Category: Biography

“The Fact of a Body” by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

“The Fact of a Body” by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Alexandria takes a job as a summer intern at a Louisiana law firm that defends murderers. When she sees a videotape of Ricky Langley’s confession she does not expect the maelstrom of personal memories and emotions that bombards her, or the journey that she will embark on as a result. In this book the author tells us the story of Ricky Langley side-by-side with her own story. Both of these stories are moving and compelling, addressing the complexity of family relationships and how they shape who we are.

I found this book really easy and enjoyable to read even though the subject matter is at times very dark. The author spent years researching the Ricky Langley case and has put together a very thorough presentation of his story. At the same time, she has opened herself up in a heart-wrenching way in order to relate her own story. The story is well-written and moves seamlessly between the two narratives. This is a great biography/memoir/true crime story.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 4-star-rating  4 stars!!

Happy Reading!

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“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance – Audiobook Review

“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance – Audiobook Review

Narrator: J.D. Vance

“Hillbilly Elegy” is the story of J.D. Vance’s life growing up in Ohio and Kentucky. His family originates from the Appalachians and still carry their Hillbilly character. In the process of telling his personal story, the author exposes the reader to the intricacies of the Hillbilly culture. The author discusses how various public policies have affected this working class population, the effects of drug addiction on the families and children in particular, and how the economics of the region have impacted their lives. The story is tragic and hopeful at the same time, and brings awareness to a portion of the population that is largely ignored or forgotten.

I was drawn to this book because I have always had a curiosity about the Appalachian culture. The story is well written and flows in a natural way. The author did a great job of narrating the story and I found the narration to be consistent and well produced. There are some great characters in the author’s family and the story kept me fully engaged throughout. This is a great biography and would also be interesting to readers who want to learn more about the culture.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  4-star-rating 4 stars!!

Happy Reading!

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“The Principal’s Daughter” by Russ Katz

“The Principal’s Daughter” by Russ Katz

My deepest thanks to Russ Katz for bringing this story to life! In “The Principal’s Daughter” we are introduced to Kim, whose father is the principal of the school in the South Vietnamese village they live in near Saigon. Kim grows up during the war and her village becomes the center of the Tet Offensive when she is still a young girl. She endures the deprivations of the war and subsequent Communist regime with the hope of one day emigrating to America.

I found this story to be very moving and enlightening. Reading Kim’s story opened my understanding of the Vietnam War in a new way, and introduced me to a culture I previously had no knowledge of. I was also very impressed with the author’s writing. This book was fairly easy to read, although there is use of Vietnamese language, particularly names, which threw me a bit in places. As I understand it, this is the author’s second book and first piece of non-fiction, and I just have to say, “Job well done”. The personalities of the people come through in a way that I felt as if I was sitting with them hearing the story from their lips. I think that stories like this go a long way towards helping us as individuals to see the people of other cultures as not just different but as fellow humans on a journey to fulfillment. I hope that many people will read this book and allow it to give them new insight.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  5-star-rating  5 stars!!

Happy Reading!

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Thank you to NetGalley and Dog Ear Publishing for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

“The Lengthening War” by Michael Goode

the-lengthening-war

Genre: Biography

World War I was a pivotal event in the history of the world. In “The Lengthening War”, Michael Goode shares the diary of Mabel Goode, which contains her thoughts and perceptions of the war as it stretched out longer and longer. Mabel is a young woman, unmarried, at the start of the war. In the beginning the people of Britain thought that the war would last a few months and then everything would go back to normal, and this rather casual viewpoint is evident in the diary. She is fervent in her desire to help out and to see her brothers participating as well. As the war lengthens and becomes more of a burden to the British populace, Mabel’s enthusiasm also begins to wane.

I enjoyed this book very much and through reading gained some insight into WWI that you won’t find in your history books. The first half of the book uses quotes from the diary to point out different aspects on the war. There are chapters on how different people’s roles in British society changed during the war, and how the spirit of the British people was altered as the war began to stretch out over the years. The author also takes the time to talk about the diarist brothers and how their lives were affected by war. The second half of the book then presents the diary in its entirety. Michael Goode has done an excellent job of researching and presenting the story of Mabel Goode and her brothers, and the many ways that the war changed the culture.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  4-star-rating 4 stars!

