Subtitled “The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune”, this book explores the mystery surrounding a home in C...moreSubtitled “The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune”, this book explores the mystery surrounding a home in Connecticut for sale that was sat unoccupied for nearly sixty years purchased by a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark with her $300 million inheritance. This incredibly reclusive woman — no photograph of her had been seen publicly since the 1930s – owned a mansion in Santa Barbara in addition to the one in Connecticut and two apartments on Fifth Avenue in New York City, but spent twenty years in a hospital room despite her excellent health.
This book is crash-course into the underbelly of Montana politics as Clark is the daughter of William A. Clark, who owned a mine in Butte, bribed members of the Montana State Legislature in return for their votes to name him to the U.S. Senate, and was portrayed as the worst of men in the Gilded Age. Having read about Montana history and, particularly, about copper mining in Butte, this is the weakest aspect of the book. A list rather an explanation of why Clark’s inheritance was built of the back of Montana, although I appreciated the nod to both the hatred of Montanan’s to certain campaign financing rulings and the idea that the Clark’s were absentee landlords.
The real intrigue surrounding Clark’s inheritance is towards the end of the book and short enough that I don’t think an entire book was needed to explore her life. And given how reclusive Clark was, it seems evasive to read about her life in such detail. But, at the end of the book, the issue that matters the most — to her family, her caretakers, the writers and readers of this book — is her money, and the question is not so much how she spent her money but who should receive the remainder of that inheritance.
On the one hand, based on the interviews and examples provided in the text, it seems that Clark was a lucid woman capable of making her own decisions up until her death and her second will should be accepted as her final wishes. On the other hand, based on the interviews and examples provided in the text, it appears that doctors, lawyers, hospital CEOs, and her personal caregiver took advantage of her generosity. A $30 million payout, multiple homes across the boroughs of New York City, writing themselves as beneficiaries of the will they were hired to write screams of fraud, and I can understand why the state attorney would get involved.
Some of the beneficiaries surprised me; I’ve visited the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. but couldn’t recall any of the endowments mentioned in this book. But the worst offender, according to Dedman and Newell, is Beth Israel Hospital instructing their doctors and nurses to ask her for money, allowing them to accept gifts (conflict of interest, much?), and pressuring her to move locations despite her own wishes (her doctor said he wouldn’t treat her at another hospital in order to keep her at Beth Israel). The hospital received a payout in the settlement, which was decided after the book was published, but could be written out once more should Clark’s family and other beneficiaries of the settlement decide to recoup gifts, including a $3.5 million Manet painting, received during her life. Seems like a no-brainier given the case laid out in this book.(less)
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them. The title of this...moreIf Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them. The title of this book was what moved it from the shelf into my hand, but this line from the back cover was what moved this book from my hand into my growing pile of library books. I was so excited to find a book imagining the events behind the scenes of Pride and Prejudice and expected to read Sarah and Mrs. Hill’s reactions to Bingley and Darcy’s courtship of the Bennet girls.
Perhaps most surprising was the fact that I became more interested in the lives of Sarah, James, and Mrs. Hill than those upstairs. I suppose it’s because I already know that story so well, but I think it also has to do with how interesting life downstairs was despite the mundane chore of cleaning mud off Elizabeth’s petticoats. The book didn’t exactly line up with my expectation, but I ended up loving it even more so because of that fact as we are introduced to an inventive world where the lives of the servants not their employers take center stage.
There wasn’t a single, new character I didn’t like — the mysterious James Smith, the naive Polly, the cautious yet curious Sarah — and I was surprised to connect so much with them given how much I love the original characters. While the novel doesn’t copy the style of Austen’s original — more romance than examination of life during this time period — the story Baker weaves for those characters that are referenced in the original novel fits in seamlessly adding rather than detracting from the original novel.
And I was so pleased to see how the servants agreed with some of my own ideas about those living upstairs, particularly as to whom Mr. Collins should have married. While I didn’t agree with all of their feelings towards those upstairs, it did give me something new to think about. Almost like having a conversation with readers of the original novel, which is something I love to do. Mr. Bennet takes on a characterization I think actually enhances who he is in the original novel rather than detracts as I have seen others state.(less)
I started this book before bed expecting to read a few pages before following asleep. Instead, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning turning...moreI started this book before bed expecting to read a few pages before following asleep. Instead, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning turning page after page in order to find some semblance of happy and happiness in this tragic tale. I certainly plan to read more of Lauer’s books as this was exactly what I needed following my long excursion into Westeros and the land beyond the Wall.
