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Book Review, Women Heroes of World War 11

October 13, 2011 By: admin Category: Book Reviews, Consumer Education

Kathryn Atwood’s book reviews have appeared in numerous print and online journals and she is the author of the new young adult title,

“Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue

Ms Atwood’s book is available at www.amazon.com


Women’s history is not always taught in school, so it is rare that young women are aware of the many accomplishments of women through the ages. One such book, Women Heroes of World War 11 identifies 26 women, who with courage of conviction, used their skills to help defeat the Nazis and made a tremendous difference in the lives of many during that time. If you are interested in history, this book is a must read, it will add to what you may have already learned and it will serve to inspire young women everywhere.
Anna Marie Petrarca Gire

“This book tells the stories of the brave, unknown women who risked their lives during World War II to fight for what they believed in. I loved the short stories on the adventures of all the women and felt inspired by all of their courageous acts”
Heidi Schmidt, (Women’s Independent Press) WIP Teens

Book Review, by Kathryn Atwood : What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen

October 02, 2011 By: admin Category: Book Reviews, Consumer Education

“What Alice Knew” is a fascinating and entertaining fictionalized “what if” look at the Jack the Ripper Murders (sometimes referred to as the Whitechapel Murders) if the case had been solved by the three famous James siblings, William, Henry, and Alice.

Bringing late 19th-century London brilliantly to life – and writing in a style very similar to that found in the psychologically-attuned, detail-oriented novels of Henry James – Marantz Cohen manages to spin a page-turning mystery while presenting illuminating characterizations, both hilarious and tragic.

The book’s premise is established when Detective-Inspector Frederick Abberline, (the leader of the actual investigation), summons philosopher and psychologist William James from across the Atlantic to help solve the case. Henry and their sister Alice, already living in London in separate locations, agree to a collaborative effort with William, putting together their “much vaunted intelligence and creative skill to catch [the Ripper.]”

Using a shifting point of view, we see London of 1888 through the eyes of each sibling. Marantz Cohen portrays the dinner party-hoping Henry as being always a little jealous and critical of other writers, having him nearly break out into a fist fight with the visiting Samuel Clemens – “he did not like the homely demeanor that Clemens affected, and he liked even less the man’s great success with it” — and initially refusing to drink out of a mug on which was painted the face of a Dickens character. At one point, when Henry and William visit the book’s oft-presented Oscar Wilde in his home, Henry notices that Wilde’s wife closely resembles him: “the resemblance was not surprising. If someone like Wilde was going to marry, he would try as far as possible to marry himself.”

Class distinctions are well delineated in the book and the philosophical William, upon his arrival in London, is struck by the foundational differences between American and British societies: “Thrown into the hubbub of the London streets after a workday, he was struck by the reality of teeming human life that his daily existence tended to obscure. The difference, he also realized, was the difference between the New World and the Old. . . . here, the past was always present, pushing up against you in coats of arms and family estates . . . Even among working people, the past hung heavy. They were pressed into age-old traditions and customs, following along, doing what was expected, doing what was always done. The idea of following the past because it was the past repulsed him . . .”

The reader is dropped, medias res, into the investigation as Inspector Abberline updates the medically trained William on the grisly murders that have already occurred, showing him stark photographs of the victims, and the page-turning murder mystery is on, each James sibling – always completely in character — contributing significantly to the final and satisfying denouement

ISBN-13: 978-1402243554
ISBN-10: 1402243553
Publisher: Sourcebooks


August 01, 2011 By: admin Category: Book Reviews, Consumer Education

“Darkness Hides the Flowers: A True Story of Holocaust Survival” by Jerry L. Jennings as told by Ida Hoffmann Firestone

“Darkness Hides the Flowers” is a stunning Holocaust memoir on many levels, simultaneously poignant, beautiful, and terrifying. Ida Hoffman was a young teenager forced her to survive alone in Nazi-occupied France and her memoir recounts her decades-old experiences in sharp detail.

There are several things that make this memoir very distinct. One, Ida and her family never formally admitted to being Jewish so they never donned the yellow star. Her father was sent to a concentration camp, not because his ethnicity was discovered but because his Russian background made him suspected of Communist sympathies. The family’s Jewish identity was generally known to their acquaintances, however, but Ida, her mother, and her sisters were rescued by a kind neighbor just minutes before they would have been deported.

Ida and her family were helped by many kind people and almost killed by others and Ida recounts this varied cast of characters in photographic detail. Her first impression of the Germans was that of “some monstrous machine . . . raising and crashing their boots in unison” and “a colony of huge grey ants” but she encountered several more up close, one who, ignorant of their ethnicity, kindly gave them free bread until Ida’s mother countered his arrogant assumption of an easy British victory, and another who was romantically entangled with a French neighbor.

Her schoolteachers knew she was Jewish and though some had previously expressed their virulent anti-Semitism quite openly, the school’s Dean went out of his way (and put himself in considerable danger) by warning Ida of an impending Jewish round-up. After the family lost their breadwinner to the concentration camp, Ida’s piano teacher, a devout Catholic, risked arrest by continuing Ida’s lessons for free (although giving piano lessons to Jews was illegal) telling Ida that she was “so talented that God would punish me if I did not [continue].”