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: “The Disappearance of Maria Glenn” by Naomi Clifford

Book Review: “The Disappearance of Maria Glenn” by Naomi Clifford

This is a biographical account of what happened to Maria Glenn in the early 1800’s. It is the story of her abduction and the lawsuits that resulted from it. It is a story of greed and the lengths people will go to in the pursuit of money.

Maria Glenn is a teenager, in the care of her aunt and uncle, in Taunton. She is very reserved, dresses modestly and is rarely out on her own. She is loved and nurtured by the Tucketts and her cousins. Shortly before her 16th birthday, Maria and her cousins are stricken with a potentially deadly virus and sent to a farm outside the city of Taunton to recuperate. The owners of the farm have a good reputation in the community and have taken in other children previously for this purpose. Mr. Tuckett is a lawyer and has investigated them thoroughly before leaving his children in their care. What Mrs. Bowditch fails to tell him is that one of her sons, James, also lives in the house. The Bowditches upon learning that Maria is expected to inherit a fortune upon the death of her mother and that she will soon be 16, concoct a plan to abduct Maria, after her birthday, and force her to marry James. They use threats to “convince” Maria to go along “willingly”. Maria is rescued before the ceremony can take place and her uncle decides to bring criminal charges against the Bowditches. What appears to be a straightforward crime turns into a legal battle that lasts for years and forces Maria to live in exile for almost 30 years.

I was quite frankly astonished by this story and the way that Maria was tormented throughout, not only by her abductors but afterward by the citizens of Taunton. Naomi Clifford has done a masterful job of researching the case and relating the shifting tides of the legal battle and public opinion. Even more surprising is the way in which Maria is able to bear up in the face of horrible false accusations. This is a great book for anyone interested in legal history or women’s history in England. Included in the book is the complete transcript of Maria’s statement of her abduction and the events leading up to it.

Alinefromabook’s rating: THUMBS-UP!

Happy Reading!

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On Amazon UK

Book Review: “Sky Rivals” by Adam L. Penenberg

Book Review: “Sky Rivals” by Adam L. Penenberg

This book will take your breath away! There are so many thrills that reading this story is like riding a roller-coaster. Having been born into a flying family, I have always admired the pioneers of aviation and the risks they would take just to see if it could be done. The two rival pilots in this story, Wiley Post and Jimmie Mattern, were the best of their day. During this Golden Age of Aviation, pilots were competitive but also willing to help each other out. Jimmie and Wiley were determined to beat each other at circumnavigating the world, but only one can be the winner. This is their story.

Adam Penenberg has done a fabulous job of telling this story. You will be right there in the cockpit with these guys, and it’s a thrill. These two were flying around the world before there were instruments to tell you where you were. They get lost and found and lost again, and they have the whole world waiting to see if they will be heard from again. Sometimes they go days without contact, living on chewing gum and tomato juice. And Wiley is doing it with just one eye. I think everybody should read this book but it will be especially appealing to aviation history buffs or lovers of thrilling stories.

Alinefromabook’s rating: TWO THUMBS-UP!!

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: “In Search of Buddha’s Daughters” by Christine Toomey

Book Review: “In Search of Buddha’s Daughters” by Christine Toomey

This is a biographical book where the author travels across the globe interviewing Buddhist nuns. She has presented their stories here in a way that was absolutely delightful to read. Being a Westerner, raised in a conservative Christian community, the only exposure I’ve had to Buddhism was seeing them in the airports when I was a kid. I have, though, always had a curiosity about other religions and cultures, so this book seemed like a good way to learn a little bit about these women. I was not disappointed! Ms. Toomey traveled to Nepal, Burma, Japan, the West Coast, Britain and France to meet these women, some of them well-known for the lives they led before becoming nuns, others known only in their own communities. All of the stories were fascinating and along the way the reader gets an introduction to the Buddhist faith (turns out it is not a demonic cult as I was told). Even if you have no interest in being a Buddhist, there is much in these stories to admire and inspire you. These women are not weaklings locking themselves away in a convent, but vibrant personalities who, in some cases, have endured much hardship. Hats off to Ms. Toomey for this beautifully crafted book!

