Category: Uncategorized

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More WWII History: A Bold and Dangerous Family

May 12, 2021 Uncategorized 1 ★★★

More WWII History: A Bold and Dangerous FamilyTitle: A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, Her Two Sons, and Their Fight Against Fascism
Author: Caroline Moorehead
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: Parts of this were fascinating, but the beginning dragged and the end was abrupt.

After reading The Women in the Castle, about the widows  of German resistance leaders, I was finally motivated to pick up another book about resistance around WWII. This story follows a mother and her three sons as they fight against fascism when Mussolini comes to power in Italy. Like The Women in the Castle, this book gave me yet another new perspective on WWII. I’m always amazed at how many unique books can be written on this time period! Obviously it was an eventful one, but I wonder if other periods would be equally rich if given the same attention. Anyway, I learned a lot from this book. Out of the Axis powers during WWII, I previously only knew anything about Germany. The time period this book covered enabled me to follow the rise of fascism in Italy, which was simultaneously terrifying, fascinating, and informative. Read more »

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Historical Fiction Review: The Women in the Castle

May 10, 2021 Uncategorized 3 ★★★★

Historical Fiction Review: The Women in the CastleTitle: The Women in the Castle
Author: Jessica Shattuck
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was an interesting time period to focus on and raised thought-provoking ethical questions, but the story wasn’t emotionally engaging.

This book, like much historical fiction that I enjoy, is about overlooked women from history. The main character is Marianne von Lingenfels, who is the widow of a resistance hero who tried to kill Hitler. She also played a role in the resistance herself and was asked to look after the widows of all the resistance men who died in their efforts. She’s eventually able to rescue 6-year-old Martin from an orphanage and his mother from Red Army soldiers. She also brings another resister’s wife and her two children out of a displaced persons camp. All three must then try to survive together, as food shortages, occupying forces, and other circumstances change the world around them. Read more »

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Nonfiction About the US Supply Chain in Review

May 5, 2021 Uncategorized 12 ★★★★

Nonfiction About the US Supply Chain in ReviewTitle: The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket
Author: Benjamin Lorr
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Engaging and informative, I enjoyed how this work of investigative journalism used personal stories to give us a behind-the-scenes look at US grocery stores.

I sure do know how to write a click-bait post title :p Believe it or not, these books on the supply chain in the US were actually quite gripping. Sometimes depressing too, but this topic impacts our lives so intimately that I loved learning more. The first of these books was about how we get our groceries in the US. It covers everything from the rise of Trader Joe’s to the life of a trucker (grim), from what it takes to get your product on supermarket shelves to slave labor employed in the shrimp fishing industry (even more grim). I appreciated that there were some lighter topics in here. It made it easier to enjoy this book, while also learning about some of the horrifying realities that currently support the convenience of the modern grocery store. Read more »

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Women in History Review: Code Name Madeleine

April 26, 2021 Uncategorized 4 ★★★

Women in History Review: Code Name MadeleineTitle: Code Name Madeleine: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris
Author: Arthur J. Magida
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: More character-focused than plot-driven, this book was fascinating, but not the best fit for me right now.

This is the story of a WWII heroine, Noor Inayat Khan. As a quiet children’s author, given a luxurious childhood by followers of her father’s spiritual teachings, Noor wasn’t an obvious candidate for the French resistance. After an escape from France to Britain, she was persistent about being sent back and then staying to operate a radio as operatives were captured around her. This self-sacrifice was in keeping with the compassionate and applied teachings Noor absorbed from her father at an early age.  I will share with you how her story ends, since that info is revealed in the publisher summary. I’ll also make reference to the spoiler throughout the following review, so if you wish to know less than the blurb reveals, best to skip this review. Alright, on to the summary spoiler… After crucial months operating in France, Noor was captured and eventually killed at Dachau, months before the end of the war. Read more »

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Historical Fiction Review: Vera

April 21, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★

Historical Fiction Review: VeraTitle: Vera
Author: Carol Edgarian
Source: from publisher for review
|Goodreads
Rating:two-stars

Summary: The characters were interesting, but the plot and setting were pretty lackluster.

This is the story of “Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the violent, debt ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her.” (source) This description is a little on the grim side for my taste, but I was intrigued by the historical setting around the 1905 San Francisco earthquake and picked this up for that reason.

Read more »

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#Science Biography Review: The Codebreaker

April 19, 2021 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★★

#Science Biography Review: The CodebreakerTitle: The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
Author: Walter Isaacson
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: An engaging, personal look at some incredible scientific achievements.

I’ve been looking forward to this biography of Noble prize-winning scientist Jennifer Doudna for months. I worked on a protein used for gene editing in grad school (the TALENs briefly mentioned in this book), so the topic is of personal interest to me. I’ve also heard great things about Walter Isaacson’s biographies of other notable thinkers, including da Vinci and Einstein. And I was interested in learning more about Jennifer Doudna, as she’s one of the most high profile female scientists I’m aware of. For all of these reasons, I had very high expectations for this book and it still exceeded them. Even at almost 500 pages, it was an engaging read that flew by, explaining the science clearly and giving a really intimate look at the people involved. Read more »

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Nonfiction Review: North By Shakespeare

April 8, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★

Nonfiction Review: North By ShakespeareTitle: North by Shakespeare: A Rogue Scholar's Quest for the Truth Behind the Bard's Work
Author: Michael Blanding
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: I really enjoyed the historical parts of this story, but the Shakespeare theory was too speculative for me.

Author Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief was some of the earliest narrative nonfiction I read and, like Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La, it stands out as one of the books that made me love the genre. When I had an opportunity to review his latest book, on a researcher named Dennis McCarthy with a new theory about Shakespeare, I couldn’t pass it up. I was a little nervous about the topic though. The last book I read on a Shakespeare theory was pretty bad, presenting theories that felt laughably thin. This book didn’t have that problem. It was purely speculative, but some of the coincidences were persuasive. However, I still enjoyed the historical bits better than the Shakespeare theory. As someone who really appreciates solid evidence and wants to know what I’m reading in nonfiction is true, I’m not sure Shakespeare theory books are the best fit for me. Read more »

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