BOOK REVIEW: Who by Fire: War, Atonement, and the Resurrection of Leobnard Cohen by Matti Friedman

58916252Title: Who by Fire: War, Atonement, and the Resurrection of Leonard Cohen

Author: Matti Friedman

Audiobook Length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography, Music

Read Start Date: March 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 31, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The incredible never-before-told story of Leonard Cohen’s 1973 tour of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

“Who by Fire is a stunning resurrection of a moment in the life of Leonard Cohen and the history of Israel. It’s the story of a young artist in crisis and a young country at war, and the powerful resonance of the chord struck between them. A beautiful, haunting book full of feeling.” —Nicole Krauss, author of To Be a Man

In October, 1973, the poet and singer Leonard Cohen – 39 years old, famous, unhappy, and at a creative dead end – traveled to the Sinai desert and inserted himself into the chaos and bloodshed of the Yom Kippur War. Moving around the front with a guitar and a pick-up team of local musicians, Cohen dived headlong into the midst of a global crisis and met hundreds of fighting men and women at the worst moment of their lives. His audiences heard him knowing it might be the last thing they heard, and those who survived never forgot what they heard.

Cohen’s war tour was an electric cultural moment, one that still echoes today, and one that inspired some of his greatest songs – but a moment that only few knew about, until now. In Who By Fire, Canadian-Israeli journalist Matti Friedman gives us a riveting account of what happened during those weeks in Israel in October, 1973. With access to amazing and never-before-seen material written by Cohen himself, along with dozens of interviews and rare photographs, Friedman revives this fraught and stunning time, presenting an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the artist, and of the young people who heard him sing in the midst of combat.

Who By Fire brings us close to one the greatest, most brilliant and charismatic voices of our times, and gives us a rare glimpse of war, faith, and belonging.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I didn’t really know much about Leonard Cohen before reading this book, so I had no idea he had also spent some time in Israel during the Yom Kippur war in October of 1973. To be honest, I’m not even really a fan of his music, but thought the subject of the book seemed interesting, as I didn’t really remember anything about this particular war from school.

After reading this book, I don’t have any warm or fuzzy feelings about Leonard Cohen. He seemed to have gone to Israel because he just didn’t have anything else to do — or in other words, he was at a cross roads in his life, and he thought what better way to fill it then to go to Israel and “help”. However, he didn’t even bring his guitar with him–so it seemed that he went / arrived there without a plan as to how to “help” Israel in the war. Additionally, from his speeches later in life he claimed to have written certain songs for the Egyptians AND the Israelis…and he even removed verses that were pro Israel…so does this mean he didn’t really have a “side”?

I got the impression that Cohen was a fickle celebrity who had high notions of his own self importance. I understand that through his music he gave inspiration, hope and joy to the troops who were facing death, but from reading the book it didn’t seem like that was really his intention. It felt more like he was bored, and this was something to do, and maybe gain some inspiration for himself.

I would have liked to learn more about the war itself, not just the “role” (if you can even call it that) that Leonard Cohen played (no pun intended) in the war.

That being said, the book was well written and I liked the audiobook version where the quotes of Leonard Cohen are read by a different voice then the narrator.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Captives by Jarrod Shanahan

60801761._SY475_Title: Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage

Author: Jarrod Shanahan

Audiobook Length: 13 hours

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: May 8, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 12, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Captives combines a thrilling account of Rikers Island’s descent into infamy with a dramatic retelling of the last seventy years of New York politics from the vantage point of the city’s jails. It is a story of a crowded field of contending powers—city bureaucrats and unions, black power activists and guards, crooked cops and elected leaders—struggling for power and influence, a tale culminating in mass incarceration and the triumph of neoliberalism. It is a riveting chronicle of how the Rikers Island of today—and the social order it represents—came to be.

Conjuring sweeping cinematic vistas, Captives records how the tempo of history was set by bloody and bruising clashes between guards and prisoners, between rank-and-filers and union bosses, between reformers and reactionaries, and between police officers and virtually everyone else. Written by a one-time Rikers prisoner, Captives draws on extensive archival research, decades of journalism, interviews, prisoner testimonials, and firsthand experience to deliver an urgent intervention into our national discussion about the future of mass incarceration and the call to abolish prisons. The contentious debate about the future of the Rikers Island penal colony rolls onward, and Captives is a must-read for anyone interested in the island and what it represents.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. In general I am interested in the history and present day situation surrounding prisons, not only regarding the theory behind incarceration, but also the implementation.

The author, having spent some time in prison himself, brings a unique perspective to the history of Rikers Island, which probably another author on the same subject would have lacked.

I found the book to be well researched, highly informative, and at times infuriating — the prison policies of the US are just atrocious!

