Source: Library

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Investigative Journalism in Review: She Said

June 9, 2022 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★½

Investigative Journalism in Review: She SaidTitle: She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement
Author: Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-half-stars

Summary: Fantastic investigative journalism telling an important story.

As you’ll probably notice over the next month or so, I’ve decided to do a bit of a deep dive on the topic of women in media. I’ve already reviewed two books about women in film and I have a number of memoirs by female journalists in the queue. I certainly hope the whole list won’t be focused on sexual harassment. It’s depressing we live in a world where that’s even a possible way of approaching this and its not my favorite topic to read about. However, She Said is such a well known book on the topic, I had to at least consider picking it up. Then both of the books I read about women in film highlighted what a turning point Weinstein facing criminal charges was in their industry. I knew I needed to read this account by the two journalists who broke the story about Weinstein next. Read more »

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Women in Cinema Nonfiction Reviews

June 7, 2022 Uncategorized 5 ★★★

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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Math Nonfiction Review: Humble Pi

June 4, 2022 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

Math Nonfiction Review: Humble PiTitle: Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors
Author: Matt Parker
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Surprisingly light, fun, and entertaining!

I enjoyed math in school, but when it comes to nonfiction reading, I’m definitely a life sciences kind of reader. Several other members of my book club shared my doubts about whether this book on the way math errors can significantly impact our lives would be a fun read. Fortunately, the author’s sense of humor and the interesting stories he found to tell won us all over. Read more »

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True Crime Review: Last Call

June 1, 2022 Uncategorized 2 ★★★½

True Crime Review: Last CallTitle: Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York
Author: Elon Green
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-half-stars

Summary: This was engaging and focused on victims rather than a serial killer, but it was also quite light.

This is the story of a serial killer who preyed on gay men, with a focus on the personal lives of the few known victims and the community they formed in early 1990’s New York. It seems likely that the killer escaped justice for longer and killed more people than are known due to police bias. It also seems like he knew a lot about how gay men socialized and this book gives some insight into the places beloved by the community. 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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Books on Segregation in Review

April 25, 2022 Uncategorized 4 ★★★½

Books on Segregation in ReviewTitle: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
Author: Richard Rothstein
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-half-stars

One small problem I had with the beginning of this book was the framing. The author was inspired to write this book about the active role of the US government in promoting residential segregation because of a Supreme Court decision that denied this reality. He seems to think that if future Supreme Court justices just knew the truth, they’d make different decisions. While I do think we’d be better off with Justices who’d read his book, I also found it painfully naive to believe that our current Court majority is ignorant of the facts, not just ignoring them. Read more »

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More Pop Neuroscience in Review: The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons

April 19, 2022 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★

More Pop Neuroscience in Review: The Tale of the Dueling NeurosurgeonsTitle: The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery
Author: Sam Kean
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Entertaining, wide-ranging look at what we know about the brain and how we know it.

I enjoyed Sam Kean’s earlier book on genetics, The Violinist’s Thumb, and unfortunately delayed reading this book because of the misleading title. To be fair, the subtitle (“The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery”) is much more accurate. While one anecdote does involve two slightly competitive neurosurgeons, the bulk of the book is far more interesting and far more wide ranging history of medical cases that revealed new information about the brain. Read more »

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Self-Help Review: The Power of Ritual

April 11, 2022 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

Self-Help Review: The Power of RitualTitle: The Power of Ritual: How to Create Meaning and Connection in Everything You Do
Author: Casper ter Kuile
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This sometimes felt light or repetitive, but I definitely took away from helpful ideas!

I had mixed feelings about this book on giving some of your everyday activities more meaning by turning them into rituals. It felt fairly light to me and even at only 200 pages, there were parts that were repetitive or felt like filler. In particular, I wasn’t interested in the author’s opinions about how technology has made us busier and more disconnected in modern life. He does a good job of citing specific studies to make smaller points about how people live now, but the overall conclusion felt like an unsupported opinion I’d heard before. However, the overall concept of creating rituals does feel useful to me. There were also enough specific suggestions that I’d like to try and revisit that I’m considering buying a copy to reference. I have to give a book pretty high marks if it has enough useful content that I want to own a copy! Read more »

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YA Retelling Review: Within These Wicked Walls

March 28, 2022 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★★

YA Retelling Review: Within These Wicked WallsTitle: Within These Wicked Walls
Author: Lauren Blackwood
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: I thought this was a perfect retelling, keeping the heart of the original while making the story feel fresh and modern.

This YA retelling of Jane Eyre focuses on Andromeda, a young woman kicked out of her training to be a debtera or exorcist. As a result, she has no choice but to take a particularly dangerous assignment, cleansing a home for a wealthy, reclusive man. Unfortunately, by the time she realizes how difficult a job she’s taken on, she may have fallen too hard for employer to leave him to survive the curse alone. Read more »

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Romance Review: Party of Two

March 25, 2022 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★★

Romance Review: Party of TwoTitle: Party of Two (The Wedding Date, #5)
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: Another great book in this series, with delightful characters and a convincing, heartwarming relationship.

Like Royal Holiday, this lovely romance kept the strengths of the first books in the series while eliminating my least favorite tropes. Olivia Monroe is a lawyer starting her own business who falls for state senator Max Powell. As you might guess just from that description, both of our protagonists have jobs that they’re passionate about. This is a recurring motif in this series and part of what makes the characters so well developed. They each also have their own interests, histories, and personality quirks. It was lovely to see how these well-developed characters mesh and clash with one another as their relationship grows.

Read more »

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