Book review

Books #51

Well….if you are trapped in your house, now is a good time to read, right? If you have a kindle, you can download books from your library. I’m sure there are other ways to get books for free, too. Here are some suggestions for reads:

#1 My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

I have mixed feelings about this book. I’d recommend it because the story is nuts and it’s a fascinating read. Anna was a fake heiress. Claimed to be German (was Russian), and lived in expensive hotels in New York while being a socialite, basically. But she was really a grifter, writing bad checks, cheating people out of money, not paying bills, scamming hedge funds out of investments to fund her lifestyle…it was all really crazy.

Rachel was a photographer at Vanity Fair who became friends with her and got swept up in her lifestyle, and in the end, Anna scammed her out of $70k and almost ruined her life.

What makes me hesitate in rating the book higher was that I didn’t really like Rachel. I felt for her, I really did. The $70k would be devastating to anyone. But…she kinda wanted to be part of that lifestyle. She let Anna “pay” for expensive lifestyle stuff and meals and trips because she enjoyed the fancy life. She just didn’t see that it was a scam, which is tragic. So it was hard for me to be entirely sympathetic since it felt like Rachel put aside a lot of stuff (like ignoring that Anna was kind of a mean girl) to enjoy the spoils.

Despite that part, the book was good because it’s a fast read and the story is pretty crazy. I even googled it after I finished the book and read more and looked at pictures. Anna was truly a sociopath.

#2 The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

This book was nuts. It sucked me in immediately. It was so weird, so out there, so twisty and surprising and different…I don’t want to give too much away because every step of the way was a “wow!” factor. Definitely pick this book up!

#3 Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

This book was EXCELLENT! Get it immediately! While I didn’t enjoy the ending, if left me wanting more and feeling a little disturbed and unresolved…I loved the rest of it.

This book tells the story of a 1950’s housewife in New York and then current day. Usually this format isn’t very good, but it’s good in this book and I enjoyed both timelines. Alice, modern day, moves from Manhattan to the suburbs with her husband after losing her job. They buy an old house, “as is”, and finds some old belongs from the previous owner, Nellie (the 1950’s story line).

I don’t want to give away any more because the story unfolds in an excellent way, with some surprises. There’s some darkness, and a little bit of domestic violence (trigger warning) and miscarriage. But I loved the book. So good!

#4 Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Last time I was home sick I watched this show on Netflix and enjoyed it. It was a bit soap-opera-ish but I still liked it. I finally read the book. I probably would have liked the book better had I read it before seeing the tv series. I will also say I liked the book plot points better than what they changed in the tv series.

#5 Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

I’ve had this book on hold forever and it was finally available…a few days after Harvey Weinstein was sentenced. I had a moment of, why do I need to even read this book now?

But damn, read the book.

“‘Textbook sexual harassment’ was how Nestor described Weinstein’s behavior. She recalled refusing his advances at least a dozen times. “‘No’ did not mean ‘no’ to him,” she said.”

It’s engrossing and in-depth about the background research, investigation, the coverup, how deeply HW was protected…how many people were complacent. How many people knew. I mean Ronan Farrow implicated so many people…Trump, the Clintons, soooo many people. Most of Hollywood.

“Arquette’s story was important because of how closely it hewed to others I’d heard: professional pretext, meeting moved upstairs, hotel room, request for massage, bathrobe.”

The details from the women were all awful and hard to read. But important.

” Sorvino had suspected that her romantic relationship with Tarantino at the time had shielded her from retaliation, and that this protection had dissipated when the two split up. Later, Tarantino would say publicly that he could have, should have, done more. “This is the big boys’ club, the Hollywood mafia,” she said. “They protect each other.” “

I am so glad Harvey got what was coming to him and this book shows just how hard people fought for this story to come forward.

#6 Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker

Timely read. I heard this author on the Joe Rogan Podcast when the Corona virus was first kind of taking hold in the US. The book is really interesting and was written about 4 years ago…but clearly we are seeing stuff happen NOW he wrote about then. Experts have been talking about pandemic for a long time and we are seeing now that the World wasn’t prepared.

” ‘The microbe that felled one child in a distant continent yesterday can reach yours today and seed a global pandemic tomorrow.’ “

“… a pandemic spreads around the world and lasts for an extended period of time. It does not hit just one locale, leaving all others with the ability to come to its aid.”

There was a whole chapter on Corona viruses (MERS and SARS, etc) that was super scary and chilling to read as we are in the middle of this crisis now.

“A pandemic hits many locales simultaneously, all of them needing emergency assistance. It has a rolling effect as it hits first individuals, then civil authority, then business, then interstate or international commerce or both. The effects are immediate and devastating, the consequences long-term.”

“For reasons we still don’t completely understand, certain individuals with coronavirus become ‘superspreaders.’ “

The book doesn’t really give you a silver lining, so right now may not be the right time to read this book if you are experiencing anxiety. The chapter on coronaviruses in particular was scary and the author gave a scenario of what would happen in a pandemic and so far it’s happening to a T. So that was scary to read what is probably coming…

“Ordinary civic and commercial functions were not being carried out because so much of the workforce was sick or dead. Some sick people starved to death, not because there was a food shortage but because so many people were afraid to come in contact with them. Unlike a virus such as Ebola, which is not communicable until the victim starts having symptoms, with influenza, you’re contagious before you even feel sick.”

