Much of Andrew Morton’s book about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor came as no surprise to me. I knew about their courtship, their trip to Germany hostMuch of Andrew Morton’s book about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor came as no surprise to me. I knew about their courtship, their trip to Germany hosted by Hitler, and their life in the Bahamas. However, what was surprising was the amount of handholding Winston Churchill did with the Duke. An even bigger surprise was the involvement of Roosevelt and the FBI in surveilling them. However, in reading about the Windsors’ involvement with numerous shady friends, Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, and the retelling of their lives in the Bahamas, that surprise faded into disgust. The Duke and Duchess, but especially the Duke (the former King Edward VIII) were babied and treated far better than they deserved.
I note that Morton’s favorite turn of phrase regarding King George and others’ reactions to the Duke’s infantile and unrealistic demands and behavior was “he [or they] were incandescent.” Although Morton may have used it too much, I thought it highlighted just HOW angry others were with the Duke, those others living in reality and dealing with the attacking Nazis. Another memorable scene written by Morton was the description of President Roosevelt’s reaction to what a journalist conveyed to him as the Duke’s desire for Roosevelt to make remarks publicly that would help start a revolution in England. I could visualize Roosevelt shaking and furious with the Duke.
I also found interesting and really quite disappointing was General Eisenhower’s light regard of important documents that had fallen into Allied hands during the occupation of Germany. He just seemed so naive, but perhaps that’s just my impression after reading Morton’s reporting about how many upper class Britons wanted peace at any price and the amount of spying that was occurring in England prior to and during the War. Those old series like The World at War definitely don’t shine the spotlight on their home-grown traitors. I found this book interesting and it was a fast read. I will be reading more about intelligence in WWII Europe and Great Britain. ...more
**spoiler alert** ***SPOILERS*** A happy ending? Perhaps the ending was the biggest twist to the book. Author Gillian Flynn takes on the momentous tas**spoiler alert** ***SPOILERS*** A happy ending? Perhaps the ending was the biggest twist to the book. Author Gillian Flynn takes on the momentous task of creating the perfect murder and disappearance. Or is it a murder? If you’ve read the dustcover of the book, you know that Amy disappears on the morning of hers and Nick’s Fifth Anniversary. She definitely disappears; and all clues lead to Nick, presenting him as the awful, cheating, louse and slob of a husband he has become. Clues left behind paint Nick as a cheating husband who used his wife’s trust fund to open up a bar, which doesn’t keep him from abusing her or trying to kill her. But who is committing the real crime in this story?
Just as so many highly-reported murders go, so goes this story. We have the representations of the perfect grieving parents, the incompetent small-town cops, the slick big city defense attorney, and the morally outraged avenging tv host who makes her living off of abused, dead women (Nancy Grace, folks?). But you also have the perfect, PERFECT victim: Amy of the Amazing Amy children’s stories. She is so amazing it’s hard to believe she’s real… or really a sociopath who loves to punish those that do not see her greatness.
This mystery had so many twists and turns I could scarcely put the book down. Flynn did an incredible (I almost said amazing) job of making absolutely incontrovertible crimes in a story within a story, and created a person within a person…....more
This is not my favorite style of writing. That being said, there are parts of the book that were not only beautiful, but that carried me along on a riThis is not my favorite style of writing. That being said, there are parts of the book that were not only beautiful, but that carried me along on a river of images. Woolf's prose is mainly comprised of what we would now call "word clouds," or as I like to think specifically in her case "phrase clouds." That isn't necessarily bad. I know I just said it's not my favorite kind of writing, but I was willing to try it and see where it lead. I really wanted to see how Woolf handled action by use of these "phrase clouds." The action, or events in this book are neatly tucked into the ongoing stream-of-consciousness of all of the characters. The way the novel is written, you feel that all of the characters are inextricably bound together. At times, Woolf moves seamlessly from character to character; at other times I felt like I was a little lost as to when she transitioned into the thoughts of the next person.
I had heard of this book a long time ago, but never had the time or motivation to read it. A curiosity about Virginia Woolf compelled me to take this on a trip with me and finally resolve the questions I had about her as a writer. I know some have called her an early feminist author. I don't know about that, except that she does give the women she creates definite personalities. For that time, perhaps, that was feminism to give them real feelings and thoughts, instead of being acceptably agreeable all of the time.
