What a fascinating glimpse into the life and mind of Jim Jones..the infamous cult leader behind the Jonestown settlement in Guyana. Jones is probably most remembered for forcing the suicide (so...murder?) of his cult in 1978. He can also be credited with adding the phrase "drink the Kool Aid" to the pop culture lexicon thanks to killing his Peoples Temple members with the addition of cyanide poison into vats of Flavor Aid (a Kool Aid knock off).
Jeff Guinn starts at the beginning -- with Jones's birth. It was so interesting to see the evolution of Jim Jones. We go from his childhood and eventual marriage to Marceline...to Jones's hopping around church denominations...to the establishment of the Peoples Temple...and then, ultimately, to Jonestown. One can easily find the horrific images of the aftermath at Jonestown...but HOW does it get to that point? Guinn sympathetically presents the information to where one feels sorrow at its culmination...as well as anger that it even happened.
I will note that the book, while continually moving forward, does seem to stall out about halfway through. One can only state so many times how Jones was a bona fide con man during Temple services. Guinn presented Jim Jones's cancer "healing" trick on several occasions...each time presenting it like he hadn't already addressed it before. It just became a bit repetitive to continually visit service after service in town after town of Jones conning the service attendees. Once I was through that bit, however, the book picked back up as we sped toward Jonestown.
Ultimately, this book documents a tragedy that is almost incomprehensible. How does one man control the minds of over 900 people to where they would kill themselves (some willingly, some not) just because he says so? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Or, was Jim Jones evil from the very beginning?
This was a fantastic read! This reads more like a piece of scandalous historical fiction/mystery rather than history. The characters (who actually existed) are colorful...their actions (which they actually did) are unbelievable...the outcome (which actually happened) is crazy. I was enthralled with the saga of Rudolf and Mary Vetsera from start to finish. It seemed like there were more twists and turns in this story than your average soap opera.
I'm not that "up" on Hapsburg history so the Mayerling incident was completely new to me. I knew that the Hapsburgs had a sordid family tree full of intermarrying (and all the health ramifications that come with that), but Twilight provides a glimpse into just how twisted their family tree truly was.
This is a "must read" for armchair historians, historical fiction or mystery fans, and anyone in between. The adage "you can't make this stuff up" comes to mind -- a fascinating and unbelievable chapter in the history of the Hapsburg empire.
The Tunnels is a fascinating glimpse into Cold War history. I've always been interested in modern history -- especially modern military history. When I saw the synopsis for The Tunnels I knew I had to read it. Greg Mitchell addresses a historical (yet timely) episode of the Cold War in examining the varied effects of the Berlin Wall and the actions of the brave men and women who strove to rescue others from oppression. Mitchell does a great job discussing the historical, political, and social ramifications of the Wall. Through The Tunnels we also branch out into the larger aspect of the Cold War as Mitchell discusses the domino effect of nuclear war and mutually assured destruction.
Mitchell presents the history in an absorbing way while still focusing on individual people. The image of one of the women escaping through the tunnels in her designer wedding dress is haunting and poignant. How better to put a "face" on forgotten history than to give a name and a photo to remind us that real people struggled with these life threatening circumstances.
The author also brings to light aspects of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall that is not readily taught in schools. The Cuban Missile Crisis is discussed in school history courses (at least in mine it was), but I had no idea about the CBS or NBC film crews on the scene. It's always disconcerting to think you know the story...only to find an entire chapter was missing.
I would recommend The Tunnels as an engaging read that brings to light an era of history that is quickly drifting out of the national consciousness. Mitchell forces us to look at how walls did not work in the past...and won't work in the present.
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.
((This review is originally from 24 Dec 2016 where it was posted on my Goodreads profile...prior to the death of Carrie and her mother. I remember that it was so...surreal...to read Carrie's words while knowing that she was fighting for her life. I was so sad to hear that she ultimately passed away - and then to hear that her mother followed her the very next day. I decided not to change the review to update it as I found so much resonance in reading The Princess Diarist at that time.))
It was rather eerie to read this and hearing that Carrie Fisher had a massive heart attack yesterday (Friday). She has a very conversational writing style so it almost felt like that person who was just talking to you has suddenly fallen seriously ill and may not make it. Best wishes to Fisher for a speedy recovery.
This was my first foray into Fisher's books. She has published many prior to this latest recollection about her time during the filming of Star Wars. The big reveal in this book? It's not really a spoiler since it made the news the day the book came out -- her 3 month affair with Harrison Ford while filming the first movie (Episode IV).
The book was rather odd and seemed to fall into three sections. As I said before, her style is very conversational - almost stream of consciousness.
Unofficial part one was her modern day recollection in her childhood and seeing the effects of celebrity on her mother (Debbie Reynolds). She also touches on the decision to put Leia in the cinnamon roll hairstyle that is so iconic if the character today. Finally she discusses Ford and stresses that it was a three month, one-night-stand.
