Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood During World War II
Rarely talked about, and written about even less, the deportation of Poles to Siberia by the Russians was nearly as brutal and just as senseless as the Jewish Holocaust. Thousands of people were killed before the journey even began, and thousands more died along the way. Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood During World War II tells one family’s story of a life ripped away.
With German aggression a real threat, Krysia and her family fear the Nazis more than anything else. After the initial invasion in 1939, they know their lives will change. However, the changes come not from Germany but from the Soviet Union. An agreement to split the territory between the two nations results in her family being exiled to Siberia and her father going into hiding. Told from the perspective and memories of 10-year-old Krysia, the book is an excellent way to introduce younger audiences to the truth about World War II without overwhelming them with the true horrors of the acts committed by brutal leaders.
Chicago Review Press
Krystyna Mihulka • Krystyna Poray Goddu
The Game Warden’s Son
When two fishermen tried to conceal the red meat bait in their cooler, warden Steven Callan and his colleague suspected an illegal kill. Their suspicions are confirmed when they spy a flock of vultures nearby feasting on a wild burro carcass with its hind leg removed. Not for the squeamish maybe, but all in the day’s work for Steven Callan, who followed his father’s footsteps as the title suggests, and recently retired from his years with the California Department of Fish and Game. On lists of favorite careers, game warden surely comes close to the top. Even if the sun didn’t invariably shine as Callan would have us believe, life could be pretty attractive spent along the California coast protecting wildlife on land and sea.
A witty and enlightening memoir, The Game Warden’s Son brims over with tales of stake-outs using disguises and subterfuge to trap transgressors. The wardens’ experiences are a revelation as Callan describes miscreants illegally nabbing endangered abalones and duck, slaughtering deer for meat or antlers, trading in bear claws to adorn Indian jewelry, and finding other inventive ways to challenge the law.
The book outlines routine day to day work in a series of lighthearted chapters, but focuses on the offenses poachers and hunters mistakenly believe they can get away with. The book’s slang or jargon related to wildlife is a fun bonus and makes the timely account of environmental protection even more enjoyable.
There is something profoundly fearless about Astonishments the new book by author Marian Armstrong Rogers. The book begins with images, memories of a long remembered and revisited moment in the authors’ life. A brown-shingled house on a hill, a collie dog, a school assembly, and a blue-eyed boy named Johnny. Johnny the young man would become her first husband. Yet despite the fairytale setting of the couple’s early years, each passage is written by the adult Rogers with muted notes of regret. Married life turns into parenthood. Mental illness and an affair quickly follow. Her second husband, Sam, brings to the story a heightened sense of love renewed, until he develops Alzheimer’s disease.
This is an unusual biography, there is an openness from the very beginning. The author is exposed and makes no attempts to pull the reader back or gloss over details. The mental associations found in the book are vast and vivid throughout this fast-moving book.
Honest and courageous, Astonishments is a book everyone should read as the progress and look back on their lives. Its’ a literary undertaking anyone should embark on whenever they need perspective or assess their future.
One of the most fascinating aspects about reading this compelling book is how much of a page-turner it truly is, and just how addicting it becomes. This is a rare achievement for a work of nonfiction and a near impossibility for a memoir or biography. Yet, the author’s voice is so rich and strong, that it seems to reach in and pull the reader forward. Those who don’t naturally enjoy nonfiction may complain about the level of descriptive details and the flowery recollections of the author. To such complaints I will only reply with a mild eye roll. This is a work of such merit, that it could serve on the defense of CreateSpace, as a perfect embodiment of what an author can achieve in this new exciting era of publishing.
Which brings me to the one frustration I have with the project, and its a real legitimate concern that I feel limits the authors’ book. This fine memoir was published through Amazons’ CreateSpace and not a traditional publisher. This gave her more freedom in the books structure, but denies her additional exposure. Despite this one personal concern, I still have very high hopes for this book. Marion Armstrong Rogers is a fine author and she should be very proud.
Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams
Louisa Adams was the sixth First Lady of the United States. She was far more complicated than a simple title. Louisa Catherine Johnson was born in London to Joshua and Catherine. Her father was a merchant who wouldn’t wed Catherine until after all their children had been born. Louisa would acquire an independent streak while spending time with good friends of her parents. Louisa would meet John Quincy Adams in 1795, John originally courting Catherine’s sister. John would hold off on marriage until his law practice was established, Louisa and her parents questioning the wait. John Quincy had held a position as diplomat in Holland and had been offered a position in Prussia. He would assume the job and marry Louisa in 1797. Financial trouble with her family would lead to martial strain, Louisa would make the most of her time in Prussia socializing with the royals while enduring the pain of multiple miscarriages. The pain would eventually subside with the welcoming of sons, George Washington Adams, John Adams. She would journey to America with her family where John Quincy would be elected to the Senate. Louisa would journey with her husband and youngest son to Russia in 1809 where John Quincy reigned as ambassador. Her separation from her other children, the loss of her only daughter, and her estrangement from John Quincy made for tough times. Her marriage weathered many crises and doubts, eventually John Quincy would be elected to the Presidency in 1824, making Louisa First Lady. Unfortunately, four years of quiet would not be in the cards.