“A catastrophic influenza pandemic will unfold like a slow-motion tsunami, lasting six to eighteen months. “

So yeah. Good read, scary though.

Happy reading!

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Books # 50

I’ve definitely got some good books for you to add to your list! There were a bunch that came all at once at the library and I tried to read as many as I could. So many good ones!

#1 – The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Wow was this book outstanding! I could not put it down and the twist at the end was one I did not see coming. The book and the ending was very satisfying.

Kim is a 28 year old photographer and professor at a college in Australia. Her life is a little lonely right now. Single, her mom recently died of cancer, she has her half sister but she feels alone and a little lost. One day a stranger from America shows up to her college campus during her lunch break and drops some startling allegations on her: she might really be Sammy Went, who was kidnapped in Kentucky when she was 2 years old.

Kim is reeling and doesn’t know what to believe, and definitely doesn’t want to believe her beloved dead mother was a kidnapper. The story unfolds, she ends up going to Kentucky to figure out what happened and the story is startling, riveting and kind of crazy.

The book is brilliantly paced, written well and creepy. Highly recommend!

#2 The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

I’ve had this book for years and finally read it. It’s breathtakingly awful but so important to read. During WWI, these girls, 15-25 years old, were destroyed. They got what they thought was a GREAT job with a high wage. Painting the dials on clocks with radium paint…guaranteed safe…

” The U.S. Radium Corporation had insisted that its product was safe. After Marie Curie and her husband discovered radium in 1898, it had been heralded as the new cure-all and was added to toothpaste, water, food, and cosmetics—with little regulation; sometimes it was enough just to say your product contained radium, which was costly to obtain.”

“Each dial-painter had her own supply. She mixed her own paint, dabbing a little radium powder into a small white crucible and adding a dash of water and a gum arabic adhesive: a combination that created a greenish-white luminous paint, which went under the name “Undark.” The fine yellow powder contained only a minuscule amount of radium; it was mixed with zinc sulfide, with which the radium reacted to give a brilliant glow. The effect was breathtaking.”

But it wasn’t safe, despite what the company was telling everyone.

” ‘We put the brushes in our mouths,’ Katherine said, quite simply. It was a technique called lip-pointing, inherited from the first girls who had worked in the industry, who came from china-painting factories.

” ‘When I would go home at night, my clothing would shine in the dark.’ She added, ‘You could see where I was—my hair, my face.’ “

They were called the “ghost girls” because they glowed. Chilly. But soon, the girls started having issues.

“… one woman got sores on her mouth after just a month of working there.”

Mollie Maggia was one of the first victims who ended up dying from radium poisoning. But it was a slow, very painful death.

“Mollie had more teeth out, as Knef tried to stop the infection in its tracks by removing the source of her pain—but none of the extractions ever healed. Instead, ever-more agonizing ulcers sprouted in the holes left behind, hurting her even more than the teeth had. Mollie struggled on, continuing to work at the studio, even though using her mouth on the brush was extremely uncomfortable..Sometimes, Knef didn’t even have to pull her teeth anymore; they fell out on their own. Nothing he did arrested the disintegration in the slightest degree.”

The descriptions in the book of the girls suffering was absolutely horrific. It is not something to take lightly–and yet, for years, everyone involved from the companies that hired them to the doctors, lawyers and work safety committees, claimed their issues weren’t from their jobs. Mollie Maggia’s doctor said she died of syphilis. (A later postmortem autopsy showed she had indeed died of radium poisoning–her coffin and corpse GLOWED when it was dug up!)

(Read more here: http://theradiumgirls.com/the-girls/4593781028 )

“Despite the dim fall day, the coffin seemed to glow with an unnatural light; there were “unmistakable signs of radium—the inside of the coffin was aglow with the soft luminescence of radium compounds.” “

The surviving girls suffering from radium poisoning, and the families of the victims who had died, eventually went to court.

“…a new law had come in only that January that made industrial diseases compensable. But—and it was a big but—only nine diseases were on the permitted list, and there was a five-month statute of limitations, meaning any legal claim had to be filed within five months of the point of injury.”

This was a ground breaking event and helped changed the laws and rules around work safety, especially for women.

#3 Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Jules is in her mid-twenties and her life is falling apart. She finds her boyfriend cheating on her on the same day she gets laid off of her job. She’s broke, has nowhere to go and no resources. She sees an ad for a apartment sitter in one of the most mysterious, notorious and rich buildings in New York. For three months she can make $12k for just being an apartment sitter. She feels like this is the miracle she needs. But once she moves in, she realizes things aren’t what they seem.

This book had a lot of mixed reviews. A lot of people felt like the ending was unbelievable and I had a moment where two of the theories made me think “are you kidding me? That is so lame” but then the real ending was revealed and I felt like it was satisfying. Unrealistic? Yes, but satisfying. I enjoyed the book. The author did a good job building suspense. I love books about creepy houses. So it worked for me.

