what he does, but he does it to keep his home. It reminded my of my father-in-law; his dad died of TB when he was a boy and he could not afford college. He worked for the CCC to support his mom. He ended up in a job at Buick in Flint in scheduling. He hated his job. But he supported three boys through college.

Hard times--depression, recession, natural disaster, pandemic--hit most of us in ways that the wealthy don't experience.

People believe they are friendly and supportive with their gifts of  Starbucks and MetroCard gift cards, but who needs coffee house gift cards when you are living in a windowless basement apartment with a discarded 1980s couch with cows on it and your bed is a repurposed elevator box?

It reminded me of all the Christmas cookies we received over the years from parishioners. We needed cold, hard cash, not calories. We wanted parsonage upgrades so I could fit a turkey in the wall oven or a replacement for the kitchen floor that permanently stained when our son dropped a strawberry.

There is nothing worse than living in provided housing, dependent on your job performance and keeping people happy, knowing at any time you could be asked to leave. Knowing how it would disrupt your family's life if you fail.

The tenants pretend to be friends with the super and his family. Noblesse oblige is alive and well. The people upstairs realize their power.

And it is making Martin crazy.

Tensions mount between Martin and Ruby, each desperately seeking the other's approval. They both go a little crazy. Bad things happen.

In the end, Ruby and Martin discover that the worst that can happen can lead to a better life.

The Party Upstairs pries open the doors to reveal the class divide, how the poor hobble themselves to unfulfilled lives out of fear. It is the story of breaking free and allowing oneself to make life choices that may not align with predominate values.

I was given a free ebook by the publisher through Edelweiss. My review is fair and unbiased.

The Party Upstairs
by Lee Conell
Penguin Press
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
ISBN: 9781984880277, 1984880276
Hardcover $26.00 USD, $35.00 CAD

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU's 100-Year Fight for Rights in America

In 2016 my husband was one of a million people who donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a reaction to the election of Donald J. Trump. He told me he didn't always agree with them, such as supporting hate groups rights to free speech, but he did believe in their mission of protecting civil liberties.

I had read about Ruth Ginsberg's work with the ACLU in Conversations with RBG. I wanted to know more about the history and legacy of the ACLU.

Democracy, If We Can Keep It  by Ellis Cose was often fascinating, especially when dealing with the landmark cases, but some places I speed read.

Throughout American history, the federal government has enacted laws that reflected popular anxiety but threatened civil rights. As this history shows, the limiting of civil liberties has not been relegated to one time or one side of the political spectrum. Democracy is an ongoing experiment.

The ACLU has continually developed and honed its mission in response to a changing world. Its history is a history of America and the continual fight for the freedom of speech and dissent.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America
by Ellis Cose
The New Press
Pub Date July 7,2020
ISBN: 9781620973837
hardcover $38.99 (CAD)

from the publisher
Published to coincide with the ACLU’s centennial, a major new book by the nationally celebrated journalist and bestselling author
For a century, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought to keep Americans in touch with the founding values of the Constitution. As its centennial approached, the organization invited Ellis Cose to become its first ever writer-in-residence, with complete editorial independence. 
The result is Cose’s groundbreaking Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America, the most authoritative account ever of America’s premier defender of civil liberties. A vivid work of history and journalism, Democracy, If We Can Keep It is not just the definitive story of the ACLU but also an essential account of America’s rediscovery of rights it had granted but long denied. Cose’s narrative begins with World War I and brings us to today, chronicling the ACLU’s role through the horrors of 9/11, the saga of Edward Snowden, and the phenomenon of Donald Trump.
A chronicle of America’s most difficult ethical quandaries from the Red Scare, the Scottsboro Boys’ trials, Japanese American internment, McCarthyism, and Vietnam, Democracy, If We Can Keep It weaves these accounts into a deeper story of American freedom—one that is profoundly relevant to our present moment.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

This is a story of mothers.

There was the mother who would not protect her daughter and the mother who abandoned her daughter.

The daughters become mothers, one by mistake and the other through great endeavor.

And there are the other Mothers, the Greek Chorus women of Upper Room Church, the women who pray and get things done--and spread the rumors.

There is the First Lady, the pastor's wife, mother of Luke, the handsome and thoughtless boy who grows to be a handsome and unreliable man.

It is the story of two girls and one boy, the tangled web of their silence and secrets.

It is the story of gender and power, the double-edged sword of ending an unwanted pregnancy, the way we categorize people as good or bad when good people do bad things, too.

These deeply flawed characters are each in their way heartbreaking as they break each other's hearts.

The audiobook is excellent. I only wish I could have marked special sentences and passages!

I received a free audiobook from the publisher. My review is fair and unbiased.

