Hamilton At War

downloadI received this free in exchange for a honest review. My views, however, are my own.

Title: Alexander Hamilton’s Revolution: His Vital Role as Washington’s Chief of Staff

Author: Philip Thomas Tucker

“Sell-out crowds every night enjoy the smash hit Hamilton on Broadway, which presents a fact-filled and entertaining glimpse into the patriot’s life. But very few of us know about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s trusted military advisor.”

If you thought Rob Chernow’s masterpiece Hamilton was just not detailed enough, then this book is for you. I’m a major fan of Alexander Hamilton – the guy was a genius and I’m glad to see him finally getting the credit he deserves. But even I was a little daunted by the level of detail in this new book by Turner.

I agree with his basic premise – we focus a lot of what Hamilton accomplished before and after the revolution, but sometimes overlook what he did while he was serving. This book deals mainly with the extraordinary relationship between Washington and Hamilton. They became an amazing team who Got. It. Done.

But while the book was insightful and like I say, I love the idea, the writing was often repetitive. He’d wind up saying things three times in one chapter. I don’t need that. I can remember what you just said. And then the level of detail – naming so many names, for instance – was really just too much. I would recommend this one for serious readers of American History and advise others to pass.

 

Wheat Belly

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Title: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Way Back to Health

Author: Dr. William Davis

I love bread. And cake. And cookies, and pasta, and brownies, and pizza, and pretty much everything made from wheat. And I’m fat. There you go! Proof, right there, that wheat is bad.

Except it’s not. Not proof, not conclusive. My weight has to do with a lot of issues, partly my diet, partly my age, my sedentary lifestyle, and my genetics. Only some of those issues are in my power to change. But what about that wheat? Is that the real problem?

According to Dr. Davis, wheat is the main culprit behind the obesity epidemic in the United States. And it is an epidemic. Weight, and waistlines, have increased steadily for the last 100 years. So has incidence of adult onset diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other illnesses. His main contention in this book is that modern wheat – not the historic stuff from 200 years ago – is to blame.

Wheat has changed, food scientists will admit that. Modern high yield wheat has drastically changed agriculture. Fewer farmers are needed to feed lots more people. He backs up his contention with fancy science facts that I couldn’t really follow, but I agree with him there.

Where I disagree is that while modern diets are terrible, wheat is not the only problem. He seems to think that it is. I would blame carbohydrates in general. Americans eat too many of them. I don’t eat much wheat anymore. I’m on a low carb, high fat diet, LCHF, or a keto diet. I’ve lost a lot of weight and I feel much better. (I’m still fat though. But I’m getting there!) But wheat is not the only problem. What about sugar?

He bases his book on the fact that he’s encouraged his heart patients to cut out the wheat products and they’ve all gotten healthier, but this is what’s called anecdotal evidence. Certainly celiac disease and general gluten intolerance is a major problem now, compared to 100 years ago. And modern wheat farming may be to blame. But what about getting them to cut out fast food? If they’re avoiding wheat, they can’t eat fast food, and maybe that’s responsible for their improved health. Maybe some whole grains would be just fine, as long as they’re not deep fried.

His writing isn’t terrible, but it’s not great, and he is really repetitive. He has a very definite style that will turn a lot of readers off. I can’t say I’d recommend this book to everyone. But if you’re trying to lose weight, I’d say it’s worth looking through. I wouldn’t buy it though. I got my copy from the library’s audiobook collection and I decided not to finish it. I got the idea about 100 pages in and I sure didn’t want to listen to the whole thing. Bottom line – do your own research and don’t believe everything you hear.

Criminal Tales

Title: The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession

Author: David Gann

Described as “a collection of spellbinding narrative journalism,” this book contains an amazing assortment of stories. From the opening story about the Sherlock Holmes fan who died in real life mysterious circumstances, to the final profile of a truly nasty criminal, this was a compelling read (or rather, listen, as I got the audiobook from my library. It’s not quite up to his book, The Lost City of Z, but it’s quite good. I think what I missed was something to tie all these stories together. These were pieces that appeared in print previously, so maybe there wasn’t really a thread that tied them together, but I think he could have grouped them differently or something. As it was, it was sort of odd. My favorite story was the one about the sandhogs, construction workers building a giant series of tunnels under NYC. Recommended, but not so strongly that you should add it to the top of your list.

