Devolution Book Review

Summary: As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.

But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing–and too earth-shattering in its implications–to be forgotten.

In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.

Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us–and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it–and like none you’ve ever read before.

Thoughts: Thank You to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the advanced copy in exchange for my review.

When I saw that Max Brooks had written another book, I knew that I had to read it. Especially since I had just finished re-reading World War Z and analyzing it to help my mom with an English course she took. This one is a completely different book from that one but I loved it just the same.

I really enjoy that this reads like a found journal even if that takes away from some of the suspense. For example: you know the main character is going to be fine at least until the end of the story or else how would she be writing all this. While you know that she’ll be okay you still wonder what is going to happen to the rest of the characters in the story. The way that things are written allow you to get attached to some of the people that she is living with.

Something else that I enjoyed was that there were articles and interviews included along with the journal entries. It makes the whole book read more like a news story and something occurring in real time. I really love how Max Brooks makes it feel like you are reading non fiction, like this is a retelling of a news story that happened. It was a great escape from what is actually happening in the world at this time in the pandemic.

I love how the narrator of this story is an anxious person because you can feel her anxiety and panic every time something big happens. You can see it and feel her emotions in her writing even if she writes after events already took place. It’s as if she never really leaves the scenes where these impactful events occur. I love how you see her go from this anxious person to a person who has more control over her life.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoyed Max Brooks other works or who are interested in Sasquatch.

You can pre order this book at Barnes and Noble, Eso Won Bookstore, or look for it at your local library coming June 16th.

The New One Book Review

GoodReads Summary: In 2016 comedian Mike Birbiglia and poet Jennifer Hope Stein took their fourteen-month-old daughter Oona to the Nantucket Film Festival. When the festival director picked them up at the airport she asked Mike if he would perform at the storytelling night. She said, “The theme of the stories is jealousy.”

Jen quipped, “You’re jealous of Oona. You should talk about that.”

And so Mike began sharing some of his darkest and funniest thoughts about the decision to have a child. Jen and Mike revealed to each other their sides of what had gone down during Jen’s pregnancy and that first year with their child. Over the next couple years, these stories evolved into a Broadway show, and the more Mike performed it the more he heard how it resonated — not just with parents but also people who resist all kinds of change.
So he pored over his journals, dug deeper, and created this book: The New One: Painfully True Stories From a Reluctant Dad. Along with hilarious and poignant stories he has never shared before, these pages are sprinkled with poetry Jen wrote as she navigated the same rocky shores of new parenthood.

So here it is. This book is an experiment — sort of like a family

Thoughts: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

As someone who fears having kids i found Birbiglia’s thoughts prior to having a kid relatable. I thought it was great to see his perspective before and after his kid and how even during that first year of his kids life he was still iffy about having a kid. This book was cute, light and fluffy which I read enjoyed during this time.

I also enjoyed how Birbiglia had his wife’s poetry included throughout the book. We got to see her perspective through these poems and the contrast of her feelings and his. I loved getting to see not just the contrast but also the similarities in their feelings.

The writing style really made this book easy to get through and hard to put down. Its multiple essay pieces with poetry in between and is separated into different parts of Birbiglia’s life. I liked that it was in somewhat chronological order and it was written with before baby and then after baby. While it is chronological I also like that its separated by theme as well.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy comedy or who enjoy memoirs. I think this book very much reads like multiple comedy acts while giving you slices of Birbiglia’s life. I also think that those of you who are fans of Birbiglia would really enjoy getting to read this book.

Starting today you can get this book at Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, or look for it at your local library.

Once a girl, always a boy Book Review

Summary: Jeremy Ivester is a transgender man. Thirty years ago, his parents welcomed him into the world as what they thought was their daughter. As a child, he preferred the toys and games our society views as masculine. He kept his hair short and wore boys’ clothing. They called him a tomboy. That’s what he called himself.

By high school, when he showed no interest in flirting, his parents thought he might be lesbian. At twenty, he wondered if he was asexual. At twenty-three, he surgically removed his breasts. A year later, he began taking the hormones that would lower his voice and give him a beard—and he announced his new name and pronouns.