The Mothers
by Brit Bennett (Goodreads Author), Adenrele Ojo (Narrator)
ISBN0735288267 (ISBN 13: 9780735288263)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Ford Times, April 1978; Will the Kirtland's Warblers Return?

The April, 1978 issue of the Ford Times featured a cover by Charlie Harper, with more illustrations inside. The article asks, "Will the Kirtland's Warbler Return?" The Kirtland Warbler lives in one small area of the world, in Michigan's Jack Pine forest.

The Kirtland Warbler winters in the Bahamas and returns to Michigan, to a habitat of under 50 square miles. The birds nest in the sandy soil known as Grayling sand.

Author Jean Ducey notes that at the time of her writing, the entire world's population weighed 12 pounds, consisting of 200 breeding pairs.

The Jack Pine cones only open with fire. The article states that the U. S. Forest Service completed a 500-acre burn and rotates the cutting and planting of trees on a five-year cycle. 

Camp Grayling cut back on tank training, Mio and Grayling provided guides and daily tours to control visitors, and studies were being made to determine the if the use of pesticides, area resort development, and weather change were impacting the populaiton.

Today, with continual human intervention to protect their habitat, the warblers number around 2000.
The Kirtland's Warbler Audubon photo
This issue includes articles on olden times childhood pranks (like outhouse tipping), recipes for carp, and baseball's wonderful fans. 

The Car Buy's Digest highlighted the new Ford cars.

The Fairmont EPA fuel estimate was 33 mpg highway and 23 city. It had "space age technology" with "computer modeling."
My mother had a Fiesta. It got an amazing 46 mpg highway and 34 city. It was built in Germany.

The Mustang II came in the Cobra II, Mach I, and King Cobra models.MPG was 33 for higheay and 23 for city.

"A Thunderbird for a special occasion," created for the Thunderbird Diamond Jubilee, had many 'custom touches' and rated 22 mpg highway.
The Pinto was a small, thrifty car. 35 mpg highway and 25 city.

Also included are the LTD, LTD II, Granada, and station wagons.

I am surprised by the decent gas mileage of these cars! Compare them to the 2020 models here.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Ford Times: Special Issue on Environment, July 1970

The July 1970 issue of the Ford Times cover art is by Charlie Harper for the article "The Bald Eagle: America's Vanishing Symbol."

"He's in trouble because a good idea backfired," wrote author Boyce Rensberger.
I remember summer of 1963 listening to the radio and hearing a man discuss the eagle as endangered. This article discusses food chains, which Harper illustrated below, and how DDT in the food chain affected wildlife.
"In the Great Lakes states, where DDT level are high, only four percent of the nesting pairs are still able to reproduce," the author warns.

Luckily, DDT was banned and today in Michigan eagles are frequently seen. Just this week my brother, camping in the Upper Peninsula, caught this eagle in the middle of the road!

n article noted that in 1913 Henry Ford supported the migratory bird act, along with Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and Thomas Edison. 

Ford's River Rouge complex was featured in an article on Ford's "battle against air pollution." By the 1960s, smog was affecting Dearborn neighborhoods. Ford spent $66 million to clean the air, but technology was limited. "300 engineers work full-time on the challenge," Frank Grady wrote. Ford only spent $50 million to develop the Mustang. 
"Everybody Loves Smokey the Bear" informs that Smokey getting 5,000 letters a week from fans.
Some of the letters are included. One reads,  "I would like to baby sit for Smokey. I am nine years old and I am not afraid of bears. your friend, Rhonda G."

Some of us Boomers remember the early 1970s and The Population Bomb scare that humanity was reproducing to levels that would cause mass destruction. "We're Running Out of Elbow Room!" is filled with warnings. First, the author claims that crime increases with population density because of psychological stress. The article concludes without answers, but says that one planner suggests better city planning.
"The Silent '70 Ford" had a muffler "improved with the addition of an asbestos wrapper."
 I noted the use of a black model in the article.
"Ford's Campaign to Control Auto Emissions" begins, "it would take three 1970 Ford cars to emit as much hydro-carbons and carbon monoxide" as was released by one 1960 model. Non-lead gas was "on the way" and research into alternatives to the internal combustion engine was noted to have been going on since 1952.
"National Parks are for People" included photographs by Bill Schmidt.
Cars + Parks = Camping.

"Camping....Why Do It?" is a humorous look at camping. Jean Riss writes,
"Sanitary facilities" Criminy! The simple problem of constructing a latrine in the wilderness tells more in half an hour about a man--his patience and ingenuity, his grasp of engineering principles, psychology, esthetics and the prevailing winds--that you could hope to learn on a world cruise."
 The issue ends with a Torino ad.
Ford Motor Company began publishing The Ford Times in 1908. The last issue came out in 1993. I was given a collection of copies from the 1960s and 1970s.