Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Philadelphia in Books

I'll be spending Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia for my cousins wedding, and I've never been there before.  In typical Wesley fashion I'm like "Hmm I wonder if there's any interesting books about/set in  Philadelphia..." considering it's role in the founding of this country I figured there wouldn't really be any shortages. So I did a little research and here's some things I found!

Also, if you're a Philadelphian and have any tips on Must See or Must Eats or Must Avoids please let me know!

(All descriptions from goodreads)


It's late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn't get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family's coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie's concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family's small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie's struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight—the fight to stay alive.


Set in Philadelphia's badlands, where drug gangs rule the streets, this debut novel has the explosive authenticity, the narrative drive, and the tender passion to knock you out of your seat! Fourteen-year-old Gabriel's father skipped two years ago. Now his mother, Ofelia, is searching for her runaway son, riding her bicycle at night through the city's darkest, most violent stretch. The pavement beneath her is mysteriously painted with chalk outlines of bodies. Each time a child is killed, another white outline appears. While Ofelia tries to outrun a vision of her son's death, her son tries to outrun the neighborhood, taking cover with a drifter; but Gabriel is already trapped, at the mercy of Diablo, the ugliest of the dealers, a man who kills for fun.


A collection of fourteen essays which records the cruelties of racism, celebrates the strength and pride of black America and explores the paradoxical "double consciousness" of African-American life.


Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools—or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the middle of the nineteenth century.

Although he died at just forty-eight, Mütter was an audacious medical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time.

Brilliant, outspoken, and brazenly handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suits to perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum.

Award-winning writer Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter’s efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation—despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. (Foremost among them: Charles D. Meigs, an influential obstetrician who loathed Mütter’s "overly" modern medical opinions.) In the narrative spirit of The Devil in the White City, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels interweaves an eye-opening portrait of nineteenth-century medicine with the riveting biography of a man once described as the "P. T. Barnum of the surgery room."


Few men could compare to Benjamin Franklin. Virtually self-taught, he excelled as an athlete, a man of letters, a printer, a scientist, a wit, an inventor, an editor, and a writer, and he was probably the most successful diplomat in American history. David Hume hailed him as the first great philosopher and great man of letters in the New World.
Written initially to guide his son, Franklin's autobiography is a lively, spellbinding account of his unique and eventful life. Stylistically his best work, it has become a classic in world literature, one to inspire and delight readers everywhere.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book review: "Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the German Kommandant of Auschwitz" by Thomas Harding

I had high hopes for this book because it's my favorite when Nazis get what is coming to them. But this book just kind of fell flat for me. The book ping ponfed between the lives of Rudolf Hoss (pretend there's an umlut over the o) the man who would grow up to become the Kommandant of Aushwitz and and a German Hew named Hanns Alexander who lived a pretty upper crust life until he had to flee Germany, and then joined the British Army, and then eventually went rogue to find Hoss.

Considering the subject matter I just kind of felt bored with the story. But there were a few thing of interest:

- I thought it was interesting to hear about how Hoss ended up running Auschwitz and all of the Nazi bureaucracy and posturing among people. They had people coming through all of the time to talk about how they could be at maximum efficiency, like they were producing cardboard boxes instead of killing people.

-The Alexander family had a lot of money and it made their story have much happier endings then the people who didn't have the means to get their whole family out of the country. 

-The epilogue shouldn't be skipped

-"The Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps had been make use of men who were refugees from Germany and elsewhere who waned to fight Hitler. For these men, the stakes were high. If caught by the Reich they would be viewed as traitors and shot. Yet of the more than 70,000 German and Austrian refugees who landed in Britain between 1933 and 1939 approximately 1 in 7 enlisted in the Pioneers".

All in all I give this book a 3 out of 5.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Guest post today at Books and Beverages!

The incomparable and awesome Jamie over at Books and Beverages is having her annual Inklings Week and invited me to guest post, which I of course said yes to. My post is up today so go check it out! Also be sure to check out her great giveaway!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book review: "The Witness House" by Christiane Kohl

The first time I read the synopsis of this book I honestly thought I had misunderstood what it was trying to say. And then I read it again and was like "nope, that's what they mean". And ordered it from the library.

The time immediately following World War II in Germany was rough (#understatement). Food and basic services were still not readily available, there was still smoldering ruins of cities, and the world was beginning to learn the terrors of the Holocaust. But there was one thing that the Allies wanted to pursue immediately - putting those in charge of the horrible things that happened during the war on trial and holding them accountable. So, the Nuremberg Trials were organized and Nazi monsters were brought to Nuremberg to be held accountable (the ones that hadn't escaped. Ugh.)

