3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, F, Nonfiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: George Washington: The Forge of Experience (1732-1775) by James Thomas Flexner

George Washington: The Forge of Experience (1732-1775)
by James Thomas Flexner

George Washington- The Forge of Experience

Copyright: 1965

Pages: 345

Read: Feb. 7 – March 7, 2018

Rating: 3/5

Source: Purchased on powells.com

 

Blurb: In this deeply significant work, James Thomas Flexner has given life to the stony image of George Washington which stares at us so impersonally from Mount Rushmore, the dollar bill and the schoolroom wall.

With a clear, swiftly readable style, Flexner shows the wholly human way in which the character of one of the greatest men in history was shaped and how it, in turn, shaped his achievements. Able and energetic, impulsive and vulnerable, Washington from the first had major virtues – but he was also fallible.

Put into a position of leadership in the French-Indian conflict at the age of twenty-two – a position for which he was not yet ready – the young Lieutenant Colonel initiated actions which showed more bravery than good judgment. His hasty attack in the forest, on what the French insisted was a party escorting an ambassador, proved to be the first shot fired in the global Seven Years’ War. Yet each mistake – and success – of these early years was part of the vast experience which ultimately molded Washington into what Flexner calls “one of the noblest and greatest men who ever lived,” a man prepared to become, during the American Revolution, “more than a military leader: he was the eagle, the standard, the flag, the living symbol of the cause.”

Flexure covers forty-three years of Washington’s life in this volume, the first in a series of four planned to carry Washington through the Revolutionary War and on to the end of his life.

Vivid on the one hand and factually solid on the other, Flexner’s narrative absorbingly shows us the future hero as a callow youth, writing bad verse and in love with love. We see the era and the society which formed Washington and the individuals who mattered to him: his mother, who became an obdurate squatter on the farm he inherited; his beloved and ailing older brother, Lawrence, who married into the distinguished Fairfax family; George William Fairfax, who, in turn, married Sally Cary; and Sally, who stirred in Washington such forbidden ardor that twenty-five years later he could write her that none of the great events of his career, “nor all of them together, have been able to eradicate from my mine those happy moments, the happiest of my life, which I have enjoyed in your company.”

But it was Martha Custis, the handsome, domestic, timid and loyal widow he married, who brought the future President that happiness of a serener order which made “domestic enjoyments” at Mount Vernon and effective counterpoise, throughout his career, to ambition in the world of fame.

Impeccably researched, this work quotes directly from Washington’s letters, diaries and documents in presenting the most engrossing biography yet of the Father of Our Country.


Review: This is my second George Washington book on my Presidential Reading journey. I have the other three installments by Mr. Flexner and I intend to eventually put together an all-encompassing review of the four volumes together. So for now I will just write up a few of my thoughts on this particular installment.

My chief complaint regarding Ellis’ His Excellency was that I wanted more of George Washington – who he was and where he came from. This installment definitely fulfilled that desire. I was glad to really get a good idea of who Washington was from his earlier years. I found it interesting to read about his mother – who was not exactly what you would call a supportive/loving mother. His marriage to Martha was also discussed more in depth, and I greatly appreciated learning more about the relationship they shared.

I enjoyed learning new things about Washington’s earlier years. But I also struggled to get through the book at times. Having been written in the 1960s, I didn’t find it as readable as more contemporary books are. Mr. Flexner made great use of direct quotes from Washington’s personal letters/diaries, which was interesting to a certain extent, but I felt that it bogged down at times.

A great portion of this book surrounded the French and Indian War years. As usual, I do not really like reading about wars. (Which makes me very nervous to read the next installment, which covers the Revolutionary War years). I don’t really care to know about battle strategy and things like that. So I definitely stalled out quite a bit in reading this book when it hit that point.

Overall, it’s an okay book. I’m going to reserve my final judgment until I have finished the entire series because I feel like it’s going to come out much better when taken in its entirety rather than just each installment individually.

