Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book review: Churchill & Orwell - The Fight for Freedom" by Thomas E Ricks

I know that it is dangerously early in the year to be saying something like this, but I think that this is going to be one of my favorite reads of the year! When I would describe this book to people I think most of them thought I was reading it under threat of violence (it sounds a little intimidating, fair enough) but it was a really enjoyable and fast moving read.

Churchill and Orwell are not people that you would probably put together at first glance, politically they would disagree on some fundamental things, they came from very different stations in life, etc. But the things that formed them as men were pretty similar: absentee fathers, near death experiences as young men that changed the course of their lives, family tragedy and at the forefront for this book, the Second World War.(If you, like my husband, saw Darkest Hours and went on a binge of "I never gave a shit about Churchill but now I have to know everything about him!" this would be a good book for you as well). 

Im going to give you the 5 most interesting things that i learned form this book and I hope that it will encourage you to pick it up for yourselves:

1. George Orwell had no brothers, ironic considering he created Big Brother
2. George Orwell was obsessed with how things smelled. A lot, like borderline too many, of his descriptions of his books are about setting the scene with how things smelled
3. Churchill wore pink silk underwear
4. Churchill thought that the French government failed their people in a HUGE way during WWII (and England, with the French under the Nazi thumb it was just a hop, skip and a jump to England) and he was pissed about that for the rest of his life. Major French anger.
5. Right before the D-DAY invasion there were 1.6 million Americans in England

The amount of post it notes I had in this book was insane, it was chalked full of interesting bits and stories. Highly recommended, 4 out of 5 stars. 5/5 for the simple, elegant, regal cover.




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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Review: "The Moon is Down" by John Steinbeck

This is another one of those books that I don't remember how it ended up on my TBR but I am glad that it did.


This book is about a quiet, costal town that is swiftly and nearly bloodlessly occupied by an invading force. The townsfolk start by being a little befuddled and confused by the whole thing, but then are consumed by a "slow, silent, waiting revenge". (Might have something to do with the fact that they are being forced to work in the town's coal mines, you know?)

The young men in the occupying force are confused in a different way. They imagined occupation to be quiet, obedient citizens who won't put up much of a fight against their new overloads and do what they are told. They might even be secretly happy to have this new regime in charge. And the girls, well who DOESN'T love a man in uniform?

That's not what happens.

After a short time the townspeople take any opportunity to murder an unaware soldier. It doesn't do much for troop morale. (And while, obviously it was dumb and naive of the occupiers to be like "oh my gosh they are going to think it's great that we are here" I thought it was interesting to hear the soldier perspective about how incredibly lonely and isolated they felt).


Let's be clear about this book: though nothing is ever named specifically, this book is about Nazism. There are specifics named in the prologue but it was written during WWII (and was in fact banned by the Nazis). The book had to be smuggled into Norway (that Quisling, what an asshole) which is also the presumed setting of the book. The prologue has a lot of great stories about the "life" of this book, don't skip it!

This slim novel was a great re-introduction to Steinbeck for me (I'd only ever read Grapes of Wrath and Mice & Men) and I've actually started another little novella of his, Cannery Row, because I liked this book so much. 3.5 out of 5 stars!





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Monday, January 22, 2018

Rapid Fire Mini Reviews - 12

"Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men who Made It" by Julie M Fenster.

I wanted this book to be awesome but it was pretty boring. Which is surprising because it gets really gory about surgery pre-anesthesia, about three men all contending they invented the same thing and the fact one of them has a mastadon skeleton in his house. Though there was one really great line I loved: "An operation without anesthesia was nothing more than trauma at the top of the hour: on a schedule".

"Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life" by Jen Hatmaker

I love me some Jen Hatmaker. I truly do. I always am right at the top of the holds list when she has a new book out. This book was fine. I just feel like it's kind of like all of her other ones. (Except for 7, which I love the most and is very different.) I feel like you could put the text of most of her books in a bucket and shake it and pull out a chapter and it could be from any number of books. It's all very agreeable it's just not really different from any other thing she has done. 

"Hex" by Thomas Olde Heuvlt
I read this spooky book right around Halloween. There are some flaws with this book for sure (it's a little heavy handed with the imagery and the dad is an idiot) but the concept of a witch that was murdered during colonial times that haunts a modern cursed town was an interesting concept to me.

"The Archivist's Story" by Travis Holland
This is the story of a youngish man who was an English professor in Stalin's Russia who then begins work in the archives of the dreaded Lubyanka. He's not a true believer but toes the party lien until he comes across a prisoner, a man who is an author he admired and comes into the possession of the author's last, unfinished manuscript. I think what made this story most interesting was the day to day drudgery and struggle of people under this regime.


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"Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon" by Jeffrey Klugger
If you have an interest in space and want to lean a lot without being bogged down by all the nitty gritty details of math and mechanics, this is the book for you! It covers so much more than just the titular apollo mission. Such a great read. I watched Apollo 13 (for the 100000th time) a few days after finishing this book and I kept pipping in with new little nuggets of information I had learned and didn't annoy my husband at all.