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Showing posts from 2015

I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives by Roberto Canessa and Pablo Vierci

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I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives by Roberto Canessa and Pablo Vierci


                I was familiar with the story of the Uruguayan Rugby team that crashed in the Andes after watching the movie Alive years ago. I remember thinking after the movie ended how one could possibly go on living any semblance of a normal life after being in such a horrendous situation for over two months. Watching your friends die, having to eat their bodies to survive and the constant fear. It would take an unimaginable amount of strength to survive and then even more to continue to live. When I first ran across this title I was intrigued and ultimately overjoyed. Here was proof that someone could survive and not only continue living but use that strength to help others survive. I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives is well written memoir by Roberto Canessa who was 19 years old when his plane crashed in the Andes Mo…

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Feminist Black Radical by Sherie M. Randolph

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Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Feminist Black Radical by Sherie M. Randolph

                I love reading a biography that does more than just educate, instead it enlightens, broadens perspectives and changes the way certain segments of history are viewed. This biography of Florynce Kennedy is a great example of this type of biography. It is well written, narrated and honest about the life of a black feminist radical. Her story takes readers through many different pivotal moments throughout history and readers are exposed to the many injustices imposed on women, the Black community and both fights for equality.                 A simple narrative worked beautifully for this biography because Florynce Kennedy lived such a long and complex life. Her grandparents on both sides had been enslaved and at a young age, Kennedy saw her own parents threatened by members of the white community around her and they didn’t back down. Watching her parents stand tall in the face of discriminati…

In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

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In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

                Imagine the year is 1933 and you have just been sent to Berlin as America’s Ambassador to Germany. You have brought your wife and two grown children. You have loved Germany since attending school there years prior and have looked forward to returning. You’ve heard rumors of Hitler’s regime and how they are dealing with the Jewish problem, but you don’t have any reason to believe that this is more than hearsay. You arrive and see the pomp and circumstance that surrounds Hitler and his followers. You grow to realize that everything is not as it seems. American civilians are being attacked and the German soldiers involved are not being punished. Other things also catch your attention like the incident your daughter witnessed where a woman was stripped of her clothing, beaten, and paraded in the streets for having a relationship with a Jewish man. Time passes and you become d…

The Oregon Trail: An American Journey by Rinker Buck

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The Oregon Trail: An American Journey by Rinker Buck


                Rinker Buck and his brother Nick took three mules and covered wagon across The Oregon Trail in 2011. They were the first people to cross the trail in a covered wagon in over a century. The trials and tribulations they experienced were similar to those of the pioneers of the 1800’s: questionable craftsmanship of the wagon, a constant search for water, handling mules across varying terrains and weather. In this day and age the trail wasn’t exactly like the trail of the 1840’s. Now there was plenty of state sanctioned land and corrals for camping, friendly “trail families” along the way that offered showers, food and a dry place to sleep. The brothers were determined to cross the trail without motored assistance and they did. They took part in a journey that many could only dream of but never comprehend. A journey through a huge part of American history.                 Oh, The Oregon Trail. The first images that come to…

Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson

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Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson

                I’ve always found Alexander McQueen fascinating. I wasn’t overly aware of his work before he passed but I was aware of some of his designs and was a fan of what I had seen. His suicide sent shock waves through the fashion world and it was then that I became more aware of the impact he had on fashion and the theatricality he brought to the runway. As sometimes happens after someone famous passes, Alexander McQueen became the hot topic and his fashion was thrust into the spotlight. It wasn’t until reading this biography I learned more about the man who was born Lee Alexander McQueen and how the way he lived his life and the clothes he created changed the way many saw fashion.                 Alexander McQueen was very complex. He was a gay fashion designer that struggled with his appearance and his confidence. He had been sexually abused, would later be diagnosed with HIV, did drugs, drank alcohol and had been in …

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

                When I begin reading a biography there are a few things I am looking for right off the back: authenticity because the book needs to be well researched, a sense of depth because I ultimately want to understand and appreciate the people I am reading about and (most importantly) an unbiased author. Steve Jobs nailed every single one of these on the head. After years of research, interviews with not only Steve Jobs himself, but his family, colleagues and even Bill Gates, Steve Jobs feels like a completed and honest biography about a man who revolutionized the way we use technology.                 Based on this biography I can easily conclude that Steve Jobs was an extremely complicated man and the few things that I knew about him before reading this book, paled in comparison to the truth. Isaacson covered Jobs abandonment issues from being adopted, his awareness of being smarter than his parents at a young age and how that affected his mentali…

