Big Stone Gap & Beyond

Big Stone Gap & Beyond: A Novel assumed published, copyright and written by John M. Vermillion.

The narration is provided by someone who has lived a millennium and fortunately the book’s opening contains a list and short explanation of the individual’s interrelationship to the large number of characters included in the story. Basically it is about the coal industry and those involved, largely from the minors’ level. It is split into three tales, the last following the life of Felix Forthright Fox a person of far advanced intellect who is bored with traditional school work, does not do well and is resentful with having to complete tasks he does not like. His forte is facing a problem, recognizing the core and developing an answer that will work. As an adult he progresses rapidly into a power within the coal industry, and as he grows older and matures, moves into other areas of endeavor compatible with this growth and change.

Discussion: This is the first of this author’s books this reviewer has read. He appears to be very well received, is a West Point Graduate with appropriate service and additionally has obtained three Master’s degrees. His characters are interesting, generate empathy, and the story’s pace is good. One particularly interesting feature is his ability to blend the story teller’s thoughts/beliefs into the thought patterns he provides through the characters. Thus, a most interesting and enjoyable read that supplies more usually unknown facts about a subject of particular importance at this particular time in history.

5* Interesting & enjoyable; particularly important at this time in history.

Mosquito Junction

#1

MOSQUITO JUNCTION Memories ISBN: 9781648039911 Westwood Books Publishing, LLC. Copyright and written by Robert S. Saito.

This is a memoir of a Japanese man from California who spent time as one of the members of an internee family during that fiasco in the US during WWII. From this beginning, it proceeds through a rambling life spent largely as an enlisted sailor after some schooling including attendance at a California junior college with assignments for the rest of his enlisted life mostly as a lifer second class petty officer and rising eventually to an E-6 grade enlisted man. Included are many changes in area of service (including many of which this reviewer did not even know existed, although spending tours of duty during WWII [4/44 – 3/46] and the Korean War [7/50 – 2/55]). His duty stations were somewhat removed from the ‘ordinary’ including a start in Mosquito Harbor and time in part of the Aleutian Island chain that is the last such U.S, Naval Base before the Russia owned territory. His duty assignments also included Viet Nam – First. Sea Bee Base Camp Faulkner which was past China Beach and check point Charlie along the Bon Son River. Second starting at Camp Campbell in Hue Phu Bai near the city of Hue. Beyond recounting some of the less often reported details of these duty stations and activities, he sets forth extensive and frequently unusual detailed description of much of the rest of the world he travelled during intermittent leave and retirement travels experienced with Naida, his Mexican-American wife of fifty years. Now at 84 years he sums up the story in the simple and straightforward words: “This is my memoir of the many people I have met and places I have been: “The people are ordinary hard working devoted to duty military men and women from all walks of life from many countries I have visited.”

Discussion: This perhaps, is one of the most fascinating memoirs this reviewer has read. It is written in simple unadorned English in a rambling style frequently missing connecting words in a sentence but most enjoyably understood. It also provides an introduction to unusual explanations of types of previously unthought-of (by most non-Asians) fish preparations, and provides extensive descriptions of places seldom so thoroughly covered by other individuals in describing places and/or activities of interest. This is a book that is highly recommended.

5* Rambling, unusual memoir simply written by 84 year old retired sailor. Highly recommended

All We Have to Believe In

     All We Have to Believe in ISBN: 9781957013039 Hybrid Global Publishing published copyright and written by Jeffrey J. Lousteau.

The story opens in May 1919 in San Francisco with a parade followed by celebration in the rose garden of the Parthenon for the soldiers just returned from Europe with termination of WWI and selected family members. The book describes the WW1 horrors, the men who participated and the many levels of suffering they encountered, the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, the ‘mockery’ of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, the Great Depression, the government’s attempt at legislating the curtailment of personal consumption of alcohol termed Prohibition, the racial hatred, and more. All has been encapsulated in a family and their acquaintances in a time when wide spread unrest existed. The protagonist is Edward Dooley, a young Irish immigrant who enlists in the army directly from high school, and participates in heavy combat, returns suffering from a degree of what today finally has been determined PTSD, maries a loving and understanding woman with whom he has three children. But, to include a more complete overview of the era, he has been placed in the position of the son of immigrant parents upon whom his family becomes heavily dependent.