Shortly after she and her family wound up on a farm that harbored refugees, Ida, without being told why, suddenly became the slave of a rich, heartless Frenchwoman and this part of the story is absolutely nightmarish. Beaten and starved on a daily basis, she was forced to survive on her own when the family went on vacation, locating a series of temporary shelters in the surrounding rural area but in almost every case, keeping her ethnicity a secret. This kept her alive more than once: during a particularly frightening encounter, Ida overheard a farmer referencing the bounty offered by the Germans for escaped Jews in a conversation with his wife: “Ohh, if I could just find myself a Jew we could get a new tractor.” She left the farm night.

The starvation and constant fear nearly killed Ida and her physical and emotional healing took years. No one, not even her family members, wanted to hear about Ida’s experiences and this is a lesser-known but disturbing aspect of Holocaust history: the survivors were supposed to pick up the pieces of their lives, be grateful that they were alive, and above all, never discuss what had happened. Ida remained painfully silent for decades.

After finally coming forward with her story, she met author Jerry L. Jennings and the resultant memoir is illustrated with Ida’s paintings (from memory) of the French countryside where she was forced to wander and contains the poetry that she wrote during her virtual imprisonment.

“Darkness Hides the Flowers” is a beautifully written, powerful page-turner.

Contact Ms Atwood at historysingers@comcast.net.

“Real life, real women, real leaders” by Donna McAleer

February 27, 2011 By: admin Category: Book Reviews

Real life, real women, real leaders”

By Donna McAleer


In an era where the American public is saturated with images and accounts of women selling sexuality and self-centered materialism, PORCELAIN ON STEEL: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line (Fortis Publishing, 2010) by award-winning author Donna McAleer spotlights 14 women, all West Point graduates, who chose to make a positive contribution to society. 


The United States Military Academy at West Point is America’s oldest and most respected leadership institution.  Since 1802, West Point has given the country some of its greatest generals and presidents. For 173 years it was all male. In 1976, it opened to women, allowing women to break the gender barrier and reach the top levels of leadership in the army.


There is much to be learned from the women that enter and graduate from the US Military Academy. As a strong and positive influence, the examples West Point women set can help others understand their own limits and then show them how to ignore them to achieve their goals. 


Rich, poor, immigrant, native born, black, white, Hispanic, straight, and lesbian, representing a cross-section of American Society, each came to West Point with different personal goals but sharing the desire to serve their country.


These women come face to face with challenges like losing a limb in battle, fighting life-threatening cancer and dealing with the death of a spouse. Their qualities and strength of character would lead to success in any era, but their stories are especially relevant today. They give inspiration that when one is determined to succeed—it can be done, regardless of barriers.


Their stories include:


Performing a soldier’s marriage ceremony and then his funeral—how do you comfort someone who went from wife to widow, from bliss to bereavement in only a year? How do you help cadets, soldiers, and military families that struggle to manage competing demands of serving both God and country and with the moral dilemma of faith and fighting? How do you deal with a mother institutionalized for mental illness and growing up in foster homes and juvenile detention centers? What kind of life does that set you up for? Cynthia Lindenmeyer can tell you how she does these things and how she turned an arrest for shoplifting as a child into the determination to change her life. A 1990 graduate of West Point, she ultimately became an Army Chaplain and earned a Master’s Degree of Divinity from Duke University.


After a successful career of 16 years of active duty, Lissa Young, a 1986 graduate, Army helicopter pilot and former West Point instructor was outed and forced to resign her commission because of the nation’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Instead of fighting back, Lissa chose to embrace her dismissal as an opportunity to explore new ventures.


During a parachute jump while in the Army, Nancy Hogan plummeted with both main and reserve parachutes tangled around her neck. Terribly injured by the impact, doctors felt she would never walk again on her own. Then, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She overcame both devastating challenges to live and walk again. A 1995 graduate of West Point, Nancy, though still physically challenged, is now a dedicated advocate for veterans having served as a director at Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and now as a legal counsel for the US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.


The women profiled in Porcelain on Steel forged successful careers in the military and in civilian life, giving back to their country and their communities.  These are the stories of mothers, daughters and wives; the stories of educators and athletes; of doctors and lawyers, and officers; who all started as soldiers.


Awarded a Gold Medal in 2010 for non-fiction by the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA), Porcelain on Steel is a book for your daughter, your sister, your best friend, and yourself. America’s youth as well as parents in search of stories of inspiration, education, courage, loyalty, public service and leadership that set a positive direction for our young people should read this book.


