I Will NEVER Forget

I would like to dedicate today’s post to the men and women who lost their lives on that tragic day 11 years ago…9/11…and to the ones who have sacrificed their lives every day since then fighting for our country. My heart also aches for the children, the wives, the husbands, the parents…those left behind. My eyes are still swollen this morning after watching the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last night and crying almost non stop. The anguish is as fresh as it was on that day…thinking about the senseless loss, praying for survivors and sharing the grief of a country wounded.  I will never forget.


Andy’s review of The Hidden Europe by Francis Tapon

Andy is being introduced as our first male book reviewer and we are so excited to hear his perspective!! Welcome to Belletristic Book Babes Andy!

The book I would like to review, quite positively, is The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europe Can Teach Us by Francis Tapon. Let me start this review by stating that the type of books I read are military non-fiction. I love war history and reading books about veterans’ experiences in World War 2, Iraq or Afghanistan. Luckily, there are many books like this coming out all the time at my local library. But sometimes I break out of the mold and read some obscure book that catches my eye on the shelf or if it’s new or has an interesting title. The book I am reviewing is one of those obscure books that caught my eye, and it turned out to be one of the most educating and entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.

“The Hidden Europe” is a brand new book about an American man and his hiking (and hitchhiking) adventures through every Eastern European country. Francis Tapon is a single Harvard educated 40-something American who has a French father and a Chilean mother. Francis loves adventure and loves to explore new lands. It seems that not many people in the west know or care about Eastern European countries. Many Americans (or Western Europeans for that matter) cannot place Eastern European countries like Serbia, Belarus, Latvia or Lithuania on a map. So Francis decided to de-mystify these places for westerners by visiting each Eastern European country and getting to know the locals. He had a very small budget for this, so he hikes and catches rides as he travels, using a portable tarp to sleep under at night or using a cheap internet-based  method of meeting new people and sleeping in their spare bedrooms called “couch-surfing”. Couch-surfing, in a nutshell,  lets you connect with people on-line who have spare bedrooms or a couch to share with travelers on a tight budget. Many Eastern Europeans are really into this, and Francis gets to know many locals this way. Being a fairly young single man, he even has romantic adventures with some female couch-surfing hosts that he shares in this book.

The book is humorous and educational at the same time, which is a great combination. The book’s introduction begins with Francis accidentally locking himself in some remote outhouse in Finland, and his humorous description of this misadventure in an alien land got me hooked. He also states that every Eastern European country has one thing in common; they don’t like to be called “Eastern European”. Western European or just European seems to be the more desired label. Each chapter is about a different Eastern European country he visited, and ends with lessons that westerners can take from them. For example, Russians tend to be more relaxed and resilient than Americans, we can learn something from that. Slovakians have a very clean country and are very environmentally conscious, Americans can certainly take a lesson from that. Romanians are direct and don’t beat around the bush, they also have water-saving dual-flushing toilets so if you go number one, you use less water than if you go number 2. Apparently these type of toilets are all over Eastern Europe, and Americans could benefit from those as well. And so it goes with humor and life lessons throughout the book.

This is definitely an “adult” book. I would not recommend it for children due to some foul language that Francis sprinkles throughout, his descriptions of some of his sexual adventures, and some of his stereotypical labels he puts in there so westerners can relate easier to what he’s trying to convey. The book is not “vulgar” by any means, but it’s not middle school classroom material either. It’s very funny and very educational for American adults, his target audience.

As I’ve mentioned, this is a new book. According to his website Francis is now doing a public speaking circuit and does consulting for some major companies using his travel experiences. But his adventures aren’t over yet; he is about to embark on yet another journey into a land most westerners can’t relate to –Africa. He will hike through every African country and emerge with a new book in 2016. I can’t wait!!!!

The Kissing Sailor

Joan is going to read The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II by George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria.

On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they heard of Japan’s surrender to the United States. Two weeks later LIFE magazine published that image. It became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history (and the most celebrated photograph ever published in the world’s dominant photo-journal), a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over. Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information and a search for the mysterious couple’s identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse. And as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was known as the woman in the photo of V-J DAY, 1945, TIMES SQUARE. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor’s identity. Many aging warriors stepped forward with claims, and experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. Chaos ensued.

For almost two decades Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi were intrigued by the controversy surrounding the identity of the two principals in Eisenstaedt’s most famous photograph and collected evidence that began to shed light on this mystery. Unraveling years of misinformation and controversy, their findings propelled one claimant’s case far ahead of the others and, at the same time, dethroned the supposed kissed nurse when another candidate’s claim proved more credible. With this book, the authors solve the 67-year-old mystery by providing irrefutable proof to identify the couple in Eisenstaedt’s photo. It is the first time the whole truth behind the celebrated picture has been revealed.

The authors also bring to light the couple’s and the photographer’s brushes with death that nearly prevented their famous spontaneous Times Square meeting in the first place. The sailor, part of Bull Halsey’s famous task force, survived the deadly typhoon that took the lives of hundreds of other sailors. The nurse, an Austrian Jew who lost her mother and father in the Holocaust, barely managed to escape to the United States. Eisenstaedt, a World War I German soldier, was nearly killed at Flanders.

Sounds good!!! I might have to read this one!

Great historical read!

I’d like to showcase my friend Chris Pagliuco’s first book, The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe: Smuggled through Connecticut.

The story follows the journey of Parlimentarians Whalley and Goffe, who, along with John Dixwell, waged war against Charles I during the English civil wars. When the king was killed in 1660 and Charles’ son took over, they were charged with regicide, and fled to the Colonies, leaving behind families and homeland, forever it turned out for Whalley and Goffe.

Pagliuco takes his readers crisply along on the journey, with a sense of urgency and pleasant readability… murder, intrigue, fugitives on the lam… bigtime heroes and bigtime villains.”

I’ve also posted his blog site under “Sites I follow”. For the historical buffs (and Connecticut natives) it’s a great find! Enjoy!