The book is rather evenly split between the story of Haley and Elsie, and while Haley grabbed my attention at the beginning of the tale, I ultimately wished the Englishers had taken more of a backseat to the Amish in this story. The complicated, emotional stories of Elsie and Ruben deserved way more attention than the portions dedicated to them at the end of this novel, particularly the story surrounding Ruben’s disfigurement.(less)
**spoiler alert** Like many of us who enjoy reading about the Amish, Jenny Burns has contemplated what it would be like to live amongst the Old Order...more**spoiler alert** Like many of us who enjoy reading about the Amish, Jenny Burns has contemplated what it would be like to live amongst the Old Order Amish. Jenny, however, has taken steps to make this dream a reality — trading letters with a member of the Hickory Hollow Amish community to establish a connection, selling all her worldly possessions and leaving her job before moving to Hickory Hollow to join the community as prospective convert.
Given the premise, I expected to enjoy this story, but I found myself rather underwhelmed by Jenny and her transition into the Amish community. Maybe because Jenny, despite her affection for old-fashioned items and lifestyles, seemed unsuited to life as a Amish person? Her refusal to tell her parents or siblings about her decision speaks to how much she longs to escape, and the emphasis on how being a convert makes her unsuited towards marriage as she interacts with Andrew sets this as her main goal rather than becoming closer to god, which is the true basis of an Amish person’s life. In all, it sets this book up to be more of a romance novel than the self-realization I expected to find within its pages.
Furthermore, the conclusion of the novel is rather rushed with Jenny fleeing the community with the realization the Amish are not perfect and returning when she realizes that no one is perfect. I wanted to shake her and tell her, well, duh. The lack of depth on the part of all the characters outside of Rebecca Lapp, who Jenny stays with, does nothing to expand upon Jenny’s journey.
Those familiar with Lewis’ work will know that this book is set in the same location at The Shunning, a series of books that started my interest in Lewis’s novels but that I ultimately found unsatisfying. This book, thankfully, provides some closure on the story first introduced in The Shunning as Jenny lives in Katie Lapp’s adoptive, Amish parents during her time trying to become a convert.(less)
Running concurrent to A Feast for Crows, the fifth book in Martin’s series follows the characters traveling and living outside of Westeros. Daenerys T...moreRunning concurrent to A Feast for Crows, the fifth book in Martin’s series follows the characters traveling and living outside of Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen, in the land to the east, rules over the city she conquered with her Unsullies and her three dragons but is finding how difficult it is to reign rather than defeat in battle. Tyrion Lannister leaves King’s Landing following the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey, set on helping his niece seize the throne for herself, but his loyalties are directed away from his sister to Daenerys.
And, in the north, Jon Snow serves as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and spends the book dealing with power dynamics within the Night’s Watch, the struggle to remain neutral in the war for the Iron Throne as Stannis Baratheon gathers forces under the safety of the Night’s Watch, and the conflict with the Others beyond the Wall and the wildlings who live in the space between.
It is going to be a long slog to the end. I cannot be any blunter about it. Martin is, unfortunately, one of those people who likes to hear the sound of his own voice, and I would not be surprised to learn that the next books in this series end up getting split into multiple volumes as this book and the one before it were treated.
I wrote in my review of the previous book about how much I missed my favorite characters. Unfortunately, my excited over our reunion lasted only for the first three hundred pages. The next seven hundred were spent slogging through the travels of sixteen individual characters (plus two new narrators for the prologue and epilogue) who serve as the narrators to the march towards winter, and many of my favorite characters began to take on characteristics or act in ways I struggled to understand in the context of their prior characterizations.
Martin’s decision to rename his characters tripped me up once again with the exception of Reek, formerly known as Theon Greyjoy, and it was so very easy to forget about the events occurring simultaneously in Westros until they are poorly melded back into the narrative towards the end of this novel. Suddenly, the plot began to advance whereas the previous several hundred pages had been more of an exploration of the world Martin has created rather than the story he is trying to tell. Symptomatic of too many characters or too many stories or maybe, as I mentioned before, the sign of a person who loves to hear themselves talk.