Discussion: The author has set forth a history of the 1900’s by employing a main character fully representing the average American man who was involved totally in the activities of the chaotic century making the errors made by most members of the generations struggling through with tenacity of purpose to survive. Generally speaking, it is a depressing story that in attempting to ‘cover-all-bases’, often becomes entrapped in unnecessary details. However, if the reader can accept these oversites, he/she will discover a quite extensive knowledge of the era told plainly and setting forth the main protagonist as an individual of strong character indoctrinated with the strong morality and work ethic existent within the generation as well as the other firmly established beliefs that appear to have been included in the members of those generations so as often being referred to as The Great Generation.

* 5* history of an era; -2 lengthy discussions; depressing but recommended.

Dutch Preacher Boy

        Dutch Preacher Boy ISBN: 9781098382420 TunaFiscch Publishing by John Kommerinus Trinstra.

Sub titled “Coming of Age in Grand Rapids, Taking Wing Beyond* From Ethnocentric Religion to a Wide World of Wonder. A MEMOIR.

This is a fascinating tale most especially if you have an interest in any phase of religion. It is told by a man born and raised in the Netherlands in the Dutch Calvinist faith – Calvinist College 1962-1966 and Calvin Seminary 1966-69 and after immigrating to America, 2 weeks at Moody Bible Institute – and wanted to be a Fundamentalist (Religion defined as Religion as written is the last word). However, as explained in the gradually developing story, his extensive travels throughout a goodly part of the world changed quite drastically his perspective. His description of these travels and the changes wrought make for a story similar to few, if any other ‘coming-of-age’ tales in that the process extends far beyond what usually is considered that period in one’s life, into sessions as a missionary where threats were encountered in the Mexican Border area; working with Inmates in Cook County Psychiatric Hospital where he picked up a most thought-provoking answer to a simple question and read a sign posted on a near-by wall the reader will love. It simply read “I’m absolutely crazy about change. I just can’t handle it well.” And many more incidents of interest including close encounters with royalty and celebrities, a number of ‘secrets’ of well-known radio/TV preachers of various faiths, “sexual awakening, athletic fields of battle, heroes, tragedies, escapes, with lots of humor and playful banter”.

Discussion: The book ends with a brief notation about the former pastor, educator, and entrepreneur author and an Index of his wide range of people encountered and exact page(s) where it took place with the referenced person. Some of the discussion with respect to the individual and/or his/her perspectives may appear biased to varying degrees, but certainly lie within the author’s prerogative.

5* Interestingly, thoughtfully assembled memoir

A Fox in the Lion’s Den

 

 

A Fox in the Lion’s Den ISBN: 978173609000 Beverly Hills Publishing. Story and copy right by Dr, Hal Bradley DD. Text Jennifer Myers, on behalf of Story Terrace Design Copyright ©  Dr. Hal Bradley.

The actual story begins by introducing the protagonist as a blue eyed, blond teenage boy in the spring of 1969 riding a burro he had acquired for transportation around the mountain trails of a part of Mexico under control of a cartel dominant in that part of the region. No problems were likely to occur because he was “a kid from America protected by the controlling cartel.” Home actually was Seattle, Washington where he had been thrown out of school for six months for being caught smocking “weed”, a standard procedure for school at the time. He had been shipped to work on the properties owned by a friend of his mothers who acted in desperation hopefully to ‘save’ the wayward youngster. The story as it unrolls, is a fact-based fictional account of his gradual involvement with the cartels but also his slowly developing empathy with those affected by the drugs and slow emergence from his involvement. HE spent a period in prison for his actions with the cartels but emerged to cooperate with the DEA and ultimately work with the often destitute victims of desperation, drug abuse and the rest.