Woolf's portrayal of Septimus' mental illness, which most certainly was PTSD after WWI, is scary. It has been said by other writers that she was able to write so well on the subject of how he thought and how he was treated by care-givers due to her own bouts of mental illness. It certainly is a sympathetic treatment and an eye-opener. I found her passages regarding him to be the most interesting. The other description that I have found that has stayed with me is of her silver green mermaid dress that she would wear to this all-encompassing party she was planning. I keep thinking about that and visualizing what it it must have looked like. Overall, an intriguing novel....more
This is a highly detailed account of the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa on July 19, 1989. Anyone who has seen the news foota This is a highly detailed account of the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa on July 19, 1989. Anyone who has seen the news footage of the barely controlled DC-10 attempting to land on the runway, but instead catching the right wing and turning into a fireball, will never forget it. The author, Laurence Gonzales, pulls together interviews from surviving flight and cabin crew, as well as passengers, into a mostly tight and fast-moving narrative; he interweaves diverse subjects such as explanations of how titanium engine parts are made and what was actually done during the autopsies. Adding interviews of air traffic controllers, rescue personnel, and the like helps to explain the impact of the accident and its aftermath. There is no doubt that this was a HUGE project to undertake; for the most part, it works well.
One of the issues that that disrupted the smooth flow of the narrative were the discussions of the recovery of the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. I would guess that the problems that arose in reporting the retrieval of the two items were due to contradictory information from different people who were involved in the recovery. I note that there were two different stories about the recovery of the CVR and FDR, albeit they were very similar. It just threw me when I was reading as I recalled the previous report and I needed to re-read the two sections. Another issue detracting from the smooth storyline were the discussions about the search for the missing fan disk or fan disk parts. On page 287, Laurence states that "[A]nd indeed, Clark, along with other people who were searching for the disk, would never find it." From that sentence I believed that the fan disk would never be found. However, on pages 312-313, there it was: the missing fan disk (or most of it) being hit by a combine because it was embedded in a field. Why do these continuity issues matter? For me, I had to re-read sections to be able to determine the disposition of the missing items. I used to read accident reports when I was training to be and after I became a professional pilot and had a certain expectation of absolute accuracy, unless explained otherwise. I wanted to know what happened to key pieces of the puzzle and the way this information was written, threw me off.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone in aviation or anyone who is interested in this accident and its reconstruction. I would strongly advise anyone who is nervous about flying OR who is squeamish to NOT read this book. The information about how the deceased were identified by their dental work still haunts me (and the morgues that handle those type of accidents no longer do it that way). A very interesting and gripping read, including the parts on how titanium is made once you understand its significance to the crash. ...more
I am sitting in stunned silence after having finished Lincoln. Author Gore Vidal handled the end of the President's life in a powerful, yet poignant wI am sitting in stunned silence after having finished Lincoln. Author Gore Vidal handled the end of the President's life in a powerful, yet poignant way. Even though the ending of this chapter of history and his life, are all too well-known, the manner in which events were presented casts it in a new and thoughtful light.
The last 400 pages flew. Even though I am very familiar with the main players of the Civil War, this book surprised me with its characterizations; all-too human in their vices and flaws, and sometimes annoying or pitiable. Vidal states in an Afterword that the main characters are all reconstructed from "letters, journals, newspapers, diaries, etc." The research that went into those individuals must have been staggering.
At the very end of the book, a main character is asked where he would place Mr. Lincoln amongst American Presidents; he places Lincoln at the very top, above Washington. When queried about why he was greater than Washington, the character replies (and I paraphrase) that the Southern states had the Constitutional right to secede from the Union, but it was Lincoln who said no, and took the "terrible responsibility" for waging what at that time was the greatest war in human history to put the Union back together again. After reading this book, I would have to agree.
