Tag: nonfiction

October 12, 2017

Review | Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Review | Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin DickeyGhostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
Publisher: Viking, October 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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An intellectual feast for fans of offbeat history, Ghostland takes readers on a road trip through some of the country's most infamously haunted places--and deep into the dark side of our history.

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America's ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie homes," Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. Some have established reputations as "the most haunted mansion in America," or "the most haunted prison"; others, like the haunted Indian burial grounds in West Virginia, evoke memories from the past our collective nation tries to forget.

With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living--how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes to those facts are made--and why those changes are made--Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone, crimes left unsolved. Spellbinding, scary, and wickedly insightful, Ghostland discovers the past we're most afraid to speak of aloud in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.

Even if the paranormal isn’t your cup of tea, there’s no denying a certain mystical element to American history. From the haunted streets of Salem to the plains of the Native American nations, there’s a piercing awareness that we’re not alone. Colin Dickey’s Ghostland was meant to tell this story.

I say “meant” intentionally. Dickey divvied up his book first into different types of ghost stories (graveyards, cities, etc.), then into various locations within each category. I was thrilled. Usually, I’m not a big paranormal fan, but the prospect of combining my recent love for true crime (thanks to My Favorite Murder) and our newfound desire to travel America, I was hooked. The chapter that sealed the deal? New Orleans. I went to the Big Easy a year ago for work, so I can’t wait to go back with M.

But I digress…

I was hoping Ghostland would tell me the ghost stories of America, paired with the unique history of each, and leave me marking my travel map with must-sees. Instead, Dickey dissects each tale with a faintly condescending academia, implying how people are crazy for not looking at these stories in a coherent light.

Sure, finding out the truth about the secret staircase in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home, House of Seven Gables, was fascinating. Unique. Defined America’s perception of not only the house but the author. But I wanted the story, not the analytics.

Chapter after chapter, story after story, Dickey analyzed each tale to death (no pun intended) so that I began skipping his critiques and read the short paragraph telling the story, then researching it on Wikipedia.

So why three stars? Because Dickey was honest about the book’s focus. I had built it up in my mind to be more than it was. His versions of the stories were engaging and fascinating, inspiring me to search them out for myself.

If you’re looking for tales about haunted America, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. But if you are hoping for a realistic perception and critical analysis of America’s ghost stories, Ghostland is for you.

3 Stars

Posted October 12, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 15, 2016

Review | Ladies of Liberty by Cokie Roberts

Review | Ladies of Liberty by Cokie RobertsLadies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation by Cokie Roberts
Publisher: Harper Perennial, March 2009
Pages: 512
Format: Paperback
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In this eye-opening companion volume to her acclaimed history Founding Mothers, number-one New York Times bestselling author and renowned political commentator Cokie Roberts brings to life the extraordinary accomplishments of women who laid the groundwork for a better society. Recounted with insight and humor, and drawing on personal correspondence, private journals, and other primary sources, many of them previously unpublished, here are the fascinating and inspiring true stories of first ladies and freethinkers, educators and explorers. Featuring an exceptional group of women—including Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Rebecca Gratz, Louise Livingston, Sacagawea, and others—Ladies of Liberty sheds new light on the generation of heroines, reformers, and visionaries who helped shape our nation, finally giving these extraordinary ladies the recognition they so greatly deserve.

After getting hooked on Hamilton (“Just you wait!”…sorry), I was thrilled to find Cokie Roberts’ history of the ladies of liberty, the women so often overlooked in favor of the famous men in their lives. Roberts take a in-depth looks at the lives and effect of these women, starting shortly after the founding of the nation, bringing life back to these amazing characters in history.

Thanks to Hamilton, I actually had a pretty good handle on the more minor character Roberts delved into and found myself connecting to them more so than others. It was a good segue into what occasionally became an info dump, helping keep the book moving along.

I loved the amount of depth about Aaron Burr, a man I sadly knew very little about, and his daughter Theodosia. Those treason charges? I had no idea about that, but watching it through his and his daughter’s eyes (a person who is essentially an extension of him) was fascinating.

There were other people throughout history I recognized, such as Sacagewa (who I have a whole new respect for), whose stories brought life to Ladies of Liberty. The portrayal of Dolley Madison made me sad I didn’t get to meet her – she sounded like quite the character. The level of detail was fascinating.