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3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Nonfiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

His Excellency: George Washington
by Joseph J. Ellis

His Excellency

Copyright: 2004

Pages: 275

Read: Jan. 24-30, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Paperbackswap

Blurb: To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric rose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose “statue-like solidity” concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. And here is the general who lost more battles than he won, and the reluctant president to tried to float above the partisan feuding to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.


Review: With this book I embark on my presidential reading challenge!

I chose this book to start with because it appeared to be a short, all-encompassing biography. I figured it would give me a good decent background before I really got started into the meat of George Washington’s life. And for the most part, this book definitely fulfilled that. But it definitely left me wanting more. There were a lot of places that I really wanted more information on, but I realize that it’s not feasible to put every single thing about his entire life into one small volume such as this.

The writing itself in this book was extremely good. There were some dry parts, but those usually occurred when there was discussion of battle details and strategy – those topics just don’t interest me all that much. Overall I found this one easy to read and it kept my interest throughout.

The overall picture that Mr. Ellis paints of George Washington is interesting to me. What I personally came away from it was that he seemed to be a man who wanted everything he did. He claimed to not want to do this or that, namely the presidency, yet he kept coming back. He could have stepped away had he truly wanted to. Yet he was needed. And I think it was that need that kept driving him. His earlier years, he came across as extremely arrogant and not very likable to be honest. But it was his later years that you could definitely see him mature and realize that what he was living was something a lot bigger than anyone at the time could even imagine. His eye never seemed to be on the present, it always seemed to be on the future – I suppose that’s why he edited a lot of his earlier writings…. he wasn’t really writing for his immediate audience; he was writing for future audiences.

Overall, I’m very pleased that this is where I started my presidential reading challenge at. I found it to be a wonderful overview of Washington. It is an easy read, one that will most certainly appeal to casual readers. It also made me realize that my knowledge of the history of the American Revolution is severely lacking (!).

I do believe that going forward from here, when I begin a new president, I will start with something similar to this – a brief, all-encompassing volume that will give me a good starting place. This will be especially helpful with those presidents that I am truly unfamiliar with.

 

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: The Madness of Mary Lincoln by Jason Emerson

The Madness of Mary Lincoln
by Jason Emerson

The Madness of Mary Lincoln

Copyright: 2007

Pages: 190

Read: Jan. 8-12, 2018

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

 

Blurb: In 2005, historian Jason Emerson discovered a steamer trunk formerly owned by Robert Todd Lincoln’s lawyer and stowed in an attic for forty years. The trunk contained a rare find: twenty-five letters pertaining to Mary Todd Lincoln’s life and insanity case, letters assumed long destroyed by the Lincoln family. Mary wrote twenty of the letters herself, more than half from the insane asylum to which her son Robert had her committed, and many in the months and years after.

The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the first examination of Mary Lincoln’s mental illness based on the lost letters, and the first new interpretation of the insanity case in twenty years. This compelling story of the purported insanity of one of American’s most tragic first ladies provides new and previously unpublished materials, including the psychiatric diagnosis of Mary’s mental illness and her lost will.

Emerson charts Mary Lincoln’s mental illness throughout her life and describes how a predisposition to psychiatric illness and a life of mental and emotional trauma led to her commitment to the asylum. The first to state unequivocally that Mary Lincoln suffered from bipolar disorder, Emerson offers a psychiatric perspective on the insanity case based on consultations with psychiatrist experts.

This book reveals Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of his wife’s mental illness and the degree to which he helped keep her stable. It also traces Mary’s life after her husband’s assassination, including her severe depression and physical ailments, the harsh public criticism she endured, the Old Clothes Scandal, and the death of her son Tad.

The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the story not only of Mary, but also of Robert. It details how he dealt with his mother’s increasing irrationality and why it embarrassed his Victorian sensibilities; it explains the reasons he had his mother committed, his response to her suicide attempt, and her plot to murder him. It also shows why and how he ultimately agreed to her release from the asylum eight months early, and what their relationship was like until Mary’s death.

