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.

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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:Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John “Sonny” Franzese by S.J. Peddie

58914879._SY475_Title: Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John “Sonny” Franzese

Author: S.J. Peddie

Audiobook Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Read Start Date: March 26, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 27, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Based on exclusive interviews before his death in 2020 at age 103, SONNY is the first and only authorized biography of legendary mob boss John “Sonny” Franzese, the head of the Columbo crime family and financier of the infamous film Deep Throat. An old school Mafioso, he kept silent on his nine decade career in organized crime, remaining loyal to the Mafia oath throughout 30 years in prison, until he finally agreed to talk to award-winning Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie for this groundbreaking, never-before-revealed account.

John “Sonny” Franzese reportedly committed his first murder at the age of fourteen. As a “made man” for the Colombo crime family, he operated out of his Long Island home specializing in racketeering, fraud, loansharking, and other illicit deeds he would deny to his dying day. His career in organized crime spanned over eight decades–and was sentenced to fifty years in prison for robbery charges. But even behind bars, Sonny Franzese never stopped doing business…

This is the true story of an old-school Mafioso as it’s never been told before. Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie interviewed Franzese in prison–and uncovered a lifetime of shocking secrets from the legend himself:

* How Sonny became friends with celebrities Frank Sinatra Jr., Rocky Graziano, and Sammy Davis Jr.
* Why FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a very personal interest in Sonny.
* How Sonny managed to juggle numerous affairs with women, including a famous model.
* How Sonny spent a third of his life in prison–and still managed to earn untold millions for the mob.
* How Sonny accidentally revealed some of his worst crimes–to a “friend” wearing a wire.

Through it all, Franzese refused to break the Mafia’s code of silence. Authorities believe he may have murdered, or ordered the murders of, forty to fifty people. Yet he earned a grudging respect from law enforcement and an absolute reverence from his fellow gangsters. Eventually he managed to outlive them all–until his death in 2020 of natural causes, a rare event in the Mafia. Thanks to a series of exclusive first-hand interviews with Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie, the astonishing life story of John “Sonny” Franzese can be told in all its bold, brutal, and blood-spattered glory. This is a must-read for anyone fascinated with Mafia history–and a rare look inside a criminal mind that has become the stuff of legend.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wow what a story! This fascinating read kept me enraptured from beginning to end. I had no idea that there was an OG living until 103 (he died in 2020). Although he led a life of violence and crime (no one knows how many people he killed or ordered to be killed, although its probably a few dozen), John “Sonny” Franzese outlived most of the people in his life – including those who put him away. Despite being violent, Sonny had a very interesting life!

This book reads like it should be fiction, but it’s a true story! Yikes. I felt like I was reading something inspired by The Godfather, although in truth it was probably the other way around.

The way the author wrote this book was fantastic. This guy is a bad guy sometimes almost unabashedly so – I think we can all agree– but on the other hand, he is still a person, and the author gave Sonny a human quality. I even found myself chuckling a few times at what Sonny was saying, and even feeling kind of bad for him. One son (who was not his biologically, but his stepson who he adopted as his own) ran away into witness protection. Another son, a drug addict, snitched. In one poignant scene (paraphrasing), John (the snitch) was called into see the bosses and Sonny tells him – You can go and see them, and they might kill you. You don’t go and see them, they definitely will kill you. That’s how it was in Sonny’s life. You stick to the Mafia code, or they ice you. Sonny, despite his many trials and jail stints never once snitched. It must have felt like the greatest betrayal to have his sons do so.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are into mafia movies.

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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.

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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: Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard

46040332Title: Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature

Author: Brigit Strawbridge Howard

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 32 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, Environment, Autobiography

Read Start Date: May 5, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 14, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A naturalist’s passionate dive into the world of bees of all stripes–what she has learned about them, and what we can learn from them.

Brigit Strawbridge Howard was shocked the day she realised she knew more about the French Revolution than she did about her native trees. And birds. And wildflowers. And bees. The thought stopped her quite literally in her tracks. But that day was also the start of a journey, one filled with silver birches and hairy-footed flower bees, skylarks, and rosebay willow herb, and the joy that comes with deepening one’s relationship with place. Dancing with Bees is Strawbridge Howard’s charming and eloquent account of a return to noticing, to rediscovering a perspective on the world that had somehow been lost to her for decades and to reconnecting with the natural world. With special care and attention to the plight of pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees, and what we can do to help them, Strawbridge Howard shares fascinating details of the lives of flora and fauna that have filled her days with ever-increasing wonder and delight.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC. Although I am a little scared of being stung by bees, I am also intrigued by them, so I was excited to read this book.