Part two was her actual diaries from the filming of Episode IV. This was actually the shortest section of the book (or seemed short at any rate). The writing style is drastically different from the first part and discusses a lot of the emotions and feelings one might get while having an affair with a married man.
The final unofficial part was back to modern day with Fisher talking about her seemingly reluctant participation in the convention scene (or, as she puts it, "celebrity lap dances").
While slightly scattered, this was an interesting read that fans of celebrity memoirs and/or Star Wars would probably enjoy.
When I learned that Caitlin Doughty (author of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and YouTube channel host extraordinaire) was writing a second book (From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death), I jumped on that bandwagon. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was a breeze to read that provided a glimpse into the world of the crematory. With From Here to Eternity (let's call it FHTE from here on out), Doughty now takes a global look at death customs...and the result was pretty intriguing.
In case you are curious, here's the blurb from the back of the book:
Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette- smoking, wish- granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning— including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre— and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.
In FHTE we travel from Indonesia to Bolivia to Japan...and a few places in between...to learn about the various ways different cultures treat their dead and conduct their funerary rituals. This book was a fascinating glimpse into various traditions and cultures that handle their deceased loved ones in a manner that many Americans may find foreign.
FHTE was engrossing to read (just like her previous book) and educational without being too "stuffy". Doughty's personal worldview does come through very strongly as she does not agree with Christian practices superseding native culture/tradition when it comes to how the dead are handled. Her career bias also shines through as she does not hold to the "industry of death" that currently reigns supreme in America but would rather see a return to natural burial across the country.
I would have preferred to see less of a bias presented in the book as it seemed as though Doughty took a few opportunities to take an aside and present her own opinion on religion, feminism/patriarchy, and modern funeral practices. Whether or not I agree with her worldview, I think the book would have been better served to present the cultures' death traditions on their own without a running dialogue of her opinions about how Western religion and the patriarchy have destroyed death culture in various countries. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think there's a way to present that information academically for a publication, but I fear Doughty veered into the "opinions for a blog" territory (...kind of like I'm doing now?).
If you have any interest in death culture/traditions or in the mortuary world I would definitely recommend Caitlin Doughty's books. They are easy to read, entertaining, and provide a fascinating glimpse into a world that is often considered to be taboo.
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your heart by J. D. Greear
Short. Sweet. To the point.
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart is a great resource for young Christians and/or Christians who have fallen into the "trap" of doubting their salvation.
J.D. Greear walks us through his own personal experiences with doubting his conversion/salvation. His testimony will especially resonate with those who have grown up in an evangelical church (even more so with those from Southern Baptist churches). Greear draws your attention to the (over?)use of Christian lingo in churches like: "walk the aisle", "ask Jesus into your heart", "pray the prayer", etc... It's the consistent use of this kind of lingo that, Greear argues, can not only create a sense of doubt later on down the road, but also lead to "false conversions" where someone "prayed the prayer" or "walked the aisle", but didn't actually become a Christian.
Greear's journey from a state of constant fear to discovering peace in Christ is a great read for anyone at any stage of their Christian walk. I think Greear's journey is something almost every Christian will experience and/or need to go through at some point in their lives - especially those who accepted Christ at a young age. Greear presents the gospel and references Scripture liberally throughout the book as well, giving it a strong and legitimate foundation.
Definitely check this book out.
How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran
In case you may have forgotten how...Caitlin Moran is here to tell you How to be a Woman.
This book is one part memoir and one part feminist monologue. Moran takes her readers through her developmental years up through marriage, childbirth/rearing, etc. She has an engaging writing style that's very conversational and definitely keeps you reading throughout. The book almost felt like a long speech/lecture, rather than a memoir.
Does Moran impart any revolutionary ideas? Not really. Is this a piece of academic prose complete with sources and footnotes in the Turabian style? Not at all. This is a social commentary of where the author thinks women have come from, where they are now, and where she hopes they go. The big thing that I liked was how she tried to differentiate between feminism and militant feminism. More often than not, the label of "feminist" brings to mind those of a militant feminist point of view and the author argues that this should not be the image invoked. I did not agree with every opinion she put forth, but I don't think she would necessarily find fault with those who disagree with some of her points. I think Moran is striving to make women more aware of their place in society and to draw attention to the fabricated boundaries that have the potential to hold women back.
How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Why The Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews
This book is a waste of money.
It's a glorified pamphlet in hardcover form with large type, double spaced paragraphs, and huge margins. Easy enough to breeze through it before your coffee gets cold in your mug. Oh, and every other page is either dominated by an illustration or a quote blown up to take the whole page. And to add insult to injury, almost half of the book is an interview where the author basically interviewed himself...oh, and there are book club questions for some reason.
The only thing I took away from this book is a feeling of impending doom. Not an "Americans are sheep to the slaughter" feeling of impending doom. No...rather, it's alarming that Americans (or whoever reads this book) can find the material in this book new or a revelation to them.