This historical page-turner provides readers for the first time with the lost letters that historians had been in search of for eighty years.


Review: I majored in history in college. I had a few favorite topics in American history, and the time of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was one of them. I actually wrote a paper in my History of Illinois class about Abraham and Mary’s marriage. So some of the information in this book was relatively familiar to me from my research during my college years.

It has been a long time since I really read a historical non-fiction book with a somewhat critical eye. I took a lot of notes during my reading and one thing that really stuck out to me was the author’s obvious soft spot for Robert Lincoln. Historically, Abraham and Mary’s son has not been shown in a very good light for having his mother committed to the insane asylum. Some people feel like Robert had a sane woman committed just so he could save the embarrassment she was causing to the Lincoln family. Mr. Emerson has a differing opinion, and claims that Robert was just doing his duty to his mother by protecting her.

The student of history must not make conclusions outside of historical context. This is the principal mistake made in regard to Robert Lincoln. His personality, his motivations, have never been considered in their proper Victorian attire, but when they are, and when he is given a fair standard to measure against, there can be no doubt that Robert Lincoln was an honorable man who loved his mother. [p. 155]

It is not unknown the struggles that the Lincoln family endured. Not only did Mary Lincoln have to bury 3 of her 4 children, but she was also right beside her husband when he was shot. I’m not sure anyone would be able to suffer those kinds of losses and come out completely unscathed. Everyone does handle grief differently, but any way you look at it, the losses Mary had to deal with were substantial.

In the span of ten years, the former First Lady had gone from the White House, to a boarding house, to living as a homeless wanderer, and now, to an insane asylum. [p. 71]

Anyone who has read anything on the Lincoln family should have some knowledge of what is known as the “insanity episode” that Mary suffered. I personally feel as if Abraham kept Mary somewhat sane while he was alive. He was really her crutch that kept her from spiraling out of control. When he was gone she lost that crutch and that’s when her downward spiral really came to light. Based on the evidence from his research, Mr. Emerson puts forward Bipolar Disorder as a potential diagnosis from which Mary Lincoln suffered.

Looking at Mary’s early life, one can discern early manifestations of Manic-Depressive Illness (now called Bipolar Disorder), with symptoms of depression, delusions (of persecution, poverty and various somatic ailments), hallucinations, inflated self-esteem, decreased or interrupted sleep, mood swings, and extravagant spending (monomania). [p. 5]

Overall, I felt like this was a well-written, well-researched book. I enjoyed reading it and learned quite a bit. I found it easy to read. I know that this is not what my readers usually see featured on my blog, but I am trying to expand my reading into more non-fiction.

3/5, Book Review, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2017

Review: We, the Jury: Deciding the Scott Peterson Case

We, the Jury: Deciding the Scott Peterson Case
by Juror Nos. 1,2,4,5,7,8,9

We, the Jury

Copyright: 2006

Pages: 245

Read: January 26-25, 2017

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap.com

 

Blurb: The great untold story of the Scott Peterson trial is the story of the jurors themselves. Now, for the first time, in their own words, seven of the twelve who decided Scott’s fate reveal the struggles and conflicts they faced in reaching a verdict in the first great murder case of the 21st century. Individually, and as a group, being a juror was an ordeal: emotionally bruising and physically challenging.

We, The Jury tells, for the first time:

  • The jurors’ initial reaction to the “All American Boy,” Scott Peterson, and his family.
  • The stunning details behind the ouster of foreman Greg Jackson, the doctor-lawyer who was dismissed.
  • The extraordinary role of John Guinasso, Juror No. 8, who stopped rogue jurors from causing a mistrial.
  • What the jurors really thought about Amber Frey and how her shocking testimony uncovered for them Peterson’s inner world, helping to condemn him to death.
  • The story of the battles that went on inside the jury room.
  • Why the jurors bonded with Laci and her family.
  • Why defense attorney Mark Garages’ “stone cold defense” chilled the jurors.
  • How the stumbling prosecution made a dramatic comeback to win a conviction.
  • How the horrifying autopsy photos of the remains of Laci and Conner helped to seal Peterson’s fate.
  • How, when it looked as if he might walk free, the jurors found the elusive Peterson guilty of killing Laci and Conner.
  • The effect the trial had on the jurors at home and at work.
  • The emotional price paid by these jurors – and perhaps all jurors who decide capital cases – when they condemn someone to death: the nightmares and anxiety that follow.