The author certainly knows a lot and is passionate about bees, and nature in general! Her enthusiasm is both inspiring and catching! I already noticed on my walk yesterday, that I could spot that an insect was a hover fly vs. a bee.

Renting an apartment without a garden or balcony, I am now rather sad that I won’t be able to plant any flowers for pollinators, like the author does in her allotment in the UK.

Well written and chalk full of information about bees (I never knew there were so many species!) and plants, this book is definitely worth the read!

My only critique about the audiobook is that I would have liked to be able to see the actual pictures of the bees. I resorted to google — if I had to do it over again, and I had a choice between the audiobook and the written book, the written book would have been my preference.

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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.

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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: Witness to Roswell, 75th Anniversary Edition: Unmasking the Government’s Biggest Cover-up by Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt

58958031Title: Witness to Roswell, 75th Anniversary Edition: Unmasking the Government’s Biggest Cover-up

Author: Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours and 49 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction

Read Start Date: March 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 20, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: This classic in the field of UFOology is filled with hard-hitting eyewitness testimony of one of the most important events of all time: the actual recovery of a UFO outside of Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. For more than 70 years, government authorities have led us to believe the wreckage was merely a very conventional weather balloon—but the witnesses who were there continue to tell a different story.

Witness to Roswell once again provides a “can’t put down” written account of what really transpired in Roswell decades ago. It pries loose the truth the government doesn’t want us to know including the revelations of Walter Haut. This edition includes: A growing litany of deathbed confessions describing the “little people” recovered at the crash site. The most comprehensive time line of events ever published on this seminal event. The identity of the Boeing engineer called in to examine the exotic wreckage from the crash. What really took place at the Roswell base hospital and what nurse actually ordered the children’s caskets. The story of the soldier who wore gloves at the dinner table after guarding the “bodies.”

Clearly, the implications of this information are foreboding. One need only look at the fact that officials now have four explanations for this historic event—but to which one do all the witnesses testify on their deathbeds?

Witness to Roswell once again demonstrates to the world that no statute of limitation applies to the truth: We are not alone.

This anniversary edition includes a new introduction by the authors and additional material

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I normally include more genre designations then just one, but this book does not have a genre category listed in Goodreads yet, and was listed as both nonfiction and “religion/spirituality” on Netgalley. To be honest, I am really confused as to how a book about aliens is “religious” or “spiritual”, so I think this is a wrong classification. I am tempted to categorize this more as “science fiction”, except this is a nonfiction book. Oh well.

My favorite show growing up was, hands down, The X-files. I own all original 9 seasons on DVD, and have probably watched them dozens of times. Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when I saw this audiobook on Netgalley. This book did not disappoint.

While the telling is a little dry and repetitive (the same story was repeated several times from different sources), the substance of the information is very intriguing. If the authors have documented evidence, as they claim, to support the stories / information stated in this book, then a person would seem to be hard pressed not to believe that aliens crashed at Roswell in 1947. None of the information was really new to me, but it was interesting to hear it in a nonfiction context. Most of my exposure to aliens have been through the fiction media (although the fiction seems pretty close to the nonfiction).

While the authors claim to have evidence (as stated above) I do not have access to this purported evidence, so I cannot really do anything other than chose to take the authors at their word, or not. This book has left me with intriguing questions, and even started a discussion between my boyfriend and I as to whether this was real or BS (my boyfriend leaning more to the skeptical side).

To say that this book is thought provoking is putting it mildly. Are we alone? Are we being visited by beings from another world? I personally am not sure.

I would definitely recommend this book.

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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:Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bears That Count, Goats That Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion by Belinda Recio

36249732._SX318_Title: Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bear That Count, Goats that Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion

Author: Belinda Recio

Book Length (Audiobook): 4 hours and 41 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Animals, Science

Read Start Date: March 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: As Charles Darwin suggested more than a century ago, the differences between animals and humans are “of degree and not of kind.” Not long ago, ethologists denied that animals had emotions or true intelligence. Now, we know that rats laugh when tickled, magpies mourn as they cover the departed with greenery, female whales travel thousands of miles for annual reunions with their gal pals, seals navigate by the stars, bears hum when happy, and crows slide down snowy rooftops for fun.