No longer am I frantically turning page after page; instead, I’m wondering if I would be better off sticking to the show rather than waiting for events to unfold in novel format. Martin’s obsession with detailing his characters’ need to defecate is also less apparent (so far) in the television series than in the books, and that is certainly one thing I could live without.(less)
This book, the third in Martin’s fantasy epic, covers all of the third season of “Game of Thrones” (including the infamous Red Wedding) and then delve...moreThis book, the third in Martin’s fantasy epic, covers all of the third season of “Game of Thrones” (including the infamous Red Wedding) and then delves into all new territory. Of the five contenders for the Iron Throne introduced in the second book, one is dead, another is near defeat, and the others continue to wage war, make and break alliances, and scheme within their own houses for more power and more prestige as they move closer and closer to the throne.
King Joffrey of House Lannister currently holds the throne thanks to his own brutality and the intelligence of his mother Cersei, Uncle Tyrion, and grandfather Tywin, but Robb of House Stark still rules the North and is mounting a campaign to defeat Joffrey, who holds his younger sister Sansa in King’s Landing. Beyond the Wall, a large group of wildlings are marching toward the Wall under Mance Rayder with only a small force of the Night’s Watch in their path — one of them being Jon Snow, who has to face the temptation of leaving the Night’s Watch — and, in the east, Daenerys Taragaryen is nurturing her dragons and trying to raise forces to retake the Iron Throne.
“Winter is coming, warned the Stark words, and truly it had come for them with a vengence. But it is high summer for House Lannister. So why am I so bloody cold?” (pg. 794)
Of this three books I have read so far, this one is my favorite. I had wondered if my prior knowledge of the events given my familiarity with the television adaption would color my experience, but I was hooked by the detailing of each event even before I reached the point where I had no prior knowledge. I stayed up until three in the morning reading this book and then until two the next night in order to finish. It was that addictive, that much of an emotional roller coaster.
There are, of course, more narrators added to the mix in this novel — Ser Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer, Samwell Tarly of the Night’s Watch, a prologue by another brother of the Night’s Watch, and an epilogue by a member of the Frey family. The addition of Jaime Lannister was absolutely needed and my favorite new narrator of the bunch given how difficult it is to connect with and understand a man known as the “Kingslayer” who engages in an incestuous relationship with his twin sister. And I appreciated the opportunity to see the point of view for my three favorite characters — Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and Tyrion Lannister.
“You’re mine,” she whispered. “Mine, as I’m yours. And if we die, we die. All men must die, Jon Snow. But first we’ll live.” (pg. 560)
But those of you familiar with the show know how much Martin loves to throw plot twist after plot twist and commit mass murder of his characters. The events of the Red Wedding are not the only shocking moments in this book, and I turned page after page with nervous anticipation and tears in my eyes. Both in the good way and the bad way because Martin will kill characters for what I can only imagine would be for a laugh because why, why, why, Martin? As the friend who recommended the books to me said, “he may actually survive via the energy released by sobbing fans”. But sometimes the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching experience of reading this book is actually what you need and I cannot wait to see how this book continues to live up to the label of “epic” I keep seeing attached to this series.(less)
**spoiler alert** The second book in Martin’s fantasy epic, The Song of Ice and Fire, depicts the war and strife as the four men who claimed the Iron...more**spoiler alert** The second book in Martin’s fantasy epic, The Song of Ice and Fire, depicts the war and strife as the four men who claimed the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms are joined by a fifth — Balon Greyjoy, father of Theon the former ward of Ned Stark and the self-declared king of the Iron Islands. Theon, for his part, wages war on the homeland of the now deceased Ned Stark capturing Winterfell and murdering two anonymous peasant boys similar in size to Bran Stark and Rickon Stark after the boys disappear. In between explanations of the multiples battles waged during this civil war, the book also delves into the life of Daenerys Targaryen and her three newly hatched, rare dragons as she continues her quest to return to and conquer the Seven Kingdoms and Jon Snow and the rest of the Night’s Watch travels north of the Wall only to interact with a allegiance-free tribe known as the wildlings.