Vidal's prose is easy to read; what is difficult at the start is sorting out all of the primary and secondary characters that are introduced. Keeping track of which general did what in which battle can take a little time, but it is well worth it. By the time you are in the last third of the book, the story flies by. What a memorable novel....more
This is a book I picked up at the library, expecting a light yet somewhat sleazy holiday read. Instead, I got a book that had been researched obvious This is a book I picked up at the library, expecting a light yet somewhat sleazy holiday read. Instead, I got a book that had been researched obviously over a period of years; many of the interviews were of people who had either been patients or otherwise directly involved in the events, as well as close family members of those involved.
Dr. Feelgood was the term that the Secret Service applied to Dr. Max Jacobson, a person who became involved with many celebrities and with the Kennedy White House after beginning to treat John F. Kennedy for back pain and fatigue. These treatments began after JFK's former roommate introduced the then candidate for President to Jacobson; all treatments were unnofficial and secret. Notably secret were the ingredients of the shots; Jacobson told everyone they were "vitamin shots" and at one point said "vitamins and hormones." Well not really. They were actually liquid methamphetamine in a fairly large dose (30-40 mg) combined with steroids. As Jacobson's huge ring of patients discovered, they needed more and more to maintain and some wound up self-destructing. How Jacobson kept going himself is unknown as he was also a meth addict for more than 30 years.
The book's strong points include a list of patients from Dr. Jacobson's records, with the ones who were personally interviewed for the book marked. The list of interviewees is extensive and lends authenticity to the claims of drug use and addiction. Footnotes also help clarify sources. Jacobson had many, many celebrity patients to whom he administered his miracle shots beyond JFK, including Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Nelson Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, Jackie Kennedy, Lee Bouvier Radziwill (interviewed), Harry S. Truman, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor (interviewed), and Frank Sinatra. When you look at the list, it is shocking to think of all of these people doing meth...especially since most didn't know what they were really getting. Further bolstering the authors' claims was the interview of the two New York Times reporters who investigated Jacobson in 1972. Jacobson, apparently well into a meth induced delusion, thought he was going to be recognized and rewarded for his work and wound up telling them everything.
The background on Dr. Jacobson is fascinating, including his claim that it was his recipe for meth that the Nazis distributed in tablet form (35 million) to soldiers, sailors, and pilots of the Reich at the beginning of World War II. Jacobson was Jewish and when he fled Germany, he claimed he was forced to hand over the formula. There are some historical problems in this section, though. The authors link Kristallenacht (1938) with the Reichstag fire (1933). To link the two directly I think is faulty with the time passage between them. Also, it seems very fortuitous that Jacobson met Jung, Adler, Freud, and Albert Einstein. All in all, Jacobson's background seems so touched with celebrity as to be a product of his meth addiction and his imagination. Finally, the Kaiser was a member of the House of Hohenzollern, not Hapsburg.
Where the book really falls down is the discussion of the assassination of JFK and the bullet entry and exit wounds. This, obviously, has been highly contested for years. But it just seemed that the book should not have strayed into conclusory territory about bullet exit and entry wounds as I don't believe either author, nor any contributor, is a forensic expert in this area. I think it undercut the book's authenticity in general. It is pretty clear that the CIA had motive to get rid of JFK. This book was published in 2013 but likely well before a documentary from PBS' NOVA was aired about the assassination ("Cold Case JFK," 11/13/2013). In that documentary, two forensic pathologists, a wound ballistics researcher, and a firearms expert (among others) speak to and show compelling evidence that it could indeed have only been Lee Harvey Oswald firing and using full-metal jacket bullets. The authors are definitely entitled to their opinions but that data may have been of interest. At any rate, the CIA definitely could have hired and set up Lee Harvey Oswald for just the reasons cited in this book. I just felt the foray into the argument about bullet wounds was not supported by the rest of the book.
There are also a few editorial errors that were annoying that did not alter my rating of the book but that indicate that the editors let the authors down. On one page the last name of Bob Cummings' second-wife-to-be is spelled both Fong and Font; on another, the German Chancellor's last name is spelled both Adenauer and Asenauer. There are a couple of puntuation goofs, a problem with a bibliography entry, and some run-on sentences that desperately needed to be hacked apart. That may be nit-picky but what those errors do is make the book look unprofessional and the story not as believeable.
