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A simply wonderful historical fiction novel that deals primarily with the patent fight between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over control of the electric bulb. Edison’s bulb that runs on D/C (direct power) and Westinghouse’s bulb that runs on A/C (indirect power).

Add J.P Morgan, Nikola Tesla, and a young lawyer, Paul Cravat, a little romance and you have an enchanting, exciting, and hard to put down book. I strongly recommend


“The Personal Librarian,” by Ms. Benedict and Ms. Murray is an absolutely wonderful novel, uplifting, unsettling, educational, despairing, a refection on a time that should have been glorious for all Americans, and yet the Supreme Court ruling in 1885 tore down “the Equal Rights Amendment,” passed in 1872 that was an outcome of the Civil War. Suddenly, slavery was replaced by segregation and the Jim Crow Laws, and its effect was not only in the southern states but in northern states such as New York.

The novel is about Belle da Costa Greene, who is hired by the powerful J.P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and pieces of art for the newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. This amazing and talented lady never would have been hired, except for the fact that she was so fair skin she passed for white. A secret she would keep her whole life, always conscious that people would find out that she was a colored lady. Her mother raised her children, who were all fair skin, to be white and always on guard when around people. She knew what it was like to live as a colored woman after 1885 and she did not want that for her children.

The inter-play and affection felt by Ms. Greene and Mr. Morgan, working side by side in the library, is nothing short of fantastic, and in many ways it dominates most of the book. Mr. Morgan is Anti-Semitic yet he never says anything against colored people, and yet Ms. Greene goes to great lengths to cover her true background, insisting she is of Portuguese.

Ms. Greene becomes world famous for her intellect, ability to bargain for priceless articles, her wit and her beauty. If she was ever found out she would lose everything, despite her undeniable abilities and talents. Sadly, it is impossible to read this novel and not make comparisons between the world Ms. Green lived in and today’s America where white supremacists are back at it, and the Confederate flag has once again trespassed the halls of our capitol. 


After reading the first thirty pages of this book I had to check and make sure that this was the same Alice Hoffman whose previous eight or nine books I have read were simply wonderful. It was the same Alice Hoffman and the first thirty pages might not have lived up to what I expected, but the next 180 pages were pure magic, pure Ms. Hoffman.

This book is about many things: the uncertainty of life and how a group of people had their entire lives and careers changed because they were unlucky enough to be struck by powerful lightning. It’s about family and the importance of friendships and the respect the simplest creatures, moles, deserve and should not so easily be discarded and killed. It’s about love, and it reminds us that the way we deal with death is by living.

This in not “The Dovekeepers,” nor “The World That we Knew,” but it is powerful, spellbinding and pure Alice Hoffman.


This is not a book I would recommend to everyone. In fact, it is more depressing than it is up lifting. It is work of fiction based very much on actual events: The Russian slaughter of Jews in Ukraine in the late 1890’s, the wave of Jewish and Italian immigrants to New York where they are forced to work for nothing and have no rights which is perfectly okay with the corrupt politicians running Tammany Hall and the bought off policemen, children working 12 hour days in factories with little ventilation and the threat of deadly fires, and a disregard for human life, unless one is lucky enough to be rich.

“The Museum of Extraordinary Things,” is run by the sinister impresario Mr. Sardie who was once a famous magician in Europe until he was forced to leave and come to America where he decides to trade in magic for science and to open shop on the ever expanding amusing park known as Coney Island in Brooklyn. The museum thrills the public by showcasing human beings with deformities, such as a man who is cover with hair and is called the Wolfman or a girl with no arms but when made up looks like a Butterfly. They are paid very little, but since it is the only work they can get they have no choice.

Looking for bigger and better attractions to compete with larger and newer attractions on Coney Island, Mr. Sardie will stop at nothing to keep in business and make more money, including taking the corpse of a young lady killed by a nefarious killer who was hired by an attorney that represents the owners of the factories down in lower Manhattan. The young lady was causing problems and bringing to light the abuses, poor wagers, and horrible working conditions the employees were forced to endure.

Mr. Sardie, the scientist, drains the body of blood and fills it would embalming fluid with the sole intention of cutting off her legs and using it as an attraction (half woman, half fish). This act of inhumanity is one of many stories that carry this hair rising novel to its conclusion.