Louisa Thomas’ biography of Louisa Adams reads like a novel. The book is full of complex personalities, such as Louisa, John Quincy Adams, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Adams, and Henry Clay. Louisa Adams is presented as a woman who loved her husband, her children, her family (Johnson & Adams), but also stubborn, depressed, and spoiled. She was possessed of a complex dynamic, but was never dull. She would be the story teller in writing her history, but not always completely honest with her readers or herself. The truth may not be what is wanted, but it is what counts.
Crowning Glory — An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise
Stacy has had an unhealthy obsession with her own locks since middle school, when a careless remark brought unwanted attention to her hairs deficiencies. Add to this the issues shes had with men and relationships, and going out in general, and shes had a lot to handle.
On a whim, she purchases a long, red wig, and notices not only the way people respond to her but also changes in her behavior. These events lead her to do an experiment using the same wig in various natural hair colors. In addition to doing important fashion research, it keeps her busy and focused for several weeks, perhaps stopping her critical evaluation of herself and her unpredictable states of psychosis.
She finds an assistant to help with observing and tabulating information, and sets up the experiment. She will wear basic black, tailored for various locations, in New York City, so the focus stays on the hair color. The last week, her control week, will be her natural hair, in the same clothing and the same general places. Her observations from each hair color red, black, blond, and brown include her honest take on her personality changes as she dons the locks about the city. She incorporates her assistants notes and includes related events that happen outside the experiments parameters.
Her honest recap of events sometimes borders on too much information, but helps to show her personal growth throughout the experiment. Her quick, witty self-evaluation during various phases of her experiment bring humor and lightness to something that could have been dry and boring, but is instead engaging and intellectually stimulating. Photographs that coordinate with each chapter help to bring visual interest. Even though the experiment did not strictly follow the accepted scientific research method, those reading this out of pure personal interest may find themselves agreeing with her findings and wondering about the role of hair color in society.
The World We Left Behind
As The World We Left Behind, a Journey from Georgia to Maine begins, author John Morris is at a very low point in his young life. Still only in his twenties, he feels overwhelmed with futility. He lives in the North Carolina community where he grew up. With no college education, he works the night shift at a nuclear facility, in a job he believes will lead nowhere. He has recently broken up with the woman hes been living with, and he finds himself lonely and trapped in a nearly empty apartment. Over and over again, he contemplates leaving everything behind, drawn to the idea of taking to the Appalachian Trail. He spends the first 90 pages of the book in a state of ennuibemoaning his dead end job, in various stages of alcoholic stupor, and stocking up on hiking equipment he fears he may never use. He is stuck. The challenges of abandoning everything he knows and embarking on the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail are daunting.
Finally, however, Morris frustration with his status quo wins out. He leaves new girlfriend Melody and travels with his hiking pal, Torry, to Gainesville, Georgia, just a couple of hours from Springer Mountain, where the Appalachian Trail begins. Its here where thru-hikersthose who hike the entire trailset out.
Morris plans to hike all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maines Baxter State Park. To reach his destination, he must hike through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. He is not prepared, physically or psychologically, for the rigors of the trip. Cold and filthy, hes constantly exhausted under the weight of his pack. Hes brought with him too many things he doesnt need and has left behind some essential equipmentincluding a water filter to purify his drinking water. The trail is often more crowded than Morris had anticipated. He meets some potentially interesting fellow thru-hikers along the way, including folks with great trail names, like Hopper, Woodstock, and Bubblegum, but, somehow, the reader never really gets acquainted with these folks. Perhaps its because Morris never seems to make a true connection with them. For example, about CookIN, a former shop teacher from Indiana, Morris writes, I wondered how you went from being a shop teacher to wanting to walk a 2,199-mile trail but I never thought to ask him
The most compelling part of The World We Left Behind comes toward the end of the book, when Morris describes a near-disastrous solo hike. In this section, the reader feels the cold and terror of Morris experience, and it makes for a great read. One cant help but admire Morris for having the courage to leave the comforts of home and embark on a rigorous, months-long hike. His book reads something like a journal: He relates his day-to-day adventures and shares plenty about the mistakes he makes along the way and the physical challenges he faces. But he shares few of the insights one would expect such a personal quest to provide.
The book is a lengthy one, and this is just the first volume in a trilogy: As this first book comes to an end, Morris has made it only as far as Tennessee. The story would be strengthened, as would the readers enjoyment, with a disciplined editing and a focus that reveals more of the writers inner journey, as well as his outer one.