Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary- Banned Book Week

It’s banned book week – a week in the US where we celebrate the beauty and truth in the books that others found controversial. There are few American authors, in recent years, who has been questioned and banned more often in our schools than Howard Zinn.


Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary is a compilation of entries from Zinn’s journal  that he wrote while he was teaching at Spelman College in Georgia during the winter/spring of 1963-64. This is, of course, during the rising strength of the Civil Rights Movement with Georgia being at the hub of the student activism. Being an activist himself, his years at the college allowed him a closeness to the student activists across Georgia and, ultimately, the south. While Zinn wrote about his time at Spelman in a previous publication, it was only after his death when his papers were opened and released that his journal was discovered. Through his writings, one can see how Zinn was instrumental in bringing about legal social change that he had hoped would lead to a different mindset regarding racial interaction and racism as a whole.


In truth, Howard Zinn is one of my favorite authors. There are few of his works that I haven’t read. His book, A People’s History of US, was and still is a mainstay in our home and was used to teach US history in our homeschool. It is often banned in schools when parents discover that it is a truthful account of this nation’s very sordid history rather than simply perpetuating the  myths with which Americans have been indoctrinated by the white elite. His writings always are an unvarnished, well documented commentary on our nation and its people and this diary certainly is no different. It is a tough, truthful look at the deep south and the struggle for African Americans to gain the freedoms that all Americans should enjoy without question. It is a personal account of the protests, marches and sit-ins that were occurring during this time. Having lived through this period and later as a protestor who has campaigned for equal rights for all, it was especially interesting to see our experiences retold. However, the message throughout his book is this: the struggle has not ended, racism in America still is rampant and, sadly, it is growing in fervor once again.

If there is one point that I want to convey in this review it is this: this is not your average non-fiction book, none of Zinn’s books are that. They are written with the average person in mind, they are readable and always they are eye opening and enlightening.

I highly encourage you to read Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary and afterward to pick up a copy of A People’s History of the US. I guarantee you that you will be shocked and will understand why educators are fighting to have it taught in their schools and, conversely, whey the anti-intellectuals do not want it there at all. It is a great read for Banned Book Week 2018.

Huge appreciation to the University of Georgia Press, #RobertCohen and #Edelweiss for my review copy of this amazing book!


My Real Name is Hannah

My Real Name is Hannah is a beautifully written story based on a compilation of real life stories.


The story is told from the perspective of a young Ukrainian girl set during WWII. It is the story of struggle and survival at a time when it was a death sentence to be a Jew. I was unclear while reading the book if it was meant to be for adults or, perhaps, teens but the simplistic writing style would suggest that latter. One of the aspects that I most enjoyed was the author’s inclusion of Ukrainian folk tales. Unless one is very interested in eastern literature, and I am, then I’m sure that these will be new and enlightening.

My Real Name is Hannah is now sale at your local bookstore and can be found in most libraries. I also suggest that you read Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

What’s Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone

What’s Left Unsaid is an intimate look at a family shackled by its secrets…


A compelling family drama that spans decades, What’s Left Unsaid is the tale of the Klein family that has been torn apart by the secrets that they kept from one another.

Sasha is barely keeping her life together as she raises a surly, quite snotty, teenage boy. Her husband, Jeremy is often traveling and, soon into the book, leaves Sasha to pursue his “dream.” Sasha’s mother, Annie, who never has cared for Sasha, has dementia and ultimately cancer, and her father, whom she adored, is dead – although, he cleverly has his input throughout the book.

As Zac, the son, attempts to uncover the family secrets, we see the horrors that this family has endured since the beginning of the 20th century; horrors that has greatly impacted this family.

Normally I adore family dramas, especially when they fall on the noir side. However, I never quite connected with these characters, which is odd because many of their “secrets” are those that my own family has encountered. No family is perfect, of course, we all have these secrets that we keep from another and “the greatest generation,” those who survived the trauma of WWII, seem to hide more than most. Perhaps it was that there were too many horrors for one person to have experienced that led me to feel it was a bit overdone. Annie had to have been one of the most unlucky women to ever live and, as a result, I came to distain her rather than find her sympathetic. She then continued the horror by abusing her daughter, Sasha who, in turn, raised a teenager that was allowed to do whatever he pleased and was rewarded for being a snot with a “gap year” trip around the globe all while his parents marriage was crumbling and his grandmother was dying.

