Tag Archives: Simon & Schuster

Atlantic Crossing

All Standing

All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship by Kathryn Miles (Simon & Schuster, $16.00, 256 pages)

All Standing, Kathryn Miles’ third book (Superstorm, Adventures with Air), tells the story of the Jeanie Johnston, an Irish famine ship that completed 11 passages across the Atlantic without a single passenger death. This is remarkable considering that 100,000 lives were lost on the voyages of five comparable “coffin ships.”

This factually-based account is brought to life as the story of Nicholas Reilly, a baby born on the ship’s maiden voyage. This may sound like a James Michener novel, but it is far from it; far from it in that the story concludes after 226 pages. A Michener novel would be at least three times that length. Also, Michener would have loaded up the telling with numerous characters, while Miles settles for comparative simplicity.

The writer’s brevity is something to be appreciated. Her Hemingway-style sentences highlight the harsh reality of these people – they faced brutal life and death choices. (That’s a matter that needs little embellishment.) People were dying, they were desperate to salvage some semblance of a life, and many elected to take their chances on a dangerous – often fatal, voyage across a vast expanse of ocean.

The writer is meticulous about citing sources to support the facts covered in the book. She writes about the famine itself, the political decision-makers of the day, the shipping industry, the crew of the ship, and what the ocean journey was like.

All Standing is enjoyable and well written, although I suspect that the book would have been stronger if Miles had given some additional attention to the people of the time; she has sacrificed some human emotion for factual accuracy. Still, All Standing rewards the reader with a fascinating true tale of human sacrifice, courage and survival.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Well researched and engagingly written, Kathryn Miles’ All Standing is full of compelling characters – including the Jeanie Johnston herself. The ship becomes a beacon of hope….” Ginger Strand, author of Killer on the Road and Inventing Niagra.

Dave Moyer is an educator based in the Mid-West, and is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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All Standing (nook book)

A review of All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship by Kathryn Miles.

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Hey, Hey, Hey…

Big Fat Surprise (nook book)

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 479 pages)

The dietary message from health authorities over the past 50 years has mainly been focused on reducing heart attacks – to the exclusion of acknowledgement of the rise in other diseases (obesity and diabetes in particular). The Big Fat Surprise is a startling account of the origins of the decades-long single-minded attitude about saturated fat, red meat, eggs and butter that has been crammed down the throat of Americans and the world. Author Nina Teicholz has broad, well-established credentials having written for Gourmet, The New Yorker, The Economist, The New York Times and The Washington Post. She has covered Latin America for National Public Radio.

As an investigative journalist, Ms. Teicholz approached the subject of low-fat nutrition from an attitude of curiosity in light of the staggering health problems currently plaguing millions of people. As an individual she experienced a dietary shock after a stint writing newspaper reviews of restaurants in New York City. Previously, she had been following the low-fat optimal health diet that our physicians, the government, and the press have admonished us is the only way to avoid heart trouble. Surprisingly, eating the meals sent out by chefs for review that featured “rich, earthy dishes” – not in any way part of the diet Ms. Teicholz had followed most of her life, resulted in a 10-pound weight loss and a true enjoyment of dining!

Big Fat nutrition label

The book is the result of dedicated research, a thorough review of thousands of existing studies and literature, and hundreds of interviews with most of the surviving scientists, politicians and food industry insiders who have touted or doubted the association of dietary fat and fatal heart attacks. Ms. Teicholz spent nine years working on the book and her work is well documented. Poorly conducted research into the dietary habits of statistically invalid numbers of study participants were used by “the experts” to substantiate the supposed correlation between a “heart healthy” low-fat diet and reduced fatal heart attacks. Teicholz provides data and, by virtue of her footnotes and bibliography, enables any skeptical readers to see for themselves the basis of her conclusions.

