How have I not been aware of the work of illustrator Gary Kelley before? He knocked my socks off with this book.
It’s also a great story, even withoutHow have I not been aware of the work of illustrator Gary Kelley before? He knocked my socks off with this book.
It’s also a great story, even without the riveting art work.
The United States did not enter World War I until April, 1917. The Army was segregated, but this did not prevent African-Americans from joining. Between 350,000 and 380,000 black American soldiers played a pivotal role in the conflict.
The 15th New York National Guard Unit, federalized as the 369th Infantry Regiment, was called “Harlem Hellfighters” by the Germans for their tenacity as fighters. They were assigned to the French Army by General John Pershing, and served longer than any other American regiment - 191 days on the front lines. The 369th was the first Allied regiment to reach the Rhine after the armistice and received a unit decoration from the French Army for its gallant service.
The 369th also became known for their regimental band, “a mix of primitive jazz, blues, and upbeat ragtime never heard before.” The band’s leader, James “Big Jim” Reese Europe, played on the recruitment buses in New York, and later he led his band cross the ocean.
How to describe the effect of the music on the soldiers? The author writes:
“Europe’s big band ‘jazz spasm,’ riffing to ten pianos, turned listeners’ bones to liquid - cymbal-cornet-clarient clash coursing in the blood.”
Meanwhile, even as the black soldiers were fighting for America’s cause, back home in the States, there was a rash of lynchings in the South. The author reports:
“The Hellfighters were writing their own epigram: At war, men die bravely and escape the rope. At home, cowards lasso trees suspending hope.”
In a text box, the author provides a “tally” at the war’s end:
Mustered in: 2,000 Harlem Hellfighters. Killed or wounded: 1,500 in 4 French campaigns. Citations: the Croix de Guerre to 171 Hellfighters; the Medal of Honor to 1 officer (white). Known as: “The regiment that never lost a man captured, a trench, or a foot of ground.” Jim Europe’s band: 90 musicians on parade; 30-50 in ballroom orchestra.
Jim Europe was killed in May 9, 1919, by one of his drummers who had gone crazy. On May 13, “the first black man ever to be given a public funeral in the city of New York rolled through the streets of Harlem past a delirium of mourners.” The author observes: “In black armbands, the Hellfighters marched last, their hushed instruments at their sides.”
[Jim Europe is not well known by many, but should be. He was the head of the first black music society in New York, the Clef Club. The Clef Club Orchestra led by Europe - the first all-black orchestra in America, consisted not only of traditional symphony instruments like violins, cellos, brass and wind, but also featured more than twenty strummed instruments - mandolins, banjos, ukuleles and guitars. Europe also became involved with the Music School Settlement for Colored People of Harlem; Europe and a staff of black volunteer Clef Club music teachers provided daily lessons in piano, violin, voice, sight reading and musical theory – at twenty-five cents per lesson. According to an article in "Jazz Times": “It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Clef Club concert in the history of American music.”]
A bibliography and references end the book.
I found Gary Kelley’s pastel illustrations to be jaw-dropping in their simplicity, beauty, and ability to engage the emotions of the viewer. The palette is mostly dark, with accents of red, white, and blue. The pictures are just stunning.
Evaluation: The author served as Children’s Poet Laureate of the United States from 2011 to 2013, and he has won a number of awards, including for his poetry. The verse in this book testifies to his talents. This is an outstanding book with haunting art work....more
In spite of the werewolf connection, I really would not put these books in the usual “paranormal” category, because, as indicated in my full review (sIn spite of the werewolf connection, I really would not put these books in the usual “paranormal” category, because, as indicated in my full review (see my blog), the focus is not on the paranormal aspects, but on the love between Sam and his packmates; Sam and his girl; and another very wonderful relationship that develops between two damaged friends of Sam and Grace, named Cole and Isabel. These last two are characters who I didn’t like in book two, but loved by the end of book three.
If you give these books a try, I can’t imagine not liking them. Highly recommended!...more
I have heard so many great things about this author, who has written more than forty science fiction novels, but I was disappointed with Soulminder.
ItI have heard so many great things about this author, who has written more than forty science fiction novels, but I was disappointed with Soulminder.