However, it did have a downside. Occasionally the narrative was so bogged down by the detail that it felt smarter to skip ahead a few pages and get back to the story. It was hit and miss: half engaging, the other half a bit boring.

I felt like the narration went off on tangents occasionally. There were many stories about women I’ve never heard of (great!), but without the proper set up, their stories didn’t resonate with me (not so great). Sometimes it felt like Roberts found a really great history, and felt she had to stick it in somewhere…ah! Without the proper introduction, these histories fell flat, and I felt more irritated than intrigued.

Overall, a must for American history (or Hamilton) buffs. The level of detail and occasional personal touch Roberts adds in brings the stories to life. Maybe with a little more background, the rest of the stories would have stood out to me as well.

3 Stars

Posted August 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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November 9, 2015

Review | Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Review | Sous Chef by Michael GibneySous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney
Publisher: Ballantine Books, March 2014
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
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The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.
Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.
In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

In my experience, there are three types of food books. The brilliant, the okay, and the horrible. It comes down to the strength and integrity of the narrative voice: how much do they make us believe/invest in them, their stories, and their lives? 

Michael Gibney’s Sous Chef is falls into the second category. The decision to make the entire story in second person is a brave one, and I applaud him trying to bring the reader into the world of the kitchen. It felt too disjointed and odd – I would have been more comfortable with the first person persona, seeing the based-upon-true-events day in the life through his eyes instead of his/my own. 

I became really irritated with the narrative about halfway through the book as he’s/I’m organizing the speech for the wait staff’s preservice with the kitchen. Gibney uses the phrase “You need to know” 24 times in two and a half pages (beginning on the bottom of page 67 to the very last sentence of page 69). This repetition drove me insane, draining away from Gibney’s very obvious love of food and the job. It wasn’t engaging; it was tiresome. 

The shining light is that love of food. Gibney, your second person narrator, appreciates food in a completely different realm than the majority of us. His narrative as he describes his knifes, their balances, and lull and noise of the kitchen…it’s breathtaking, but overwhelmed by the second person narration. 

Sous Chef is okay. It’s a strong book in the love of food, but the narration drops its power quite a bit. But for a quick read, it’ll do.

3 Stars

Posted November 9, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 2, 2015

10 Reasons You Need to Read “You Deserve A Drink” Today

10 Reasons You Need to Read “You Deserve A Drink” TodayYou Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart, Grace Helbig
Publisher: Plume, May 2015
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
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The riotously funny debut from the drinking star with a YouTube problem
Since launching her YouTube channel “You Deserve a Drink” in 2011, comedian Mamrie Hart has built an intensely devoted following of more than half a million viewers. Like her bawdy and bacchanalian show, Hart’s eponymous debut pays tribute to her boozy misadventures with an original cocktail recipe accompanying each hilarious tale. From the “Leaves of Three Martini,” commemorating the hookup to whom she accidentally gave poison ivy, to the “Bizzargarita,” in honor of the time she and a friend were approached by two uber-Republican couples who wanted to “swing” while on vacation in Mexico, You Deserve a Drink is as useful as it is entertaining.

1. Having a bad day? Mamrie’s quick, witty narrative is guaranteed to make everything better.

2. After reading the stories about Topless Tuesday, Tuesday will never be the same again.
3. Get tips on how to pass French, break the ice at a bachelorette party and deal with internet trolls. 

4. Find out how to talk your way out of a ticket, courtesy of Mamrie’s mama. 
5. Your worst travel story is nothing compared to Mamrie’s overnight layover in Malaysia.
6. Each chapter begins with a new cocktail recipe!

7. Missed spring break in college (or want to relive it)? Her spring break tales are hilarious
8. Her focus on the importance of friends reminded me to be grateful for mine.
9. Tip – always check for poison ivy.
10. You deserve a laugh.

5 Stars

Posted October 2, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 14, 2015

Review | Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott

Review | Sin in the Second City by Karen AbbottSin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott
Publisher: Random House, June 2008
Pages: 302
Format: Hardcover
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Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history–and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago’s notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Club’s proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh “butterflies” awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot’s earnings and kept a “whipper” on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the literature of Balzac.
Not everyone appreciated the sisters’ attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters’ most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery”——the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America’s sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, “Hinky Dink” Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott’s colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our nation’s hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of America’s journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity.