Witness to Revolution

Title: Red Fire: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Author: Wei Yang Chao

Setting: Beijing, China 1960s

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a witness to history, to watch these watershed moments take place in front of your eyes? From what I’ve read, the answer is – terrifying. Wei Yang Chao was a witness to one of the biggest revolutions in history, especially if you go by the sheer number of people involved. He attended one rally that included over a million people, and the prospect of violence at every turn. He was lucky to survive.

This book  is a first-hand account of the Cultural Revolution in China. Chao was there after the Summer Palace was destroyed. He was a witness to the rise of the Red Guard. He saw teachers and other “enemies of the state” tortured, sometimes to death. His own parents were victims of a “struggle session” as soldiers his own age smashed through the house and beat his parents.

This was an incredible but grim read. To me it was nothing but terror and abuse, as the country fell into chaos. But Chao was more caught up in the struggle. At times, he wanted to fight against the class enemies, but when people he respected became targets, he would question why this revolution had to be so violent.

I would definitely recommend this book. I knew little about this time, so I found it darkly fascinating. It’s not for everyone. It is violent. But it’s an important record of real life.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Top 10 Tuesday

Inspired my recent read, A Lady in the Smoke, which features a railway doctor, I thought I would give my Top 10 Books on Medicine that I would recommend. These are mostly non-fiction, but include some fiction as well.

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This one is about cancer, and it’s a truly impressive book from start to finish. I was amazed at the amount of research that went into this. I read it after my dad passed away from cancer, and yet I found it an inspiration to read about all the people who are working so hard to find treatments and one day, even a cure.
  2. In Reckless Hands: Skinner V. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics by Victoria F. Nourse. If the last book inspired me, this one enraged me. Eugenics was a big movement for a shockingly long time which culminated in Nazi experiments in the prison camps. But it was big here in the US as well, and could have become law if not for a landmark court case.
  3. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby. I’ve read a lot of epidemic books, and this is my favorite on yellow fever. I tell you, you’ll be swatting mosquitoes a lot harder after this book!
  4. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury. This is another great one to read this summer when you’re sweltering in the heat. Read about the race through blizzards to get a diphtheria antidote to an isolated community in Alaska and you’ll feel so thankful for vaccines and for air conditioning both.
  5. Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys. From its discovery to Bayer’s shameful Nazi connections to modern research, this covers everything.
  6. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. I really liked the way this book organized, a chapter for every pair of chromosomes, and a gene from every chromosome. It’s not even a little comprehensive, but it was compelling reading.
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Lacks was a poor Black woman who died of cancer, but her cells live on in research that has saved hundreds of lives. However, that raises questions about the rights of patients in this book that’s now a movie.
  8. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters. I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but this one is my favorite in the series. Not only is the mystery compelling, but the description of the nursing among the lepers in England, of the disease and its effects is truly moving.
  9. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. This one is big. But it’s my favorite look at 17th century medicine. It was a time of great discovery, but also a time of superstition and prejudice. Told from multiple POV, it makes the story more complex.
  10. The Physician by Noah Gordon. An orphan is driven by an urgent need to know how the body works. He makes his way to medieval Palestine so he can study medicine and learn what there is to know.

20 Days to Enter!

20170527_153836Want to win free books? Dumb question, of course you do. My giveaway is dying for lack of interest, so let me remind you. You must like the ORIGINAL POST and follow my blog to win. You can like this post too, if you want, but that doesn’t count as an extra entry.

If you want extra entries, follow me on Twitter, mention the giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, and then send me a link that you did so. That’s up to 3 extra entries.

4820And these are all good books, but just in case that’s not enough, I’m going to throw in this. Here’s my review. So that FOUR free books that you could win. And hey, if you don’t pay enough attention to me, I may add more books!!! Heaven knows there’s plenty around here to choose from. 🙂

So please, spread the word. I’d really like to see my blog grow so I can reach more readers. Thanks! You’re all great!

Cool Reads

It’s been really hot here in Utah and I’m not enjoying it much! Summer is just getting started really and it’s already nearing 100. You know what I need? Some nice frozen reads! Here are a few I can recommend.