Ms. Hoffman’s depictions of turn-of-the century New York are as truthful as any novelist writing about this time that I have read. In truth, like I said earlier it is horrifying, yet mesmerizing and educational. Her characters are marvelous and her storytelling, like always, is spellbinding. She is truly a magnificent novelist. 


Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

The immortal lines of poetry, above, are from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Sailing to Byzantium.” Like Dante, Shakespeare, and Shelly, Yeats believed that the only thing that would withstand the worst of all annihilations was ART, and there is no art more likely to withstand destruction than the universal art of music.

Ms. Waters “Paradis Inferno,” (Paradise/ Inferno) runs with this idea mainly through the character of the devil who has taken the deceased body of a pilot and now goes by the name of Stanis Vedil. Mr. Vedil has collected some amazing treasures over the years, such as two sketches by Da Vinci and three hand written plays by Shakespeare. He goes to Sotheby’s auction house, and after they pass the authentication process Mr. Vedil is a very rich man (Probably worth billions). He buys nightclubs around the world and calls them “Paradis Inferno.” Accept for a bombing at the NY club, they are amazingly successful

Naturally, Mr. Vedil is very handsome, thirty-five years old, and in the blink of the eye he is on the cover of magazines and newspapers, but it is not fame he is after but his soul. He buys a Chateau in France and lives with his butler, cook, and wife and befriends a mouse he names Lion, and despite warnings from his staff about rodents multiplying he ignores their advice, and Lion becomes his pal who he has lively conversations with, even if he is the only one talking. Lion, turns out to be a female, and she has a liter and now he has a second surviving mouse to talk to named Lamb.

Mr. Vedil main objective is to meet Mary Granger, the famous concert pianist, whose music is so beautiful that it raises the spirit and soul of all who hear it. Mary has not appeared in over twenty years and it is at the insistence of her son and daughter-in-law that she decides to come out of retirement to perform at an amphitheater before twenty thousand people.

Mr. Vedil, buys a thousand tickets, and asks that he be able to meet the famous musician because it is her music that can revitalize him and re-store his soul so that he and the masses can once again find a path to Heaven.

“Paradis Inferno,” is the third in a series, but one doesn’t need to read the previous two books to know what is going on. Ms. Waters seamlessly introduces characters from the other two books and one is never left in the dark. Her descriptions of Florence, Rome, and Paris are breathtaking. There are many story lines that run through this fascinating book, but like any really good books it has wonderful characters and a theme that is captivating.

Ms. Waters second book in the series, “Fields of Grace,” which came out earlier this year is the most enjoyable book I have this year, but I have to admit “Paradis Inferno,” gives it a good run for its money. I highly, highly recommend.

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Ms. Allende’s latest novel, “Violeta,” is in many respects a retelling of a history that she has covered in previous books, such as the brutal military dictatorship in Chile, and the discovery of a cave where the bones and clothing of missing people killed by the police are buried.

Violeta, the main character in the story, retells her life story to her grandson, Camilo, in letters that cover a life of one hundred years. Born during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu in her country in 1920 and right up to her one hundredth birthday and the outbreak of the covid-19 virus in 2020.

The novel covers many of the great historical moments of the 20th century, such as the Great Depression, World War 2, the revolution in Cuba, the covert operations of the CIA throughout Latin America and South America, the Mafia’s involvement in Cuba and Miami, and the slow but torturing human rights struggle of women around the world.

But in the end, it is Ms. Allende’s storytelling and her development of great characters that make this novel such a marvelous read.


After reading a number of novels by Ms. Hoffman, I think I can say with some certainty that she loves birds of all varieties (doves, crows, sparrows, etc), all animals, appreciates nature to its fullest, has an acute knowledge of history, writes great female characters, and is very simply an amazing writer. “Magic Lessons,” is another literary piece of work by a writer who is at the top of her profession. Like everything I have read by Ms. Hoffman, I strongly recommend this novel.


Colson Whitehead’s novel, “The Nickel Boys,” is not the type of book you pick up if you are seriously depressed, or for that matter, in a very happy mood. It is the type of book that like Conrad’s, “Heart of Darkness,” uncovers a horrifying truth that far too many people are unaware of or simply refuse to acknowledge and like Conrad wrote in Lord Jim “It’s extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts.” (If it sounds like I am writing a review on Conrad I assure you I am not. Conrad is my favorite author and while mentioning him in relation to Mr. Whitehead’s novel I am giving Mr. Whitehouse the highest praise I could write about a writer).

