Review: 41: A Portrait of My Father ~ George W. Bush

41ISBN ~ 978-0553447781
Publisher ~ Crown
No. Of Pages ~ 294 pages
Links ~ Random House, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, has authored a personal biography of his father, George H. W. Bush, the 41st President.
 
Forty-three men have served as President of the United States. Countless books have been written about them. But never before has a President told the story of his father, another President, through his own eyes and in his own words. A unique and intimate biography, the book covers the entire scope of the elder President Bush’s life and career, including his service in the Pacific during World War II, his pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and his political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President.  The book shines new light on both the accomplished statesman and the warm, decent man known best by his family. In addition, George W. Bush discusses his father’s influence on him throughout his own life, from his childhood in West Texas to his early campaign trips with his father, and from his decision to go into politics to his own two-term Presidency.

4 Thumbs-UpI’m not a political being by any stretch of the imagination, but something about this book just made me want to read it.  It may have been the fact the election of the 43rd President was my first experience of the US voting system, or the plain and simple fact that most books written about those who have held a position of great power, such as the 41 in this book, they are invariably written by someone who didn’t know them on a personal level.

Whether you are a diehard opponent of the Bush Family, or like me lean neither one way nor the other, this is a book that I would highly recommend to anyone.  Within its pages the reader will find not the usual politic rhetoric that is so often the fate of a biography of this nature, but an actual personal look at the life of the 41st President of the United States.

The Author manages to remove the mystic that surrounds his Father by regaling the reader with not only personal stories of a nature known only to a family member, but writes these stories in a loving and caring manner.  The stories contained with the pages of this work are not just limited to ‘41’, but also cover anecdotes about other members of the family, including the daughters of ‘43’ himself.  Written in a manner that I would not have thought possible from this man, the book is full of humour, life and above all laughter and love.

There is a lot in this book that makes it earn a place on any readers’ bookshelves, and I will definitely purchasing a copy for my library.

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Sonnet to Winter ~ Emily Chubbuck Judson

weather-UK-winter-snow-220815

Sonnet to Winter

Thy brow is girt, thy robe with gems inwove;
And palaces of frost-work, on the eye,
Flash out, and gleam in every gorgeous dye,
The pencil, dipped in glorious things above,
Can bring to earth. Oh, thou art passing fair!
But cold and cheerless as the heart of death,
Without one warm, free pulse, one softening breath,
One soothing whisper for the ear of Care.
Fortune too has her Winter. In the Spring,
We watch the bud of promise; and the flower
Looks out upon us at the Summer hour;
And Autumn days the blessed harvest bring;
Then comes the reign of jewels rare, and gold,
When brows flash light, but hearts grow strangely cold.

Emily Chubbuck Judson

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Review: The Abhorsen Chronicles (The Abhorsen Trilogy, #1-3) ~ Garth Nix

AbhorsenISBN ~ 978-0061441820
Publisher ~ HarperTeen
No. Of Pages ~ 1232 pages
Links ~ Abe Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sabriel
Every step brings Sabriel closer to a battle that will pit her against the true forces of life and death—and bring her face-to-face with her own destiny.

Lirael
With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil, which threatens the fate of the Old Kingdom.

Abhorsen
The Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are missing, and Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the evil Destroyer—before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is a huge book even by my standards, and to add to the confusion it is one of those that, by some strange reason is known under a different title depending on where in the world you live; for example in the Authors native Australia this book is entitled The Old Kingdom Chronicles.  It is also a trilogy that not many fantasy readers appear to know about.  As for me it took me some time to actually finish reading this, and that was not due to its size.

The characters in all three of the books, in my opinion, could have benefitted from a lot more time spent in their development.  None of them really gripped me and made me want to invest more of my time in getting to know them.  I really was expecting to like the characters, but they were flat and very one-dimensional people who seemed to enjoy a lot of walking.  You would have to read the books to understand that reference.  Having said this, the character of Sabriel in the first book of the three was, by far, the most interesting of any in the Chronicles; she is a determined young woman with a definite plan for her life.  When curve balls are thrown at her she is able to adapt and think on her feet making her the most impressionable of all the characters in these books.  What really would have  helped the characters come into their own in these books would have been more background and explanation into how they learned their skills and came to be in the place they are when the books open.

The world in which these books are set could have been so much more.  It was a wonderful concept but I felt that the Author really did not do it justice and, like his character development, it would have benefitted from more time being spent in the descriptive aspects.   At no time did I feel as if I had actually been transported into this world and was experiencing the events occurring; in a good fantasy novel a reader should feel themselves transported to the alternate world, as that is part of the pull of this genre.

After buying this trilogy on the recommendation of a friend, I now wish that I had kept my money in my pocket and will be donating my copy to the local library.  If long and plodding fantasy books are something you enjoy, this is probably the book series for you; if not I would recommend you give this a miss.