Review: I have had this book on my shelf for more years than I care to admit. I decided this year I would try to read more nonfiction, so this one (being the slimmest non-fiction book on my shelf as well as the oldest one hanging around) was the first one up. This book took me two months to read …. not because it was bad, but because I just couldn’t read a lot of it at a time. I had to read it in spurts here and there.

I followed this case like a hawk. I was obsessed. Never missed a night of Nancy Grace. Caught as much trial coverage as I could. Obsessed … totally. And now that I’m a mother, someone who has been pregnant twice, this case hits me harder than ever. Two times I have been 8 months pregnant. Both times I made it another month and walked away with beautiful, healthy babies. Laci never got that. Her life was tragically taken at 8 months pregnant. I can’t even begin to imagine. And to have your life taken by the one person you’re supposed to love and trust the most?! Inconceivable. I can’t imagine what it was really like to sit on that jury day in and day out. To see those awful autopsy photographs. To watch that smug man on trial with his smirks and blank stares. To have to decide whether that man should live or die for his actions. It’s not something I would ever want to have to go through. And this book really gives you a great insight into what they went through.

Books detailing various criminal cases are a dime a dozen. But a book like this – written from the perspective of the actual jurors…. it’s an eye-opening and enthralling read. I’d definitely recommend it.

3/5, A, AUTHOR, Book Review, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2016

Review: Game of Crowns by Christopher Andersen

Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne
by Christopher Andersen

Game of Crowns

Copyright: 2016

Pages: 299

Read: July 11-22, 2016

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: One has been famous longer than anyone on the planet – a wily stateswoman and an enduring symbol of grace, power, and a bygone age. One is the great-granddaughter of a king’s mistress and a celebrated home wrecker who survived a firestorm of scorn to marry her lover and replace her archival, a beloved twentieth-century figure. One is a beautiful commoner, the university-educated daughter of a self-made entrepreneur, a fashion idol, wife of one future king and mother of another.

Master biographer Christopher Andersen takes readers behind palace walls to examine the surprising similarities and stark differences among three remarkable women – Queen Elizabeth; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and Princess Kate. Andersen reveals what transpires within the royal family away from the public’s prying eyes; how the women actually feel about each other; how they differ as lovers, wives, and mothers; and how they are reshaping the landscape of the monarchy in this addictive read that will shock even those who are spellbound by the royal palace.


Review: When I first saw this book I was so excited and quickly placed it on my Paperbackswap wishlist. I was amazed at how quickly I snagged a copy! So when it arrived I jumped at the opportunity to start it immediately. And I will say it was an easy read. But there were some things that I didn’t really like about it.

I hated the way that Mr. Andersen portrayed Kate Middleton and her family. He made her look like she was planning from an early age to marry into the royal family. And I’m sure growing up over in England it was a common dream of all the young that they would grow up to marry Prince William (or Harry) – I remember being a teenage girl and having a rather large crush on Prince Harry. But when Mr. Andersen finally brought Kate Middleton into the book, he portrayed her and her mother in what I would consider a very negative light. He made her mother look like she just pushed her daughter toward William while scheming in the background in order to snag the future king. Now it may have indeed happened that way, but I prefer to look at Kate in a more positive light and can’t imagine her really scheming that hard just to become a royal. But what do I know? I also didn’t like how it seemed he sneered at Carole Middleton being a flight attendant turned business owner – what’s so wrong with a woman being a flight attendant or a business owner? I just really didn’t like how he portrayed the whole Middleton family.