Discussion/Summary: This book might be referred to as a ‘memoir of sorts’. It is a remarkable story that presents sections of the author’s life in chapters in an uneven pattern. However, owever  HHHHHhhhhhthe ‘whole’ makes a fascinating picture and provides glimpses of the activities in which the author was involved along with hints of how the cartels function as well as the DEA. It also provides glimmers of inner prison activity as well as vague descriptions of his activities after ‘accepting God and entering into his ministries’. There is much redundancy although in large part probably understandably excerpted. So to summarize, there is much to learn from this book that as a whole presents an interesting and most unusual read, but is not for everyone.

4* 5* material; -1 possibly 2* for presentation.

 

The Roar of Ordinary

The Roar of Ordinary ISBN: 9781734629015

Published, copyright and written by J. C. Foster. 

A coming of age story set in America during the twentieth century, this is an expression of love that focuses on brothers and sisters from a supportive family that has resulted from the merger of residents mostly of the northeast portion of the U. S. with immigrants from Italy who face numerous personal ordeals, predominantly a product of the time. Recognizable family life evolves while on a collision course with the randomness of war, the Great Depression and other problems of the twentieth century. Close siblings find themselves in an era of challenging circumstances with life and death tied to their decisions, as fate hovers to devour the unlucky. This is a memoir setting forth an account of growing up in the embrace of a loving family with a sometimes ‘difficult to determine’ demonstration of that basic passion by a person of shifting moods and in a period of time overshadowed by wars followed by the fallout that combat brings. It’s a tale of introspection, hope, and redemption in the aftermath of loss while it scrutinizes the Vietnam War and identifies lingering governmental actions that exhibit forgetfulness regarding the lessons of Vietnam as well as those of other world conflicts. Along the way Jack, the protagonist dreams of what brought him to the here and now. He realizes that family, though an ordinary one, has provided required incentive, privilege, and opportunity as events, experiences, faces, and conversations appear. But he also sees that his individual decisions and those of his relatives and friends are what influenced fate to place each of them where they presently dwell.

Discussion/Conclusion: The author has presented in much detail the large number of activities in which an intelligent, active child, adolescent and young adult would engage while growing up in neighborhoods offered children of this era. Many may seem outlandishly ridiculous to today’s readers but assuredly were not beyond the thought patterns of those growing up in the early and middle parts on the 1900s. And the descriptions of the changes in thought patterns evolving in the mid-century are particularly well remembered and presented. The resultant conclusion is that in spite of some of the unevenness and redundancy exhibited, this is a book that describes in great detail the era of the 1900s as viewed from the perspective of a thoughtful young person gradually maturing under the guidance of a warm family environment with enough breadth to mitigate the perhaps harsher elements.

5* excellent portrayal of coming of age in the last century.

THE COLOR OF RAIN

The Color of Rain ISBN: ISBN: 9781735749747 (eBook) Published by Winter Wheat Press, Copyright and written by John W. Feist.

The author describes the book quite completely and simply as “A Kansas Courtship in letters.” Literally, the book presents a series of letters by a man and a woman conducting a gradually increasing growth of personal interest in one another through correspondence couched in the most appropriate verbalization required by the mores of the society in which they lived in the later few years of the 1800s. The developing courtship encountered further restrictions stemming from the fact that Irene, the woman, was a close friend of the man Frank’s, dearly loved wife who passed away at a relatively early year of her life. The deepening relation easily is discernable as the correspondence proceeds through a lengthy period of time and eventually does reach fruition after a series of set-backs, some manufactured by Irene as well as by Frank’s vacillation with respect to ‘letting-go’ of his guilt feelings with regard to his former wife, now deceased for more than a couple of years and to his two young boys who were an issue from this happy marriage.

Discussion: the author has done an excellent job of presenting the situation as it would be enacted in this particular segment of time with the strict codes as lived in this area at this time. The pace indeed is slow and probably will not be acceptable to readers other than those who enjoy looking into a section of Americana as it existed for a lengthy time period. For readers who enjoy well-written vignettes of such periods of history, the author has provided an excellent book.

5* for a particular type of reader, as explained.

The End of an ERA

The END of an ERA, Diverse Thoughts From 100+ years of LIving ISBN: 9781636925639 Newman Springs Publishing copyright and written by John H. Manhold.