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Review: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II ~ Denise Kiernan

atomic cityISBN ~ 978-1451617528
Publisher ~ Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~ 373 pages
Links ~ The Girls of Atomic City, Amazon, Indie Bound, Simon & Schuster

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!

But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.

Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way.

3 Thumbs-UpAs part of my attempt to widen my reading scope, I started on the non-fiction journey with this book.  From the synopsis I felt it would cover a lot of my interests; WWII, women’s roles during that time and the uncovering of a war work that was kept secret at the time.

In a lot of senses this book did hit all those things on the head, but it still felt lacking in a way that I could not quite put my finger on.  Covering a variety of young, and not so young, women from a variety of societal and ethnic backgrounds this book managed to paint a very real picture of what life must have been like living and working on a top-secret compound in the middle of nowhere.  Although no one woman’s life was written about in detail and depth, I felt that this did not detract from the book in any way as I felt to have done so would most likely have resulted in the omission of something else.

In this books pages the reader can learn about the process of both thought and scientific work that led up to the deployment of fat man and little boy, and the scientific parts of the book that traces the journey and developed of tubealloy, as it was called, is informative and educational without being dry and dusty; not being a chemistry or engineering buff myself I found I learnt a lot from these parts of the book.

There are some wonderful black and white photographs in this book that help illustrate the vastness of the place called Oak Ridge, and also some then and now pictures of three of the women mentioned in the book.  It would have been nice to see some now pictures of the site to see what had become of the place rather than have to do an internet search to satisfy my curiosity.

It is apparent from the way in which the book is written, that the Author spent an extensive amount of time research the topic and talking with those who were there at the time; I wonder if my feeling of something being lacking in its pages, and the reason for my 3 thumbs review, being a result of some information that would have filled these ‘gaps’ still being sealed to the researcher.  Another reason for my 3 thumbs review was the random and rather silly typos that appeared in the book.  These could easily have been picked up by a more skilled proof reader and editor, and lifted my review rating.

Despite the low rating I would still recommend this book to any reader interested in this era, and wanting a satisfying and easy read.

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When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II ~ Molly Guptill Manning

when books went to warISBN ~ 978-0544535022
Publisher ~ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
No. Of Pages ~ 288 pages

 
I found this interesting article on thedailybeast.com and, because it involved books, wanted to share this with you.  I’m definitely going to be hunting this book down as it looks to be well worth the read.

“When the American armed forces prepared for the D-Day assault, the most in demand item was a book.

During World War II, books were one of the few items distributed to the American armed forces that were meant to make life at war bearable. American publishers, wanting to do their bit in the war, designed books that would fit the servicemen’s needs: small volumes in tempting titles that weighed next to nothing. These books were Armed Services Editions (“ASEs”), incredibly tiny paperbacks designed to fit the pocket of a standard issue military uniform. Over 120 million were printed over the course of the war with titles ranging from comics to Shakespeare and everything in between. Lonesome, homesick GIs eagerly grabbed these books and read them everywhere—while waiting in line for chow or a haircut, when pinned down in a foxhole, and while swinging in their hammocks below deck. And they were even carried into the Battle of Normandy.

Under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, plans for D-day were in the works for months before the invasion occurred in June 1944. In the final days leading to the boarding of the landing craft that would set out across the English Channel, American soldiers readied themselves. They crammed into their packs dozens of pounds of ammunition, provisions, extra weapons, and other necessities. Although the recommendation was that the men not bring more than forty-four pounds of equipment, it was estimated that some men weighed at least three hundred pounds as they waddled under the weight of their packs. As they waited for an announcement of when the invasion would begin, there was little to do but worry, pray, or read. Silence pervaded. A rosary could be seen in many a hand. According to one man, “Priests were in their heyday. I even saw Jews go and take communion. Everybody [was] scared to death.”

General Eisenhower took an especial interest in the morale of his troops. As he noted in his own memoirs, “morale, given rough equality to other things, is supreme on the battlefield.” Eisenhower was known to read western novels to relax and relieve stress, and the men who would be doing the fighting deserved no less. Anticipating the time it would take to assemble all of the men needed for the mission, and the boredom and anxiety associated with the chore of waiting, General Eisenhower’s staff earmarked over a half-million books to be distributed to the Americans as they waited for the invasion to begin. Among the ASEs that were set aside were Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Joseph Mitchell’s McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon, Charles Spalding and Otis Carney’s Love at First Flight, Booth Tarkington’s Penrod, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dozens of other titles joined the men on the shore of the English Channel.