It tells the story of an invention by Adrian Sommer and Jessica Sands of a method to isolate the soul from the body. The "Soulminder" - like a heart-lung machine, works to “trap” the essence of a person who has died, so that if the body can be repaired, the soul can then be put back into it. The Soulminder becomes mankind’s ticket to immortality.
It’s an idea that’s instantly popular and in demand, and immediately creates complications. Because it is an expensive procedure, is it fair that it only be available to the rich? Should its use be subject to government controls? What are the implications for religious beliefs?
In a short time, the ethics of the Soulminder becomes even more complicated. It begins to be used for witness testimony, with the dead temporarily borrowing a body of a volunteer to tell the court who killed them, during which time the soul of the body being borrowed is held in the soul trap. The rich and bored decide that borrowing bodies is a good way to experience extreme sports or extreme drugs. Criminals now have a new way to hide: they can steal other bodies in which to place their souls, killing off the original owners. Terrorist government regimes come up with the idea of torturing people, killing them, and then bringing them back to torture them again. In short, the possibilities for the use and especially the abuse of the Soulminder are endless.
Sommer is desperate to return the Soulminder to its original life-saving medical purpose, and to eliminate the corrupt or deleterious uses of his invention. Does he have to destroy it entirely, or is there some other option?
Evaluation: The narrative really felt flat for me. The issues raised by Soulminder should have been interesting from an intellectual standpoint, but they were just paraded out one after another in a meh-like fashion, and I never got excited about them. Nor did I get invested in the characters. Most of what we learn about Sommer and Sands is that they work too many hours and they “growl” a lot (as in, "‘Oh certainly,’ he growled” or “‘I’m not sure,’ she growled." A search through my e-book edition yielded 39 instances of growling….) There were a few allusions to the fact that people who, having gone through the soulminder, reported a tunnel with light at the end, but of course, since they come back to life, they in essence abandon the tunnel, so that possibly-intriguing plot line gets abandoned as well.
It’s not as if there is anything unpredictable in Kinsella’s books, but they are nevertheless full of humor and charm, and worth reading in spite of tIt’s not as if there is anything unpredictable in Kinsella’s books, but they are nevertheless full of humor and charm, and worth reading in spite of the lack of significant surprise.
I loved the premise of this book: a high-powered London lawyer, 29-year-old Samantha Sweeting, running from a horrible mistake at work, stops at a house in the Cotswolds for a glass of water, and gets mistaken for an applicant for a domestic servant. Before she knows it, she has taken the job. She can’t cook or clean; she has always used hired help herself. The handsome (of course) gardener Nathaniel notices her plight, and offers to have his mother Iris help Samantha. Iris (of course) just happens to have learned to cook in Italy, and is fantastic at it.
Samantha doesn’t just need training in cooking and cleaning; even relaxation is not natural to her. She comes from a family for whom a typical Christmas is her barrister mom reading a court report, and her head-of-investment brother taking a Xanax while he checked financial indexes. (She has another brother, but he had a nervous breakdown.) For Samantha, time has always been divided into six-minute intervals (corresponding to how law firms bill clients), and working all hours of every day and every night just seems natural. Iris and Nathaniel aim to teach her otherwise.
Samantha’s new employers, the Geigers, are very funny and very endearing, if a bit benighted. But they are far preferable to her previous employers. In fact, she finds out just how much when she inadvertently discovers the real nature of her “mistake” at the law firm.
Evaluation: This book by Kinsella is delightful. Although the story arcs in her books are similar to one another, she adds so much hilarity that it is a joy to read her books anyway. They are just the thing when you are looking for a light sorbet between your heavier main course books.
I love Atkinson’s writing. She’s funny and sarcastic and snarky and can deliver devastingly apt observations about relationships. Although there are cI love Atkinson’s writing. She’s funny and sarcastic and snarky and can deliver devastingly apt observations about relationships. Although there are crimes in this book, it is more a story about people and what motivates them than about mysteries. It is as if you are experiencing the tale holographically – the characters present themselves to you in all their dimensions, and you can’t dismiss any of them as caricatures. Atkinson is a writer for people who appreciate the craft, and who love discovering just how much depth can be bestowed to characters in a short space, and how much meaning can be packed into a deceptively simple paragraph. ...more