Tag: non-fiction

Frozen In Time

May 6, 2013 Uncategorized 8

Title: Frozen In Time
Author: Mitchell Zuckoff
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★☆
Fun Fact: The Greenland coastline is longer than the distance around the equator.
Review Summary: Another awesome example of narrative non-fiction from Zuckoff, packed with adventure, drama, and a personal touch that makes the reader feel like the know the people involved.

During WWII, planes routinely used Greenland as a staging point to get from the US to Europe. From this story, it seems as though planes almost as routinely ended up crashing due to the wind and poor visibility! In Frozen In Time,  a B-17 participating in a search and rescue mission crash lands with all men on board miraculously surviving the crash. A Gruman Duck amphibious plane which is part of a daring rescue mission crashes as well and since none of the men on board survived, the plane is never retrieved. Frozen In Time tells both the story of the many daring rescue attempts necessary to retrieve the men aboard the B-17 and the modern day story of the hunt for the lost Duck. Read more »

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Meeting Alfred Hitchcock

May 1, 2013 Uncategorized 3

Title: It’s Only A Movie
Author: Charlotte Chandler
Source: library 
Rating: ★★★★☆
Fun Fact: Hitchcock once had a set showing a city street in Holland built complete with working street cars and sewers to drain the fake rain.
Review Summary: The book was a very light read composed mainly of quotes that made me feel like I really got to know Hitchcock.

It’s Only a Movie is a very comprehensive biography, covering Hitchcock’s career from his beginnings as a title designer through the final movie he was never able to complete. Even the plots of his movies are included. Mostly though, this was an intimate portrait of the man, told through quotes from him and those who knew him. Read more »

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Guest Review – A Parent’s Playbook for Learning

April 24, 2013 Uncategorized 0

Recently I was asked to review a book of advice for helping your child learn and I immediately thought of asking my mother to review it because of her experience homeschooling me and my siblings. Today I’d like to share her excellent review with you. 

No matter how your child is educated—home, public, private—this book holds the key to academic success: Jen Lilienstein’s A Parent’s Playbook for Learning.  It gives you the tools to recognize your child’s learning personality and the strategies to use that information to help your child succeed in school. Read more »

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Under the Tuscan Sun

April 10, 2013 Uncategorized 6

Title: Under the Tuscan Sun
Author: Frances Mayes
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: This is a wholesome, lovely, refreshing read with lyrical prose describing a beautiful location but it is a little undirected.

First let me tell you what this book isn’t. It’s nothing like the movie; it’s not a romance; and it isn’t even a book with much of a plot. Instead, it’s a beautiful collection of anecdotes loosely tied together by the progression of time. The primary focus is on the author’s experiences restoring a Tuscan villa, but her focus on food is a close second. Some of her experiences as a tourist remind me of a travel memoir, but I particularly enjoyed the other parts that describe the experience of actually living in Italy. Read more »

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The Botany of Desire

April 3, 2013 Uncategorized 4

Title: The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World
Author: Michael Pollan
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Fun Fact: A tulip grown from seed doesn’t flower for 7 years!
Review Summary: This was one of the most fun non-fiction books I’ve read, because of both the content and the author’s enthusiasm.

The author’s starting premise in The Botany of Desire has two fascinating parts. First, that plants benefit greatly from domestication, so our relationship with them could just as easily be viewed as them domesticating us. And second, that domesticated plants have evolved to meet some basic human desire, making plants of the past a great way to learn about what previous civilizations valued. The bulk of the book is devoted to stories of particular plants that illustrate this point. Although I expected more of a history of the plants in question (the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato), I very much enjoyed the collection of anecdotes presented instead.

Read more »

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An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England

March 27, 2013 Uncategorized 3

Title: An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England
Author: Venetia Murray
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★☆
Fun Fact: In Regency England it was considered a great honor to be invited to watch the fashion icon Beau Brummel get dressed.
Review Summary: The tone is straightforward and factual, but the information included is fascinating and engaging all on its own.

Regency England was a time period that technically lasted from 1811-1820 and which you might recognize as the setting of the genre known as “regency romances”. An Elegant Madness is an impressively thorough discussion of the time period, with chapters on everything from clothes to dinners, to society and scandalous sex lives. Although the author’s tone is fairly scholarly and dry, the topics and first hand accounts make for some fascinating reading. Read more »

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Salt: A World History

March 20, 2013 Uncategorized 10

Title: Salt: A World History
Author: Mark Kurlansky
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Fun Fact: When mummies (preserved with salt) were moved into Cairo in the 1800’s, they were taxed as salted fish.
Review Summary: Mostly an engagingly written overview of history organized around salt, but with a few too many details of specific recipes and cod fishing.

Writing a world history organized by the way everything connects back to salt was a surprisingly brilliant idea. Because salt was a strategic concern in the organization of many countries and their wars, it’s possible to touch on many of the most interesting periods in history by talking about salt. This could very easily have led to a disorganized book, but each chapter focused on a specific country and the book generally moves forward in time. Together, that was enough to give the book a cohesive feel.

Read more »

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Around the World in Eighty Days – The True Story

February 27, 2013 Uncategorized 0

Title: Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World
Author: Matthew Goodman
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★☆
Fun Fact: In 1889, 1 out of every 300 people in the world lived in New York City.
Review Summary: An exciting adventure which will immerse you in the time period and introduce you to two fascinating protagonists.

In 1889, two young women set out to accomplish an astounding and previously fictional feat – traveling around the world in under eighty days.  Both women were reporters, sponsored by their respective news papers to race around the world in opposite directions. This book chronicles their incredible adventure, with rich descriptions of the people involved and the places visited. We also get a glimpse of daily life in 1889 and the evolving place of women in American society. Read more »

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

February 6, 2013 Uncategorized 9

Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★☆
Fun Fact: If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings
Review Summary: An impressively unbiased look at an interesting ethical question, with an equally impressive personal account of how this issue changed one families’ life.

Henreitta Lacks is a young, black woman whose cancerous cells were harvested and grown  without her consent in the 1940’s. At the times, this was standard practice, especially with black patients, who still saw doctors from segregated wards or not at all. Today, her cells have changed the world. As the first cells to survive and continually reproduce, her cells have been used to develop numerous vaccines and learn more about many crucial cellular functions. Unfortunately, her family never benefited from the massive commercialization of her cells, although this book is an attempt to change that.

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All About the Shelby

January 30, 2013 Uncategorized 2

Title: The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide: 1965-1970
Author: Greg Kolasa
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Fun Fact: The earliest Shelby GT350’s had the engine moved into the trunk, a practice discontinued because the trunk often filled with acid fumes
Review Summary: A great book with enough detail to satisfy a Shelby enthusiast and enough engaging stories to make an interesting micro-history for the rest of us.

As you might guess, this book covers in great detail all aspects of Shelby mustangs with a particular focus on the story of their production. Although I’m not a huge car buff myself, I picked this to review because I love a good micro-history and I enjoy learning about new things. I was also impressed that the author based his book entirely on primary sources, from factory documentation to interviews with the people who were involved in the process. As soon as I got the book, I was struck by the quality photography as well. As a photography enthusiast, I appreciated how well done it was, but recognize that a Shelby enthusiast would probably be most impressed by the variety of Shelby’s the author managed to track down.

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