“The Nickel Boys,” is based loosely on Ben Montgomery’s reporting for the Tampa Bay Times on the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida.

The main character is Elwood Curtis, a young black, talented, educated teenage boy who lives with his grandmother after his mother and father left Tallahassee and Elwood, and moved to California in the 1960’s. His future is bright and he has just been accepted at a highly acclaimed school, but like so many black teenagers he is arrested unfairly and sent to juvenile reformatory called the ‘The Nickel Academy.’

The Academy is the worse nightmare that one could impose on a teenager. The men in charged are racist, mean-spirited, cruel, and in short, run a chamber of horrors. Elwood survives by reciting quotes to himself from Martin Luther King, and reading anything he can get his hands on. He is not the type to cause trouble and he forms a relationship with another boy, Turner, who thinks Elwood is naive and doesn’t see the world for how crooked it really is, yet despite this they do look out for each other and their bond is strong.

Elwood, despite being a quiet and obeying student, is nevertheless tortured by his white superiors in charge and is left with scares on his legs that are grotesque and mind altering.

It is the ramifications from this type of cruelty, that lead Elwood and Turner down a path that is both riveting and terrifying and takes the reader on a journey of discovery … that there are two Americans, especially in the south right up through the 1970’s: one for the privileged whites and one for the lowly blacks and how that discrimination is passed down from one generation to another.

This is a great book, and I want to thank my friend Lorna for recommending the works of Colson Whitehead to me. This is certainly not the last book I will be reading by this author. 


The “Roosevelts” are a political Dynasty the likes that we will probably never see again in American history. From the time President Theodore Roosevelt got into politics in the late 1890’s, to the time of Eleanor Roosevelt’s death in 1962 they were a dominant force whose policies, contributions, and aura were the face of America throughout the world.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who died at seventy-nine, outlived her uncle Teddy, who died at sixty, and her husband FDR, who died at sixty-three. Eleanor was the favorite niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and if one were to ask who she was most like it was, in my opinion, her uncle Teddy. They possessed limitless amounts of energy, fought tirelessly for progressive causes, and believed that since they were lucky to be born rich they owed their country and the less fortunate much more, and they both left behind a written and oral history of their thoughts and ideas that historians are still and forever finding and reviewing.

David Michaelis biography, “Eleanor,” is a comprehensive history of this extraordinary woman whose childhood was anything but normal. Her mother died when she was five years old and her father Elliot, who she adored, died from alcoholism at age fifty. She lived with different relatives and her grandma on her mother’s side until her late teens. At a very young age, she possessed many of the prejudices of her relatives calling blacks and Jews by repugnant nicknames, but all this would slowly change as she visited the drenches during World War 1 and sat beside wounded soldiers and it would really take off during the husband’s long presidency and never let up. Whereas, her husband lacked empathy, she made up for it in a way that even FDR was hopeless to do anything about it.

She made it known that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War 2 was unconstitutional and Un-American. That the segregated US army represented everything, we as a nation were fighting against in World War 2. She was appalled by the lack of sympathy showed by her husband’s administration and both political parties when it came to the Nazi extermination of the Jews, and our country’s unwillingness to take in what amounted to nearly nothing when we could have taken in millions of Jews who died in concentration camps.

After her husband’s death her crusade for a United Nations that kept countries from going to war was unrelenting if not futile, but that did not stop the Soviet representatives and other countries unfriendly to the US from getting up and applauding this amazing woman’s efforts. She fought tirelessly against segregation and the Jim Crow south, for the rights of women and fair wages, and went after Senator Joe McCarthy and his committee on Un-American activities.

What I have written here is just a small part of this woman’s life that the author Mr. Michaelis’ writes about. He writes about the many intimate relationships her husband had with other women, and in turn, her many intimate relationships while married, and after the passing of FDR. He also writes about the strange relationship between her husband’s mother, Sara, and Eleanor.

It’s as though she lived three lives and I can honestly say she drastically help transform America for the better and she is undeniably one of the most important Americans our country has ever produced.