So where do they stay? Some of them stayed at the Witness House, a little villa not far from the courthouse. Some of the guests were Nazis. Some were concentation camp survivors. Some were something else entirely.  Here are a couple of the folks who occupied the same house at these turbulent and unsure times.
Rudolf Diels 

First of all, look at this guys face. Dude has the face of a gangster with those dueling scars, (proooooobably because he was a drunk philanderer so duels are not far behind with those characteristics.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-K0108-0501-003, Rudolf Diels.jpg
Photo from Wikipedia

 Anyway, Diels is a complicated guy. He was on the ground floor with the Nazis, early like in 1933. He was the director of the Gestapo for a short time (you know who replaced him Reinhard Heydrich. That fucker). But then he refused to deport Jews in 1940. And then was involved in the 20 July plot to kill Hitler but was somehow the only person to survive. But then he died in a hunting accident in 1957 that may have involved his dog accidentally tripping the trigger on a rifle(???). I need to find a book about this guy because I have questions.

 Albert Speer

For a long time I only knew that Albert Speer was Hitler's chief architect who was in charge of rebuilding German into a place that exalted Hitler. What I didn't realize is that he was also the Minister of Armaments and War Production (which is far less innocent sounding then architect). For a long time he said that his relationship with Hitler was completely apolitical. He was different then most others at Nuremberg because he accepted responsibility for his part in the Nazi crimes. (Everyone else was basically a variant of "Who, me?" or "I was just following orders" or something else ridiculous).

Erwin Lahousen

Erwin served in the Abwehr, which was an intelligence agency. In the Abwehr there was a lot of anti-Nazi sentiment and he was one of many who successfully sabotaged Nazi operations and helped resistance groups. He was the first witness for the prosecution and testified against Goring specifically.

In the talk about Lahousen there was a few mentions of Wilhelm Canaris who is just...I have a lot of feelings about him. I'm going to get weepy at work if I think about it so here's his wikipedia page. He was held prisoner and executed with Dietrich  Bonhoeffer who I ALSO have lots of feelings about.

The book details their interactions with each other, their reactions to the new world around them (So, that thousand year Reich thing isn't happening, now what?) and more. It's really an incredible story and I highly suggest it to fans of history and psychology - psychologically it is fertile grounds for analyisis!


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: "Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail Order Bride" by Marcia A Zug

Well, hello everyone. Long time no see :) 

Today for you I have a book I read during readathon! I have been so  whomp whomp about blogging and ocassional reading in general lately ("If I read this book it will be one more book I should be reviewing and if I don't review it I'm going to feel like a lazy bum and aaaaaaaargh"). I managed to pull myself out of my own dumb self loathing and read this book along with two travel guides to Philadelphia. (I'm going to have, like a free half day in Philadelphia. Any experts have a hot lead on something I can't miss?). At any rate, thanks to a goodreads list I found this book and you guys know how I love me some specific nonfiction. Shall we?

I don't know about you guys, but when I think off mail order brides I have a pretty sterotypical picture in my head. Blonde, eastern european, desperate to get out of their country and get a start in America even if it means marrying a much older guy they don't actually care about. There's a little truth to some of this but that's not always the case, and it certainly has not always been that way. 

It goes allll the way back to the early 1600s when Europeans were coming to what is known as the US and Canada now. With starvation and disease killing of a whole slew of settlers it became abundantly clear that these colonies were not going to make it - a lot of men were like "yeah, no I'm here to make my fortune and then I'll be heading back to England. Thanks so much". So with a high mortality rate and people not willing to stay and doing the long term dirty week of colonizing it was going to go bad. But, with the introduction of women, and therefore families, people were inclined to stay and make a go of it.

Interesting tidbits from this section:
-Tons of intermarriage between white men and native women. In A HEAP of cases the men ditched the colonies and went to live with their wives' tribe because, the Native Americans had their act together WAY more than the colonies.

-The woman who came over, in a lot of cases, had really great incentives to come, including the fact that if they became widows the law ruled in their favor for things like property.

-There was some really tragic and just bad situations for women coming into the Louisiana territory. Shudder.

There's also chapters on: picture brides (Asian ladies who marry men sight unseen and then come over to the US. Please read The Buddha in the Attic. It tells their story and it's short and heartbreaking and the thought of some of the stuff those ladies went through makes my heart clench.) war brides (not always popular with the hometown folk), women who went west seeking husbands during the pioneer/gold rush days (Ever seen Paint Your Wagon? When it's like, 1 woman in a town of 800 men. Yeah, that's not an ideal set up for anyone), and what we think of now as a mail order bride. There's also all kinds of interesting statistics in the chapter with current mail order brides situation.

Also right at the very end of the book they talk about gay men who are living in really scarily homophobic countries like Russia and Ukraine who are looking for love and greater acceptance in countries that are more open like the USA and Canada.

This book with it's super cute cover was a quick, easy read full of interesting facts that made it an entertaining read for readathon or any other time!