Tag Archives: non-fiction

The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride – Book Review

Published Date: April 28, 2009

Publishing Co.: William Morrow

Pages: 352

Goodreads Synopsis.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A saga that has fascinated people since the late-1840s.

Author Daniel James Brown does a fantastic job of weaving the tale of the doomed emigrant party that we’ve all heard of at some point in our lives. The tale of a group of early Americans, who with big dreams, traveled the wrong path to glorious California and became stuck in the Sierra Nevada mountains as winter hit. Eventually, almost all of them, would have to eat their fallen friends in order to survive.

Brown not only brings light to the every day trials they faced before becoming entangled in Mother Nature’s snare but also highlights the science behind the way people behave in horrific situations, and how the human body handles things like starvation and hypothermia. He paints a brilliant picture of life during this time period before tragedy struck and how the survivors tried to rebuild their lives after.

This has been so thoroughly researched that you’re bound to hear some new tidbits to an old story. The narrative doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. For instance, one mother boiled ox hide until it became a gelatinous goo to feed her children. Not much for flavor but apparently nutritious. Some members of the camp would boil and re-boil ox bones until they were soft and chewy.

While it is a bleak tale, it is also one of the stubbornness of the human spirit and the adamant will to live.

But, I also wonder why they didn’t start eating the flesh of dead people sooner. I can only imagine the mind set one must get to before they can actually consume human flesh, but there were a few bodies that weren’t touched at all in the beginning even though they had already run out of meat. It feels as though perhaps, a few more people could have survived if they had come to terms with their impending cannibalism sooner.

Just some food for thought.

Get it?

I’ll show myself out.

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5 Non-fiction Books on My TBR List

Fantasy and sci-fi are my bread and butter of reading BUT I do enjoy a good non-fiction book now and again. Quite frankly, I’m very picky about them so I thought I’d share some that have made my TBR list. I haven’t read any of them yet so don’t come yelling at me if you don’t end up liking them. 😉

Journalist Rachel Nuwer plunges the reader into the underground of global wildlife trafficking, a topic she has been investigating for nearly a decade. Our insatiable demand for animals–for jewelry, pets, medicine, meat, trophies, and fur–is driving a worldwide poaching epidemic, threatening the continued existence of countless species. Illegal wildlife trade now ranks among the largest contraband industries in the world, yet compared to drug, arms, or human trafficking, the wildlife crisis has received scant attention and support, leaving it up to passionate individuals fighting on the ground to try to ensure that elephants, tigers, rhinos, and more are still around for future generations.

Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in northern Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, she and her brothers and sisters lived a quiet life. Nadia had dreams of becoming a history teacher or opening her own beauty salon.

On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, this life ended. Islamic State militants massacred the people of her village, executing men who refused to convert to Islam and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia was taken to Mosul and forced, along with thousands of other Yazidi girls, into the ISIS slave trade.

Nadia would be held captive by several militants and repeatedly raped and beaten. Finally, she managed a narrow escape through the streets of Mosul, finding shelter in the home of a Sunni Muslim family whose eldest son risked his life to smuggle her to safety.

Today, Nadia’s story–as a witness to the Islamic State’s brutality, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi–has forced the world to pay attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.

Dear Mr. Manson…

It started with a college course assignment, then escalated into a dangerous obsession. Eighteen-year-old honor student Jason Moss wrote to men whose body counts had made criminal history: men named Dahmer, Manson, Ramirez, and Gacy.

Dear Mr. Dahmer…

Posing as their ideal victim, Jason seduced them with his words. One by one they wrote him back, showering him with their madness and violent fantasies. Then the game spun out of control. John Wayne Gacy revealed all to Jason — and invited his pen pal to visit him in prison…

Dear Mr. Gacy…
It was an offer Jason couldn’t turn down. Even if it made him…

The book that has riveted the attention of the national media, this may be the most revealing look at serial killers ever recorded and the most illuminating study of the dark places of the human mind ever attempted

In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen shows that what’s happening in our country today—this post-factual, “fake news” moment we’re all living through—is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

Over the course of five centuries—from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials—our love of the fantastichas made America exceptional in a way that we’ve never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies—every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

From Waco to Heaven’s Gate, the past decade has seen its share of cult tragedies. But none has been quite so dramatic or compelling as the Jonestown massacre of 1978, in which the Reverend Jim Jones and 913 of his disciples perished. Deborah Layton had been a member of the Peoples Temple for seven years when she departed for Jonestown, Guyana, the promised land nestled deep in the South American jungle. When she arrived, however, Layton saw that something was seriously wrong. Jones constantly spoke of a revolutionary mass suicide, and Layton knew only too well that he had enough control over the minds of the Jonestown residents to carry it out. But her pleas for help–and her sworn affidavit to the U.S. government–fell on skeptical ears. In this very personal account, Layton opens up the shadowy world of cults and shows how anyone can fall under their spell. Seductive Poison is both an unflinching historical document and a riveting story of intrigue, power, and murder.