Such a title. How can I resist a book that claims to tell the story of the “battle for America’s soul” right from the first page? I didn’t think that the history of two madams in 1800s Chicago would grab me, but, oh, did it. 

I immediately fell in love with the Everleigh sisters. These women epitomized the American dream. Sure, some people might not agree with this idea, but they envisioned it, planned it, and went out to get it. The psychology of two women who recreated their history to intentionally set themselves up as the most famous madams in America was intense, intriguing, and admirable. I wondered how they would do in today’s world, with the aid of technology to recreate their backgrounds. 

At first, I didn’t have the same fascinating with the reformers – I felt like they were taking away time from the most enchanting story of the two sisters. After I finished Sin in the Second City and thought over my notes, I realized that the reformers played a bigger role than I initially realized – they were the contrast, the foil, and to move into the historical, the representations of one era fighting against another. 

The same storytelling I fell in love with in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy shone through in Sin in the Second City. Abbott brought the world of 1800s Chicago to life. I didn’t know the dark history of Chicago, the story of white slavery, or the history of courtesans. Each one intrigued me. Nothing stood so firm in the book as the theme of America’s transition from the Victorian era to the 20th century. I knew the basics of the story from history classes, but delving into the world, interacting with the people, brought the change to life. 

I didn’t expect to be intrigued by this particular era of American history. Typically, I find myself entranced by Civil War history or the Revolution, the Prohibition, but not Victorian era turning to the more modern world. Now, I can’t get enough. 

4 Stars

Posted August 14, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 10, 2015

Review | Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy and the End of the Edwardian Era by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Title: Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Era

Author: Greg King and Penny Wilson
Publication Date: February 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Lusitania: She was a ship of dreams, carrying millionaires and aristocrats, actresses and impresarios, writers and suffragettes – a microcosm of the last years of the waning Edwardian Era and the coming influences of the Twentieth Century. When she left New York on her final voyage, she sailed from the New World to the Old; yet an encounter with the machinery of the New World, in the form of a primitive German U-Boat, sent her – and her gilded passengers – to their tragic deaths and opened up a new era of indiscriminate warfare.

A hundred years after her sinking, Lusitania remains an evocative ship of mystery. Was she carrying munitions that exploded? Did Winston Churchill engineer a conspiracy that doomed the liner? Lost amid these tangled skeins is the romantic, vibrant, and finally heartrending tale of the passengers who sailed aboard her. Lives, relationships, and marriages ended in the icy waters off the Irish Sea; those who survived were left haunted and plagued with guilt. Now, authors Greg King and Penny Wilson resurrect this lost, glittering world to show the golden age of travel and illuminate the most prominent of Lusitania’s passengers. Rarely was an era so glamorous; rarely was a ship so magnificent; and rarely was the human element of tragedy so quickly lost to diplomatic maneuvers and militaristic threats.

The story of the Lusitania is a new interest for me; I have always heard the story in passing, but after reading Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, I was hooked. I found King and Wilson’s Lusitania while looking through GoodReads a few weeks ago and picked it up at the library, hoping King and Wilson’s Lusitania would share more information to fuel my latest fascination.

King and Wilson’s Lusitania focuses on a few first and second class passengers, telling their story in incredible detail. Many of these passengers I hadn’t heard about before in my reading, so that held my attention. I found it a little strange, however, that King and Wilson don’t follow a third class passenger: in fact, they rarely mention the more than 1500 people who stayed in the Lusitania‘s third class accommodations. 

I hoped for more information on the U-boat commander Schwieger, but this nonfiction only devoted a chapter to the man that changed not only the course of the Lusitania‘s history, but the rules of warfare in general. For a man who had such an impact on so many lives, I found it a little strange that he was portrayed as a minor character. 

After the boat sails, the narration was strong and engaging: King and Wilson follow the chronological order of the ship’s last voyage. The order before was a little confusing: the narration bounced back and forth between the past and the time on the dock without a clear train of thought. Not a big deal, but was a little hard to follow at times.

In the end, Lusitania was an okay read. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I found myself yearning for more information, for more details on the passengers…just more. 