The book leads this reader to accept that the basis for the low-fat diet is shaky at best and its outcomes are decidedly harmful. Moreover, its perpetuation is the work of a few politically minded individuals who have used nasty tactics and millions of food industry dollars to prop up their claims. We’ve been advised that man does not thrive on meat and saturated fats; all LDL Cholesterol is our enemy; and the best sources of vitamins and minerals are fruits and vegetables. Well, get ready to be educated about food, both historically and scientifically. Our American forefathers were not proponents of veggies and fruit, nor were the African Maasai people or the Inuit people of the far Northern Hemisphere.

Early American settlers were “indifferent” farmers, according to many accounts. They were fairly lazy in their efforts at both animal husbandry and agriculture, with “the grain fields, the meadows, the forests, the cattle, etc. treated with equal carelessness,” as one eighteenth-century Swedish visitor described. And there was little point in farming since meat was so readily available.

The Big Fat Surprise is a must-read for young and old alike. Sadly, some folks are deeply committed to the “wisdom” fed to them over the last 50 years and will resist the message Ms. Teicholz has so thoughtfully crafted. “You’re never too old to learn”, I was advised by my 90-year-old mom this past weekend. Now, if only I can persuade her to read this book, she can begin to enjoy eating real cheese instead of her low-fat cheese substitute!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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Big Fat Surprise (bestseller)

Big Fat nutrition label

A review of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz.

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Get Over It

From This Moment On: An Autobiography by Shania Twain (Atria Books, $27.99, 448 pages; Audioworks/Simon & Schuster Audio, $29.99, 7 CDs)

An autobiography from a 45-year-old?   Oh my, yes!   Shania Twain has done enough living in her 45 years to put most everyone else in her age group into the category of slacker.   Shania’s deep love of music and the comfort it has provided through a really hard life gives her the right to tell her story.   Although she has received the accolades only dreamed about by singer/songwriters the world over, it is doubtful many of them have experienced the level of childhood deprivation and anxiety that motivates her career.

The version reviewed here is an audio book that is unique because the introduction and epilogue are recorded in Shania’s own voice.   The text of the autobiography is read by Broadway actress and writer, Sherie Rene Scott.   Scott’s voice resonates with the simple, straightforward attitude conveyed by Shania’s words.   Most autobiographies are intended to provide the writer’s side of a story or an event of particular note.   In this case, the narrative serves to inform the public that becoming a world-wide success in the music industry is a daunting task with serious downsides.

Ms. Twain, who began her singing career very early in life as Eilleen Twain, did so at the prompting of her mother.   The family often did not have enough to eat or a secure roof over their heads.   The tale is straight out of a mournful country song.   Daddy and mommy are trapped in a cycle of poverty and spousal abuse, the children are forced to become self-indulgent at a very young age, and tragedy strikes just when Eileen thinks she has escaped the grip of her childhood.

There’s no need to dwell on the timeline or life events that serve as milestones.   The internet has taken care of the particulars for anyone who can use Google.   Rather, it is the one-on-one experience of hearing about Shania’s feelings of yearning and betrayal that are the payoff for a reader/listener.   In some way, the audio book seems the best way to experience her life.   True, there’s no checking back a few pages when a particular passage is noteworthy; however, enough of her wisdom comes across in the telling that the essence is clear and well experienced.

One curiosity of note is that the vocabulary and grammar in the book are well beyond the level of formal education that Shania received in her childhood.   She states that when she was out on her own, she spent time writing songs and playing music while her roommates attended college.   Perhaps Shania absorbed the tone of the more educated people around her.   There’s no doubt that she has a great capacity to learn and benefit from her diligent efforts.   That said, a thoughtful and sensitive editor no doubt assisted in making this a compelling read (or listen).

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A copy of the audiobook was purchased by the reviewer’s husband.   From This Moment On is also available as an Audible Audio, Kindle Edition, and Nook Book download.

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Fairy Tale Interrupted

Click on the link below to read the Prologue of the just-released book, Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss by RoseMarie Terenzio.   It’s about the professional life and marriage of John F. Kennedy, Jr.

http://fairytaleinterrupted.com/read-fairy-tale-interrupted

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