Who would enjoy this book? Those who like biographies, who have an interest in different lifestyles, cultures, or religions.

What age is this book appropriate for? Older teenagers on up. There is nothing really graphic, but there is a chapter where she discusses the sexual abuse scandals of recent years.

Rating: I give “In Search of Buddha’s Daughters” a THUMBS-UP. Definitely a good read.

This book is set to be released in March 2016. Thanks to NetGalley for making a preview copy available.

Happy Reading!

Professional Reader
Reviews Published

Book Review: “Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nellie Bly

Book Review: “Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was a female journalist in the late 1800’s. At the time, female journalists wrote about the home and society gatherings. Nellie set a new standard for investigative journalism, often writing about the plight of working women of her day. One of her assignments was to pretend to be insane and get herself committed to the Woman’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island in New York. She spent ten days locked away and the result was this book. In it she exposes the substandard conditions and brutal treatment of the women who were incarcerated there. Nellie’s book led to a grand jury investigation of the facility and the eventual improvement of conditions.

This book is a relatively short read and the edition I have included two articles at the end which she wrote about working conditions of women. Though the subject matter is very unpleasant, I nevertheless enjoyed the book. I found it shocking how easily the doctors she encountered wrote her off as insane. Our current mental health system is far from perfect, but in comparison to what she describes, has improved immensely. This would be a good choice for history or journalism buffs alike.

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Book Review: “Cold A Long Time” by John Leake

Book Review: “Cold A Long Time” by John Leake

This is the heart-breaking true story of the disappearance and death of Canadian hockey player Duncan MacPherson. “Cold A Long Time” tells the story of the 20 years that Duncan’s parents spent trying to find out what had happened to their son and the cover-up by authorities. In August of 1989 Duncan was traveling in Europe before taking up a coaching job in Scotland. He had been calling his mother on a regular basis but after missing a scheduled call time his parents began to be concerned. Then they received a call that he had never arrived in Scotland. No one could have imagined how difficult it would be for them to find out what their son’s fate had been.

John Leake expertly relates the MacPherson’s story, the obstacles they faced, and the strength and determination they showed in persisting with their search for answers. I found the story thoroughly engaging and really felt for the MacPherson’s and their heartbreak and frustration. This book would be an obvious choice for a hockey fan, but any lover of true stories would also enjoy this book. It may not be suitable for younger audiences as there are some difficult pictures of the body near the end. All in all a good read.

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Book Review: “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” by Isabella Bird

Book Review: “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” by Isabella Bird

I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to! This is the collection of letters which Isabella wrote to her sister about her travels through the Rocky Mountains in the 1870’s. Isabella is travelling on her own; sometimes with companions she picks up along the way. She has a beautiful gift for describing what she sees and experiences along the way. Her reason for the journey is to see Estes Park. She travels from San Francisco to Colorado and then into the mountains. She tells her sister about all the people she encounters, a very motley collection of humanity. People that have been sent to the mountains by their doctors back East in an attempt to improve their health. People who are building ranches and farms and communities out of nothing. She meets desperadoes and dandies, devoted wives and their hardworking husbands, law-breakers and those trying to create law and order where none exists. Isabella gets to try her hand at herding cattle, climbing mountain peaks, slogging through blizzards, fording streams and rivers. It seems like she has the opportunity to experience every hardship the west has to offer but also all the beauty and glory that await in the Rocky Mountains.

This book was first published in the 1870’s but don’t let that put you off. If you enjoy stories of the Old West or travel books I think you will find this book worth reading. Isabella’s writing style is very approachable and not stuffy, as some books from the 19th century feel to today’s reader. Try something different today and pick up “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains”.

Happy Reading!

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