Once a Girl, Always a Boy is Jeremy’s journey from childhood through coming out as transgender and eventually emerging as an advocate for the transgender community. This is not only Jeremy’s story but also that of his family, told from multiple perspectives—those of the siblings who struggled to understand the brother they once saw as a sister, and of the parents who ultimately joined him in the battle against discrimination. This is a story of acceptance in a world not quite ready to accept.

Thoughts: Thank you to Booksparks for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

I’m always worried about reading memoirs about transgender people especially when they are not written by the transgender person. Sometimes these books make me angry because of the way the people in the story get treated or because of the transphobia that is included throughout by the person writing the story. I went into this one expecting that which is what I got but what I didn’t expect was to learn.

As someone who is transgender it was nice to watch Jeremy’s family struggle to understand him. I tend to get frustrated by my family not understanding my gender or sexual identity and seeing all of Jeremy’s family react and learn gave me a new perspective. It taught me to give people some time to learn, especially the people who I know are trying and to listen to why they’re struggling with things related to my gender and sexuality. While it did show me the other side of things there were moments that I just couldn’t deal with the transphobia from the family. There is one scene in particular with Jeremy and his older brother in which the brother and Jeremy are both not aware of how Jeremy identifies and his feelings are dismissed.

I think one of my favorite parts of this book was watching as Jeremy learned about himself and the sections that were written in his voice. It was also really nice to watch Jeremy learn about himself and come to terms with each of his identities. I was able to relate to so many moments that are included in this book and loved how much of his feelings are included. It was refreshing to see how his understanding of his identity was constantly shifting and how he slowly leaned into who he is. I loved that this story was centered on Jeremy’s adult years and how so many of his coming to terms with who he is and learning about himself happens in his late 20s. It made my journey as a non-binary transgender person feel normal and let me know that it was okay to not have the answers at my age.

This was a great book to be able to read during this stay at home order because it made me feel understood. This book uplifted me in moments that I was struggling with because living at home with a family who uses my legal name and misgenders me without having an escape from it gets rough. This book was a constant reminder that I decide my identity and even when others don’t see me that way my identity remains the same.

I really enjoyed how this book was written in multiple perspectives and you got sections from Jeremy, the mom, dad, and the siblings. It was great to see so many of the same scenes through different eyes.

I recommend this to those of you who have transgender family members or I recommend this to those of you who are parents of a transgender child. For those of you who are transgender, I would caution reading this, this book is about how the transgender person needs to have grace with others and give them time to comes to terms with who you are. I felt that so much of it was how Jeremy accepted his family rather than the other way around and that felt off to me. ⁠

You can get this book starting today at Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, or look for it at your local library.

My Squirrel Days Book Review

Goodreads Summary: Meet Ellie, the best-intentioned redhead next door. You’ll laugh right alongside her as she shares tales of her childhood in St. Louis, whether directing and also starring in her family holiday pageant, washing her dad’s car with a Brillo pad, failing to become friends with a plump squirrel in her backyard, eating her feelings while watching PG-13 movies, or becoming a “sports monster” who ends up warming the bench of her Division 1 field hockey team in college.

You’ll learn how she found her comedic calling in the world of improv, became a wife, mother and New Yorker, and landed the role of a bridesmaid (while simultaneously being a bridesmaid) in Bridesmaids. You’ll get to know and love the comic, upbeat, perpetually polite actress playing Erin Hannon on The Office, and the exuberant, pink-pants-wearing star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Thoughts: I like listening to audiobooks that are read by the author, especially when the book is a biography or autobiography. I decided to read this one because of how much I enjoyed the show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I loved that the book was read by the author but I think that this made it so that I felt this was Kimmy Schmidt’s story not Ellie Kempers.

I had a hard time with this one because I wanted to enjoy it for what it was but I couldn’t get over how this read more like a biography of a fictional character. I’m not sure if that’s just because Ellie’s personality matches Kimmy or if that was not intentional. I found that there were some stories that were hilarious and moments that were ridiculous but then there were others that were just mundane stories.

Each of these stories are better told as short episodes on a tv show or as a collection of short stories. It’s like reading the daily life of just another person and I’m not so sure how entertaining that is. I kept listening until the end just because I thought her reading it made these stories funny. It felt like I was given more time with Kimmy Schmidt but I had to keep reminding myself this was a real person’s life.

