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Red Apple

In it’s short history, America has had some dark times as we navigate not only our constitution but the changing times. i.e. our horrible native American policies, the Civil War, Slavery, Civil Rights, Gay rights, and the continuing battle to separate Church and State.

There was one period of disease that was so far reaching and so blatantly against what forefathers stood for that just peeking into that era makes me cringe with embarrassment for being an American.

When else have we persecuted people for their own thoughts and beliefs? When have we gone after a multitude of people for something that should be covered under one of the basic tenets of this great country, Free Speech? When have we hounded everyday citizens, pressuring them to turn in the fellow neighbors, friends, family, teachers, union members? The United States became like sinking ship and it was every rat for themselves.

One can say that we have some of that now with the fight against terrorism, but this was different. The U.S congress was tiptoeing along the yellow brick road to fascism. It wasn’t just the Hollywood Ten that classic film buffs, like me,  may know about.

Now McCarthy didn’t start it. The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) became a standing (permanent) committee in 1945, but had it’s roots as far back as the Overman committee in 1918, headed by Senator Lee Slater Overman right through the Dies Committee chaired by Martin Dies Jr from 1938-1944.

Strangely, when many of think of HUAC, we think of the bombastic Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and that isn’t the case. Since he wasn’t in the House, had had his own committees in the Senate. We also tend to think that the Hollywood Ten were the only ones blacklisted, but Red Apple makes it painstaking clear, just by looking at six New Yorker’s lives and how they were changed, no ruined, by the Cold War and McCarthyism.

As far as the book itself, there were points that were a bit plodding and it was tough to keep track of all of the acronyms of clubs and government divisions, whether pro-communist, peace-based, anti-communist, etc. However, it was a revelation to me, made me so angry that the first three paragraphs of this review were written at 1 AM in long hand in the little notebook by my bed. It made me so irate that I just had to get some thoughts down right then.

Did you know that McCarthy actually made it into the dictionary. (thanks Dictionary.com)


the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, especially of pro-Communist activity, in manyinstances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.


the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.

Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York

by Phillip Deery


  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press (January 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0823253686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823253685



P.S. Thanks to the publisher for my copy, I think being so irate about things that I couldn’t change was great for my low bloodpressure.

Little Night by Luanne Rice


I use Grammarly’s free plagiarism checkeronline because let’s face it as original as I am, my posts leave a lot to be desired by English teachers.


I’ve never read anything by Luanne Rice and have no idea how this particular book ended up on my wish list. To make matters even worse, when I read the blurb, I was ready to march right back into the library to return it because it just was not my sort of book.

Here’s the blurb-

“ Clare Burke’s life took a devastating turn when she tried to protect her sister, Anne, from an abusive and controlling husband and ended up serving prison time for assault. The verdict largely hinged on Anne’s defense of her spouse—all lies—and the sisters have been estranged ever since. Nearly twenty years later, Clare is living a quiet life in Manhattan as an urban birder and nature blogger, when her niece, Grit, turns up on her doorstep.

The two long for a relationship with each other, but they’ll have to dig deep into their family’s difficult past in order to build one. Together they face the wounds inflicted by Anne and find in their new connection a place of healing. When Clare begins to suspect her sister might be in New York, she and her niece hold out hope for a long-awaited reunion with her.”

Now I know that there are those that hate the term Chick Lit, but there was no doubt in my mind that this fit in that category. However, I had paid $1 to get the book transferred to my library and it was on my wish list, so I was going to read it gosh darn it!

The book ripped my heart out and served it back cold like Gazpacho. It was real and while I don’t have any siblings, I could relate and verify every heart-wrenching reaction in this family’s dynamic.  I can’t remember ever being so wrong about my first impressions of a book before.

Clare decides to take action in her sister’s abusive marriage and her sister’s outright betrayal of her means that everyone pays the price for the rest of their lives. Claire gets sent to prison, putting her own relationship in a permanent holding pattern. She keeps everyone that enters her life at arm’s length and all the while wonders how her sister, her niece and nephew are doing.  This goes on for twenty long years.

Then her niece shows up at her front door and everything changes. She has to learn to bend, to wonder what has happened with her sister without pushing, to share her very circumscribed life, to just plain live again. Girt, her niece, has some learning, bending, and opening up to do of her own as well.


Little Night by Luanne Rice

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
  • ISBN-10: 0670023566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023561


This post was sponsored by Grammarly and I highly recommend trying it out.  We always have more to learn and no one is perfect.


Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

Back on the Horse-Reviews in Miniature



'Stress' photo (c) 2009, Alan Cleaver - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/












This has been the year of major change for me; new house, new job, new city, new roommate, and finally, somewhat of a new attitude.  One thing that I didn’t leave behind was my love of reading or my laziness towards reviewing:)



Books I Have Loved So Far This Year

  • Mother  This book messed with my mind like…I don’t know what.