#4 Columbus: The Four Voyages by Laurence Bergreen

I have mixed feelings about this book, mostly because it made me question my opinion about Columbus.

I wanted to read about Columbus after reading the book about Queen Isabella. The book is good, drags a little toward the last 25%, but overall very fascinating and informative. Instead of a biography covering Columbus’s life, it focuses on his four voyages to the New World.

My history was a little foggy. Basically, Columbus “discovered” Cuba, Jamaica, Dominic Republic and probably Puerto Rico…not “America”. I learned a lot from this book. Columbus has been vilified for a long time. He definitely did a lot of questionable things. I think most of his issues were greed and obsession with finding gold in the new world. And he was also focused on converting the Indians to Christianity.

He did kidnap a lot of Indians as slaves (horrific) to take back to Spain. A lot of the genocide/rape etc of the Indian people came from his men. It’s well documented that Columbus was not the greatest leader and he dealt with a lot of mutinies from his men. Not surprising considering most of the men on his fleets were criminals who were offered clemency if they helped sail with Columbus. So not the top notch people you’d want…

“Columbus suddenly divined: “that he might leave the people there” to begin a colony, and to become the catalyst for more voyages to China.”

And these men he left behind did terrible things. But Queen Isabella was very clear that she wanted no one to do any harm to the native people.

“…if members of the fleet mistreated the Indians “in any manner whatsoever,” Columbus was ordered to “punish them severely.” The order, unequivocal in writing, proved anything but in action.”

I found this to be very noble. And unfortunately, it wasn’t necessarily obeyed completely.

“Meanwhile, his management of the fledgling Spanish empire, and his quest for gold, devolved into cruel mistreatment of the Indians. The master of navigation became the victim on land of his lack of administrative ability.”

The book was fascinating about discovering the Caribbean Islands and the people that lived there. There were Indians that became extinct because of Columbus and his men. He also encountered Carib Indians who were apparently cannibals.

It’s so fascinating how things changed.

“When Europeans first touched the shores of the Americas,” he wrote, “Old World crops such as wheat, barley, rice, and turnips had not traveled west across the Atlantic, and New World crops such as maize, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and manioc had not traveled east to Europe…In the Americas, there were no horses, cattle, sheep or goats.” They were all “animals of Old World origin.the New World had no domesticated animals, no chickens, and no cattle until …”

Columbus’s life is in part a tragedy. He had to deal with a lot of horrible people trying to ruin him, double cross him, steal from him, ruin his name in Spain, etc. I’m in no way saying that Columbus was innocent, but I think he did try, at first, to be kind to the Indians and learn about their “strange ways.”

“Hindered by the lack of a common language or reliable interpreters, Columbus took the king’s signs and utterances to mean that the “whole island was mine to command.” And out of this communication gap was born the conviction, at least in Columbus’s mind, that he was acquiring an empire of his own.”

So like a lot of things in history and life, it isn’t black and white. There’s some gray area. But don’t think I am painting a rosy picture of Columbus.

#5 Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek

This was a fascinating memoir about Dr. Judy Melinek who was a surgeon struggling with the work-life balance and decided to become a medical examiner in New York City.

“We group all deaths into six categories: homicide, suicide, accident, natural disease, therapeutic complication, and undetermined.”

She takes you through some of her training, the people she worked with and the cases that defined her career and helped her grown as a medical examiner.

“Once I became an eyewitness to death, I found that nearly every unexpected fatality I investigated was either the result of something dangerously mundane, or of something predictably hazardous.”

The last 25% of the book was also about her experience being an ME during 9-11. Having recently read a book about the 9-11 attacks, this was an interesting perspective on the recovery and identification process in the aftermath of the tragedy.

I’ve always been interested in this type of science. I used to love the CSI shows. This book definitely scratches that itch if you are interested in mysteries, science, CSI, etc. If you are squeamish, it may not be the book for you. There were definitely parts of the book that were too much for me and I skipped or skimmed the parts that were too gruesome to read about. But overall it wasn’t too gross. There was a pretty good balance of the science and memoir feel.

#6 Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

This is the follow-up book to “Moloka’i”, which was excellent. This book follows Ruth, the daughter of Rachel (who spent most of her life in a leper colony on Moloka’i. Rachel was forced to give Ruth up at birth and she was sent to a home for a few years before being adopted by a Japanese couple in Hawaii.

The story is about Ruth’s life with her adopted family, how they moved to California to be farmers, and then World War 2 breaking out. The bulk of the story is about the Japanese Internment Camps, which are just absolutely heartbreaking and infuriating to read about. Families were given one week notice to pack up limited belongings and they were all sent to the camps, which were a step up from the concentration camps, but not by much. The conditions were horrible. These people lost EVERYTHING. When they were finally released and able to return “home” there was usually nothing left. They had to start completely over.

It was very eye-opening to read about. I knew a little bit about the internment camps but this was a lot of detail that really made it real.

The book is really good and more fast-paced than the first book.

Happy reading!

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