Have they not paid attention in history class?
Have they not asked before now how something like the Holocaust could have even happened?
Have they not had the (not so) earthshattering revelation that politicians lie to youand that it's up to them as a conscientious voter to make an educated voting decision?
This "book" is just a glorified pamphlet of regurgitated and common sense revelations and not worth the retail value of $14.99.
Playground by Jennifer Saginor
That's how far I got before deciding that this one's going back to the library. Totally not worth the time. (There may be "spoilers" in the review...you have been warned)
Again, as I've said with other memoirs, I feel the need to say that my low rating is not a condemnation against the author or her experiences.
No, this only got one star because the writing style was horrible and it was a creepy book.
The writing was so trite and stilted I almost wondered if there was a ghost-writer involved. But then I realized I didn't care enough to try to find out so that will be a question I will never have answered. And I'm ok with that. Saginor also recounts memories in amazing detail. Other reviews point this out as well - how on earth can she remember not only what designers she was wearing, but also the colors of each garment as she walks into various clubs? How can she remember the exact time she left a club? I know authors have to embellish for the sake of filling out a memoir, but too much and the book just seems like fiction.
And cue the creepy. While I wasn't expecting a memoir version of The Girls Next Door, I also wasn't expecting an abusive, perverted, drug-addled father figure, the denigration of every single female the author meets, and a lesbian tryst (that was also statutory rape of the author). The only major description in the book (up to the point that I read) is the sex scene with a Hef's girlfriend. I'm sorry, but I don't want to read a sex scene that involves a child. It's statutory rape and not something that should be glorified in any way...even if the author is "damaged" and "looking for maternal warmth".
And while her childhood was horrific and abusive in its own way, there comes a time when the constant, "I'm like this because my dad made me like this" or "I'm like this because I was a pawn my parents used in their contentious divorce" just comes across as hollow excuses.
Again, I haven't finished the book. I hope the author has pulled herself out from the horrible childhood she was subjected to and I hope she addresses that in the book...otherwise the book is just a collection of creepy, perverted recollections looking to make a buck off of Hefner's popularity.
At 46%, however, I have to call in the towel.
It's been a slow start this year, y'all. Yes, I have started all four books on the sidebar. No, I'm not done with any of them at the moment. It's not that they're bad books...I like them all so far. It's just been slow going. Of course, I'm sure our house losing water for 3 or 4 days due to frozen and burst pipes (yay, winter.) didn't help matters. I have managed to finish a different book, though. It's another memoir. From another geek/nerd. What can I say...it's how I roll.
Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton
Apparently I missed the fact that Wil Wheaton wrote a book. In 2004.
But, better late than never I suppose.
From Stand By Me to Star Trek: TNG (I never fully understood why Wesley Crusher was so reviled by so many Trekkies...) to Table Top, Wil Wheaton has been a well-known face among geeks, nerds and various other assorted fans for quite a while.
Just a Geek is Wheaton's memoir of that "in-between" time after he left Star Trek: TNG and before he essentially re-branded himself as the quintessential geek.
While I have always been a TNG fan, I never knew the angst under which Wheaton left the show. I also never knew the angst Wheaton dealt with following his departure as he was met with failed audition after failed audition. He left TNG in the hopes a big movie career would follow quickly on its heels...but, alas and alack, it did not.
Just a Geek is an honest look at the self-doubt, frustrations, and hardships that can follow an actor who is struggling to break into the Hollywood scene (or, in Wheaton's case, to break back into the Hollywood scene).
That said...it is angsty and it is full of confessions of self-doubt...so much so that one might think the book takes on an almost whiney tone at times.
But, can you blame him? I know I certainly can't fathom what it was like to be a child star only to fall off the radar. While the book does take on a certain tone at parts, it's also quick to point out personal triumphs and turning points. It comes across as a seemingly honest and exposed memoir of his "in between" period.
"In between what?" you ask? Well, like I said, the book was written in 2004. I guess my geek card gets suspended for a few days because I totally didn't know Wheaton was an author beyond his popular blog that I check sporadically (so sporadically I didn't see where I am sure he promoted his books on said blog). Now, in 2014, Wheaton is the host of the popular web series TableTop - one of the main shows on the Geek & Sundry channel. He has also been so successful as branding himself as the quintessential geek that he can now make cameos of himself on popular shows like Big Bang Theory and the like. Obviously the tides have turned somewhat for Wheaton. No, it's not the big movie career he had hopes for after his departure from TNG...however, he is now known as WIL WHEATON...rather than that guy who played Wesley Crusher from TNG. I'd call that a success.
Just a Geek is a fun, if slightly dated, read. And one thing is for certain - Wheaton can write in a style that, as Picard would say, ENGAGEs the reader and is probably best enjoyed while drinking a cup of Earl Grey, hot.