Source: from publisher for review

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Women in Cinema Nonfiction Reviews

June 7, 2022 Uncategorized 3 ★★★

Women in Cinema Nonfiction ReviewsTitle: The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick
Author: Mallory O'Meara
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

This is the story of Milicent Patrick, the designer of the monster in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Few people have heard of her, because of credit-stealing efforts of her jealous boss. Author Mallory O’Meara unearths Milicent’s story and shares some of her own experiences with sexism in her work in the horror film industry. While memoir plus a topic is a type of nonfiction that often works for me, the blending here was a little rough. In a few places, Mallory’s personal experiences gave me a deeper understanding of what Milicent experienced. In others, the story of doing research lined up well with what was being shared about Milicent. However, in most cases, the jumps weren’t between points of obvious connection in the two stories, which was jarring.

The footnotes were also hit-or-miss for me. Some were quite successful – really funny or adding extra information I was excited to have. At other times, they were a little too into present-day politics, which pulled me out of the story (despite my general agreement with the author) and unnecessarily dated the book. I enjoyed Milicent’s story. The author did some incredible detective work to be able to share with us Milicent’s vivid personality. The mesh between that story and her own was simply a bit rough around the edges. Read more »

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Contemporary Fiction Review: Like a House on Fire

May 26, 2022 Uncategorized 0 ★★★½

Contemporary Fiction Review: Like a House on FireTitle: Like a House on Fire
Author: Lauren McBrayer
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-half-stars

Summary: The relationship at the heart of this book was intriguing, but the plot was lighter than I hoped.

After twelve years of marriage and two kids, Merit has begun to feel like a stranger in her own life…So, she returns to her career at Jager + Brandt, where a brilliant and beautiful Danish architect named Jane decides to overlook the “break” in Merit’s resume and give her a shot. Jane is a supernova—witty and dazzling and unapologetically herself—and as the two work closely together, their relationship becomes a true friendship… Their relationship quickly becomes a cornerstone in Merit’s life. And as Merit starts to open her mind to the idea of more—more of a partner, more of a match, more in love—she begins to question: what if the love of her life isn’t the man she married. What if it’s Jane?” (source) Read more »

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Two Pandemic Nonfiction Reviews

May 21, 2022 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★

Two Pandemic Nonfiction ReviewsTitle: The Helpers: Profiles from the Front Lines of the Pandemic
Author: Kathy Gilsinan
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

This is definitely the most optimistic book I’ve read about the ongoing pandemic. It was uplifting to read about the heroic individuals who put their lives on the line to help others. Many of them dropped everything and risked everything in their efforts to save lives. The author doesn’t lose track of the systemic failures that made these heroic sacrifices necessary, but the focus is on the people who were doing the work. I thought the organization of the story was very effective, with chronological glimpses of each of the six protagonists’ stories at the beginning, middle, and end of the first wave of cases. The author seems to have really done the work to get to know these people. We got intimate glimpses of their work and the rest of their lives from their perspective and the perspectives of those closest to them. This wasn’t hard-hitting journalism and I didn’t learn much I didn’t know, but it was an incredible, heart-warming personal look at some real heroes. I enjoyed it very much.

Two Pandemic Nonfiction ReviewsTitle: Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine
Author: Geoff Manaugh, Nicola Twilley
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

I was surprised to learn that this second book, on the history of quarantine, was in the works before covid. There was an intro that focused on covid and a few references to modern resistance to pandemic mitigation efforts, but this wasn’t a large part of the book. The bulk of the book was about the origins of quarantine practices and the ethics of using quarantine to control disease spread today. There’s also a significant digression about interesting cases where we try to isolate things for other reasons – specifically nuclear waste disposal and space travel. These sections initially felt off-topic, but they raised some really thought-provoking questions about the limits of and uses for quarantine. This book definitely read like narrative nonfiction, but was kept engaging through many anecdotes rather than one overarching story. Historical pandemics are recounted with personal perspectives and larger narrative arcs. The authors also intersperse information with fascinating stories about their travels learning about quarantine. I love when authors use their research experience to make potentially dry information feel immediate and alive.

These two books complemented each other well, with the first focused on the stories of individuals and the second focused on systems. Neither gave a very complete overview of the beginning of the current pandemic though. Although I recommend both of these books, for a more complete picture, I’d suggest either either Lawrence Wright’s The Plague Year or Michael Lewis’s The Premonition.

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Nonfiction Review: Dedicated

May 10, 2022 Uncategorized 0 ★★★

Nonfiction Review: DedicatedTitle: Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing
Author: Pete Davis
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: I enjoyed hearing about the many different things committed people have accomplished, but I think this book would be more helpful for someone earlier in their search for the meaning commitment can provide.

