Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

“China – Portrait of a People” reveals a diverse land

"China - Portrait of a People" unveils a diverse people and land

"China - Portrait of a People"

Amazing what can be found when cleaning one’s desk. Sitting in a pile of I-will get-to-this-tomorrow items was photographer Tom Carter’s astonishing book “China – A Portrait of a People.”

Published in Hong Kong by Blacksmith Books in 2008 and re-released in 2012, “China” is way more than a coffee-table book. Photographed while backpacking over two years, it captures people, landscapes and structures in the country’s 33 provinces.

It is not a book to peruse in one sitting. Composed of 800 color photographs across 638 pages, it is an honest reveal of life in cities, back roads, desert climes and subtropical jungles.

The book is available from Amazon. To see and hear Carter, check out this video. It starts with him in a classroom where he was teaching English. From it you understand he has a sense of humor and appreciates the importance of the individual.

Letters home in new book shed light on life as a WAC

World War II WAC Mollie Weinstein Schaffer takes readers from Michigan to California and on to England, France and Germany.

But the book is not a travelogue. Told through the letters she had written home and received from relatives and other correspondents, it is about the challenges of a young woman in medical intelligence who grapples with military restrictions, war conditions and what it is like to be one of a few females among, well, an army of men.

Mollie's War recounts life as a World War II WAC through the eyes and letters of Mollie Weinstein

Mollie's War recounts life as a World War II WAC through the eyes and letters of Mollie Weinstein

In an effort not to give out information that might worry her parents or alert the enemy as to military positions and intentions or be stopped by military censors who read the mail, she dwells on romantic relationships, friendships, requests for sweets and toiletries and living conditions. But she also tries to be upbeat.

In a November 2, 1944 letter to her sister Rebecca “Beck” Winston from Paris, Mollie writes: “Regarding the weather here -it’s no military secret that it is very cold and rains quite a bit. Almost like the weather we have in Detroit. However, we don’t have any heat here which makes it rather uncomfortable. I believe I also told you that we have hot water only one day a week. But other than that Paris is grand.”

The picture that emerges is of a young, spirited, intelligent woman who has numerous choices to make that include abiding by her Jewish upbringing amidst the turmoil of a beleaguered England, France right after the Allied invasion and Germany after VE Day.

It is also a picture of WWII WACs. That these women were  very important to the war effort though often ignored in tales of WWII, is well explained in an introduction by Leisa D. Meyer, associate history professor at William and Mary College.

Mollie Schaffer (nee Weinstein) now lives near daughter Cyndee Schaffer, a Northbrook writer who compiled the letters. Cyndee Schaffer added the text that introduces each chapter and some of the correspondence.

Mollie’s War, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2010, $35 can also be purchased from

The baseball season never winds down for true fans of the game and its players

Book Review

Even though the 2010 World Series is entering its final phase now that the playoffs are over, baseball fans don’t have to wait until spring training to get their “fix.”

“Roadside Baseball” (2003, Sporting News division of Vulcan Sports Media, Inc, St. Louis, MO, $16.95) by Chris Epting, maps out places where fans can find historic traces of a stadium, a home plate, a players’ home and a museum that recounts memorable moments.

An ardent researcher and appreciator of baseball and interesting culture landmarks, Epting  divides up the places he has uncovered by geographic  locations across the United States and into Canada.

All a baseball fan has to do when traveling to Florida or Arizona to escape winter weather or to any US destination to see friends or family is leaf through a state’s chapter to see what historic baseball location is nearby.

Even an armchair traveler who reads through the chapters will be saying, “I didn’t know that.”

In a foreword by Emmy award winning announcer Joe Buck, the sportscaster says: “Even if you consider yourself the foremost authority on the history of the game, this book can’t help but put a smile on your face. It put one on mine because its pages are filled with information that I thought I knew but really didn’t; stories of which I was totally unaware and now am glad I know.”

What you ought to know about a Hollywood collection of stories

Book Review

Consider this a warning. Don’t read Hollywood Stories, a practically bottomless well of rich anecdotes collected by Stephen Schochet, if alone.

Even if you think you know about Hollywood personalities and clashes you are sure to find out something new in Hollywood Stories by Stephen Schochet

Even if you think you know about Hollywood personalities and clashes you are sure to find out something new in Hollywood Stories by Stephen Schochet

You will come upon a funny bit about two comedians such as the anecdote where George Burns is playing golf with Harpo Marx that is so good you will want to share it. No, I won’t tell you what happens .

Then, you will find yourself saying “I didn’t know that” when you read how a now famous actor got his start. And you will want to tell someone.

Luckily, I started reading the book evenings after other writing assignments were done.

The fortuitous timing meant that my husband who enjoys old movies and an occasional current flick, was nearby so I was able to say, “Listen to this” or “Did you know…?”

When I read during lunch and breaks. I had to find out what tidbits Schochet had found on Star Trek, Walt Disney and Disney characters and John Wayne plus stories about where stars lived and played.

However, no one was around to hear my latest find -make that Schochet’s find.

The author, a Hollywood tour guide, has been collecting stories for about 20 years. He tells many of them to his tour customers and on his syndicated Hollywood Stories radio feature.

Arguably, the next best thing to hearing him tell the stories is to read them. They are a welcome time off from work and hard news.

After finishing the book’s nearly 300 pages, each containing about three verbal snapshots of movie icons, I started making a holiday gift list of people who might appreciate the book. They should find it a fun read unless they would rather not explain to strangers why they are laughing aloud or saying, “oh!”

The caveat on Hollywood Stories is to not look for chapters on stars either alphabetically or by decade. An Index does list people, shows and places alphabetically but the chapters are divided into such segments as “Great Hollywood Comedians” and “Television Tales.”

Yes, the book has Hollywood in the title but the TV stories here seemed to fit well because the stars often lived in California or interacted with movie people.

Readers who want more info on a particular star need only look in the Bibliography. Schochet lists his sources.

To see how the author looks and sounds go to a TV interview available on UTube.

For more information visit Hollywoodstories

Hollywood Stories (Hollywood Stories Publishing, Los Angeles, CA $24.95 list, $17.96 online) is available at Amazon and  Barnes & Noble.

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