Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker

Posted by on Feb 16, 2018 in 2018, 4 stars, Book Review, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Blizzard of Glass by Sally M Walkerby Sally M Walker

Genre: Middle Grade Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 145
Source:Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia, Canada. One ship was loaded top to bottom with munitions and the other held relief supplies, both intended for war-torn Europe. The resulting blast flattened two towns, Halifax and Dartmouth, and killed nearly 2,000 people. As if that wasn’t devastating enough, a blizzard hit the next day, dumping more than a foot of snow on the area and paralyzing much-needed relief efforts.
Fascinating, edge-of-your-seat storytelling based on original source material conveys this harrowing account of tragedy and recovery.

My Thoughts:
I learned about this book from a friend in my LibraryThing group. I vaguely remember hearing about the Halifax Explosion at some point but I really didn’t remember any details, so I picked this up at the library.

It’s a middle grade book but it’s an good read for adults too. There were only a couple of places where she’s explaining terminology that reminded me that this was a book intended for a 10-14 year old audience.

The book is fascinating. Walters sets the scene and introduces several families who will be impacted by the disaster. The story of how the ships ended up colliding, the actual explosion and the aftermath were all well done.

The immediate aftermath focuses much on the children in the families she features. many of whom were in the age range of her audience.

What surprised me was how quickly the city leaders got organized and began search and rescue as well as treating the wounded and managing the dead. An interesting note was that Halifax had experience in dealing with large numbers of dead because the bodies that were recovered from the Titanic disaster 5 years earlier had been taken there.

Other interesting things:
Many people thought that the Germans had attacked.
Lots of people were watching the fire after the ships collided so when the blast happened there were large numbers of eye injuries when the windows they were watching through blew in.
People were thrown by the blast and many babies were gathered in one place until they could be identified by surviving family members.
The blizzard that dumped snow on the are the day after the explosion hampered the rescue and recovery efforts.
Within hours of the explosion the city of Boston was organizing relief efforts and sending a train with supplies and medical personnel.

This is an interesting book about an incident I had heard of but didn’t know a lot about. I might seek out a more comprehensive book aimed at adults about this event.

I’d recommend this one even if you aren’t the target age range.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Posted by on Feb 8, 2018 in 2018, 4 stars, Book Review, Nnedi Okorafor, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi OkoraforBinti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 101
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.

Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.

Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene—though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives–and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all.

My Thoughts:
This is the final book in a trilogy of novellas. The story is a fascinating blend of science fiction and coming of age story.

This one picks up right after the events of the second book. I can’t really say a whole lot without giving away too much so I won’t.

This was a satisfying and sometimes surprising ending to Binti’s story. Although I don’t read a lot of science fiction this trilogy was a hit for me. I think that it’s partly because this is totally different than anything I’ve read. Nnedi Okorafor has a fabulous imagination.

If you’re looking for short but interesting books for your next readathon you should pick up this series. Now that all three are available you can really read them straight through.

4 starsRating 4/5

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Going Clear by Lawrence Wright – Audio Edition

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in 2018, 4 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright narrated by Morton Sellers

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright narrated by Morton Sellers

Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2013
Length: 17 hours, 27 minutes
Narrated by: Morton Sellers
Source: Purchased

The Book
From the publisher:

Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige — tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

My Thoughts
I’m oddly fascinated with Scientology and Scientologists. I think if Scientologists weren’t so secretive about things I probably wouldn’t care. I’ve been intrigued by the whole history, religion and organization for years. Last year I listened to Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman and found it fascinating.

This book is fairly similar to Inside Scientology (which I listened to last year) and covers a lot of the same ground so there wasn’t a lot of new information.

One thing I liked about this book is that interspersed throughout Wright’s examination of Scientology’s history is the story of one man and his experience with the church. The book opens with Paul Haggis meeting a scientologist in his hometown of London, Ontario. That meeting led to a 35 year active membership in the church.

However this is not just Paul Haggis’s story. Along with following Haggis’s life and eventual break with the church Wright also tells the story of the church and it’s founder L. Ron Hubbard. He explores the nature of religion and the question of whether Scientology is a religion or not.

Wright talked to many former members of the church in researching this book. What I find interesting is that many of them still use some of the techniques of Scientology while rejecting the official church organization. I think much of this is related to David Miscavige, who took over the church (in a bit of a coup) when Hubbard died.

In my opinion, L. Ron Hubbard may have been a complete whack job but his successor David Miscavige is disturbingly power hungry. Some of the stories of the way he has treated the people supposedly in is inner circle are downright strange.