On one hand I found the research and historic elements of What’s Left Unsaid fascinating. I learned quite a lot about England’s side of WWII. However, because the story is told in three parts; Sasha/Annie, then Joe and back to Sasha/Annie, the story became repetitive. Yes, we were getting a different viewpoint with each telling but there had to be a better way of doing so. The ending also was very abrupt. I didn’t feel closure, nor did I feel hopeful for Sasha. It was all rather muddled.

I think there are readers who will find this book fascinating and there are those who will connect with this family. Because of that I’m rating it 3.5 stars.

Thank you to Matador Books and #Netgalley for my copy of What’s Left Unsaid.

The Witch Elm #tanafrench

Love LOVE and more LOVE for #TheWitchElm by the amazing Tana French!!


Amicable Toby is a happy-go-lucky guy who fancies himself as one the “The Lucky Ones.” He has a great job, although he did create a major mess there  – but he sorted out his mess so it’s all good. He has an amazing girlfriend to whom he is faithful, except for a bit of a roving eye. And he has two terrific mates who love him, at least he thinks they do. But Toby’s luck is about to change when he is brutally beaten and robbed in his own apartment. Left for dead, in and out of consciousness for weeks, Toby is trying to put his life back together again while recuperating at his uncle’s home, The Ivy House, where he and his two cousins summered throughout their childhood and teens. That is, until a human skull is found in the Wych Elm, yes a cute play on words there, isn’t it? Poor Toby – is anything that he thought true and real actually what it had seemed?

Let me be frank with you, I only dabble in Tana French’s series, The Dublin Murder Squad. There are those that I absolutely adore and then there are those that I barely make it through. French does such an incredible, amazing job at developing her characters that if I don’t connect with them, I don’t enjoy the book. The Witch Elm, however, is a stand-alone and I love – have I already used the word love – Toby! My son’s name is Toby and, ironically, my Toby and this Toby are very, VERY similar. It’s not hard to see why I connected with the book, is it?

More importantly, though, French creates a supporting cast of characters that are quirky, irritating, affable, hilarious and oh so very flawed. Through them, as they either look for the killer or attempt to cover up for the killer, we learn about family, forgiveness, love, mistakes, second-chances and, sadly, death. While there is definitely mystery and suspense here, this is not a “thriller.” It is a slow simmering, beautifully written examination of family, particularly a family in crisis.

Interestingly, as I have read other reviews and previews of the book, they seem to be divided into die-hard fans of the DMS and the rest of us and the ratings reflect that division. This is a book that stands on its own as a marvelously written, creative work that is well worth reading by die-hard fans as well as those of us who simply appreciate a well told tale. Well done Ms. French!

FIVE emerald green Irish Stars for The Witch Elm.

I could not be more appreciative to #TanaFrench, #Edelweiss and @Viking for my advanced copy of #TheWitchElm. It will be available at your usual book outlets on October 9, 2018.

Penitence @MarkDCampbell

A deadly influenza pandemic. An escaped convict. 
A single mother desperate to protect her only child.  Dystopic fiction at its best!


This is me reading outside of my comfort zone again – no, wait, I think apocalyptic/dystopic fiction may actually be something I like. The Stand, The Road, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale…. yeah, okay, I really like this genre just fine. And I like it even more after reading Mark Campbell’s new book, Penitence. 

Set in the near future, Penitence opens with a scene from anyone’s worst nightmare: a poultry farm worker is exposed to a new strain of avian flu, one that can jump species. It is fast moving, fast acting and deadly! Within a week the nation is in crisis, although the government does a fine job of lying to the people about the severity of the outbreak. Marshall Law is declared and the nation goes into panic mode. Well, almost the entire nation. A population that is forgotten resides within the prison walls. It is here that we meet Teddy Sanders, a lifer who stays alive by sticking to his routines and keeping his head down low. For Teddy, whatever is happening on the other side of the prison walls couldn’t be nearly as bad as what is happening on the inside. As chaos erupts in the prison. with an unprecedented mortality rate wiping out both prisoners and guards, Teddy realizes he has to make an escape or die of thirst and starvation. In an epic “battle” scene, Teddy fights his way to freedom only to discover a world that has collapsed. For Teddy, survival is second nature but is he willing to do anything to survive in this new world order?

From the moment I began reading until the very last page, the action never stopped. With the exception of the beginning scenario, Penitence is told exclusively through the eyes of Teddy Sanders: a killer, bank robber and convict. We learn of his fears, regrets, hatreds, disgust, and, ultimately his love. Sanders is one of the best drawn anti-heroes that I have come across since The Man in McCarthy’s, The Road. His story is heartbreaking and compelling, violent and good-hearted and, ultimately hopeful.