For readers who regularly visit my website, I am sure this is something different than what you expected to find. Specifically I should like to alert you to the imminent publication of this author’s latest book, The End of an Era. Final print copy is scheduled to be released for distribution and sale in print (soft cover) by next week, followed by an e-book, and an audible version shortly thereafter.

Briefly, it presents comparative observations of various aspects of life as it began shortly after WW I and progressed through the multitudinous changes that evolved as the years crept by “in there petty pace from day to day” through the year 2020 and the early part of 2021. The century’s changes overall have been accumulating for millennia – only recently the rate of acceleration has changed to a pace even faster than during the Industrial Revolution. The past one hundred years has moved from a time when a man’s handshake was binding, and a resident of the then United States of America was free to indulge in, and could attain top-level accomplishments in any number of fields, to the present era where an amazing amount of control is occurring. In 1919 there was no TV, Jet flight, DNA, Cloning, computers, huge technological companies attempting to correlate and direct an individual’s thought pattern and direction. Even general ownership of radios did not exist (my father, an electrical engineer, built our first ‘Crystal Set’). But perhaps on an even more personal level. What has happened to empathy? How frequently do you encounter understanding of a problem? Instead, is your boss or other “uncaring” person too occupied to even listen to what you are saying? Or if the person listens, how much is he/she really hearing? The last study of attention span of humans I found was 8.1 seconds, which is comparable to that reported of a goldfish. Have you noticed how rapidly advertisements change on TV? How rapidly people speak these days? When answering the phone, you immediately are addressed by a recorded message? What has happened to loyalty? Whom do you really believe you personally can trust?

Dependence upon machines, computers, and artificial intelligence is our way of life. Its pace and the quantity of material required to be gathered and stored has grown far beyond existing capabilities. Regrettably, no choice exists but to continue while opening our lives to any and every one because no computer made to date is immune to hacking.

The 1919–2021 period of change has been of sufficient magnitude even to be equated with the now almost forgotten Renaissance, an era of total upheaval in the mores of society was occurring that escalated to almost  unimagined levels in communication, transportation, housing, clothing, morals, matters of entertainment, patterns of thought—everything. Amusingly perhaps, also a time that has been compared with my unusual, highly varied life activities and often accompanied with suggestions—actual pressure—to publish them.

Until now, I have refused. Producing another exercise in self-serving egocentricity that few other than family and a few acquaintances might like to read always has seemed gauche until recently a young intern remarked that the opportunities I was offered no longer existed.  I was fortunate in that my career developed during a period when investigative opportunities were numerous and ability to meet and exchange ideas with notable people easily occurred. The conversation began an introspective progression of thoughts that led to my reconsideration and although I have not acquired any status as a celebrated professional athlete, revered statesman, honored warrior, or even received extensive media coverage as a celebrated stage or cinematic performer, I have gained a certain level of recognition in several areas that have provided me with an opportunity for worldwide travel and intimate time spent with people of many different cultures. Thus evolved the intention here to describe my serendipitous journey in an obvious and/or easily verifiable manner, and as it occurred with observations on the era differences and an intent to offer impressions gained through these years spent with many people of different, or possibly similar but somehow “different” mores as they change with time. Also, I should like to impart some of the insight (?) gained that could offer takeaway thoughts for others.

Generally speaking, there is little interest in the past. Few read history with the lessons that it teaches, and even historical novels are passé. This book sets forth a contrasting picture between the 1900s and the present century. It is one man’s story by a man who has lived through those 100+ years and set forth in his words as the events are remembered and written with obvious and/or referenced substantiation. You might discover features and/or circumstances that elicit personal thought(s).

John H. Manhold

 

 

The View from Breast Pocket Mountain

The View from Brest Pocket Mountain ISBN: 9780578696607 Senyume Press copyright and written by Karen Hill Anton.