This one paragraph summary can never capture the amount of detail packed into this novel and, to be perfectly honest, I had a hard time keeping track of the details included in this novel despite having already seen the show upon which this novel is based. The battle between Joffrey Baratheon (or, in reality, Tyrion Lannister) and Stannis is supposed to be an important turning point in this novel, the catalyst for action both here and away from King’s Landing, but it was so difficult for me to understand what was occurring that passages were reread and scenes from the show were rewatched in order to make sense of it all.
Some characters’ point of views are more interesting than others — Jon Snow continues to be my favorite and I wasn’t expected to meet Ygritte the wildling until the next chapter; Sansa Stark impressed me with her ability to play the delicate game of politics; and Tyrion helps me make sense of those battles that are not being waged in the traditional sense. But, unfortunately, those characters I wanted to learn more about — Stannis, Theon, Renly Baratheon — seemed to get the same treatment they are given in the show. I understood Theon’s motives better, but he still seems stilted compared to some of the other characters. The book also introduces readers to yet two more narrators — Ser Davos Seaworth, a knight and former smuggler in the service of Stannis Baratheon, and Theon — after starting with a prologue written from one of the most interesting characters I’ve encountered so far, Maester Cressen of Dragonstone (Stannis Baratheon’ holding).
I mentioned in my review of the first book how jarring the reminder of the characters’ young ages were given the activities and events they engage in. That doesn’t change with this novel, but the point I felt most revolted was what some would probably call a minor moment in the story. King Joffrey, Sansa, and other members of his royal court are besieged by hungry residents of and immigrants to King’s Landing , and their hasty escape separates Sansa and another young woman from the protection of the King’s guard, known as the gold cloaks. Sansa is rescued before she can hurt, but Lady Tanda’s daughter, Lolly, is described as such:
“Lady Tanda’s daughter has surrendered her maidenhood to half a hundred shouting men behind a tanner’s shop. The gold cloaks found her wandering naked on Sowbelly Row.” (pg. 600)
Surrendered? Really? What a deplorable and revolting way of describing rape! After this moment, I set the book aside and ranted to the friend who recommended me this series. But she explained how Martin “plays with the line between sex and rape” and said he changes his tone with Lolly in the next book. (Update: I’ve started the third book in this series and I can see support for and contradictions to this assertion.)
At just under the halfway mark with this 1,000-paged novel, I wrote on GoodReads “I find this book to be slower and less engaging than the first. I keep waiting for something to happen, but all I’m getting is a massive amount of set up for (what I hope will be) future events.” That changed slightly as the novel moved on, but I also wonder if its due to how familiar I am with the basic plot because of the television show? Details change and more information is given than I ever thought possible, but I’ll be curious to see how engaged I am with the story once I reached the point in the story I don’t already know about.(less)
To be honest, I started this book expecting to hate it. Most of the buzz I heard surrounding this book was negative criticisms — what does the wealthy...moreTo be honest, I started this book expecting to hate it. Most of the buzz I heard surrounding this book was negative criticisms — what does the wealthy, Harvard-educated Chief Operating Officer of Facebook know about being the average working mom? (Of course, what do I know about being a working mom?) But a close friend asked me to attend a community discussion on Sandburg’s book subtitled “Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”. Unfortunately, neither of us were able to read the book in time to attend the discussion yet, fortunately, my expectations of this book were completely unfounded.
The book’s main premise is that women should “lean in” by taking an active role in pursuing business opportunities and promotions without waiting for a mentor or someone else to recognize their talent and that men and women should recognize the structural barriers to women being able to lean in. These barriers run the gauntlet from raising girls to be sweet and accommodating to creating a work environment riddled with subtle gender discrimination to perpetrating this idea that women must choose between work and family while men do not.
I, thankfully, was not raised in an environment where my father was seen as simply a “child care arrangement”, as stay-at-home dads are categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau, or where I was seen as a hobby, which a staggering number of men classify their children according to a study cited by Sandburg. My parents were — are — a team, and this is certainly the expectation I have should I ever marry and have children, which Sandburg says is one of the biggest barriers to women “leaning in”.
What is most interesting in this discussion, though, is how the expectations for how many hours mothers will spend focused on their children have risen just as dramatically as the number of hours people are expected to work each week. According to Sandburg, stay-at-home mothers spent an average of about eleven hours per week on primary child care defined as routine caregiving and activities that foster a child’s well-being, such as reading and fully focused play, in 1975 while mothers employed outside the home spent six hours. Today, stay-at-home mothers spend about seventeen hours per week on primary child care, on average, while mothers who work outside the home spend about eleven hours. (pg. 134) So an employed mother spends the same amount of time with her children as a non-employed mother did during the heydays people keep trying to harken back to.