Posted July 10, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 18, 2015

Review | When Paris Went Dark by Ronald C. Rosbottom

Title: When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944
Author: Ronald C. Rosbottom
Publication Date: August 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The spellbinding and revealing chronicle of Nazi-occupied Paris

On June 14, 1940, German tanks entered a silent and nearly deserted Paris. Eight days later, France accepted a humiliating defeat and foreign occupation. Subsequently, an eerie sense of normalcy settled over the City of Light. Many Parisians keenly adapted themselves to the situation-even allied themselves with their Nazi overlords. At the same time, amidst this darkening gloom of German ruthlessness, shortages, and curfews, a resistance arose. Parisians of all stripes-Jews, immigrants, adolescents, communists, rightists, cultural icons such as Colette, de Beauvoir, Camus and Sartre, as well as police officers, teachers, students, and store owners-rallied around a little known French military officer, Charles de Gaulle. 

WHEN PARIS WENT DARK evokes with stunning precision the detail of daily life in a city under occupation, and the brave people who fought against the darkness. Relying on a range of resources—memoirs, diaries, letters, archives, interviews, personal histories, flyers and posters, fiction, photographs, film and historical studies—Rosbottom has forged a groundbreaking book that will forever influence how we understand those dark years in the City of Light.

A must for history lovers, especially those who can’t resist the allure of Paris. I found this book on GoodReads and grabbed a copy from the library. The depictions of Paris are stunning, but the story of the City of Light under occupation was both strange and fascinating. The strange denial and forced normalcy of the remaining citizens cast an odd pall over Paris that lasted throughout the war.

I was disappointed that Rosbottom stayed within the psychological story of Paris’ occupation. He doesn’t delve into the darker history, like the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, instead focusing on the Germans’ fascination and tourism with Paris. I didn’t know about Germany’s infatuation with the City of Light, which was fascinating, but I wanted to know it all, from the good to the ugly. Rosbottom’s When Paris Went Dark more often than not focused on the good/not-so-bad. 

Rosbottom’s ancedotes were interesting, but they occasionally weren’t enough to pick up some of the more dry parts. Hitler’s tour of Paris to be the most fascinating story included in When Paris Went Dark because it showed the complexity of his personality and mindset. Rosbottom’s depiction of Hitler as a conqueror and a tourist is such a fascinating combination, making me see Paris in an entirely different light.

To be fair, to truly enjoy this book, one must be interested in this topic. This isn’t an overview: it’s an in-depth, detailed look at Paris under occupation only. However, When Paris Went Dark is an interesting read, one that has little tidbits of history that isn’t commonly taught in our history classes. 

Posted June 18, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 28, 2015

Review | Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Title: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
Author: Karen Abbott {website}
Publication Date: July 2014
Publisher: Harper
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.

When I think of women in the Civil War, two different types come to mind: meek and mild, and the Scarlett O’Hara of warriors, using their feminine wiles to do battle with words. I never considered women dressing as men as Emma Edmundson does, blatantly spying as Belle Boyd does, or creating spy rings as Rose Greenhow and Elizabeth Van Lew did. Abbott’s memoir detailing these women’s drastically different yet fascinating lives opens a new chapter of Civil War history. 

Initially, I couldn’t find Abbott’s rhythm, but her pacing quickly caught me up in the world of the Civil War by the second chapter. I was a little concerned about the amount of history I knew Abbott intended to cover, but she recreated these vibrant women’s personalities so well that I found myself enchanted. Her writing was smooth and engaging, developing each woman’s history so well I felt that I knew them myself.

Each woman had a different impression on me; I found Belle, the stubborn rebel spy, to be mildly irritating, a bit arrogant, and one hundred percent devoted to her Confederate cause. Emma, the woman disguised as a soldier in the Army of the Potomac was a woman trying to find her place in the world. Rose Greenhow used her wiles to subtly spy on the Union, flaunting her Southern roots at each chance she could, but was slowly recovering from the loss of her child. Elizabeth Van Lew put everything on the line – her reputation, her family, her home – to do what was right to her. In short, I fell in love with these women.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is a fantastic depiction of the every aspect of the Civil War: Abbott touches on women’s rights, segregation, world perspectives, and honest depictions of battles (the hardest part to read). Abbott’s work is a must read for history buffs and memoir fans, or simply for someone curious about America’s Civil War.

