Weekend readingūüďď

Hey, it’s Speedy Reader. It’s been an intense week, for lots of reasons, but I have had the chance to start an awesome new nonfiction book. It’s called Life and Death in the Andes by Kim MacQuarrie. It’s a collection of stories, arranged more or less geographically, that cover crime, history, religion, and culture. It really makes me want to visit South America. I’m loving this on audio. Enthusiastic recommendation here! What are you reading?

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Walter Cronkite, a biography

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Walter Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley

I was very excited to read this biography as Walter Cronkite has always been someone I admire. I remember watching him when I was a little girl. He was the news anchor on CBS. I still remember his last broadcast on the day he retired.

Unfortunately, the book wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. The information was interesting, but it was presented fact after fact, with little attempt to break it up into meaningful chunks or themes. I listened to this one and I think that was a mistake. The reader had a rather monotone voice that nearly put me to sleep.

Friday Flashback!

This review appeared earlier.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com
Themes: royalty, family, ambition, religion, commerce, politics, love
Setting: 13th century EuropeGreat story about four wealthy and powerful sisters who changed the fate of Europe. They were the beautiful and charming daughters of the Count of Provence, Raymond Berengar V, and each one of them became a queen: Marguerite, the eldest, became Queen of France and married Louis IX, Eleanor married Henry III, Sanchia, the saddest story of them all, married brother to King Henry, Richard, who became King, but not Emperor, of the Holy Roman Empire, and Beatrice, who married Charles of Anjou, brother to King Louis, who became the King of Sicily by conquest.

Despite all the royal names and politics involved, this one was an easy read that was more like a modern family drama than a dry historical treatise. There was plenty of feuding, an occasional war, going on Crusades, a rebellion here and there – it was certainly not a boring time to live. This is a great one for the RTT theme this month.

I could have used more maps, but even without them, I really enjoyed the book. Maybe somewhat slow to start, but once the first couple of sisters were married, I couldn’t put it down. I’m not really familiar with this time period, although I recognized a lot of the names, so I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. 4 stars

There Is Something about Edgefield – a Review

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Title: There Is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic DNA

Authors: Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions remain my own.

Genealogy has become something of an obsession for many people today. There have been shows about it, Ancestry makes lots of money off it. It seems that more and more people are driven to discover their ancestral roots.

I am no exception. I am a Latter-day Saint, and honoring our ancestors is an important part of our beliefs. I think this made me a good choice to review this book. In this little book, the authors, both of whom are African American, describe their attempts to uncover more of their family heritage. They combine family stories and photographs with the latest research techniques and new sites that use your DNA to pinpoint your unique heritage.

They also go through all the records they search, looking for the slightest clue to how their ancestors lived and what they experienced. Land records, census, court and probate records all work to complete a fuller picture. It’s not all pretty. Since like many African Americans, some of their ancestors were enslaved and some were the slaveholders, it shines a light on a dark and ugly chapter of American history.

As far as the writing and the style goes, I’m a little torn. They definitely could have summarized more of the steps they took to find out the information, and just included what they found out. Sometimes the actual research parts – what records they found and where – was a little boring. On the other hand, I think this book could also be viewed as an instructional book for other African Americans trying to find out what records exist for their history. I think it could be very valuable in that way.¬†I loved all the stories they included and they way the writers reached out to living family members to hear the stories they grew up with.

In all, I would say this book is not for everyone, but if you are interested in researching your family tree, and especially if you have southern African American roots, this book would be one you’d want to read.

What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! Hope your weekend was good. Mine involved a lot of driving.

I’m currently reading 2 books, kind of a low number for me, but I’ve been reading fewer books at a time this year.

8049273 The Elegant Universe is my current audiobook. I *finally* finished the Plantagenet book by Dan Jones, which was a whopper at something like 26 hours. This one is much shorter, but involves a lot of big concepts. It’s about string theory, quantum mechanics, and the search for the ultimate theory of the universe. I don’t really get all the ideas in here, but part of why I love books about physics is that they make you think in ways you aren’t used to. Brian Greene uses a lot of examples that help explain things in a way that you can understand them better. It’s been a fun book.