Prior to the invasion, the Army’s Special Services Division, which was responsible for serving the morale needs of soldiers, distributed some of the soldiers’ favorite items. Packs of cigarettes were shoved into pockets, candy bars were grabbed by the handful, but of all things, the most sought-after item was the ASEs. As one Special Services officer recalled, palpable tension mounted in the staging areas, and books were the only thing available that “provided sorely needed distraction to a great many men.” When the loading process finally began, many men, realizing how much weight they were carrying, stopped to unburden themselves of unnecessary items near the docking area. The ground was littered with a variety of objects, but among the heaps of discarded inessentials “very few Armed Services Editions were found by the clean-up squads that later went through the areas.” Weighing as little as a couple of ounces each, ASEs were the lightest weapon that the men could bring along.

The Americans who landed at Utah and Omaha Beaches on June 6 had vastly different experiences. The American Fourth Division poured ashore at Utah Beach, meeting very little opposition. In fact, some men were a little let down at how anticlimactic the landing was; they described it as seeming like just another practice invasion. The early waves of troops landing at Omaha Beach, by contrast, faced near-certain death. As soon as the transports lowered their ramps, the exiting men were thrust into the line of fire. German machine-gun spray ripped across the boats, instantly killing the hapless Americans on them. For the first wave of LCIs that reached Omaha Beach, the death rate was nearly 100 percent; no one got off the beach. Later waves of troops faced grievous losses on the shore. Shell-shocked, many men simply froze, unable to move toward safety. Others who forded through the barrage of gunfire and mortar blasts and moved to the shelter of the cliffs at the top of the beach suffered injuries along the way. Unable to go farther, their shattered bodies dropped to the sand and stayed there until medics arrived. Many men who climbed the beach later that day would never forget the sight of gravely wounded soldiers propped up against the base of the cliffs, reading.”

Excerpted from When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning. Copyright © 2014 by Molly Guptill Manning.

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Review: Symbiosis: A Justice Keepers Novel (Justice Keepers Saga Book 1) ~ R.S. Penney

SymbiosisASIN ~ B00RKY0WJ8
Publisher ~
No. Of Pages ~ 330 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Kobo

Ten thousand years ago, a mysterious race that we only know as the Overseers took primitive humans and scattered them on dozens of worlds across the galaxy. Now, some of those people have found their way back to Earth. A young Justice Keeper named Anna Lenai has tracked a criminal through unexplored regions of space in the hopes of recovering a symbiont that grants its host the ability to bend space and time. Her search leads her to Earth, where she befriends a young man named Jack Hunter. Together, they will face enemies with advanced technology as they struggle to recover the symbiont before its power falls into the wrong hands.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel from this Author and, if this first book is anything to go by the rest of the Justice Keepers Saga is going to be a spectacular read.

The characters in this book are extremely well written; they have a depth and feel to them that is rarely seen in a book in the YA genre.  The female protagonist is gutsy and strong-willed, but she also has a side to her that she tries to keep well hidden, and which rarely makes an appearance.  However, because of the way in which the Author develops her character it is obvious that there are hidden depths to her that will, hopefully be revealed as the Saga continues.  I liked this character immensely, she is a strong young woman who comes alive and off the page as events unfolds; true to life she is not wholly likeable but this only adds to her charm and makes her more alive and real.  The man she befriends is equally well written and, in giving both the male and female leads in this book the same careful treatment, the Author creates a novel that will appeal to both male and female readers.

World building is just as well done in this book as the character development; so well is it written that it brought to mind the descriptions of space that a reader will find in any of the books written by Peter F. Hamilton.  The descriptions of Earth make it seem familiar yet totally fresh and new at the same time, as I read through the book I wanted to travel to the locations contained within its pages and experience the adventures I found.

Thinking there is nothing new in the YA genre?  Then I highly recommend this book as it will change your mind.  Skilfully written and tightly edited it was a pleasure to read and I will definitely be reading more in this saga as it becomes available.  My only regret is that this is only available on eBook as I want to add a paper copy to my shelves.

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Chickamauga ~ Charles Wright, Poet Laureate

CHICKAMAUGA

Chickamauga

Dove-twirl in the tall grass.
End-of-summer glaze next door
On the gloves and split ends of the conked magnolia tree.
Work sounds: truck back-up-beep, wood tin-hammer, cicada, fire horn.
___________
History handles our past like spoiled fruit.
Mid-morning, late-century light
calicoed under the peach trees.
Fingers us here. Fingers us here and here.
____________
The poem is a code with no message:
The point of the mask is not the mask but the face underneath,
Absolute, incommunicado,
unhoused and peregrine.
______________
The gill net of history will pluck us soon enough
From the cold waters of self-contentment we drift in
One by one
into its suffocating light and air.
_______________
Structure becomes an element of belief, syntax
And grammar a catechist,
Their words what the beads say,
Words thumbed to our discontent.

Charles Wright ~ Poet Laureate

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