This is a short but shocking slice of American history. I cannot believe that there hasn't been more press about JFK having a psychotic break at The Carlyle Hotel in New York due to methamphetamine. I do really wish that the book had lived up it's unspoken celebrity promise and had discovered other "prominent" figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, Roddy McDowell, Rex Harrison, Yul Brynner, etc who are all listed as patients. This is still a short but interesting read. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the darker part of American history. ...more
I saw this book on NPR's Best Books of 2013 list. Usually I don't care about lists, but the brief description caught my attention. This is an innovat I saw this book on NPR's Best Books of 2013 list. Usually I don't care about lists, but the brief description caught my attention. This is an innovative story in that the main character speaks from multiple points of view. Justice of Toren, a 2,000 year-old troop-carrying starship is the main character. To make it even more interesting, it narrates mainly from two viewpoints: either as the ship, or as Breq, the Artificial Intelligence ("AI") of Justice of Toren trapped in a single female body. How can that be? Well, the story also involves two main timelines: when Justice of Toren was a starship, and the other when it's AI inhabits only the body of a lone-surviving ancillary soldier of the ship. If this isn't confusing enough, the ancillary cannot tell the difference most of the time between human males and females so it uses the preferred pronouns of the empire it serves, which happen to be female.
The stories of Breq and Justice of Toren unfold individually, joining as you realize what happened to the ship over 1,000 years ago in an act of treachery. You also find that the body of Breq is referred to as a "corpse soldier," a tool that the empire once used in it's rapidly expanding territories: as worlds were annexed, approximately half of the population would be taken, frozen, and kept on troop carrying starships. When needed, they were defrosted and were taken over by the artificial intelligence of that ship. Thus the corpse soldiers, or ancillaries, could be directed to serve the human lieutenants and captain. The ship could maintain complete control over the troops as well as total vigilance, being in a thousand places at once.
This is the basis of the story. From this point the story continues on but the main discussions seem to revolve around what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, and what happens when authority splinters and battles itself. There are certainly other issues to be considered as author Leckie weaves in many philosophical points of civilization vs. the "uncivilized."
This was an interesting and different storyline for science fiction. I look forward to the next book in the series. ...more
**SPOILERS** This is a nightmare case: three children die horribly and three teenagers are sent to prison for life, one on death row. It's also a nig **SPOILERS** This is a nightmare case: three children die horribly and three teenagers are sent to prison for life, one on death row. It's also a nightmare because of the incompetence and bad behavior (coerced confession from a teenager with a 72 IQ) of the local police; prosecutorial misconduct; judicial misconduct and bad rulings; and crazy, violent step-parents of some of the murder victims.
I went from cringing at the violence of the three eight-year-old's deaths to cringing at the local police's mishandling of their bodies, destroying evidence. Police yell and scream at teenagers to coerce a confession, and then to get corroborating statements in scenes that come right from film noir. The police lose evidence of one potential suspect, and deliberately ignore another because he is a drug informant. A juvenile officer with a wild imagination, a penchant for lying, and a talent for embezzlement whips the community AND law enforcement into a Satanism "froth." The medical examiner withholds information until the second trial without telling anyone. The prosecutors meet with the judge and discuss trial strategy without the defense knowing about it. The judge makes rulings at trial that I doubt state supreme courts in any other state would uphold. And it goes on and on. There is so much that went wrong or was done wrong it's hard to believe that this isn't a novel instead of a highly researched and end-noted journalistic exposé.
The writing style is as smooth as the subject matter will allow; it's difficult to have a flowing narrative when you are constantly flipping to the end notes. But you have to read the end notes; every contention is backed up with the source material, as well as additional information. Sometimes the end notes were very enlightening. Leveritt never indicates who you should think is the murderer, but it became very clear to me that the police had had the murderer in front of them all the time; they questioned him apologetically and let him go.
This is a book that shows how the justice system can really fail everybody. When you convict the wrong person for a murder, the murderer remains at large to kill again. You haven't done ANYBODY any favors by getting a conviction for "closure." Although there have been HBO documentaries made about this case, a motion picture has recently been made with the same name as this book, "Devil's Knot." I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about crime and the legal system....more