I think those of you who enjoyed Kimmy Schmidt as a character would enjoy this story. You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

The Perfect Predator: A Scientists Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir Book Review

Summary: Epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee and her husband Tom Patterson, were vacationing in Egypt when he came down with a stomach bug. Steffanie dosed Tom with an antibiotic and expected it to pass, but his condition turned critical. After Tom was medevacked back home, ICU doctors found out why: Tom was fighting the most lethal antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world.

As Tom lay dying, Steffanie combed through decades-old research and resurrected a forgotten cure—but this drug was alive. Injecting it into him could kill or cure him. Allying with the FDA, and researchers around the world to save her husband before it was too late. The Perfect Predator is a true story of love and against-all-odds survival, detailing how Steffanie helped uncover the science behind what is now a powerful new weapon in the global superbug crisis. 

Thoughts: I love a good virus book and even better if its a non-fiction book because those are scarier. There’s nothing like the scare that real viruses cause and especially viruses that are drug resistant. I’ve started to listen to my virus books instead of reading the physical book because then I can dwell on each word as I hear them. I find them a lot more fearful and the emotions are stronger if I’m listening to someone tell their story.

This book captures both the fear that Tom’s wife felt as she watched him battle this drug resistant bacteria and the lack of understanding and fear that Tom feels as things happen to him. I enjoyed hearing each stage that Tom went through and Steph’s battle with this bacteria and her struggle to keep her hope up as she watched her husband at the edge of death. I liked that you were listening to both Tom and Steph’s perspective and how differently they both felt about this situation.

I thought it was fascinating to hear how these bacteria evolve and how they emerged; I liked thinking about how this story could have gone badly if Steph didn’t have the knowledge that she did. It’s scary that this can happen to anyone and if you aren’t educated on super bugs and don’t have the right connections you may not be able to recover. I really love how Steph acknowledges that they had privilege in the roles they had and in their access to the help they got.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy non-fiction science related books or those of you who enjoy memoirs. It’s a great read for those of you who want some reality to put fear in you or want something to think about.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

Midnight in Chernobyl Book Review

Goodreads Summary: April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles—at the time equivalent to $18 billion—Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of Reactor No.4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told—until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the Motherland. Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy.

Thoughts: This book is my introduction to the events of Chernobyl, I am not too big on history so I don’t know much that isn’t taught in the history books. I thought that learning about this event was so fascinating and this book made me want to learn more about this and any other radiation events.

I tried to read the physical version of this book and I am so glad that an audio book version exists. Most non-fiction books if they have anything to do with STEM will catch my attention but they are hard for me to follow. The audio book version of this book made things easier for me and made this book enjoyable.

I really enjoyed how the book opened with the building of this plant and talked to you about the science behind everything before the explosion happens. I really enjoyed how descriptive this book was and how you could see what was happening as you listened to this book.

Something else that I found fascinating was hearing everyone’s individual stories and how invested these scientists were in this project. It was sad to see how people attempted to hide the reality of this event and why it happened. These stories and the reality of this event makes it a lot more devastating and I think it makes the results of this event much more frustrating.

While the results of this plant exploding were terrifying, they made me want to learn more about what exposure to radiation can do to people over time.

I recommend this to you who enjoy learning about historical events around the world or those who enjoy STEM non-fiction books. You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

Crisis in the Red Zone by Richard Preston

I can’t do the summary justice so I borrowed this summary from GoodReads because you all need the whole scope of what this book is.

Summary: The 2013-2014 Ebola epidemic was the deadliest ever–but the outbreaks continue. Now comes a gripping account of the doctors and scientists fighting to protect us, an urgent wake-up call about the future of emerging viruses–from the #1 bestselling author of The Hot Zone, soon to be a National Geographic original miniseries.

This time, Ebola started with a two-year-old child who likely had contact with a wild creature and whose entire family quickly fell ill and died. The ensuing global drama activated health professionals in North America, Europe, and Africa in a desperate race against time to contain the viral wildfire. By the end–as the virus mutated into its deadliest form, and spread farther and faster than ever before–30,000 people would be infected, and the dead would be spread across eight countries on three continents.