Campbell has worked inside of the US prison system and his experience shows throughout the book. The prison scenes are graphically drawn, horrendous, horrifying and action-packed. I’m not sure I’ve ever read of a prison scenario this well told. However, what I loved best about the book happens after Teddy leaves the prison. In a world that is dying, this section of the book could quite dark and depressing – and it is – but Teddy manages to find a woman and her son and the interaction between these characters is golden. Their relationship will rip your heart out and leaving it on the ground. It is stunningly beautiful.

I also appreciated Campbell’s knowledge of FEMA and Homeland Security. He not only gets their “official” line correct, he creates a world that is very much as most political analysts have described the future – FEMA and DHS are the new world order and Marshall Law strips away every last one of your perceived rights. Campbell could have taken this into a realm similar to King’s The Stand, where virtually no one is left alive and those who are alive are divided into Good vs Evil. Instead, this world is full of gray areas – good people doing bad things; bad people doing good things and a whole lot of government enforcers keeping “the peace” at any cost. Campbell, however, keeps an underlying feeling, just a tremor at times, of hope. In a world that is dead and dying, rather than being left depressed at the end of this book, I felt hopeful. The ending is absolutely amazing and it is worth reading the entire book just to get to the final scene. I shouted, “I want MORE,” and I was thrilled to discover that there is at least one more book to come – HURRAY!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book regardless of the genres in which you normally hang. It is a book for the masses but especially for those who love speculative fiction, dystopic fiction and post-apocalyptic tales. If I could give this book 10 stars I would! Now go… find your copy here and read it.





untitledWelcome to WWW WEDNESDAY, originally hosted by Sam at TakingOnTheWorldofWords.  Each week you will answer THREE QUESTIONS:
What Are You Currently Reading
What Have You Just Finished Reading
What Will You Read Next
Once you’ve answered the question, post a link in the comments so that others can read your responses. Please be sure to read everyone’s replies, otherwise it is just an exercise in futility and a cute “meme” on your blog. Enjoy!

This week already has been a busy reading week. I was sick and in bed over the weekend and had too much time to knock out a lot of books on my MUST READ list.  So, currently I’m enjoying two books that will be featured during October’s Spooky Reads:

Both of these are very good so far but I think I will commit to finishing Something Wicked first.

I just finished two super terrific books that couldn’t be more different if they tried. Reviews for these two will be up before the week is over:

And yes, all of those were incredibly dark, a little depressing and caused me to want a lighter read which I will be doing fairly quickly. This gem, The Disappearing Spoon, is for Banned Book Week which begins on Sunday. I know it doesn’t look like a “lighter read” or even like a banned book, but trust me, it is both.


So – you know what to do. Post your answers and give me a link. I love seeing what you are up to each Wednesday. Happy Reading!

The Girl Made of Clay

A woman’s journey from anger to forgiveness…


First, let’s talk about the amazing cover artwork for this book. I just love it when authors and publishers put time and thought in the book cover. This was the entire reason I wanted to read The Girl Made of Clay.

Sara has a full life as a mom, wife, volunteer and her time is filled from morning until night. The last thing she needed was for her estranged father to re-enter her life, but enter he does after a devastating fire left him in the burn unit at a near-by hospital. TR, the father, is a sculptor whose most famous piece was based on Sara as a child. They once shared a very close relationship until he abandoned Sara, leaving her to care for her mentally ill mother. Caring for TR puts a further strain on Sara’s marriage which already was in trouble. How can she care for the man who left her – her husband or her father.

The author has given us an emotional story that explores the question of forgiveness and its healing powers. Unfortunately the characters that were drawn In The Girl Made of Clay were predictable and uninteresting. I never was able to fully connect with Sara and I couldn’t tolerate her husband, Charlie, or her father, TR. I did like her dog, Acer, very much. However, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why she wanted to forgive this man who was and had been terrible throughout his life. So, her son wanted to connect with his grandfather… so what. In the real world it isn’t always beneficial to “connect” or to “forgive” and yet we, as women, often are asked to do just that – for our own good. Perhaps it’s time to write books where men are not contemptible in the first place so that women didn’t have to spend their time learning about “forgiveness. There are many good books out there about dysfunctional families and the restorative power of forgiveness, unfortunately this is not one of them.

This was an advanced read from #Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing.