Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Review: The Nanny

The Nanny The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Interesting and well written thriller with different points of view which added to the interest. The reader is sympathetic to both mother and daughter although the truth about the nanny becomes more apparent yet the big reveal occurs close to the end. Satisfying story.

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Review: Seven Signs of Life: Stories from an Intensive Care Doctor

Seven Signs of Life: Stories from an Intensive Care Doctor Seven Signs of Life: Stories from an Intensive Care Doctor by Aoife Abbey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very well written and fascinating perspective written by a doctor. Humanizing yet professional, the author writes of personal experiences and covers a plethora of areas of the practice of medicine.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Review: The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era

The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era by Gareth Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is unique about this book is that the sinking of the Titanic is explored within the context of the time period and world events. The Titanic is, at times, peripheral in the story as the author paints a picture of society and world events. Ireland was in the grips of tearing apart with the Protestants wanting independence and Catholics wanting to stay under British rule. Tensions are rising between countries and political parties with assassinations on the rise - soon a Lithuanian would be assassinating an Italian dignitary which would be the final catalyst for the beginning of WWI. Yet when the Titanic sailed, the differences in classes still persisted yet there was a beginning arch of Hollywood royalty as opposed to Old World royalty.

The author does extensive research about the ship, the reason it sunk, and if third class passengers were mistreated, the timeline of key players, and the physics of the sinking.

Spoiler alert: James Cameron’s Titanic movie was a blockbuster that took artistic liberties. Also, many of the follies are examined and the real reason for the massive loss of life was the decision to power through the ice field and the lack of time for evacuating. Even with enough life boats, 2 and a half hours was inefficient time to evacuate all of the people. Even with sufficient life boats, there would still have been a huge loss of life.

Tommy Andrews was meticulous and well liked. He was homesick.
Ismay was socially awkward and not a villain. His choice to enter a lifeboat was not as selfish as it has been portrayed.
Captain Smith was going too fast through an ice field even with warnings.
The routes were far too high in latitude.
Third class was not mistreated,

If you want more Titanic facts, this is a good one. It is put into the context of what was happening in the world and different countries. It also corrects some accepted alternative facts.

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Review: The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing

The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing by Adam P. Frankel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is pretty raw and very well written. Adam Frankel’s book is divided into 3 parts; War, Inheritance, and Healing. Each division is a fascinating part of his history and, besides the specifics, the theory can be applied to all of us. His hypothesis is that trauma affects many generations. This is explored in Part II.

Part I gives a brief history of Frankel’s Jewish maternal grandparents and their families during WWII, concentrating heavily on his grandfather, Gershon, his father, mother, brothers and sisters. There are horrors but the author assumes the reader knows enough about the concentration camps to not enumerate many of them. He provides facts relevant to the family which I am carefully avoiding who survives and who does not. What is of particular interest, however, is that Gershon, the author’s grandfather, is involved in something during his time in a Displaced Persons camp that, later, provides a small snapshot of why he and his wife emigrated from Europe very quickly and with the added expense of taking on new identities. This adds to the secrecy and the culture of never discussing what happened in Europe beyond the Holocaust. There were subjects that simply were not discussed. Zander (formerly Gershon) and family immigrate to the U.S., raise 4 children including Adam’s mother who meets Adam’s father and they get married.

Parts 2 is the bridge between the generation of trauma (Holocaust) to the author. He examines his family as he gains awareness that there is something different about them. He discovers that his grandparents chose a neighborhood that had other Jewish Holocaust survivors who carry similar characteristics. As an adult, he does his own research on trauma and epigenetics or how trauma is stored in the DNA. What leads him to this query is the dawning understanding that his mother is severely mentally ill. Her logic is skewed, her reality different, and her moods are traumatizing on Adam. It is during this time that Adam unravels the greatest secret that changes how he views his previous life - a trauma for him. He now has a before and after.

Part 3 is more of reckoning and accepting who he is and all of the past that shaped him. There is joy, pain, trauma, and healing. This is what makes us resilient. This part is really raw and the author must deal with the different generations of his family as he works through this yet mindful of Zayde and his relationships and history.

The book is deeply personal and the journey is quite an undertaking. Regardless of being such a personal story, I found myself underlining many AHA moments. One in particular is the idea that, if trauma can impact for generations, the counterpart must also be true. Healing will also impact generations.

One paragraph reminded me of an experience I when I visited a place called “Winter Quarters” on a church history trip fresh out of high school. Within a few steps of leaving the bus, a grief washed over me that was so heavy and visceral. I wandered alone for an hour, sobbing. A statue of a couple standing over a very small open grave brought me to my knees. My heart was shattered. I had no idea why. When we drove away, the grief lifted and I was back to myself. I was confused why I had fallen apart there.

Decades later I joined the crowd and started doing some genealogy. I stumbled upon a fascinating ancestor that crossed the plains at the age of 7. He lived a colorful an interesting life. After satisfying my curiosity of this intriguing ancestor, I was ready to stop reading when something caught my eye. Samual Alonzo Whitney, my ancestor, had left Nauvoo, Illinois with his mother, Henrietta, a recent widow, and his little brother, age 4. All were exposed to the elements and both boys were very ill. Henrietta carried one or both of them most of the 300 miles, arriving at Winter Quarters in a blizzard. 4 year old Don Carlos Whitney died three days later.

Was that grief written into my DNA? No other place has impacted me on that level although, ironically, Dachau came pretty close. Was it healing to my ancestors and descendants to recognize and remember Don Carlos?

Yes, the book is personal, but I found my own personal journey within the pages.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Review: The Family Upstairs

The Family Upstairs The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such an enjoyable book. Lisa Jewel knows how to write. Not all of her books have been a hit for me but this one clearly was. A baby is discovered in her crib in a family home where both parents have been killed. She is healthy, happy, clean, and clearly alone. What happened to the her parents? What happened to the other children in the home? Above all, who is the third body, a man who seemed to be leading a cult in the home?

Excellent thriller which had me completely guessing throughout the book.

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Review: This Tender Land

This Tender Land This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like Krueger’s previous novel, I remember little about the story yet I remember the beautiful pictures painted with words and emotion. Writing style and character development are spot. On. 4 orphans run away after the Tornado God wreaked havoc and destroyed homes, families, hopes, and dreams. Stealing a boat, the float and row down a river with only a vague idea of where they are going. In truth, it’s not a destination but a place where they belong which is different for each of them. On their way, the experience the landscape of our country at that moment in time; The Great Depression, Hoovervilles, the dissonance of the Native Americans, and lack of social programs. On the way, they meet that still have good hearts and help them grow, love, and live.

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Review: The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a different genre than I have read by this author. A historical fiction book of America post WWII, Moyes proves to be an author that can weave a beautiful story based on a snapshot moment in American history that is significant and well represented.

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Review: The Dutch House

The Dutch House The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another very well written book by Ann Patchett. The story weaves together a generational flaw that is misunderstood and redefined by the following generation. It is about having it all yet having nothing then having nothing and not recognizing having it all.

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