In this taut and suspenseful medical drama, Richard Preston deeply chronicles the outbreak, in which we saw for the first time the specter of Ebola jumping continents, crossing the Atlantic, and infecting people in America. Rich in characters and conflict–physical, emotional, and ethical–Crisis in the Red Zone is an immersion in one of the great public health calamities of our time.

Preston writes of doctors and nurses in the field putting their own lives on the line, of government bureaucrats and NGO administrators moving, often fitfully, to try to contain the outbreak, and of pharmaceutical companies racing to develop drugs to combat the virus. He also explores the charged ethical dilemma over who should and did receive the rare doses of an experimental treatment when they became available at the peak of the disaster.

Crisis in the Red Zone makes clear that the outbreak of 2013-2014 is a harbinger of further, more severe outbreaks, and of emerging viruses heretofore unimagined–in any country, on any continent. In our ever more interconnected world, with roads and towns cut deep into the jungles of equatorial Africa, viruses both familiar and undiscovered are being unleashed into more densely populated areas than ever before.

The more we discover about the virosphere, the more we realize its deadly potential. Crisis in the Red Zone is an exquisitely timely book, a stark warning of viral outbreaks to come.

Thoughts: How do I begin to explain my love for all things Ebola? Or even try to express my love for all bio-hazard books by Richard Preston? As soon as I knew he wrote a new book and specifically about the 2013-2014 Ebola outbreak I knew I had to read it. This was an outbreak that frustrated me, caused me many sleepless nights, and then terrified me as it made its way into the U.S. I thought I knew of the dangers this virus posed to all of us. This was about an outbreak that I followed, this was a story that I thought I knew so well but was wrong.

This is just as great if not better than The Hot Zone which is my favorite book of all time. When I first read The Hot Zone it felt like a fictional story or another world I was being privy to so when this came out I couldn’t wait to read it. Ebola is the scariest thing in the world to me so reading about it terrifies me.

I love the way that Richard Preston tells the story of the doctors and nurses who risked their lives to treat their own and their patients. He really gives us some insight into their stories and so many of the behind the scenes things we didnt know about. I just love how his writing makes me feel like I’m reading a fiction story and have to remind myself that this is real. These are real people and others lives.

I think one of the most amazing things to learn about was the politics behind the two Americans who got the treatment to save them. That’s a story I remember so well on the news and recall my feelings toward it and this made me rethink that whole situation.

This was one that once I finished I wanted to go back and listen to it over and over again. It’s one that even if I already listened to it I would read it in physical book format or e-book format. It’s one that I want all the reading experiences with.

I highly recommend this to those of you who enjoy non fiction or who enjoy a good thriller/horror book. There is nothing scarier than the things that are actually happening around the world and imagining what happens if they reach us.

You can find this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family

Thank You to GoodReads and Harper Collins for the advanced copy of the book I won in a giveaway.

Summary: Chika was only 3 days old during the devastating earthquake of Haiti 2010. Her mother passed away giving birth and she was brought to an orphanage run by Mitch. At age 5 Chika is diagnosed with a disease that no one in Haiti could help her with so Mitch and Janine bring her to their home in Detroit hoping for some answers. Mitch and Janine hope that she’ll receive medical care and be able to return back to Haiti but that isn’t what happens. She stays with them as they search everywhere for a cure to her prognosis. This is the story of the lessons Mitch learned through that journey and everything Chika meant to him.

Thoughts: I love all of the books I’ve read by Mitch Albom and this one was no different. Mitch really captured how much of a beautiful child Chika was and I love how her personality shines through each word.

I loved the way this book was structured where he had segments where it was him and Chika speaking, then just him about his insights and then parts of the past and what she taught him. I loved hearing each lesson he learned through her and how fond he is of those lessons.

You get so attached to Chika and even if you know she’s going to pass away that moment still hits you hard. I cried as Mitch and his wife said their goodbye and felt honored to be allowed into such a private moment between the three of them.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy any of Mitch Albom’s other books or who like to read heartfelt stories that’ll make you cry.

You can find this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.