I got the distinct feeling that Mr. Andersen really doesn’t like the royal family. And I thought that was weird, because I have read numerous other books he has written on the royal family, and I don’t ever remember getting that feeling before. But I will say it was a little gossipy in places. Some parts of it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

So while it wasn’t necessarily a terrible book, you could probably find all this information in the gossip magazines. Just an “eh” book for me – and that leaves me a little disappointed since I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Andersen’s books before.

2/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, D, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2015

2015.22 REVIEW – Those Wild, Wild Kennedy Boys by Stephen Dunleavy & Peter Brennan

Those Wild, Wild Kennedy Boys
by Stephen Dunleavy & Peter Brennan

Copyright: 1976
Pages: 211
Rating: 2/5
Read: July 10 – 18, 2015
Challenge: No Challenge
Yearly count: 22
Format: Print
Source: Paperbackswap
Series: N/A

Those Wild, Wild Kennedy BoysBlurb:
 There have been many words used to describe the Kennedy boys … handsome, aggressive, charismatic, charming, volatile, red-blooded, and sexy. This book investigates the latter descriptions, an in-depth probe into the more sensual aspects of the Kennedy mystique.

Here are Jack and Bob and Ted and all the girls you’ve ever heard whispered or gossiped about, a few you never heard of, and, too, those gals who somehow fell onto the front pages … Judy and Marilyn and Lee and Angie and Kim and Rita and Page and Jayne and Janet and Mary and Candy and Mariella and Rhonda and Amanda and Joan and Maria and more girls than anyone would have thought possible…


Review:This was an impulse PBS order. I don’t know what caught my eye about it but something did.

Unfortunately I ended up reading it in order to fulfill a Goodreads challenge that required me to read a book rated the lowest on my TBR. This one was the “winner” of that requirement.

And I have to admit … it’s not the greatest book. It was too gossipy for my taste. It was one of those books that just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

4/5, A, AUTHOR, Book Review, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2014, READING CHALLENGES 2014

2014.53 REVIEW – These Few Precious Days by Christopher Andersen

These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack with Jackie
by Christopher Andersen

Copyright: 2013
Pages: 308
Rating: 4/5
Read: Dec. 20 – Dec. 31, 2014
Challenge: What’s in a Name
Yearly count: 53
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy – Purchased new
Series: N/A

These Few Precious daysBlurb: They were the original power couple – outlandishly rich,impossibly attractive, and endlessly fascinating. Now, in this rare, behind-the-scenes portrait of the Kennedys in their final year together, #1 New York Times bestselling biographer Christopher Andersen shows us a side of JFK and Jackie we’ve never seen before. Tender, intimate, complex, and, at times, explosive, theirs is a love story unlike any other – filled with secrets, scandals, and bombshells that could never be fully revealed … until now. Including:

  • Stunning new details about the Kennedys’ rumored affairs – hers as well as his – and how they ultimately overcame all odds to save their marriage.
  • The president’s many premonitions of his own death, and how he repeatedly tried to pull out of his last fateful trip to Dallas.
  • Shocking revelations about how the couple, unaware of the dangers, became dependent on amphetamine injections, the real reason – according to his longtime personal physician – for JFK’s notorious libido, and how the White House hid his many serious medical problems from the public.
  • How the tragic death of their infant son Patrick led to an emotional outpouring from the president that surprised even their closest friends – and brought JFK and Jackie closer than they had ever been.
  • Touching, firsthand accounts of the family’s most private moments, before and after the assassination.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews conducted with the Kennedys’ inner circle – from family members and lifelong friends to key advisors and political confidants – Andersen takes us deeper inside the world of the president and his first lady than ever before. Unsparing yet sympathetic, bigger than life but all too real, These Few Precious Days captures the ups and downs of a marriage, a man, and a woman, the memories of which will continue to fascinate and inspire for generations to come.


Review: This is the fourth book I’ve read by Christopher Andersen, having previously read After Diana, Diana’s Boysand William & Kate. Overall, I thoroughly enjoy Mr. Andersen’s books and this one was no exception!