Josephine Hurst has her family under control. With two beautiful daughters, a brilliantly intelligent son, a tech-guru of a husband and a historical landmark home, her life is picture perfect. She has everything she wants; all she has to do is keep it that way. But living in this matriarch’s determinedly cheerful, yet subtly controlling domain hasn’t been easy for her family, and when her oldest daughter, Rose, runs off with a mysterious boyfriend, Josephine tightens her grip, gradually turning her flawless home into a darker sort of prison.
Resentful of her sister’s newfound freedom, Violet turns to eastern philosophy, hallucinogenic drugs, and extreme fasting, eventually landing herself in the psych ward. Meanwhile, her brother Will shrinks further into a world of self-doubt. Recently diagnosed with Aspergers and epilepsy, he’s separated from the other kids around town and is homeschooled to ensure his safety. Their father, Douglas, finds resolve in the bottom of the bottle—an addict craving his own chance to escape. Josephine struggles to maintain the family’s impeccable façade, but when a violent incident leads to a visit from child protective services, the truth about the Hursts might finally be revealed.

I really got into Lynn Shepherd and loved these.

Likeness Manfield House

On looking back, it’s like I fell into a rabbit hole of historical fiction, so include this great series..

gods Seven

There was a bit of grand non-fiction as well, but let’s save that for a new post now that I have broken the ice.



Pilgrim’s Wilderness by Tom Kizzia

pilgrims wilderness

A True Story of Innocence and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

This is narrative nonfiction at its finest and one man at his darkest.

In January of 2002 some strangers drove into McCarthy, Alaska and decided to call it home. Getting to that small town (pop. 42 according to the 2000 census)  in the middle of winter would have been difficult for all but the hearty, but Papa Pilgrim managed it with some of his boys and eventually, the rest of his family was able to join him as well, all fifteen kids and his lovely wife, Country Rose. That’s right, fifteen kids.

The residents were a might leery of strangers, but respected a man’s right to live his life and raise his family as he saw fit. It is the Alaskan way after all and besides Pilgrim told them, ““All we want is a place to live our old-time way and be left in peace.” It would be fine.

It wasn’t and would have repercussions for everyone that got involved, some even from the lower 48 states. I could tell you more, but that would be spoiling it.

Pilgrim’s Wilderness fascinated me for so many reasons.

  1. The picture of Alaska and Alaskans painted by Kizzia was beautiful and almost otherworldly in its last frontier-ness. Denali has always been on my mental list for climbing, but this made me want to see all of the state’s grandeur and people by hopping  on a plane right then and there.
  2. The Pilgrim Family’s faith made me uncomfortable and that made me keep reading in hope that I would learn that they had received some sort of comeuppance. Not that I have anything against faith per se, it’s just that anything that you believe so strongly that you have a great number of kids and move them all to the farthest reaches in isolation….I can’t grasp.
  3. Papa Pilgrim, AKA Bob Hale, had so many interesting connections in his life. They were all on the outskirts, but it shocked me that someone that had such an “alternative” lifestyle could have them. His dad was a high ranking FBI agent and Papa’s first wife was the daughter of John Connolly, the man that was also shot when JFK was assassinated, for example.
  4. Kizzia is a reporter and not only did his work seem utterly balanced, but his choice of the narrative style worked so well for me. Like Erik Larson, his work reminds me of a snowball rolling on down the hill, gathering scope and speed as it careens to a finish.

So engrossed in the book that I was gobsmacked to see it was 3 AM when I finished. I hadn’t been tired, hadn’t noticed the world around me go silent, I just lost time while reading. That hasn’t happened since I was oh…in high school, I think.


So, I gave you 4 great reasons and a bonus as to why you should pick up the book, what are you waiting for? Even better, anyone up for a road trip to Alaska?

Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Innocence and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (July 16, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0307587827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307587824

Check out the interview with Tom Kizzia at the NYT


The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip

The Nine Fold Heaven

Last year, I was given the wonderful opportunity to travel back in time to Shanghai in the 1930’s thanks to Mingmei Yip’s Skeleton Women. Now my favorite Skeleton Women, Camilla, is back. She laid low in Hong Kong for a time and is ready to brave the dangerous streets of Shanghai to find her son and the other two important men in her life.

Although this could be read as a stand alone, I think that one would garner a much better understanding of how much Camilla has to overcome just to even care about others let alone go off on what could be a suicide mission to find those that she has grown to care about if Skeleton Women is consumed first.

Yip’s writing again makes the Chinese culture so approachable without over explaining or creating uncomfortable lags in the story to get her characters motivations across. I found myself not only invested in the Camilla, but respecting the boundaries in which she was forced to live.

So much of the historical fiction I see is based in Europe, but Mingmei Yip shows us the glamour, suspense, and mystery of a country that we seem to overlook as Westerners.

I’m grateful for that peek into China’s past that allows me to see that it hasn’t always been that big bad “red” wolf that we are taught to fear and despise from today’s news. It’s rather beautiful.

The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington (June 25, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0758273541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758273543


Don’t forget to check out my review for Skeleton Women.

I received my copy from the author.


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