About the Author: Donna McAleer, a 1987 West Point graduate, attended St. Cecilia Academy, a girls college preparatory school in Nashville, TN. An award-winning author, she has been an Army officer, business leader, non-profit executive director, high school coach, and National bobsled team member. She earned an MBA at the Darden Graduate School of the University of Virginia. Donna lives in Park City, Utah, with her husband, daughter, and faithful dog, where she consults, writes and teaches skiing.  Porcelain on Steel is available at various on-line retailers at www.porcelainonsteel.com

Book Review by Kathryn Atwood

February 27, 2011 By: admin Category: Book Reviews










Kathryn Atwood


A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women’s Rights”


By Sherry H. Penney and James D. Livingston

 ISBN 1-55849-446-4

University of Massachusetts Press


“No matter what a wife’s annoyances may have been during the day, her countenance must always be wreathed in smiles on the approach of her husband.”

– Martha Wright, excerpt from a satirical newspaper piece.


“Just get hold of life’s reverses & disappointments in a ridiculous point of view, & it helps along wonderfully – there is a great deal of fun, among all the annoyances, if one can only find it.”

– Martha Wright, excerpt from a letter to a relative.


The first women’s rights convention, held in July, 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, was organized by five women, two of which have achieved nigh-sainthood in women’s rights history: Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Lesser known is Martha Wright, Lucretia Mott’s younger sister, also one of the Seneca Falls organizers, and the great-great-grandmother of author James D. Livingston.  Livingston and his wife Sherry H. Penney have sought to shed light on Wright’s life and work with the publication of their book, “A Very Dangerous Woman.”


Twenty-first century readers might find the book’s title highly ironic when encountering the self-effacing, thoroughly domestic, and humorous Martha Wright within the pages of “Dangerous Woman.”  But set within the framework of 19th century America, Martha Wright — who not only promoted abolition and repeatedly provided hospitality to Frederick Douglass, but whose home was also part of the underground railroad; who not only promoted the idea of female suffrage but also the concept of fair divorce and wage laws — was indeed deemed quite dangerous.


During the numerous women’s conventions that followed Seneca Falls, Wright served in various capacities but her main contribution was that of writer and the copious inclusion of her lively personal letters in “Dangerous Woman” sheds light not only on her variegated personality, the numerous women’s rights and abolitionist conventions she took part in, but also on the characters of 19th century luminaries who she encountered.  For instance, after a visit from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Wright was charmed: “We all fell in love with Mrs. Stanton, the merry twinkle of her eye and her genuine hearty laugh.”


After the war, when Harriet Tubman was settled in Auburn, she and Wright became quite close and when Tubman missed a chance to see Wright’s visiting daughter Ellen (married to the son of William Lloyd Garrison, one of Tubman’s heroes) and her new baby, Wright notes that Tubman was “so disappointed that her eyes filled with tears.  She [had] never shed a tear in telling me of all her troubles.”


When she visited the Boston transcendentalists after the war (Bronson Alcott, father of the famed author, among them), she was unimpressed and wrote “Just between ourselves I think those radical meetings a great humbug.  Each essayist, in turn, trying to see how obscure he can make his meaning, by wrapping it, like a mummy, in spiced cloths, and then aping Emerson in the reading.”


Penney and Livingston spend a good deal of time on the civil war and its affect both on the women’s movement in general (the push to grant suffrage to freed male slaves basically shelved the women’s suffrage movement) and on Martha specifically.  Her tolerance of those with differing opinions and her peaceable nature is evident in her continued correspondence with her confederate relations from her first marriage, even when war was looming.  When one of these young relatives expressed his approval of the vicious attack on Senator Charles Sumner in retaliation for Sumner’s critical speech of a South Carolina senator, Martha reproved the young man thus: “I felt very sorry that you should justify the murderous attack on Sumner, & that you should be willing to endorse the sentiment, so unworthy an American citizen, that personal violence, under any circumstances, was allowable, for words uttered in debate . . . “


Yet, she signed off the correspondence thus: “I shall always be happy to hear from you & I trust that more mature reflection, & the generous impulses of youth, will lead you to judge wisely on this momentous question wh. is destined to shake the Union from centre to circumference.”


However, the war became close and personal when her own son joined the Union forces and it affected the generous nature of Quaker-born Wright: “I dread any misplaced ‘magnanimity’ towards the leaders of the Rebellion, & the murderers of our prisoners.  I would not have one hanged, but disfranchised & their land confiscated.”  Later she wrote even more pointedly, “I for one wd. rather the war wd. last till the South is depopulated.”


Her attitude says more about the war’s powerful influences than it does about Martha’s character because for the most part, Wright was a renowned peacemaker especially within the ranks of the sometimes divided woman’s movement.  Attempting to make peace between these warring factions she once quipped: “What’s the difference between a bird with one wing & a bird with two? A mere difference of a pinion. Indeed, her humor was such an intrinsic part of her nature that William Lloyd Garrison, writing an obituary after Wright’s death in 1875, said that “Beneath [Wright’s] habitual gravity there lurked a keen sense of the ludicrous, her wit and humor being always at command.”


“A Very Dangerous Woman,” like its subject, is intelligent but accessible, a long overdue biography on a very interesting – if occasionally, dangerous — woman.


 “Kathryn Atwood’s book reviews have appeared in numerous print and online journals and she is the author of the new young adult title, “Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.”