It’s really no surprise that I picked this book up. I am a little Kennedy obsessed, after all. But for the most part, everything I’ve ever read about JFK has been entirely related to his assassination. So to say I learned a lot of things while reading this book would be an understatement. There was a ton of information in this book that I had no idea about. I really enjoyed it.

I can’t imagine the tragedy that Jackie went through during her lifetime. To have all that heartbreak with her child-bearing issues, suffering one miscarriage, one stillbirth and losing Patrick just a day or so after he was born (all while having to watch RFK’s wife pop baby after baby out).  And then to lose her husband while she was still grieving the loss of Patrick. I can’t even begin to imagine. Talk about a woman who suffered endlessly it seems.

For all that I know about JFK, there is so much that I don’t know about Jackie. It was fascinating to get a more intimate peek into who Jackie Kennedy was. It definitely makes me want to read more about her in the future.

It’s really amazing what the Kennedys were able to hide from the press and general public. If the world had known then what we know now … “Camelot” probably would have been over before it began. I think it’s just so shocking to me because we are so used to knowing everything about everyone immediately in our culture. JFK’s staff and aides, along with the Secret Service, really protected him in more ways than just physically. It’s amazing, really, what he got away with, so to speak.

Overall, this was a really interesting book to me. I think what draws me to Mr. Andersen’s books so much is that while being non-fiction, they are so easy to read. It reads like fiction, to be honest. It just flows so well and I never found any “dry” spots in this book. I would definitely recommend this author and this book.

 

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, M, Nonfiction, O, RATING, Read in 2014, READING CHALLENGES 2014

2014.27 REVIEW – If I Can’t Have You by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris

If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children
by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris

Copyright: 2014
Pages: 322
Rating: 5/5
Read: June 5-7, 2014
Challenge: Eclectic Reader Challenge, What’s in a Name Challenge
Yearly count: 27
Format:  Print
Source: Library
Series: None

Blurb: New York Times bestselling authors Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris investigate one of the twenty-first century’s most puzzling disappearances and how it resulted in the murder of two children by their father.

Every once in a great while a genuine murder mystery unfolds before the eyes of the American public. The tragic story of Susan Powell and her murdered boys, Charlie and Braden, is the only case that rivals the JonBenet Ramsey saga in the annals of true crime. When the pretty Utah mother went missing in December of 2009, the media was swept up in the story – with lenses and microphones trained on Susan’s husband, Josh. He said he had no idea what happened to his young wife, and that he and the boys had been camping in the middle of a snowstorm.

Over the next three years, bombshell by bombshell, the story would reveal more shocking secrets. Josh’s father, Steve, who was sexually obsessed with Susan, would ultimately be convicted of unspeakable perversion. Josh’s brother, Michael, would commit suicide. And in the most stunning event of them all, Josh Powell would murder his two little boys and kill himself with a brutality beyond belief, leaving a family destroyed and a nation in shock.


Review: In my late teens and early twenties, I gobbled up true crime. In any way, shape, or form. I just devoured it. From books to documentaries, to CourtTV … I couldn’t get enough true crime! Then I kind of got away from it. I still occasionally catch a TV show here or there, but for the most part, I’ve really not devoted much time to my love of true crime. 

But then I had seen the pre-publication publicity for this book and I was immediately intrigued. So I put myself on my library’s wait list and was excited when it came in. But what I wasn’t expecting was to absolutely devour it. Like in 3 days.

I learned a lot of stuff by reading this book. I remember the Susan Powell disappearance. And I remember Josh’s weird behavior. And I remember the absolute heartbreaking news that Josh had killed his two precious little boys. But I didn’t know a lot of the fine details. Which, after reading the book, a lot of people didn’t because the police never released a whole lot of information until after the case was officially closed. And by then, I’m not sure how many people were still interested.