24357485I’m also reading Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. This is on my Kindle. I love the steampunk fantasy world that the author has created here, and I love that even though I read the previous book in the series, I still can’t really predict where he’s going in this book. The relationships as well as the plot are still keeping me guessing. It feels like an easy read too, compared to the horrible Ada Palmer book I just finished.

That’s it for me. Hope you are finding something awesome to read. Let me know what books you are into right now and whether you like them!

Flashback Friday

Here’s a review I published earlier that I hope you will enjoy.

Themes: weather, adversity, family, faith, science
Setting: January 1888, Dakota territory, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska

January on the prairie is never exactly balmy. The weather had been very cold all month. Then it warmed up for a while – not a lot, but enough that people seized the chance to get outside and tend to a few neglected chores, repairing the roof, feeding the livestock, bringing in more fuel for the fire, and sending the kids to school. All of which put them into danger.

Weathermen today love to talk about the “warm before the storm,” and this was a classic example. The storm hit with incredible power, bringing punishing winds and very fine, stinging snow that covered everything outside in minutes. Those folks caught away from home were in big trouble. And many of them were the school children.

Laskin seems to have done his research on this one. The stories of the children were amazing and often heartbreaking. That part was very good. But what I didn’t enjoy as much was the story of the Signal Corps and the effort to place blame for the number of deaths caused by the storm. It was a blizzard. The blizzard was to blame.

Seriously, it’s hard to see how things could have ended any differently. It was 1888. There were no satellite weather imaging thingies. There wasn’t even reliable radio. The weather stations themselves weren’t even equipped with telegraph lines linking them up to each other. And if there were, how were they supposed to broadcast their weather forecasts? Forecasting then was even more a matter of absolute luck and guesswork. But there was no way to make them public anyway. They had some sort of flags and alerts they issued, I wasn’t quite clear on that, but no one in the little prairie towns could have known about them. It wasn’t like they put the forecasts in the newspaper or on the radio.

I felt that this technical part took too much focus away from the part that I really found good, which was about the storm itself and how people managed to survive or didn’t. This other bit about the science of it all was just a distraction. I wound up skipping most of that. Still, it was a good book and I would recommend it. It’s just that compared to The Worst Hard Time, I knew that it could have been much better. 3.25 stars

Encore review: After the Prophet

Title: After the Prophet: The epic story of the Shia/Sunni split in Islam

Author: Lesley Hazelton

Puzzled by some of the anger and infighting in the Middle East? Have a hard time keeping groups straight? Wonder why they can’t all just work things out? Turns out the seeds of that anger go way back. all the way back to the 7th century AD.

This remarkably written book traces the conflict between the Sunni and the Shi’a Muslims, how it began, and what the consequences are for today. While her focus is on the history, the implications for today are clear. With every development, she draws the modern parallels and explains how it would shape the future.

I really recommend this one. I admit to being one who just skims through the developments in the Middle East, tired of the fighting and the violence, and resigned to the fact that I don’t understand it at all. Well, this was a good place to start. I’m still confused about a lot of the current figures, but this gives the reader a solid underpinning on the motives behind it all.

Top Non-Fiction of 2017

Hey bookies! It’s time to share my favorite reads of the year. This will books that I read this year, not books that were first published in 2017. There were a few that were rereads, but I pulled them out, so this is books that I read for the first time this year. They are in no particular order, just¬† as I found them in my list.

Three Singles to Adventure by Gerald Durrell. This one took me a bit to read because I only had one copy of it, but it was so funny and entertaining. It’s a memoir of Durrell’s time collecting specimens for zoos and museums. Great because I could pick it up and jump right in to a different world.

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March by John Lewis, et al. In this graphic novel, Congressman John Lewis writes about his experiences with the Freedom Riders during 1962-1963. Powerful and especially timely. This one refers to the 2nd in the 3 book series.