In engaging text, photographs, and infographics, Inside Animal Hearts and Minds showcases fascinating and heart-warming examples of animal emotion and cognition that will foster wonder and empathy. Learn about an orangutan who does “macramé,” monkeys that understand the concept of money, and rats that choose friendship over food. Even language, math, and logic are no longer exclusive to humans. Prairie dogs have their own complex vocabularies to describe human intruders, parrots name their chicks, sea lions appear capable of deductive thinking akin to a ten-year-old child’s, and bears, lemurs, parrots, and other animals demonstrate numerical cognition.

In a world where a growing body of scientific research is closing the gap between the human and non-human, Inside Animal Hearts and Minds invites us to change the way we view animals, the world, and our place in it.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The summary from Goodreads does a really good job of setting forth the subject matter of this book, so I won’t repeat it.

I really liked this book because it is fun, interesting, and light. With the world embroiled in the war in Ukraine, this book was exactly what I needed to forget, at least for a little while, that the world can be a cruel place.

This book is uplifting and fascinating. It is a great insight into our animal cousins, who are more intelligent and emotional than we often give them credit for. If you are an animal lover, then this book is definitely for you. If you aren’t an animal lover (yet), then this book is essential for you–hopefully it can change your mind!

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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: Happy Single Mother by Sarah Thompson

cover248440-mediumTitle: Happy Single Mother

Author: Sarah Thompson

Book Length (Audiobook) : 5 hours 22 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Parenting & Families

Read Start Date: March 3, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 5, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Netgalley and Link to Goodreads: Being a single mother wasn’t always part of the plan. The fear of it kept me and my family in a situation that wasn’t good for any of us. I never thought it could be the life change we all needed. Yes, it can be exhausting, lonely, and financially tough. But it can also be empowering and joyful, in ways you might never have imagined.

At first, I felt like a big failure. And how was I supposed to feed and clothe my children, keep a roof over our heads, and work wearing something other than pajamas, while also remembering to drink a glass of water at least once a week? But as I began to let go of other people’s expectations, I started to enjoy the freedom of being a single parent: I was liberated, empowered and able to be the authentic mother I wanted to be.

In this book, I share my own experience of single motherhood, alongside insights from fellow solo parents, child psychologists and other experts, providing reassurance and tips to help you:

Raise resilient, emotionally intelligent children

Manage your money

Navigate the world of dating

Forge meaningful friendships

Discover the untold joys of the single-mother life

From one single mother to another, this book celebrates solo parenting and tackles the issues that we face daily, offering a fresh perspective and practical advice for anyone who has ever felt the weight of disappointment and guilt at their single parent status, declared themselves a failure or worried about their children’s ‘outcomes.’

I hope reading about my experiences will help you feel excited and proud to be a single mother.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. First off, I just love the color scheme of the cover. This is what initially drew my attention to the book, along with the title. As a new mother myself, I am very interested in reading stories about other mothers’ experiences with raising children. Even though I am not a “single mother”, the lessons / advice in this book is for mothers everywhere, because less face it, in most cases women do the lion’s share of the child rearing and household chores, even when not single.

I really liked how the book is a combination of both facts (it was obvious the author did extensive research) and personal stories. I also really liked how the author narrates the story herself. It added a personal touch, as she was essentially telling her own story.

The author mentioned at the beginning that the book was not only for single mothers, but in general for single parents. However, the book was fact heavy on only single women, and I would have liked to see some statistics on single parenting for same sex couples. The author explains a little bit why she didn’t include more about single dads:

To find the word single father in association with anything bad or even mildly questionable is almost impossible. ‘Single father is applauded for the awesome way he handled his daughter’s first period.’ Heralded one national newspaper in 2019. In the same paper, heartwarming photos show single dads and their children and ‘are single fathers irresistible?’ If this stuff isn’t what the eye roll emoji was made for, I don’t know what is. There is no getting around it. We single mothers occupy our very own Salem shaped hole in society’s heart.”

This rings true for me not only with single dad’s, but dads or men in general. Women are expected to be the main caregivers. So if a man so much as changes a single diaper, he’s up for the father of the year award.

The author also discusses how single mothers are not generally depicted favorably in media, television or movies e.g. why it was that mothers were gaining respect in society, but single mothers were still trapped in the time capsule? I really loved the imagery here when describing the concept of single motherhood: “a crumb that had been missed when feminism wiped the table.”

She goes on to say:

Where were the single mothers in our culture who were just normal and okay with children who were fine? The single women with children I saw all around me at school and at work, all of them literate with no obvious heroin problem? Why were single women characterized by their career success and healthy sexual appetite–we were all still basking in the after glow of Sex in the City–while single women who also happened to have children, were no where to be seen, and if they were, were almost always pariahs?”