I was really surprised by how tight-lipped the police department really was. It was almost as if they didn’t want to pursue the case. Knowing what I know now, they were doing things that a lot of people didn’t know. However, I finished this book with the profound feeling that Charlie and Braden could be alive and well today had the police department done a little bit more. I know how difficult it is to progress with such circumstantial evidence. But at the same time, I think Susan’s father had it right all along … Josh would have broken down in jail. He wouldn’t have reacted to that well and I think he would have talked.

Now, do I have a strong feeling as to what really happened to Susan? No. I can’t say whether I think it was an accident, premeditated, or if Josh was just a participant, not the actual offender. I do think that there is only one person alive today that knows where Susan actually is … Steve. I think Charlie and Braden saw something that night “camping.” And they were desperately trying to process it, you could see that in their behavior after Susan was missing. I think Josh’s brother Michael knew something, why else would Josh make him beneficiary to his life insurance … and why would he commit suicide when the police focused on him?

This book left me with a lot of questions. But that’s the ultimate problem with this case. There are so many unanswered questions.

Regardless of what you know or think you know about Susan Powell’s disappearance, I can’t recommend this book enough. It reads so easily. It’s not dry or hard to read. It puts things in such a light that you heart will break over and over again before you reach the end.

3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, E-Book, Edelweiss, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2013, READING CHALLENGES 2013, Review Book

2013.39 REVIEW – We Were There by Allen Childs, MD

We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963
by Allen Childs, MD

Copyright: 2013
Pages: 192
Rating: 3.5/5
Read: Sept. 11-12, 2013
Challenge: Eclectic Reader Challenge
Yearly count: 39
Format: E-Book
Source: Edelweiss

We Were ThereBlurb: A true collective account of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

There are few days in American history so immortalized in public memory as November 22, 1963, the date of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Adding to the wealth of information about this tragic day is We Were There, a truly unique collection of firsthand accounts from the doctors and staff on scene at the hospital where JFK was immediately taken after he was shot.

With the help of his former fellow staff members at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dr. Allen Childs recreates the horrific day, from the president’s arrival in Dallas to the public announcement of his death. Childs presents a multifaceted and sentimental reflection on the day and its aftermath.

In addition to detailing the sequence of events that transpired around JFK’s death, We Were There offers memories of the First Lady, insights on conspiracy theories revolving around the president’s assassination, and recollections of the death of Lee Harvey Oswald, who succumbed two days later in the same hospital where his own victim was pronounced dead.

A compelling, emotional read, We Were There pays tribute to a critical event in American modern history—and to a man whose death was mourned like no other.


Review:

Twice in a forty-five hour, thirty-one minute timeframe, Parkland Hospital was the center of worldwide attention. It was the temporary seat of the United States government, as well as the state of Texas. Our thirty-fifth president died in Trauma Room 1. At that moment, the ascendency of the thirty-sixth president of the United States occurred at Parkland. Two days later, it was the site of death of the president’s accused assassin. So reported a Parkland Hospital office memorandum dated November 27, 1963.

And we were there. (p. 8)

I am a JFK junkie. I am obsessed with everything about him, his family, presidency and assassination. Yeah, I’m a weirdo! I’ve been gobbling up everything I can get my hands on this year – and there’s a lot since it’s the 50th anniversary of the assassination.

This memoir is a collection of experiences from doctors who were at Parkland the day of the assassination. I don’t think I have ever read anything that comes from the actual doctors themselves. I found it very interesting to read their stories. But I must admit, being a non-medical person, it was very difficult at times for me to follow things. It became quite technical medically at certain points. And another thing, it seemed to be very repetitive. Most of the doctors had pretty much the same exact experience. But really, it’s an interesting book. It’s very emotional.

I think part of the reason that I’m so intrigued by the JFK assassination is really because of all the conspiracies. There are tons of conspiracies. Single bullet? Multiple shooters? CIA? Cuba? The list goes on and on.