I think that this is an important book as it shows the inequality of a system that was not built for “rehabilitation”, despite everyone’s protestations to the contrary. That most of the prison population is not white, is not an accident and is a symptom of the racism which runs rampant in America.

I highly recommend this book, even for people who are not usually into nonfiction or history books.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Manhattan Phoenix: The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York by Daniel S. Levy

55332359Title: Manhattan Phoenix; The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York

Author: Daniel S. Levy

Book Length (Audiobook) 18 hours and 51 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: March 22, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 26, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a freezing December night almost two centuries ago, a fire erupted in lower Manhattan. The city’s inhabitants, though accustomed to blazes in a town with so many wooden structures, a spotty water supply, and a decentralized fire department, looked on in horror at the scale of this one. Philip Hone, a former mayor of New York, wrote in his diary how the progress of the flames, like flashes of lightning, communicated in every direction, and a few minutes sufficed to level the lofty edifices on every side. By the time the fire was extinguished, a huge swath of land had been transformed from a thriving business center into the Burnt District, an area roughly the same size as was devastated during the September 11th attack. In the end, nearly 700 buildings were destroyed. So vast was the conflagration that it was immediately and henceforth known as the Great Fire of 1835.

Manhattan Phoenix reveals how New York emerged from the disaster to become a global powerhouse merely a quarter of a century later. Daniel S. Levy’s book charts the city’s almost miraculous growth during the early 19th century by focusing on the topics that shaped its destiny, starting with fire but
including water, land, disease, culture, and politics, interweaving the lives of New Yorkers who took part in its transformation. Some are well-known, including the land baron John Jacob Astor. Others less so, as with the Bowery Theatre impresario Thomas Hamblin and the African-American restaurateur Thomas Downing. The book celebrates Fire Chief James Gulick, who battled the Great Fire, examines the designs of the architect Alexander Jackson Davis who built marble palaces for the rich, follows the abolitionist Arthur Tappan, chronicles the career of the merchant Alexander Stewart, and reveals how the engineer John Bloomfield Jervis succeeded in bringing clean water into homes. The city’s resurrection likewise owed much to such visionaries as Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who designed Central Park, creating the refuge that it remains to this day.

Manhattan Phoenix offers the story of a city rising from the ashes to fulfill its destiny to grow into one of the world’s greatest metropolises–and in no small part due to catastrophe. It is, in other words, a New York story.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Although the book was extensively researched and informative, I found the subject matter to be a little dry and at times found myself wandering off into other thoughts which is why I can only give this book 3 stars. I think that this was also because the audiobook narrator was a little monotone. I had to increase the speed of the reading to 1.25x the normal speed so as to get rid of the monotone issue.

I lived in Manhattan for about 10 years, so it was interesting to learn about its past. As I mentioned above, the author seems to have done extensive research on this subject and gives a lot of information about the past of the City. I was immensely impressed — I imagine it took a lot of work to get this book compiled in the cohesive manner in which it is presented.

On the other hand, this is not the typical nonfiction book that I read (I’m more interested in natural disasters, science topics such as viruses and genetics, women’s issues, etc) — I was expecting this book to be more about the fire of 1835 (which is why I had picked it up), but instead it was 90% about the growth of Manhattan which came after the fire.

That being said, I think that this book would be great for history buffs who also have a love for the City.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

56783258._SY475_Title: Cloud Cuckoo Land

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 14 hours and 52 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: January 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.

Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.

My Review: This book is told from the point of view of various characters, who’s stories eventually come together in the end. Each story is connected through the long lost Greek story of Aethon, a man who wants to turn into a bird and fly to a heaven-like place called Cloud Cuckoo Land (hence the name of the book).

I read a lot of reviews which stated that Doerr’s language / description is overdone, but I actually like it. Especially in audiobook format, the descriptive language really flows nicely, like it’s singing to you.

As far as the individual storylines go, my favorite was that of Konstance. We meet Konstance as she is alone in a vault (save for the AI robot tasked with keeping Konstance safe), piecing together the story of Aethon, which had been told to her by her father. At the beginning of the book we do not know why Konstance is all alone on a interstellar ship hurtling through space, but we come to find out piece by piece. The twist at the end was very unexpected and left me a little annoyed, and with more questions then answers. I wanted more, but the book was over. Sigh.

While I was the least enamored with Anna’s storyline (I didn’t find it all that interesting), hers is perhaps the most important, as it is the catalyst for the story itself. Without her act of stealing the book of Aethon’s story, it would not have been damaged, rearranged out of sequence, and barely readable 500 years later. The physical state of the book is almost as important as the story itself, as the message of the story has been misinterpreted for years, the truth to be rediscovered only by children in the present day.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers, so I will just say that the way that the storylines are interwoven was really clever, especially that of Seymour and Konstance. In general, I really loved the characters and there were definitely tear-jerking moments in the stories of Omeir and Seymour.