If you could only recommend ONE non-fiction book, what would it be??

Rejected Princesses: Tale of History’s Heroines, Hellions and Heretics – Book Review

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Published Date: October 26, 2016

Publishing Co.: Dey Street Books

Pages: 384

Goodreads Synopsis.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was a fun, easy informational read. There were SO many women I had never heard of that were true BOSS bitches. I’m glad this book exists so that more people may learn of their adventures and inspire women to be fearless.

I liked the author’s humor that was added to each little chapter and the art was fun as well.

hypatia

 

Educated: A Memoir – Book Review

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Published Date: February 20, 2018

Publishing Co.: Random House

Pages: 334

Goodreads Synopsis.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Raised in a small Mormon town, child to a mentally ill father, forced to work in a junkyard pulling scrap or making essential oils and homeopathy in the kitchen with her mother, Tara Westover never had an actual education. In fact, she didn’t even have a birth certificate for nine years or an actual birth date. Everyone had a different account of the day she was born and even when that date was.

Her life was preset before her. Help her parents make money and prepare for the End of Days, then one day become a wife and mother. Those were the foundations of a good Mormon believer according to her father.

As she grew, she began to realize that this was not the life she wanted. However, she felt guilty, almost blasphemous for feeling this way. First, she had to survive her family. An older brother who was extremely physically and mentally abusive. A father, who wanted to live off the grid, believed the government would come for them one day, and did not believe in the Medical Establishment. Meaning, serious injuries caused in the junkyard were treated by their mother with oils and homeopathy.

Tara grew bolder when a different older brother encouraged her to teach herself and pass the ACT so that she could escape the life laid out before her. A large portion of the story is about her education, learning about historical events she never knew had taken place, like the Holocaust. Her struggle to maintain her grades and earn grants to continue school and even placing into study abroad programs, learning about a world she never knew existed. All this while struggling with the drama and control of her family.

You could not have had a more polar opposite upbringing than my own. I was raised in an agnostic/atheist household with a strong stance on the importance of education. Therefore, it absolutely amazes me that this woman was not only able to survive a brutal childhood, but to go on and graduate from a school like Cambridge. She is only a year older than me and has accomplished so much more than I can imagine but I wouldn’t trade my childhood or my family for it.

It’s such a weird life and way of believing that at times I thought this story was something set before I was born but no, these people are out there today, doing these same things they’ve been doing since before I was born. It’s so bizarre to think about.

I liked the author’s honesty about how hard and how long it took to detach herself from the toxic portion of her family, even if it wasn’t fully her choice.

If you’re looking for an inspirational read, you’ve found it right here.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier – Book Review

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Published Date: February 13, 2007

Publishing Co.: Farrar Straus Giroux

Pages: 229

Goodreads Synopsis.

Rating: 4 out 5 stars

If you have a child in your life who just thinks that they have just the worst life, please have them read this book. Hell, if you know an adult who thinks that they’ve had it the worst, maybe throw this at them too. This isn’t to negate other people’s suffering but sometimes you just need a little perspective thrown at you to make you appreciate your life.

There are a decent amount of war stories recounted by people who lived through them. But, it’s not every day that you read about a child’s perspective of war, especially a child who was also a soldier in the war. It’s an almost unimaginable concept to consider, but consider it we must as it happens in every war.

When you think about how they did anything, literally anything, to survive, your mind most likely goes to things like, smuggling weapons and starving. It’s so much more than that. It’s being fed drugs to keep you fierce, it’s fueling the pain of losing your family with hate for your enemy, it’s shooting people at point blank range and slitting throats. It’s fucking brutal. It’s children being forced to be brutal in order to hopefully live one more day. It’s heartbreaking and I don’t even like kids that much.

It’s important to show the grim reality of war. It should not be taken lightly. Ever.

Ishmael’s struggle through the Sierra Leone civil war is gripping. So much so, that I was miffed about the abrupt ending. Yes, I can assume what must have happened next to young Ishmael but I want to hear it from him. I want to know how his life changed once he escaped the war for good.

The Brain Audit – Book Review

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Published Date: August 22, 2009

Publishing Co.: Psychotactics

Pages: 180

Goodreads Synopsis.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Well yes, this isn’t my usual fair. It was a forced read by my boss. When your boss says, “Here read this and we’ll discuss it when you’re done,” you don’t really argue because there are far worse projects to take home from work and do on your own time.