Conspiracy theories have continued to rage for fifty years since that day, and they were not put to rest by the Warren Commission’s conclusion that there was a single shooter and a single bullet that killed President Kennedy and injured Governor Connally. The doctors at Parkland were the only ones who saw the neck wound before the emergency tracheotomy, and they were unanimous that the neck wound was an entry wound. In time most, but not all, no longer would believe this. (The bolding was done by me, p. 10)

If you ask people who are old enough to remember the assassination, they can almost always tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news (kind of like my generation with 9/11). I can only imagine what it would have been like for the doctors and staff of that hospital.

Some people started crying and sobbing uncontrollably – others like myself just stood there dazed, fighting back the tears. No one moved for a minute or so. (Jed Rosenthal, MD, p. 24)

I do want to leave you with a quote from the book. I think it speaks volumes about exactly what the doctors did for the President that day. For if you read this book, you will be amazed at what all they did do for him in Trauma Room 1.

I was witness to the frenzied resuscitative efforts displayed by the chiefs of all trauma-related services who had been called to the scene. As soon as he was placed from the gurney onto the emergency table, it was obvious from his ghastly head wound that he was DOA, and regardless of all the impressive medical acumen and experience present, there was no hope of restoring his life. He was flatlined from the onset. (Robert Duchouquette, MD, p. 62-63)

There’s not much else to say about this book. If you are a history buff or an assassination nut like I am, I highly recommend this book. It’s a short and quick read, but it’s very interesting and emotional.

3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, D, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2013, Review Book

2013.44 REVIEW – True Hollywood Noir by Dina Di Mambro

True Hollywood Noir: Filmland Mysteries and Murders
by Dina Di Mambro

Copyright: 2013
Pages: 229
Rating: 3.5/5
Read: Oct. 16 – Oct. 22, 2013
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 44
Format: Print
Source: The Cadence Group

Blurb:  In a tantalizing, suspenseful, and entertaining mixture of classic Hollywood nostalgia and true crime, explore some of the most fascinating scandals, mysteries and murders in Filmland history – true Hollywood noir lived by the players behind the scenes. Viewers were captivated by the drama of the black and white masterpieces of the silver screen … the noir films with swirling cigarette smoke; high balls on ice; murky, rain-soaked nights; and ill-fated plots between gangsters and grifters, hard-boiled detectives, and duplicitous gorgeous women – which paled in comparison to what was going on behind the scenes.

Uncover the true stories in a dozen different chapters featuring William Desmond Taylor, Thomas Ince, Jean Harlow, Thelma Todd, Joan Bennett, Lana Turner, George Reeves, Gig Young, Bob Crane, Natalie Wood, Robert Blake, and Mickey Cohen. Included in the cast of characters of this book are Johnny Stompanato, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, and Charlie Chaplin. And find never before told mob stories about Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, and Virginia Hill. Get the theories behind each case in this page-turner – then draw your own conclusions as to the truth behind some of the most prominent Hollywood mysteries.


Review: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Rebecca at The Cadence Group.

I was immediately intrigued by the blurb of this book. I used to be a huge true crime junkie. Over the years I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading true crime (but I still have a stack of those books on my shelves!). So I really jumped at the opportunity to read this book.

When I first got this one in the mail, I flipped through it. I realized that I could easily jump around with the chapters. And that’s exactly what I did. I started out with the chapters on the people who I was not familiar with and moved on to the ones that I was more familiar with. I felt like this was a really good way for me to enjoy this book.

I remember very well watching the Robert Blake trial on CourtTV, so I was really interested in seeing what the author had to say in that chapter. I also highly enjoyed the Natalie Woods chapter because it’s a case that I knew the bare bones about, but it really sparked my interest when it was back in the news more recently.

But the one chapter that I felt was a little off from the others was the Mickey Cohen one. I finally got to watch the movie Gangster Squad earlier this year, so I only really had that to go on in reference to what I knew of Cohen. But I was a little surprised as to how this particular chapter was approached. It was almost two times as longer as any other chapter in the entire book, and it was almost glowing … definitely not something that I expected in regards to Cohen. But then the author ends with something that really made me wonder if it wasn’t glaringly obvious as to who the young girl she references was….

Overall I am very glad that I was given the opportunity to read this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in true crime or short biographies.