Under the Banner of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven book coverUnder the Banner of Heaven

By Jon Krakauer

Review by Rebecca Hoetger

For non-fiction, this book captivated me right from the very beginning. The title! This is the true story of the double murder of Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month old daughter, Erica, at the hands of Ron and Dan Lafferty (the older brothers of Brenda’s husband). I would have liked more information on the actual Lafferty case; that being said, Krakauer does an amazing job relating the gruesome details that we have. Continue reading

No One Cares About Crazy People

No One Cares About Crazy PeopleNo One Cares About Crazy People

By: Ron Powers

Review by: Maria Salvucci

This book chronicles the lives of the author and his family whose two sons were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The author intersperses his family story with the history of mental health treatment in the US. It’s an eye opening look at how mentally ill people have been treated in harsh, cruel and ineffective ways throughout time due to the lack of compassion and understanding of mental illness. The author and his wife experienced this while trying to get help for their sons. It is obvious they are a family of means so could afford better care than the average American and it was still difficult to find. Continue reading

Empires of Light

Empires of LightEmpires of Light

By: Jill Jonnes

Review by Sarah Reisert

It’s one of the most epic scientific rivalries of the ages: Nikola Tesla, the dreamer, the willowy eccentric, purveyor of alternating current, vs. Thomas Edison, keen-eyed inventor, ambition personified, defender of direct current. They’d lead the world from a time of sizzling, blinding arc lights into the modern world of glowing filaments—but at what cost to themselves? Tesla gave up his patents to George Westinghouse so the world could have his inventions, leaving him poor and forgotten. Edison turned his genius to vile ends, electrocuting prisoners to “prove” AC’s danger. Continue reading

Founding Brothers

Founding BrothersFounding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

by Joseph J. Ellis

Review by Angela DeMott 

Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers has a lot to say about the Revolutionary era. In addition, it is a commentary on our current political, economic, and social situation. By way of analyzing six significant moments in U.S. history, Ellis argues that there were as many, if not more, interpretations of the revolutionary spirit of 1776 (and what that actually entailed for the growing nation) as there are beliefs on what it means to be an American today; Ellis also argues that our first political leaders didn’t really know what they were doing (How could they have? There was no precedent!) yet their gut instincts and passion still lead us, eventually, to green pastures.  Continue reading

Furiously Happy

Furiously HappyFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Review by Cosette Elliott

Furiously Happy  is a fun beach read for someone with a quirky sense of humor. You must be okay with taxidermy and seeing the bright side of an otherwise depressing diagnosis. For example, yesterday I learned that I have contracted Lyme disease. It’s been great! I tell the kids, we can’t play outside now because the pills I have to take make me sensitive to sunburn. In addition to this, I am able to claim ongoing fatigue and inability to play with them. Most of my rest of my summer, as I see it now, will be spent lounging in bed explaining to my kids that I don’t feel well. If you can see the humor in what I just wrote, you are ready to enjoy Jenny Lawson.

By the way, this book is her second book. You can start with her first book, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, so you understand the things she refers to in Furiously Happy. Or you could always read it second. I think special mention is the fact that Lawson informs the reader that by reading her book, you are reducing your likelihood for discovering a corpse in a bathtub. Personally, my favorite part of this book is it’s accessibility. You can put it down and pick it up later and you don’t have to remember what Amber was or where Richard was or what was the motivation for the killer that stalked Christine 20 years ago. This is a perfect read for someone who may be interrupted and might not be able to get back to reading for a while. That is, if you can handle a strange infatuation with taxidermy.

This title fits many categories for the 50 Books for 50 Years Challenge. It could easily fill the “Based entirely on the cover,” “Over 300 pages,” “Has an animal on the cover,” or “A guilty pleasure book” categories. Happy reading!

Check availability on Let’s Pretend this Never Happened

Check availability on Furiously Happy 

About the reviewer: Cosette Elliott is a Domestic Engineer that enjoys reading. You can usually find Cosette in the library picking up more books to read.

Wishful Drinking

Wishful Drinking

Wishful Drinking (2010 HBO Documentary)

By and Starring Carrie Fisher

Review by Stephanie Bragg

Actress Carrie Fisher, yes Princess Leia herself, has led a wildly interesting life.  The daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and late singer Eddie Fisher, Carrie brings her unique sense of humor and wit to the facts of her life in her one woman stage production.  Fisher chronicles her life, from her parents’ separation and complicated family tree to becoming a cultural icon at age 19 and how that has affected her life and relationships. The one woman show was so popular, she developed it into her biography, also called Wishful Drinking

I really never knew Carrie Fisher had such a bold sense of humor, but I guess with all her trials in life you have to try to laugh about it.  My favorite section is talking about her family tree.  Fisher has a big board with everyone’s pictures from her parents to her spouses to her children.  The whole 76 minutes are hilarious and not without a healthy dose of “Star Wars” talk and paraphernalia.

Check availability on the documentary Wishful Drinking

Check availability on the biography Wishful Drinking

About the reviewer: Stephanie Bragg loves all things geek and tries to hit ComicCon each year.

The Albigensian Crusades

The Albigensian CrusadesThe Albigensian Crusades by Joseph R. Strayer

Review by Sarah Newell

“Repression can destroy a faith; it can also produce dangerous decay in the society that uses it.”  These words hold meaningful truths for today’s society, yet they were written about the thirteenth century.

In 1208 there began a crusade against the Cathar and Waldensian heretics of Southern France.  In an area known as Occitania, the Roman Catholic Church sought to eliminate dissent while the Northern French king sought to acquire land. While the resulting Albigensian Crusades were considered successful, it lead to many unintended consequences including the disillusionment that paved the way for the Reformation.  Continue reading

A Higher Call

A Higher CallA Higher Call :An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-torn Skies of World War II 

by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander

Review by Susan Williams

This is a dual biography of two World War II fighter pilots; an American, Charlie Brown and his counterpart, German, Franz Stigler.

In December of 1943, Brown was piloting his badly damaged bomber over Germany.  Half of his crew lay wounded or dead. Out of the blue a German fighter plane appeared along side of his aircraft.  Seeing the heavy damage to the American plane, the German inexplicably decided not to destroy the enemy plane, but to escort him safely over Germany.  In doing so, the German risked a firing squad for helping the enemy escape. People in Germany had been killed for far less. Continue reading

L.A. Son

L.A. SonL.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food

by Roy Choi

Reviewed by Jo Bradley
This is an unexpectedly engaging memoir/cookbook, the story of chef Roy Choi’s life growing up in a traditional Korean family in L.A. in the ’70s. It takes us through various phases of his life: from “golden child” to juvenile deliquent and thug, and finally to chef. His perspective on the humor in life shines through even during the most hair-raising parts of his tale. Continue reading

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk

Grandma Gatewood's Walk

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

Review by Sarah Newell

Why would a 67-year-old great-grandma leave her house one day to walk the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail?  Why would she choose to be the first woman to solo thru-hike the trail?  Why would she brave the animals and elements along the trail with nothing more than a light sack containing a few items she deemed necessary?

You’ll have to read Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail to answer the question for yourself.  Author Ben Montgomery does a masterful job of weaving newspaper articles, eye-witness accounts, family interviews and information from Emma Gatewood’s own journal together to paint possible answers to these questions for us.  While the answer is never handed over, we embark on a character study in order to understand the endearing and inspirational Grandma Gatewood.  Continue reading