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

                Thomas was jilted awake, with no memory of anything but his name. The walls surround him and he could feel the lift taking him higher. He came out of what the boys called “the box.” He was the newbie, the greenbean. There were boys who had been in the Glade for two years. Every month they got a new boy in the box. He would have to pitch in so there would still be order. He would stay away from the doors. The Glade was enclosed by four humongous, ancient walls. Outside those walls was a maze that none of the Runners could solve. In that maze were the Grievers. No one had lasted a night in the maze after the doors closed. The Grievers were keeping them in but the maze would be their only way out.                 You have no idea how hard it was for me to write that small blurb about this book. No idea what so ever. I really wanted to like this book. I went into reading this book convinced that I would really like it. The premise was amazin…

Horns by Joe Hill

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Horns by Joe Hill


                Ignatius Perrish got rip roaring drunk on the one year anniversary of the death of his girlfriend Merrin. She had been bashed in the head with a rock, raped and left to die in the woods. Ig was the only suspect and even though he was never charged with her murder, he remained a person of interest and everyone in his home town believed he did it. He went back to the place her body was found, destroyed all of the memorials placed there in her honor, pissed on his own feet and now, the next day has no idea how he got home. He also has no idea why he has small horns coming from the top of his head. Or why people kept telling him things that they would never say out loud, let alone confide to the guy they believed capable of murder. Yet here they were, everyone he encountered, spilling their guts. That’s how he found out who really killed Merrin. Now all Ignatius wants is a way to make that person pay for the pain he felt. The horns were the answer. The hor…

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

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I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

                Malala Yousafzai is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is a young Pashtun girl who was raised in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Her father, Ziauddin, dreamed of creating a school and ended up residing over three schools in the Swat Valley. His love for education was passed on to his daughter and she became an advocate for educating women in Pakistan and all over the world. Her love of education made her a target for the Taliban. Malala had experienced fear under Taliban rule years earlier when they took over the Swat Valley in 2009. Bombings and gun fire rang out in her village and the fear was palpable. Her school was closed and she began speaking out alongside her father for the need to educate youth, including girls. She would eventually leave her home in Swat Valley as the military fought to take back the valley from the Taliban. She would return 3 …

Unteachable by Leah Raeder

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Unteachable by Leah Raeder




                Maise has slept with older men before. She has accepted the fact that boys her age would never meet the cut. She is eighteen, about to start her senior year of high school and is determined to conquer her fears. The night she met Evan on the roller coaster, she didn’t expect anything to come from it. He was hot, the sex was hot and she was gone. Until she walked into her Film Studies class and there he stood. Evan Wilke. Her teacher. She had no idea. He had no idea. Yet here they were together and the temptation was too much to resist. The affair had begun before either of them had a chance to stop it. But now the secrecy begins and the teacher and student fall fast into each other and into a deception they may not be able to climb out of.                 Well this caught me completely by surprise. From the very first page I was lost in Maise’s life. This book was so many things: intoxicating, thrilling, sexy, addicting, detailed and forbidden…

Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo with Ann Killian

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Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo with Ann Killian


                I consider myself to be a casual soccer fan. I’m probably not going to watch every DC United game or catch Major League Soccer highlights, but when the World Cup and the Summer Olympics come around, I am watching every match and cheering for the team. With that being said I have been aware of Hope Solo’s presence for a while now, at least the last five or six years. I think she is a powerhouse on the U.S. Women’s National Team and an amazing goalkeeper. She has also been in the media quite a lot over the last few years for a variety of reasons, not many of which are positive. After randomly finding this memoir at a Dollar Tree store I decided it was time to learn more about her so I gave it a try. Solo: A Memoir of Hope is intense. Solo is unapologetic and frank about her life. She talks about her chaotic upbringing with an alcoholic mother and a father who was homeless for many years after their divorce. She discusse…

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller



Patroclus remembered seeing Achilles when they were both children. Both boys were princes but while Patroclus was the child of a simple woman, Achilles’s mother was the sea nymph Thetis. Achilles was to be the greatest fighter the world had known. Patroclus would have no such destiny. When he accidentally killed a young boy he was exiled and sent to live in the home of Achilles and his father. There, Patroclus would become Achilles most trusted companion and much more. They would be by each other’s side for over a decade even in the mist of the war that lasted ten years. 
I had no idea that The Song of Achilles would center on the romantic relationship of Patroclus and Achilles. Not a single clue. Patroclus is the narrator throughout the entire novel and I found his point of view extremely fascinating from the beginning. After about 40 pages I realized the attraction between the two characters would take center stage. Their growing relationship, i…

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

                When I picked this book up from the bookstore I was looking for something dark and twisted. Well, this novel hit that nail right on the head. Camille Preaker is a reporter for a small newspaper in Chicago. She has been sent on assignment to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the murders of two young girls. Their deaths are about a year apart but they were both found strangled with all of their teeth removed. Fully aware that this could be a big break and absolutely huge for the newspaper, Camille heads back to Wind Gap begrudgingly. Her relationship with her mom Adora is non-existent and has been irrefutably fractured since the death of her younger sister over a decade ago. Camille’s return home opens old wounds and reveals new ones in the shape of her 13 year old sister Amma, who is both beautiful and terrifying.                 There were a lot of things I really loved about this novel. It moved well. I easily fell into the page…