I really liked how thought provoking this book was. I had never given it too much thought before–the disparity between single women and single mothers–as if the simple act of having children erased the woman as a person, leaving only behind the identity of “mother”. This book made me angry (at society) and impressed at the tenacity of the author and the other single mother’s who’s stories featured in this book.

This book is not only for mothers or single parents. This book is for EVERYONE! I highly recommend this book.

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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: Knocked Down by Aileen Weintraub

58604917Title: Knocked Down

Author: Aileen Weintraub

Audiobook Length: 9 hours and 8 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Autobiography

Read Start Date: February 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 25, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Aileen Weintraub has been running away from commitment her entire life, hopping from one job and one relationship to the next. When her father suddenly dies, she flees her Jewish Brooklyn community for the wilds of the country, where she unexpectedly falls in love with a man who knows a lot about produce, tractors, and how to take a person down in one jiu-jitsu move. Within months of saying “I do” she’s pregnant, life is on track, and then wham! Her doctor slaps a high-risk label on her uterus and sends her to bed for five months.

As her husband’s bucolic (and possibly haunted) farmhouse begins to collapse and her marriage starts to do the same, Weintraub finally confronts her grief for her father while fighting for the survival of her unborn baby. In her precarious situation, will she stay or will she once again run away from it all?

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC. To be honest, I requested this book in part because it was one of the few audiobooks available on Netgalley, but also because the cover is so eye popping! I love the pink. The title is also very apt. I interpret it to be a play on words. Instead of being “knocked up”, the author is “knocked down” by her “incompetent uterus”, which forces her to endure months and months of bedrest.

Having just given birth to my first baby 6 months ago, this book really resonated with me. Pregnancy is not easy, even when it is normal. I cannot imagine being stuck laying down for months on end! I really liked the author’s candor and humor throughout the memoir. If I had been in her position: everything seeming to fail around her, from her body, to her house, to her new marriage, I am not sure that I could have taken it with such a good nature, nor would I have been able to see the humor in it all.

I also liked that the book was not only about her pregnancy, but it also dived into the author’s past and took an honest look at the relationship with her parents and religion, and the conflicts inherent in both. I feel like this really rounded out the book and gave the reader more insight into the author as a person, not just a pregnant person.

The only con for me was the audiobook narration. It was so monotone, which did not suit the story. I was also not impressed with the accent that the narrator used when speaking the dialogue for Weintraub’s mother and father: she went for the stereotypical “Jewish” accent, which was a tad offensive.

Therefore, I would definitely recommend this book, but only in a written format.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

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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: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

43848929._SX318_Title: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 42 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Psychology, Self-Help, Sociology, Science, Business, Language, Communication

Read Start Date: February 9, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 11, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed–scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song – Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.”

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.

My Review: I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I have to say it was awesome. The audiobook is read by the author and also includes some bonus material e.g. recordings of the statements / incidents quoted in the book.

The book opens with the tragic story of Sandra Bland, a black woman, who commits suicide in jail after being arrested by an over zealous cop. She was originally pulled over for “failure to signal” after she changed lanes for the said cop without signaling, as he came up behind her. When the officer asks how she is, Bland responds that she is upset. The officer then asks her if she “is done”. Although the officer says that it was not meant in a sarcastic way, Bland takes it as such, escalating the traffic stop. When Bland lights a cigarette to calm her nerves, the officer asks her to put it out. She refuses. Escalating the traffic stop further, the officer tells her to get out of the car, because she had failed to follow his direction. Bland initially refuses. The incident was caught on the officer’s vest cam, and with the audiobook you can hear the actual tape.

The book dives into the potential reasons why this tragedy occurred. The author posits, for example, that when talking with strangers, people “default to truth”, in other words that we initially believe what a stranger is telling us, even if it is a lie. For most of us, the instinct is to believe, not distrust. Another example is “transparency”. Sometimes people are transparent and strangers can infer state of mind by actions, other times, people do not act as we think they should and so we misunderstand them. This is what happened in the case of Sandra Bland.

I really liked listening to the different stories that that author gave as support for his theory. Even if you don’t like, or agree with, the author’s theory, the stories were really interesting e.g. a cuban spy who no one suspected, the interrogation of KSM after 9/11, and the Amanda Knox story. What made it more interesting was the format. I can’t imagine reading this book in paper format. The quotes would have less impact when only read and not listened to.

I definitely recommend this book, but I think that it should be read as an audiobook.