I was interested in this book about choosing to make more commitments because I’ve found committing to more things quite satisfying. About five years ago, living in California, I finally decided to hang pictures on my walls. Last year, when I moved to Maryland, I finally decided to become involved in local politics. I’d never done either of those things before because I never expected to live in one place for very long. I’m glad to have finally to have just started doing the things I want to do where I live regardless of whether I end up staying. However, I think I would have gotten a lot more out of this book before I came to this realization on my own. Read more »

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True Crime in Mini-Reviews

April 14, 2022 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★

True Crime in Mini-ReviewsTitle: Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation
Author: Erika Krouse
Source: Bought
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

It took me awhile to figure out why this book didn’t feel more special to me, because the writing was impeccable and the story was hard to put down. It immediately felt a bit light to me. Despite the tough topics and the devastation these events caused for real people, the story had the sort of suspense you find in a nondescript thriller. I think this is because we were at a remove from the women most impacted. As the author talks to them, she’s in a detached state, trying to figure out how to use their stories to build a case. The author’s own history was also gut-wrenching, but even that story was shared at an emotional remove. Despite devastating material, this book never made me sad, just angry. And an exploration of how this sort of complicity by an entire university town can happen was done better in Missoula. After reading Missoula, what happened here was horrifying, but not surprising to me. Read more »

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Romance Review: By Any Other Name

April 5, 2022 Uncategorized 1 ★★★½

Romance Review: By Any Other NameTitle: By Any Other Name
Author: Lauren Kate
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-half-stars

Summary: This wasn’t particularly unique or substantive, but it was exactly the sort of heartwarming, bookish, sweet romance I was looking for.

This is the first romance I’ve ever been offered a review copy for and I was really excited for the bookish premise. Our protagonist, Lanie, is an editor whose expectations for love were shaped by author Noa Calloway’s romance novels. Her fiancé checks off every item on her list of 99 things she wanted in a romance, inspired by the first Calloway book she read. She works as an assistant editor who gets to edit Noa Calloway’s books – her dream job. But – to quote the book blurb – “there’s a reason no one has ever seen or spoken to the mysterious Noa Calloway. And that reason will rock Lanie’s world. It will call into question everything she thought she knew. When she finally tosses her ninety-nine expectations to the wind, Lanie may just discover that love By Any Other Name can still be as sweet.” Read more »

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Two Books on Forest Conservation in Review

March 23, 2022 Uncategorized 0 ★★★★

Two Books on Forest Conservation in ReviewTitle: The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth
Author: Ben Rawlence
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

I really enjoyed the organization of this book, which looks at different geographic regions of the forest that circles the Northern reaches of Europe, Asia, and North America. Each section focused in on one specific type of tree that is abundant in each region’s forest. I felt like this focused approach helped me retain more information as I read. The book also included some incredible facts about the way forests benefit the world. My two favorite fun facts were learning that at least some trees release anti-inflammatory particles and that many nutrients necessary for the growth of phytoplankton come from trees. Both of these facts were in my favorite section of the book, focusing on a fascinating scientist, Diana Beresford Kreoger, who was the inspiration for a character in The Overstory. I also appreciate how much respect the author showed to indigenous beliefs, especially since there are many examples in the book of those beliefs matching the science. The were only two things I didn’t like about this book. One was that the nature writing sometimes got a little too flowery. The other is that the descriptions of landscapes, geography, and scientific terms were all occasionally unclear. Still, a great intro to a fascinating topic. Read more »

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Pop Science Review: A Molecule Away From Madness

March 18, 2022 Uncategorized 6 ★★★½

Pop Science Review: A Molecule Away From MadnessTitle: A Molecule Away from Madness: Tales of the Hijacked Brain
Author: Sara Manning Peskin
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-half-stars

Summary: Not enough details given that this is so closely related to my professional interests, but I think the fascinating stories and clear descriptions will make this a winner for most readers.

This was a fascinating look at disorders of the brain which each have a single, known molecular cause. The author did a great job picking individual stories to tell to introduce us to each disease. The stories are really moving. They also include a good number of stories where there is either already a cure or some hope of a cure. That kept the collection more upbeat than it might have been. The stories where a cure is on the horizon also felt like they were covering some cutting edge science. Read more »

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Science Memoir in Review: Heartbreak

February 2, 2022 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

Science Memoir in Review: HeartbreakTitle: Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey
Author: Florence Williams
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Fascinating science and engaging memoir, well blended!

Science memoirs are rapidly becoming one of my favorite genres. Like any something + memoir, I’m sure it could go wrong if the balance was off, but I found that both elements of this book were well blended. The author has gotten a divorce, at her husband’s instigation and after 25 years of marriage. As she goes through the difficult grieving process, she tries a lot of different ways to approach her grief. She takes on a multi-week, at times solo rafting trip. She tries getting back into dating. And, in one of my favorite parts of her story, she also does a lot of visiting scientists and learning about both how we grieve and how grief can impact the body. Read more »

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Women in History Review: Tastemakers

November 18, 2021 Uncategorized 10 ★★★★½

Women in History Review: TastemakersTitle: Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America
Author: Mayukh Sen
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-half-stars

Summary: This book did a great job of showcasing the personalities and accomplishments of immigrant women who influenced American cuisine.

Tastemakers is a new entry in the group biography genre, one of many doing the good work of sharing stories of important but forgotten women in history. The women featured here are all immigrants to the United States who had a profound impact on American cuisine. Each of these women contributed significantly to the inclusion of their cuisine in main stream American cooking. Some of these women were more clearly writing for people familiar with their cuisine, such as expat communities, while others wrote for novices. How to balance authenticity with approachability (and ingredient availability) was something each woman had to determine for herself. Read more »

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