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die has been on my radar for a while. It’s the story of Amy Gunn, a teenage girl who lives in a trailer park in Kansas. She doesn’t have many friends, is known as Salvation Amy because of the clothes she wears, and has an alcoholic mother. One day her trailer is swept up in a tornado and she is whisked away to Oz. But this isn’t the Oz that she remembers from the stories. This world is different. It’s different because Dorothy returned from Kansas and is now harboring all of its magic for her own uses. Now Amy, as the other “outlander” is believed by some to be the only way to get rid of Dorothy. The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked is now training her to kill Dorothy.                 I imagined that this story was going to be extremely dark, a little grisly, with a kick ass heroine that would be able to execute the plan with no problem. That isn’t exactly what happened. This story was extremely dark, a little gruesome and though not ter…

To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

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To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

                I had never read a historical nonfiction account of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am elated that the first time I am able to dive into the history of what happened, it is with To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima. Pellegrino did an amazing job telling the stories of these survivors and everyone involved in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This book was well researched and beautifully executed. Pellegrino has a very simple, matter of fact narrative style that allowed for the history to simply unfold. He went over the facts of what happened explaining the technicalities of the uranium and plutonium bombs with ease. He explained what happened to those at Ground Zero of both sites sparing no details so that readers could capture and understand just how horrifying and disastrous the events were. Pellegrino was unbiased when depicting everyone’s story from those in Japan who we…

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

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Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

                I remember when I was younger hearing about a Debbie Allen production of The Nutcracker. I was very young and had never been to a ballet before but I was intrigued. Debbie Allen was a famous African American dancer and choreographer and her production, The Chocolate Nutcracker, would have an African American cast. I never got to see that ballet and I hadn’t thought about it since. So imagine my surprise when reading Misty Copeland’s memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina realizing that she was the lead dancer in that very same ballet I had heard of as a little girl. I was shocked and yet amazed that a young girl that was raised in San Pedro, California, not far from where I was raised in Los Angeles, was now an author and an acclaimed soloist for the American Ballet Theatre in New York.                 Misty Copeland came from humble beginnings and an unstable childhood. Her mother was forever the wanderer …

When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940's by Julian Padowicz

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When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940’s by Julian Padowicz

When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940’s is the fourth memoir written by Julian Padowicz. This memoir focuses on Julian arriving in the United States and being placed in an educational system when he barely understood the English language. The memoir begins with his arrival to New York. He is nine years old and would soon be enrolled in 4th Grade at a private school. He has fled Warsaw with his mother Barbara. They have escaped war torn Europe and landed in Brazil and have now reached their final destination. The book continues to follow Julian throughout his journey until he graduates college and begins his career.                 I found this memoir enjoyable. Padowicz tells his story with such vivid detail and honesty that is hard not to be invested in his plight. He has a non-existent relationship with a manipulative and self-centered mo…

The Five Towns

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The Five Towns by Leslie Tonner


The Five Towns is a very descriptive look at suburban life from 1950 to 1980. Three decades of family drama, prejudice, bigotry, rumors, gossip and community standards. Tonner has a strong narrative and point of view with the ability to tell more than one side to a complicated story with beautiful style. I was immediately fascinated by the everyday life of people within The Five Towns. There were so many different stories to tell from the Jewish family moving from the city looking a for a new start, to the gentiles who felt as if their way of life was being infringed on, to the pregnant maid who was struggling to survive while supporting her mother and daughter. The stories were there. The execution was there. But the stories diverged midway through the novel and never quite found their way again. It honestly felt like Tonner was trying to hone in on one family and in doing so felt the need to eradicate the other families from the story entirely. Charact…

The Martian by Andy Weir

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The Martian by Andy Weir

  Do you like action packed, suspenseful, science fiction novels? If so then The Martian will be your dream come true. This novel follows Mark Watney, the only man currently on Mars. He was part of the United States Ares 3 mission. When the crew of six was forced to evacuate Mars, Watney was hit by an antennae and pushed off course. The rest of the crew was forced to leave him on Mars assumed dead, which makes sense because he had an antennae poking out of his side, so they could survive. What follows is his fight to survive. And he does put up a fight against insane odds to make it back home to Earth.                 Mark Watney is such an easy character to root for. He was very well developed and had a great sense of humor throughout the novel. He was imaginative and yet a realist. Watney always kept in mind how slim his chance of survival was and yet he fought against it. The question throughout the novel was whether or not he would survive and he wasn’t the…

Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott with Larry Platt

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Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott with Larry Platt


                There is a commercial for SportsCenter that always plays in my mind when I think of Stuart Scott. It’s him and Scott Van Pelt, they’re in suits hyping each other up, acting like they are about to run out on the field instead of on to a set. Right before their segment starts they rip off their suits, that breakaway like basketball warmups, to reveal their real suits. They walk on to the set, have their seats and begin their segment. I loved it. It’s still one of my favorite commercials of all time and they are both hilarious. When I think back on Stuart Scott and the energy and fun he had doing his job I always remember that commercial. I don’t remember the first time I ever watched him on SportsCenter. He just always felt like a familiar face. He was always at the NBA playoffs and Monday Night Football. When I wasn’t constantly seeing his face, I realized that the worst may be coming. When I turned to ESPN on January 4t…

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

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Finders Keepers by Stephen King

                In 2010 Pete Saubers found a trunk filled with thousands of dollars and over a hundred Moleskin notebooks. The money would help Pete’s family through a very difficult financial time and save his parent’s marriage. Thomas’s father had lost his job and was at the City Center in 2009 when Brady Hartsfield, also known as Mr. Mercedes, rammed into a crowd of job seekers. Thomas was injured that day and his injury added tension to an already struggling family. The money was a godsend but the notebooks were the real treasure. They belonged to John Rothstein and held all of his writing since he disappeared from the public eye. Decades worth of writing held inside of the trunk, including two new Jimmy Gold novels. The Jimmy Gold trilogy is what made Rothstein famous. It was also what made Morris Bellamy murder Rothstein and steal all the money and those manuscripts in 1978. Years have passed and Bellamy’s only thought is of one day retrieving thos…

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King


                There was a time in my life when, even though I was a huge Stephen King fan, I was not at all interesting in reading this memoir about writing. I was in high school when this book came out and I remember seeing it at the bookstore, being intrigued, flipping through the pages, and then putting it right back on the shelf. I didn’t want a memoir. I wanted horror. I wanted something that would give me chills up and down my spine or nightmares. I was young and I can see now that I simply didn’t appreciate King or his writing. Now, after 2013 and the adventure that was reading all of his novels in their order of publication, I fully appreciate him and the universe he has created. I consider him to be a master storyteller that encompasses much more than the horror genre and I am ashamed of the child I was and how easily I dismissed this amazing memoir. I mean seriously it’s a book about Stephen King and how he writes! What was …

Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker

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Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker



                The story of Pocahontas is of course one that I am familiar with. I mean, seriously, who hasn’t seen the Disney movie, absolutely loved it as a child and then been entirely disgusted when learning the truth behind the movie. Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony is a beautifully told, moving and realistic account of Pocahontas and her life. I am not a historian but from the moment I started reading this novel I felt fully consumed in the history of the characters. They were brought to life in amazing fashion with well-developed and thought out characters and a fully developed world. Amonute, also known as Pocahontas or “mischief,” lived in her father Powhatan’s, village in the Tsenacomoco. She was a girl that had only seen ten winters, the last few of which she spent with her father, having left her mother’s village of Pamunkey. The tassantassas, white men, had come to the sho…

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars by Lois Lowry


           Annemarie Johansen is a ten year old girl, currently living in German occupied Coppenhagen. The year is 1943. It has been three years since the Germans took over her country. Three years of seeing soldiers at the corners. Three years of steadily decreasing food rations. Her sister Kirsti, doesn't remember a time before war, but Annemarie does. It's the Jewish New Year and Annemarie was going to celebrate it for the first time with her friend Ellen Rosen, whose whole family is Jewish. But plans change. Ellen is going to stay the night with the Johansens. The Rosens expect there may be a raid and the only way they can be safe is to separate and hide.

           Number the Stars is a well-written, easy to read, children's historical fiction novel. Lowry focused on the occupation in Denmark and built a story around the escape of the thousands of Jews to Sweden before they could be "relocated." Focusing young readers on one sign…

The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane Von Furstenburg

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The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane Von Furstenburg



The “Wrap Dress” made its debut in 1974. This dress changed the life of Diana Von Furstenburg. It was a simple, yet elegant and beautiful dress that cinched at the waist, was made out of jersey material, hugged the body and usually boasted amazing, vibrant prints. It was also Diane’s key to financial independence. The Woman I Wanted To Be is the memoir of the woman behind the dress. It is the story of her dedication, her drive, her losses, her loves, her struggles, her triumphs.         Let me start off by saying that I was completely biased the entire time while reading this memoir. I am obsessed with Diane Von Furstenburg and her wrap dress. I have been a huge fan of her work for years, ever since seeing it for the first time on Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City.” I love it! I love the way it holds the body, framing even the most petite woman’s frame. I am not one for prints but I have always found her choice…