Posted May 28, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 14, 2015

Review | All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith

Title: All Roads Lead to Austen
Author: Amy Elizabeth Smith
Publication Date: June 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Inspired by Reading Lolita in Tehran, the literary chronicle of a year spent reading Jane Austen throughout Latin America.

All Roads Lead to Austen looked like it would have everything: a great narrator (a lit professor!), a journey through Latin America (a place I know shamefully little about), and of course, Austen. However, I didn’t connect with Smith’s work the way I wanted.

The first round was interesting – listening to the different takes on Austen’s work and how the same themes I perceive are felt in different countries around the world, some with vastly different cultures than what I grew up with. But after the first country, things started to fall apart for me.

It felt like the same thing happened over and over in each country. A struggle to find a group, a discussion about an Austen novel (those became so alike that I started to skim), and the narrator leaving the book meeting acting vaguely dissatisfied. During the middle part of her journey, Smith falls horribly ill, a terrible thing to happen when traveling alone. However, instead of canceling/moving the book groups to a different time when she felt better, she continues with the project, then whines when no one picks up her slack (she doesn’t tell any of those at her club that she’s sick). Even after she heals, she always has a complaint during the book discussions; the one that really got me is when she became irritated when they wanted her perspective. 

After a while All Roads Lead to Austen simply felt repetitive. She missed her boyfriend Diego, wondered if they were really meant to be, talked about the Austen night she hosted at her school, and would throw in random tidbits about the places she visited. The first few times, I found this engaging and character building, but after the third time, I became bored. Eventually, I didn’t want to pick up the book anymore. There was no new insights into Austen and the narration slowly began to grate on my nerves. It was a relief to put this book down. 

Posted May 14, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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April 11, 2015

Review | Case Closed by Gerald Posner

Title: Case Closed
Author: Gerald Posner {website}
Publication Date: September 2003
Publisher: Anchor
Source & Format: Borrowed; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, continues to inspire interest ranging from well-meaning speculation to bizarre conspiracy theories and controversial filmmaking. But in this landmark book, reissued with a new afterword for the 40th anniversary of the assassination, Gerald Posner examines all of the available evidence and reaches the only possible conclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. There was no second gunman on the grassy knoll. The CIA was not involved. And although more than four million pages of documents have been released since Posner first made his case, they have served only to corroborate his findings. Case Closed remains the classic account against which all books about JFK’s death must be measured. 

Normally, I don’t check others’ reviews before I write my own, but today, I was intrigued. The variance of reviews was astonishing. JFK’s assassination is such a crucial part of America that everyone (literally…everyone) has an opinion on this fateful day in history. (Oh, before we begin – reading those reviews did not influence my own.)

Posner’s narration created a smooth flow of images, streaming different opinions and perspectives of the Kennedy assassination into a fascinating book. I liked the addition of the footnotes, adding different tidbits of information and occasional perspectives. There were times, however, that Posner’s personal opinions overcame the narration, especially as the book drew to a close. Granted, it’s his book and he can say whatever he wants in it, but I much preferred the recitation of events and fascinating, little-known observations on the characters in play. 

The event’s major characters were all portrayed with a great bit of detail: all except JFK, Jackie, and their side of the story. I expected some of the story to focus on Jackie after the assassination and the funeral, so Posner’s skip from LBJ’s rushed swearing-in ceremony to the medical examiners’ findings were a bit harsh (Note: this section is hard to read, especially for squeamish people like me). The focus on the two killers, Oswald and Ruby, fascinated me. 

Oddly, I had never given Oswald a lot of thought: JFK rules the narration more often then not. It was Posner’s focus on Oswald that kept me reading, tracing back from his childhood to track personality traits and characteristics. Whether or not you agree that Oswald was the killer, Posner’s depiction of his life is enough to fascinate any. 

Again,  regardless if you agree with Posner or not, the amount of detail in his research is so engaging. I loved the detailed footnotes, the cultural tidbits from Russia and Oswald’s life in the South with Marina…there was so much in this (admittedly huge) book that caught my interest. This will be a great read for any history buff!

Posted April 11, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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