“[Dr. Peggy McIntosh] explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even expects in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are — impostors with limited skills or abilities.” (pg. 28)
I spent almost this entire book nodding along in agreement, but the above section is one where I started to feel like Sandburg really knew what she was talking about. Here is an Ivy League educated person articulating exactly how I feel when I’m called on in class, when I finish taking a test — that expectation that I will embarrass myself and someone will figure out that I am not smart enough and therefore do not belong in advanced classes, undergraduate lecture halls, and now in grad school. It is, frankly, refreshing to see someone so high up in the business world admit that she, too, felt this way. Gives me hope that I will eventually overcome this.
I also appreciated how dismissive she was about women needing to find a “mentor” in order to succeed in business. I’ve never understood why people are always asking me if I have a mentor or encouraging me to seek out a woman — always a woman — in a position I’d eventually like to hold. I’ve never heard one of my male classmates being instructed to do this, and it was nice to hear that (a) one cannot simply ask a person to be their mentor as there needs to be a reason for the mentor to want to invest their time in you and (b) read all these studies showing that mentoring rarely does that much for women in the workplace. I’m sure there is a lot of people out there who have had wonderful mentoring relationships, but I’ve always felt uncomfortable by how forced these relationships are.(less)
Subtitled “My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints”, Brower details the years leading up...moreSubtitled “My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints”, Brower details the years leading up to the raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch (YFZ Ranch) in Eldorado, Texas he spent as a private investigator working for those expelled from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) embroiled in a civil dispute over property rights. The FLDS holds all the land around their original home of Short Creek, a community that straddles the Utah-Arizona border, in an economic trust and those expelled from the faith also lose their homes and jobs in addition to being shunned by the only community they have ever known. This civil investigation quickly morphed into a criminal as Brower, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), learned more about this separatist religion that maintains polygamy as a main tenant of its faith.
My interest in fundamentalist religions makes it impossible for me to pass up any book on the subject even when I think I’ve learned all there is to learn. I’m glad I didn’t pass this book up because while I was familiar with most of the topics covered in the book, the particular details forming Brower’s investigation were new to me. It was also interesting reading about the raid on the YFZ Ranch — the event that familiarized most of my friends with the FLDS — because it was so spun by the FLDS and swept under the rug by Child Protective Services in Texas. The review of the raid, as cited by Brower, stated that all of the children were returned to the YFZ Ranch despite the fact that:
“…a total of 439 children had been removed from the YFZ Ranch, and that 274 of them, from 91 families, had been the subjects of abuse and neglect. One in four prepubescent girls was involved in an underage marriage.” (pg. 287)
Except I never saw any of these shocking statistics in the coverage of the 2008 investigation. In fact, Brower’s book was actually the first time I learned of the outcome for the children removed from their home. And Brower spends the majority of the book detailing how the FLDS make up one the largest organized crime syndicates since untold tens of thousands of people (the FLDS won’t allow themselves to be counted in the U.S. census) support a religion that participates in child abuse, rape, interstate and international sex trafficking, and welfare theft. It’s an organized entity complete with safe houses that officials from Utah, Arizona, Texas, and the United States government have turned a blind eye to.
The most interesting part of this book, though, is the profile of the FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs spun by Brower. Using Jeffs’ own writings, interviews with former members of the FLDS, and his own interactions with current FLDS members as well as Jeffs, Brower creates an absolutely horrific description of a man who abused children of all ages and sex either by his own hand or through his performance of marriages for other men in the upper hierarchy of his church. Brower continually interjects personal stories or those of his clients to illustrate his points and connect so-called past practices with current events within the religious sect.
Although this book is technically a personal memoir, it could have benefited from additional editing to turn it into a better investigative report. I liked hearing about the FLDS’ response to Brower because it does illustrate how closed off the FLDS are and what lengths they will go to maintain that break. However, the timeline gets a little lost as Brower tries to group events around themes and then repeats those events when he tries to go back to a timeline. I would have prefer him to stick to one format so I did not have been left muttering about how he already talked about this so many times. But it’s a minor complaint given how much information Brower brings to the reader.(less)