Although fiction, each storyline, even that of Konstance, was believable. Each story could have really happened (or could really happen in the future). Therefore, I’m not sure why the book is marked as “fantasy” on Goodreads. This seems incorrect to me, but okay.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you liked Doerr’s other book, All the Light We Cannot See. You can check out my review of that book here.

BOOK REVIEW: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

18143977Title: All The Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 2 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII

Read Start Date: August 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 16, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My Review: Living in Austria / the Netherlands, and having been to Normandy, France, a few weeks ago, it is really surreal to read about WWII events. As I was listening to the book, I was running in a place where abandoned WWII Nazi bunkers were. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. They are forced to flee Paris when the Germans start bombing it. Werner, an intelligent orphan German boy, is recruited into the war by the Nazis. The book alternates between the stories of these two characters, but it isn’t really until the last part of the book that the stories intersect.

The identities of these main characters makes the book more interesting because you experience two very different sides to the war. The Germans are of course portrayed as the bad guys, but Werner is somehow a sympathetic character, as he was brought into the war unwillingly and I got the feeling that he does not agree with what the Germans are doing. I really liked the character of Marie-Laure, as she is a courageous young woman despite her disability and able to accomplish things that not many others were brave enough to do.

When the novel begins in 1934, Werner and Marie-Laure are children. As the story progresses and the children age, the author gives you a window into growing up under the shadow of war.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

198505._SY475_Title: The Demon in the Freezer

Author: Richard Preston

Book Length: 283 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, History, Medical, Health

Read Start Date: September 2, 2018

Read Finish Date: August 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.
Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines.
Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill.
Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

My Review: This book is scarier than any horror book, because you guys, this book is NONFICTION! Imagining that a terrorist group may be able to weaponize a virus like smallpox to decimate the population of a major US city in the blink of an eye is terrifying. This book opened my eyes to an array of grim possibilities that I had never before even though about. Viruses, epidemics, etc. have always fascinated me for some reason — and movies about such subjects are my favorite kind of film in the horror genre (closely followed by zombies).

The descriptive way that Preston writes about viruses, really gave me a clear picture in my mind of what he was talking about. Sometimes, this was not such a good thing — and unless you grew up listening to your mother’s ER stories at the dinner table like me, this book might not be a good thing to read while eating.

“The inflamed area in his throat was no bigger than a postage stamp, but in a biological sense it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Particles of smallpox virus were streaming out of oozy spots in the back of his mouth and were mixing with his saliva. When he spoke or coughed, microscopic infective droplets were being released, forming an invisible cloud in the the air around him.”

Seriously, you guys, I will never look at people coughing again without imagining all the tiny virus particles spewing into the air from their mouths.

 

BOOK REVIEW:Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

29496076Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Author: David Grann

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 11 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Crime, True Crime, Mystery

Read Start Date: July 8, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 13, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

My Review: I had never heard of this story before, but I guess at some point I must have put it on hold at the library. I was really shocked to read what happened to the Native Americans at the early part of the 1900’s. The Osage Indians were put onto a reservation by the US government in Oklahoma. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, for the Osage people, their reservation was rich with oil deposits. The Osage themselves became rich, and of course, non-Native Americans became jealous.

Thus began another exploitation of the Native American.

This book was really good, but also really sad — another shameful event in a list of shameful events. I watch a lot of true crime shows, and read a lot of true crime novels, but it never ceases to amaze me how greedy people can be — how people would be willing to kill someone, or multiple people, over money. Don’t  get me wrong, I would prefer to have money than not have money, but I’m not about to take someone’s life to get it.

The writing (narrated by the author) was good, and although the subject matter was not dry, the author really brought the reader into the story, and made the story engaging.

If you are into history, this is definitely worth the time to read.

 

TV SHOW REVIEW: Delhi Crime, Season 1

MV5BODg1MTYyZjYtMzJhZi00ZjI3LWI3MTItZTFhZDNhZmYwMjYwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODE5NzE3OTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Title: Delhi Crime

Year: 2019

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 17, 2019 to May 18, 2019

Brief Summary of Plot from IMDbBased on the Nirbhaya case, Delhi Crime follows the Delhi Police investigation into the finding of the men who perpetrated this crime.