This might seem on the outside like a simple, boring read about sales, but it’s more than that. It’s an in depth look at how people decide when and why to purchase your product or service. It shined a spotlight on thinking that I know I do myself when considering a purchase, but never really thought about other people coming to that decision in almost the exact same way.

One read through will have your brain popping with new ideas on how to make your customers happier, more confident and consistently returning to you. In turn, growing your business at a faster rate than you would have otherwise.

If you run a business, are ranked higher in a company or want to get in good with the boss, take the hour or so it takes to read this and flip your business model in a new and exciting direction.

Or don’t and keep putzing along with low sales.

You Are Not So Smart – Book Review

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, And 46 Other Ways You Are Deluding Yourself

3.5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes it’s fun learning that your brain is not so different from everyone else’s brains. You’re not the only one imagining themselves responding heroically in a crisis. You are unaware how much your conditioning and preconceived notions determine your own behavior when interacting with other people. You think you’re correct in your morals because you read articles saying that you’re right because those are the articles you seek out; ones that validate your current opinion.

I generally consider myself a master procrastinator so, it was fantastic learning why I operate that way. (Hint: It comes down to, which is greater? The reward for doing it now, or the reward for doing it later?) The next time I’m in the mood to procrastinate, I think I will think over my reasoning as thoroughly as possible. I want to see if this is true. I’m going to experiment on my own brain.

I’ve always found psychology fun, so this was a bright, easy read. It’s a good way to look at the why and how your brain works the way it does. Anecdotes mixed with scientific studies and real life scenarios illustrate theories of psychology that make a lot of sense.

Take some time and learn some ways to pick apart your own brain. Once you understand certain aspects, it may even make you a better person.

Undeniable – Book Review

4 out of 5 stars

“Creationism, unlike science, can predict nothing. Along with it being obviously wrong, it is obviously not useful.”

Twenty years later and Bill Nye is still teaching generations of people. As a child, I was an avid Bill Nye the Science Guy fan. As an adult reading this book, it just solidified the fact that I am still an avid Nye fan.

A few years ago, Nye was invited to debate creationist Ken Ham. This inspired him to write this very novel. Nye pulls together several creationist theories about evolution and debunks them using scientific facts. As someone very interested in science in general, I still found myself learning new things and I thoroughly enjoy learning. As an atheist, I found the theories creationists developed completely idiotic at times and therefore, enjoyed it when Nye used facts to combat beliefs. The above quote may be harsh if you’re religious, but personally I found it so accurate that it stood out and needed to be used as an introduction to this review.

Evolution is a fascinating subject and the journey through evolution that Nye pulls you into is as entertaining as it is educational.

I feel that there was a missed opportunity to title the book UndeNYEable, but alas, I’m sure that he wanted to be taken seriously with his first foray into writing. I won’t hold that against him. I am taking a star away because of his incessant need to mock an old employer. One joke, fine. Five jokes later and I’m a little over it Bill. It pulled away from the importance of the book.

“Humans may have more trouble understanding nature than nature does is all I’m saying.”

nye

White Trash – Book Review

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

2 out of 5 stars

DNF at page 99.

Let me just say that this book is highly informational, that’s not the issue. It was just SO boring. I could not read it for any longer than 15 minute stints or I did not absorb any information because my brain wandered away.
I’ll elaborate a little more than I did on Goodreads. The main thing I found interesting/learned was that, much like Australia, America was founded by sending what the British considered their ‘waste people.’ Convicts, indentured servants and vagabonds.

Bad-Ass Librarians – Book Review

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

3 out of 5 stars

Somehow the jacket of this book thoroughly confused me in the beginning. Did anyone else think that this was going to be fiction based on the summary? It sounded like a make believe romper about librarians fighting Al Qaeda. Turns out it’s a true tale of librarians resisting and rebelling against Al Qaeda. Perhaps I was just far too sleepy when I first read the synopsis.

Anywho my darlings, it was definitely interesting. I learned a lot about Timbuktu, something I honestly knew very little about, and also about the war fighting Islamic extremists. To be perfectly honest, most of the time it felt like the story focused solely on the hostile takeover, with librarians peppered in here and there. That doesn’t subtract from how awesome the librarians are, however I do think it takes away from the magic of the subject that the book is supposed to be based on.

Middle of the ground read. You need to be interested in books/manuscripts, history, war, and rebellion to enjoy this one. I’m coming away from this informed but in no way exhilarated about what I just read.