Arctic Blasts for Summer Fun

  1. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Gerard. Our hero with the amazing name went along to the Antarctic where he hung out with penguins. LOTS of penguins.
  2. The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage by Anthony Brandt. OK, it’s kind of a downer in spots, but I guarantee that you will feel happy to be nice and warm and scurvy-free when you read it. (At least, I hope you’re scurvy-free. Eat an orange, just to be safe.)
  3. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. There are a lot of books about Shackleton, but this one has some of the best photographs from the actual expedition. No matter how hot it is, it will make you shiver.
  4. Tisha: A Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness by Robert Specht. I really liked this one.
  5. Daniel Plainway: The Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League by Van Reid. Hilarious Christmas story.
  6. Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. His account of Valley Forge is amazing and miserable.
  7. HMS Ulysses by Alistair Maclean. This is an account of submarine warfare during World War II.

This list ought to keep you cool for a bit. I’m going to check the air conditioning now!

 

 

Review: Band of Brothers

Encore review!

Title: Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne

Author: Stephen E Ambrose

This non-fiction book is the basis for the TV miniseries of the same name. It focuses on an American paratrooper company, the first of its kind, and takes them right through World War II. It highlights some of the soldiers and officers and gives an account of them through every action. Their first battle was on D-Day and they stayed in the center of things in Europe right through V-E Day and beyond.

Some things the book did well. For the first time, I really understood why so much looting occurs after a battle. It also gave a really good picture of how this company became so close and why that is important for survival during a battle.

However, the names and places sort of all blurred together in my mind. Major Winters was one exception, but for the most part, I had a hard time telling the soldiers apart. I liked the ‘Where Are They Now’ section in the back, but what would have really helped would have been more pictures. Same with the places. I am not strong on geography, and some of these places were pretty small. I don’t know why they didn’t include a single map, but it was a major oversight.

The story got me interested enough to do a little research on my own. I found that this book is a little controversial – not everyone involved felt it was an unbiased account, and some felt that Ambrose’s scholarship was a little sloppy. However, it was a good story and now I’d like to read more from some other writers about their own experiences. Recommended, but it could have been a better book.

Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die

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Title: Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die

Authors: Kourttany Finn & Jacquie Purcell

Genre: non-fiction fluff

Not to ruin your day or anything, but you’re going to die. Probably not today, but eventually, at some point, chances are really high that you’ll die. This book goes over a few of the ways that could happen, and then what happens to your body after you’re dead.

Ever wondered what a coroner does, exactly what happens in a post-mortem, how embalming works? This book covers all of that and more. It’s in a breezy conversational style, but it’s not disrespectful exactly. Just trying to take the mystique out of death. It doesn’t try to answer any of the philosophical questions about death or dying, just the practical stuff. It was a surprisingly fun read too.

Not very deep, but it was a quick informative read. Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Review: Dead Wake

Title: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Author: Erik Larson

Setting: NYC and Atlantic Ocean, May 1915

Story: The RMS Lusitania was one of the top luxury liners of the day, filled with the bright and beautiful (and a bunch of 2nd & 3rd class passengers too.) Millionaires, actors, writers, debutantes and spies all crowded aboard this ship. Besides the passengers, the ship was carrying beautiful paintings by Van Gogh and other masters, editions signed by Dickens and Thackeray, gold bullion, and lots of ammunition. So when it went down, the news traveled fast, and eventually resulted in the United States entering World War I.

Review: I knew a little bit about the Lusitania, but I’d never heard the whole story. I’ve read other books by this author, so when I found this one on audio at the library, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

The numbers are pretty sobering. Out of 1962 passengers and crew, only 764 survived. But what makes it more interesting than the statistics is the way Larson tells the story. By using journals and letters that survived the voyage, he lets you get inside the ship and travel right along with them on their final voyage. I had my favorite people and I was trying not to skip ahead, but I admit that I couldn’t stand it and had to look up who survived and who died.

I have a couple of criticisms about the book though. The first is that he spends all this time talking about President Woodrow Wilson’s courtship of Edith Bolling. Wilson’s state of mind and his love life weren’t really relevant to the story. His reluctance to enter the war was relevant and didn’t get enough discussion.

Also, I was left wondering about the passengers who survived. What percentage of them were first class? Did it matter where their cabins were? How many were women and children? Maybe he answered these questions, but since it was on audio, I could have missed that part.

It did definitely get me interested in the story. It was all so sad and so pointless. Why wasn’t the ship more protected? Why hadn’t Wilson done more to help with the war already? I was totally involved in this story. I’m giving it 4.2 stars out of 5.