This is a memoir of a woman who has literally travelled the world, while moving from a teen age ‘black hippie’ in the 1960s New York City to become the mother of four children with a highly successful career, along with her equally successful ‘white hippie’ husband. After leaving New York City for stays on both the east and west coasts as well as several countries in Europe and the Middle East and birthing their first child in Denmark, they arrived in Japan with one child and one bag each. They now were “Settled down” in Japan (Permanent Resident Status) with four children, a cat, a dog a moving van’s contents of possessions a far cry from, and dreaded words to, Americans with sixties credentials including the Beatles first concert in the U.S.; Bob Dylan who was “just another folk singer with a guitar playing at Greenwich Village coffee houses; among the throng of 200,000 when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about his dream; when Woodstock, New York  was declared a nation, and more. The mere fact that they should be able to adapt to the Japanese way of life and enjoy the lasting experience in itself is almost unimaginable. As she states: “The Japanese educational system kills curiosity and utterly restricts the minds, imaginations and spirits of children.” “It is a conveyor belt of education they never leave, as the focus is not on learning, but testing, and memorizing facts and figures.” But then, when she had to face an unpleasant series of activities on a return trip to the U.S. while attempting to provide help for a family in obtaining food stamps, there was a total appreciation for many of the Japanese ‘way of life’. Again in her own words: “What a sight to see the name of the wealthiest and “greatest country on earth” attached to the dilapidated office building downtown where identification cards were issued. The windows were so dirty you couldn’t see out, the ceiling vents were taped on, the chairs we were required to sit on were filthy. Crude signs tacked all over the walls warned people of the consequences of fraud in obtaining government aid…The desperately poor Americans who crowded this room could not have been discerned from the denizens of some struggling nation where people would expect nothing at all from their governments.” In Japan she had been through the same lengthy bureaucratic procedures but always was addressed with respect offered by the prepackaged required honorific “san” attached to the name. No civil servant dare utter a name, i.e., just yelling out her first name “Karen”, without the addition of -san and to the last, not first name; e.g. Anton-san. The entire book follows her lengthy travels through many countries in a manner few would consider, but seems totally compatible with the mental set of an individual such as herself and of her husband. Their travels and accomplishments are intriguing to say the least.

Discussion: The story is redundant and repetitive in parts, but is an intriguing tale that memoir readers will truly enjoy as will any reader who likes true adventure travel tales.

5* Intriguing memoire.

Skinny House

Skinny House, a memoir of family ISBN: 9780995877718 Skinny House Productions copyright and written by Julie L. Seely.

In the Forward, the author very adroitly describes this book; “Despite its title, this book is no simple story about an odd, narrow-built dwelling. It’s about the family who lived in the house and the patriarch who built it.” The dwelling referred to is a ten foot wide, three story house among full-sized homes and now on the National Registry list, situated in Mamaroneck, N.Y. The basic story is of an ambitious black carpenter whose entrepreneurial abilities built a successful construction business in the early 1920’s with a grand house and all associated amenities for his wife to whom such ‘arrival’ met all of her expectations, only to have it snatched away by advent of the ‘Great Depression and subsequent devastation that followed well into the late ‘30’s. It follows the loss of the business, the house and all other amenities in a period when everyone was struggling just to survive in a time ‘when black men were the last to be hired and the first to be let go’. It also is of a period of time when ‘the man was the breadwinner, and the woman was the stay-at-home wife’ and a man was ashamed not to be able to work, and a wife should not be in a position to have to do so. The tale also provides quite graphic details of the carpenter’s attempts to salvage his pride and that of his wife, and of the gradual but insidious manner in which it failed and gradually slid into destruction of the family as a whole and to an extent, the individual personalities.

Discussion: Little more needs to be said. The author has used the house, how and why it was built and of what happened to the builder, his wife, children and grandchildren to provide a fascinating tale of a wild and highly explosive period in the history of America, its demoralizing fall-out and the residual effects on a man, his wife, children and grandchildren. The author readily admits her mistake of underestimating a family’s legacy. The lesser importance of physical versus “the colorful tapestry of memories and anecdotes handed down” and “intangible wisdom handed down from one generation to another”; “the spiritual binding”.

5* Captivating family memoir painstakingly, scholarly assembled by a loving granddaughter.