The book is a little dry in places and sometimes rambles a bit but it’s quite interesting, a little disturbing and worth reading. There is a video documentary available based on this book which is both good and disturbing.

Morton Sellers does an adequate job of narrating the book. He was a little too slow for me though but speeding up the playback made it too fast.

Both this book and Inside Scientology are interesting explorations of the church and it’s history. They do cover a lot of the same ground however so I’d recommend reading one or the other but not necessarily both.

Rating
4 stars Rating 4/5 for the book

3.5 stars 3.5/5 for the narration

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Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in 2018, 4 stars, Book Review, Nnedi Okorafor | 2 comments

Binti: Home by Nnedi OkoraforBinti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Genre: Science Fiction
Format: eBook
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 101
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

My Thoughts:
This is the second in a trilogy of novellas. The story is a fascinating blend of science fiction and coming of age story.

This one takes place a year after the first one in which a young girl form what is presently Namibia becomes the first of her people to go to a University across the galaxy. That was a life changing experience for Binti in ways you can’t imagine and I won’t tell you because I’m not giving away what happens in the first book. .

This one feels very much like the middle part of the story. Binti returns home She’s suffering from PTSD. She doesn’t feel like she fits anywhere and the alien friend she’s brought with her isn’t going to help the situation at all.

I’m glad I was already on the library waiting list for the final book in the series because this one ended on a cliffhanger.

If you’re looking for short but interesting books for your next readathon you should pick up this series

4 starsRating 4/5

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson – Audio Edition

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Audio, Book Review | 2 comments

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson narrated by the authorAstrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson narrated by the author

Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publication Date: 2017
Length: 3 hours, 41 minutes
Narrated by: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.
But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in digestible chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day. While waiting for your morning coffee to brew, or while waiting for the bus, the train, or the plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the big bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

My Thoughts:
This was exactly what I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was expecting an introductory level of information not a super in-depth study. This is a collection of a series of essays by Tyson that were originally published in Natural History magazine.

The audiobook is 3 hours and 41 minutes long but with all the rewinding to listen again I did it probably to me more like five and a half hours to finish. Listening to this book reminded me of sitting in a favorite professor’s class in college. The subject matter was interesting and presented in a conversational manner with plenty of wit and humor along the way.

I can’t imagine anyone other than Neil deGrasse Tyson narrating this.

I learned a lot and definitely recommend this one. Now that I’ve listened to it I would like to get the print edition. This is a book that lends itself to reading or listening to one chapter and then putting it aside for a while before reading or listening to the next. I enjoyed listening to it straight through but for a reread I might take it in smaller chunks.

Rating
4 stars 4/5 for the book

4 stars 4/5 for the narration

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The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

Posted by on Aug 25, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 2 comments

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen DionneThe Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

Genre: Fiction, Suspense
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 307
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

At last, Helena has the normal life she craved: a loving husband, two adorable daughters, a business that pays the bills. But when her father escapes from a nearby prison, she realizes she was a fool to think she could put her dark past behind her. Helena has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by Helena’s father and held captive in a cabin surrounded by swamp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Helena was born two years later, and as she grew up she had no idea that anything was wrong. She loved her rugged childhood, and despite her father’s sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too–until she learned precisely how monstrous he could be. Now a young mother, Helena has hidden her past so thoroughly that even her husband has no idea of the truth. But after her father kills two prison guards and vanishes into the marshland he knows better than anyone, Helena knows the police don’t stand a chance of finding him. Only one person has the skills to catch the notorious child abductor and survivalist the world calls the Marsh King, because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter. Unless, that is, he finds her first.

My Thoughts:
As soon as I read the description for this book I got myself on the waiting list at the library. This is so my type of book.

The present-day story in this one takes place over the course of just a day or two. Interspersed is the back story of Helena’s childhood in which she didn’t know that she and her mother were captives of her father. As far as the child Helena knew her life was normal. Her transition afterwards was not an easy one.

This is part chase story and part psychological thriller. It’s told from Helena’s viewpoint so in the flashbacks it’s clear how much her younger self loved her father despite the emotional and physical abuse that was normal as far as she knew. Some of those sections are difficult to read as are some of the graphic hunting scenes.

Helena’s father taught her to hunt and track and now she’s hunting and tracking him in order to save her family.

This was my kind of suspense story and if the stuff I mentioned above isn’t troublesome for you, I recommend it.

4 starsRating 4/5

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