Source: from publisher for review

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More Monsanto History in Review: Seed Money

October 13, 2021 Uncategorized 1 ★★★★★

More Monsanto History in Review: Seed MoneyTitle: Seed Money: Monsanto's Past and Our Food Future
Author: Bartow J. Elmore
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: This was an incredible look at how the history of a powerful corporation shaped the world we live in today.

I recently read The Monsanto Papers, a book that primarily focused on the first court case to result in a judgement against Monsanto for selling the carcinogenic herbicide RoundUp. This broader history of Monsanto was a very complementary read. It takes a bigger picture look at the history of the company. We follow the story of Monsanto from founding to acquisition by Bayer. In-between, there’s a whole bunch of making chemicals that are useful, but harmful to both humans and the environment. Also lots of shady behavior trying to conceal the harmful bits. Read more »

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Light Fiction in Mini-Reviews

September 23, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★

Light Fiction in Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Last Time I Saw You
Author: Liv Constantine
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

This fast-paced thriller about a woman who starts receiving creepy threats after her mother was murdered was the sort of light read my brain can handle right now. The writing was good and the frightening situation kept me turning pages. I enjoyed how information about character’s past connections was revealed over time. However, an author in the book gets a review describing her story as both predictable and unbelievable. That might seem contradictory, but I think that was true of this book too! I guessed immediately who the bad guy was and was only thrown off the scent in the middle of the book because the author withheld information in a way that doesn’t feel totally fair to me. And the way we got back to my initial suspect being the bad guy required some pretty melodramatic, nearly unbelievable twists. Not an amazing book, but a fun one and just the sort of read I needed when I picked it up. Read more »

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Biography Review: Raoul Wallenberg

September 6, 2021 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★

Biography Review: Raoul WallenbergTitle: Raoul Wallenberg: The Heroic Life and Mysterious Disappearance of the Man Who Saved Thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust
Author: Ingrid Carlberg
Source: from publisher for review
|Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This biography was incredibly detailed, but managed to stay engaging and not get bogged down.

This is a biography of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who risked his life to help keep Hungarian Jews from being deported by Nazis during WWII. He was then disappeared and probably killed by the USSR security service when they freed Budapest. At 600 pages in length, this was a dense and detailed read – not obviously the best fit given my recent reading slump! As a result of my current slump, it did take me two weeks to read, but I really enjoyed it. The details bring a lot of life and really rich texture to the scenes the author describes. The author also clearly had access to a lot of incredible personal sources. In addition to both formal diplomatic and personal correspondence, she also included excerpts from diaries and conducted additional interviews with archivists and members of the Wallenberg family. Read more »

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WWII Nonfiction Review: 50 Children

August 24, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★

WWII Nonfiction Review: 50 ChildrenTitle: 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany
Author: Steven Pressman
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

This was an incredible story and pretty good narrative nonfiction. I must admit that I’m still in a bit of a reading slump though, so take my lack of extreme enthusiasm with a grain of salt! My main take away from this story was that many Americans knew the life-or-death danger facing Jews in Germany pre-WWII. Most Americans still opposed letting Jewish immigrants enter the country. Many Jewish Americans feared that pushing too hard in favor of immigration would turn other Americans against them. Against this backdrop, it’s even more incredible that a normal, relatively well-off Jewish American couple risked their own lives to rescue Jewish children from Nazi Germany. They had so much to lose. Read more »

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Journalistic Nonfiction in Review: Sidecountry

June 15, 2021 Uncategorized 9 ★★★★

Journalistic Nonfiction in Review: SidecountryTitle: Sidecountry: Tales of Death and Life from the Back Roads of Sports
Author: John Branch
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Other than wanting more, I loved everything about this collection of stories about offbeat sports! It really appealed to the part of me that loves learning about unusual jobs.

With the recent exception of some motorsports, I’ve not ever been much of a sports fan. However, I am as susceptible as anyone to a heart-warming sports story. I also love the quirky and the offbeat. This collection of journalist John Branch’s favorite pieces promised to include plenty of both. Sports and competitions that are covered include everything from dog grooming to figure eight racing, horseshoes to rock climbing. Some of the sports I’d never even heard of. Others, I simply knew very little about. Many of the stories, especially the longer ones, were also really moving stories about people. There are a lot of emotions tied up in sports and the author captured this through detailed characterizations of the people involved. Read more »

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A Trio of Bronte Biographies: Original, Scholarly, and Contemporary

May 24, 2021 Uncategorized 9 ★★★

A Trio of Bronte Biographies: Original, Scholarly, and ContemporaryTitle: The Life of Charlotte Brontë
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell, Angus Easson
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

I’ve found that I enjoy reading several books on the same topic, so when I wanted to clear a Charlotte Bronte bio from my shelves, I decide to pick two other biographies at the same time. The first, by Charlotte Bronte’s acquaintance and fellow author Elizabeth Gaskell, was the first Bronte biography to be written. I think this biography is a great place to start learning about the Brontes. It’s the origin of much of the Bronte mythology, so it provides a good foundation. It’s a little bit of work to read, because the language is older. Still, it was also fascinating to see how this contemporary of Charlotte Bronte viewed her and her family. The antiquated social mores could be extremely entertaining. Extensive quotes from letters gave an intimate look at who Charlotte Bronte was. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as your only Charlotte Bronte biography, because my next read revealed that Gaskell sometimes distorted or omitted facts to portray Charlotte in a more positive light. Read more »

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More WWII History: A Bold and Dangerous Family

May 12, 2021 Uncategorized 2 ★★★

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 5 ★★★★

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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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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