Monday, May 29, 2017

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel  
     This is one of the NetGalley books I was most looking forward to reading. I think what surprised me most about this book is that I liked, and got attached to, characters that I normally wouldn't have. Samuel Hawley, a bit of a career criminal, has been living his life on the run with his daughter, Loo, for years. Eventually, they settle in Loo's mother's hometown, Olympus, Massachusetts. (Olympus is based on Gloucester, Ma, which is very close to where I live.) This book is a coming of age story that deals with loss, family, regrets of the past and the consequences of your actions. There is a roughness to many of the characters in this book, but also a tenderness between father and daughter that is really evident, despite their weird circumstances. The "twelve" in the title has to do with the explanation of 12 scars on Hawley's body, and where each bullet came from. This is a difficult book for me to explain for some reason. I would recommend it to many of my friends. I liked Tinti's writing style and may look to read more of her books. (This was the first book I've read that she has written.)

Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil

Something Beautiful Happened: How My Search for a Family Hidden From the Nazis Taught My Family About Faith, Grace, and the Power of Kindness  
     I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book tells the story of the author's grandmother, who helped to save a Jewish family from the Nazi's on the island of Erikousa, Greece. After hearing this tale, various times in her life, the author decides to see if she can track down the relatives of the family that were able to escape. As this is happening in the present, other relatives of the author are shot by a white supremacist. The author goes back and forth between the stories of all of the people involved with the book.
 
Things I disliked about the book:  I found this book a little difficult to read because it jumped around so much from person to person. I love books that are written from different perspectives or where all the characters meet together somewhere later in the book, but I just struggled with this one. It just felt a little disjointed. However, when I was thinking about how I might organize it to be clearer, I didn't really have many good solutions.


 Things I liked about the book:  With that being said, I thought the story itself was important and I enjoyed many of the messages in the book. In so many cases, tragedies are remembered by who committed a crime rather than survivors or people who did the right thing. Also, as a person who is involved with genealogy, I could really appreciate some of the frustrating issues Yvette encountered when trying to research all of these families. (I can't even imagine how devastating searching through Holocaust records are if you have a personal connection with those people and how frustrating it is to know that the people existed but not being able to find anything due to the destruction of records.) The creators of MyHeritage also helped in these searches, which made me appreciate their software and their story a bit more.  I enjoyed "getting to know" the family of the author and her kinship with the relatives of the Jewish family that her family helped protect. It is a good reminder that even if evil always exists, people can bond together in love and do good in the world. 

       Our 8th graders study the Holocaust in their curriculum. I know the teacher would not like how the book jumps around, but I know many of the students might want to read this book as supplemental material. I will recommend it to them. I might also see if our librarian would like to get a copy for our school library.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

None Wounded, None Missing, All Dead- The Story of Elizabeth Bacon Custer

None Wounded, None Missing, All Dead: The Story of Elizabeth Bacon Custer 
      I received this book from GoodReads in exchange for an honest review.  (Thank you!) It's not often that I really struggle to get through a book, but this one was one of those times. This book is about the life of Elizabeth Bacon Custer and her marriage to General George Custer. It is a short read and the author's research is well-documented. (In fact, about 1/3 of the book is a the citations of the research, which is okay with me since I would totally read that closely if I wanted to do more investigating.)   There are 10 chapters in this book and I thought I would read a chapter a day. I found that I struggled with that. I was bothered that I couldn't figure out why this book was so hard for me. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1) I was not as interested in the subject as I thought I might be. I did learn a few things from this book and I was able to see the life of George Custer from some perspectives that I hadn't known about before, but there was nothing that made me curious as to what would come next for the couple.

2) (Hold on to your hats for this one) The book often quotes letters and journals, but I think that was distracting to me.  It would be talking specifically about Elizabeth and then mention what was going on with her husband and then include a letter about her husband or relating to another thing and I just felt that the transitions were strange? Maybe the writing style of the author just doesn't appeal to me.  There was also a lot about 2 other men, who were important in the lives of the Custers but I either wanted them mentioned in the book, or wanted more information about their background too.

3) George took such and such position- Elizabeth went with him. Then George had to move here. Elizabeth didn't. Repeat. A lot.

4) I think the real reason I didn't enjoy the book is that I didn't get emotionally attached to either Custer. I know it is not the authors intention in a non-fiction work to convince a reader to like or dislike a main character and it is their intention to portray them as they actually were, but sometimes I felt that the author was a bit biased. (Sometimes I felt he liked the Custers and other times, not so much.) 

      If anything related to this book is interesting to you- life on the plains, military history, Native American relations in the West, etc- perhaps this book might be a good read, but I found it dry.

 Reading Challenges Stats:
Goodreads Challenge:  15/75 (2 behind schedule)
Monthly Keyword Challenge: 5/12 (on track)
Mount TBR 11/24- (Ahead of schedule)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Inkblots review

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       Have you ever heard of the Rorschach test? You know, the test that uses what people see in inkblots to help a psychologist identify aspects of your personality or how you function emotionally? Between seeing (Non-Rorschach) inkblots used in advertising, movies, Internet quizzes, etc. I'm sure you have heard of this test. However, do you know anything about the test or the man who created it? I didn't. Although I am not super into psychology, I thought I might learn something from this book so I applied to read from NetGalley it in exchange for a fair review. (Thanks Crown, Mr. Searls and NetGalley!)
      The first part of this book is a biography of Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychoanalyst responsible for creating this test.  I wondered why I hadn't really heard much about his life before reading this book. (The author states that his family were very private after Rorschach's death and that some of his things were lost in a fire after they were donated.) It was interesting for me to read about some of the beliefs of the times and places where he lived and worked. Rorschach died pretty young, at the age of 37. It would've been interesting to see what he would've accomplished had he lived longer.
       The second part of the book was basically a cultural history of the test- the strengths and weaknesses of the test, how it is scored, who it was used by and when, etc. To be honest, there were times that I found myself skimming some of these sections because psychology is not the most riveting subject to me, but there were definitely things I didn't know. I hadn't really considered that the whole aspect of "personality" is still a relatively new thought. While interpreting these tests, people used to think that some results were just dependent on how you were wired; now personality is a factor. Also, the interpretation of the test is skewed a bit depending on culture. Some of the scoring of the test has to do with colors- and some cultures associate colors to other objects or representations. I also didn't know how this test was used by the Nazis or in military screenings. It was an interesting read overall.