Both of those are 5 star reads. These are 4 star reads. Still extremely good.

 

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester.¬†Lots of stuff packed in here, from Winchester’s own travel experiences to natural history and geology to commerce and all kinds of other fascinating stuff.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. Great story of determination and daring. Loved this look at early aviation.

American Colonies: The Settling of North America by Alan Taylor. Comprehensive look at the early United States before it became a country. Most complete of any book on the subject I’ve read and very readable.

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson. A sobering look at the realities of World War II. At times depressing, but worth reading all the same.

 

 

Sinking the Sultana: A Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Title: Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home

Author: Sally M. Walker

Setting: 1865 Mississippi River

Synopsis:

The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn’t the¬†Titanic.¬†It was the steamboat¬†Sultana¬†on the Mississippi River — and it could have been prevented.

In 1865, the Civil War was winding down and the country was reeling from Lincoln’s assassination. Thousands of Union soldiers, released from Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, were to be transported home on the steamboat¬†Sultana. With a profit to be made, the captain rushed repairs to the boat so the soldiers wouldn’t find transportation elsewhere. More than 2,000 passengers boarded in Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . on a boat with a capacity of 376. The journey was violently interrupted when the boat’s boilers exploded, plunging theSultana¬†into mayhem; passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam, and flung overboard into the churning Mississippi. Although rescue efforts were launched, the survival rate was dismal — more than 1,500 lives were lost. In a compelling, exhaustively researched account, renowned author Sally M. Walker joins the ranks of historians who have been asking the same question for 150 years: who (or what) was responsible for the¬†Sultana’s disastrous fate?

Civil_War_Steamer_Sultana_tintype,_1865 (1)My review:

This little known catastrophe was a tragic end to the war. In their rush to get Union prisoners home after the war, they packed the first boat far past its capacity. That alone might not have caused this disaster, but when the worst happened and the boilers exploded, hundreds more died because there was no way to safely evacuate them all.

I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book. I’ve read many books on the Civil War, but I didn’t know anything about this disaster. The author does a great job of putting this accident in its proper perspective. What made it so heartbreaking is that the entire thing could have been avoided.

This book is packed with photos, maps, and facts that make the story come alive. The writing is clear and easy to follow. I would definitely recommend this one for kids or adults who like reading about disasters or the Civil War.

What are you reading?

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? I had a yucky cold! Which means I got lots of reading and gaming done, but not much else. I did go to Winger’s for burgers with my husband, and that was fun. But otherwise it was a slow weekend.

Now for what I’m reading!

The old opened book is christian Psalter

I guess I got on the Net Galley’s good list at last, because I got everything I asked for! I’m happy and stressed, because now I have even more to catch up on. Plus I got an ARC from Library Thing too. Add all my indy review requests, and I really don’t need to go to the library for a month.

Currently reading:

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This is one of the ones I got from Net Galley. I was SUPER excited at that, because I loved The Martian, book and movie. I’ve already finished it and a review is coming soon. My son, who discovered this author before I did, is really jealous. Let me just describe it briefly as a space version of Ocean’s 11.

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This one is my audio book from Overdrive I’ve been listening to while I sew. It’s about the scientists who discovered aspects of evolution before Charles Darwin. It’s interesting, but not so much that it’s keeping my attention. I find my mind wandering and realize that I missed everything for several minutes.

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This book is a different story. The plot and the characters are so well done that I keep wanting to drive somewhere just so I can listen. This one is on audio book in my car on CD and it’s so good. It’s got magic and wizards and hints of evil plots to steal the throne. I think something bad is about to happen and I can’t wait!

I’m also reading a CERTAIN BOOK that I can’t name because it’s SECRET! It’s about to be revealed on Friday and then you’ll have plenty of time to tell your friends to follow my blog and have a chance to win a SIGNED COPY. But it’s really exciting, with an orphan MC, an oppressive government, and a fairy tale twist.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading? Comment below and let me know.