Episode Name Episode # Date Watched
Episode 1 1 17-May-19
Episode 2 2 17-May-19
Episode 3 3 17-May-19
Episode 4 4 17-May-19
Episode 5 5 18-May-19
Episode 6 6 18-May-19
Episode 7 7 18-May-19

My Review: In the first few minutes of the episode, we are introduced to a very vicious and heinous crime: two people are found on the side of the road in a ditch in Delhi, naked and sexually abused. The man has been beaten with an iron rod, and the woman has been gang raped, beaten, and penetrated with the same iron road. What’s worse, and far more gruesome, is the fact that her intestines have been ripped out through her vagina, and parts of it are missing. Worse still — this show is based upon a real story. The series follows the investigation and the tireless efforts of the police to find the perpetrators.

I have been to India 4 times for work, and was watching this show on the plane back from Kolkata. I have to say that this show was really well done, especially because of the gruesome and stomach twisting subject matter. The acting was superb. For example, the actor who plays the ring leader did a very good job at displaying the apathy, callousness, and evilness of the man who did this to the young girl. It was chilling, because it seemed like he just did not care — or that the woman deserved it. He showed no remorse at all. Additionally, the actress playing the lead detective also did a fantastic job.

In the background of the investigation to find the suspects, the political scene in Delhi is exploding. People are sick and tired of the crime in Delhi and take to the streets to protest the understaffed, underpaid, and overworked police — as if crime were the fault of the police. It paints a picture of a city, a country, in turmoil, where the rich keep getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and tensions rising.

Although this show was disturbing, I found it to be really well done, and interesting, because you get to see how policing is done in India. For an American like me, several things / differences caught my attention, i.e., the prisoners were not handcuffed. Rather the policeman would hold the criminals hand; and hitting prisoners to get confessions seemed to be normal and accepted. This made the show fascinating to watch. I am usually a big fan of crime dramas, and this had all the elements: terrible crime, suspects in the wind, pressure from the boss, dedicated officers willing to do anything it takes, and political tension.

A brilliant binge worthy show that is definitely worth the watch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

8664353.jpgTitle: Unbroken

Author: Laura Hillenbrand

Book Length (Audiobook): 13 hours 57 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography, War, World War II

Read Start Date: May 2, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 10, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

My Review: The book starts out pretty slow, and I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like it. The story quickly picks up the pace when the airmen’s plane crashes, leaving them adrift in the ocean on an inflatable raft for more than one month. Facing starvation on a daily basis, the men are momentarily glad when they finally find land; however, to their dismay, they have drifted more than 2,000 miles into enemy territory. They are quickly captured and interned at a POW camp.

During World War II, the Japanese had several labor camps, as well as “punishment camps”. The men were starved, beaten, and often worked to death in forced labor.

This story is not for the faint of heart. Several times I felt physically nauseous while listening to the scenes of torture and degradation. The things that the Japanese did to the POWs was cruel and, I would even go so far to say, evil. When I visited Hiroshima at the end of February, 2019, I remember feeling so ashamed that the US had dropped the atomic bomb and obliterated the city and the lives of the people there in a matter of seconds. In reading this book, I thought, Japan has something to feel ashamed about also.

This book will make you laugh at time, cry at times, and cringe at times. It is well written and engaging, if you can get past the first dry part of the book which describes the characters lives before they ended up stranded.

If you enjoy learning about history, I would definitely recommend this book.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

35901186Title: The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Author: Kirk Wallace Johnson

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 9 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, History, Science, Mystery

Read Start Date: April 10, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 11, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins–some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them–and escaped into the darkness.

Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist-high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man’s relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

My Review: When I first starting reading this book, I had no idea that it was actually nonfiction, and based upon real events. I had never heard of using bird feathers for fishing lures, nor had I ever heard of a “fly tier” enthusiast stealing exotic bird feathers from a museum — in some cases, the very same birds collected by Alfred Russel Wallace, and other naturalists of the same era (around the time of Darwin’s expeditions).

The writing of Kirk Wallace Johnson was so good, that I was convinced for the first portion of the book that it was a fiction story. After I got into it a bit further, and looked the book up online, I realized that this story is actually true! It seems to be a little known fact, which makes for an awesome and refreshing novel. The story is very engaging, and even though it is nonfiction, there is the distinct smell of a fiction thriller — a daring heist of rare, expensive bird skins leads an amateur detective into the bowels of the fly tier underground, where the secretive fly tier community not only trades in black market and sometimes illegal feathers, but closes ranks when threatened.

Did Edwin Rist work alone, or was there perhaps more at play?

I love that this book unwittingly educated me, not only in the not so known world of fly tying, but also the feather trade in general.

The book alternates between telling the story of the feather heist, and telling the story of the author trying to track down the thief. The author also explains about the history of feathers and fashion, and how during the Victorian age several species were almost hunted into extinction all in the name of women’s vanity and social stature.

This book gets a rare 5 out of 5 stars from me. Everyone should read about this strange little piece of history. Even if you don’t generally like nonfiction books, this book will not disappoint.