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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Where It Began

Where It Began: A Novel by Ann Redisch Stampler (Simon Pulse, $16.99, 384 pages) won’t be released until March 6, 2012, but you can read the first 23 pages now:

http://pages.simonandschuster.com/annstampler?mcd=Z_120103_CLP_WIABegan_SA

This one’s quite engaging, so after you read this excerpt – about a young woman who has to start her life over again after a car accident – you may want to pre-order your Kindle Edition or Nook Book download!   This YA novel includes references to 11 real places in Southern California (Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Van Nuys and Santa Barbara) such as The Apple Pan on West Pico Boulevard – which was known as The Peach Pit on the TV series 90210 – and Mad Dogs on State Street in Santa Barbara.

Joseph Arellano

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Coming Attractions (2012)

Here’s a sampling of new and upcoming books that might well wind up on the to-be-read stack.

The Bungalow: A Novel by Sarah Jio (Plume; December 27, 2011)

We loved The Violets of March by Sarah Jio and thought it was one of the best debut novels of 2011.   Now Jio returns with a quite different type of story set in Bora Bora during World War II.   Wrote reader Laura Bolin on Amazon: “The Bungalow was an old black and white movie straight out of my grandparent’s generation.   I was swept away by Jio’s vivid descriptions and I loved every minute of it.”

Tuesday Night Miracles: A Novel by Kris Radish (Bantam Dell; January 3, 2012)

An entertaining story about an almost-retired counselor who tries to help a group of four women – all of whom have serious pending matters with the legal system – manage their anger issues in court-ordered group counseling sessions.   The women will have to graduate from the group in order to return  to their normal lives.   Oh, and they don’t like each other at all – which means that the counselor is going to have to take some drastic (and perhaps even professionally unethical) actions in order to get them to a kinder and gentler place.

Gun Games: A Novel by Faye Kellerman (William Morrow; January 3, 2012)

Faye Kellerman once again showcases Peter Decker of the Los Angeles Police Department and Rina Lazarus, likely the most popular husband and wife team in modern crime fiction.   A series of shocking adolescent suicides at an elite L. A. private school is at the heart of this thriller.   As if this isn’t enough, there’s  also the fact that Decker and Lazarus have brought a very troubled teenager into their home: Gabriel Whitman, the son of a psychopath.

The Confession: A Novel by Charles Todd (Wm. Morrow; January 12, 2012)

An historical crime novel, continuing Charles Todd’s World War I veteran, and yet still highly effective Scotland Yard Inspector, Ian Rutledge.   Rutledge struggles with a startling and dangerous case that reaches far back into the past when a false confession by a man who was not who he claimed to be resulted in a brutal murder.

Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir by Doron Weber (Simon & Schuster; February 7, 2012)

Not to be confused with Anne Lamott’s novel Imperfect Birds, this is a moving memoir about a boy born with a defective heart – located on the right side of his chest – who weathers major heart surgeries before being hit with a highly unique, perhaps untreatable disease.   Those who years ago read Death Be Not Proud may be drawn to this account.

Spin: A Novel by Catherine McKenzie (Wm. Morrow; February 7, 2012)

Kate’s an ambitious – if self-damaging – reporter who goes undercover.   She enters a drug and alcohol rehab clinic to find out what’s happening with the popular and troubled young actress Amber Shepard.   “Imagine if Bridget Jones fell into a million little pieces, flew over the cuckoo’s nest, and befriended Lindsay Lohan along the way…”

The Lola Quartet: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel (Unbridled Books; May 15, 2012)

We gave a highly recommended rating to Mandel’s 2010 novel The Singer’s Gun, which was as gutsy as it was unique and engaging.   Her third novel examines “questions of identity, the deep pull of family, the difficulties of being the person one wants to be, the un-reliability of memory, and the unforeseen ways a small and innocent action can have disastrous consequences.”   It’s bound to be worth the price of admission.

Joseph Arellano

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The Book of Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, $35.00, 656 pages)

“When Steve Jobs speaks, it is with the enthusiasm of seeing the future and making sure it works.”   Fortune magazine in the late 1970s

“I had a very lucky career, a very lucky life.   I’ve done all that I can do.”   Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the biography by Walter Isaacson (originally entitled, iSteve: The Book of Jobs) is an engaging biography that’s unique in that it allows us to get to know the man even more than the ultra-legend.   This is the amazingly true story of the person who was given up for adoption at birth, and went on to run the most valuable company on the face of the earth.   Although his contemporary and life-long rival Bill Gates outgained him in personal wealth, Jobs succeeded in earning the respect of both computer technology experts and the average consumer as the developer and producer of increasingly better, always innovative products.

Jobs and Gates were two of the individuals – along with Steve Wozniak – who were more or less present at the creation of the personal computer (PC) age.   Jobs and “Woz” were original members of The Homebrew Computer Club, an informal association in Menlo Park that had a hundred or so members; a club that heard a presentation by a young Gates from the Seattle region.   The Whole Earth Catalog was then popular (some of you will need to ask your parents about it), and Jobs was to adopt its motto as one of his guideposts in life, “Stay hungry.   Stay foolish.”

As Isaacson finely illustrates in this account, Jobs was never afraid to make mistakes with his early and later Apple Computer products – he was to learn and absorb valuable lessons from each of his mistakes right up to the time of “Antennagate” with the iPhone (“Has Apple’s Self-Destruction Begun?” was one of the headlines critiquing Jobs’ decision-making early this year).   If Jobs had been a college football coach, he would likely have been one that rarely called for a punt on fourth down; he would have often elected to go for post-TD two-point conversions.   When it came to beating his competitors, Jobs wanted to “leave no doubt.”

“The journey is the reward.”   Steve Jobs

While this book is not intended to be a comprehensive account of the PC and Silicon Valley, it gives us just enough information to understand where Apple fit in among its hardware, software and search technology alternatives such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Compaq, Google, Oracle, Adobe and others.   If you’ve read numerous histories of the era, you will likely be surprised to see how both Larry Ellison and Bill Gates come off as nothing less than gentlemen in this telling.   Ellison was especially close to Jobs, even offering to buy-out Apple Computer after Jobs’ ouster.   But Isaacson is not afraid to show us that Jobs was a human with flaws.   In addition to possessing a temper which he claimed to be unable to control, Jobs “tended to be generally dismissive of philanthropic endeavors.”   This was the case even though his wife founded College Track, an organization making efforts to help economically disadvantaged kids get into college.   Jobs never visited College Track’s after-school centers in the poor high schools where the program was (and is) located.

Like a hammer that sees everything in sight as a nail, Jobs also tended to view technology as the solution to every one of society’s difficult problems…  A very ill Jobs was to personally lecture President Obama on his view that all education should be digital and interactive (physical classrooms, teachers and whiteboards arguably being obsolete); though, in fairness, Bill Gates has made similar comments – some of which are quoted in Steve Jobs.

Isaacson clearly and comprehensively makes his case that  Jobs belongs up there with Edison and Ford as one of the greatest business leaders in American history.   He was a visionary, a big picture guy who could also master the smallest details.   He was a technological artist who was to identify with both fuzzy inventor-creators and detail-oriented engineers.   And he always understood that a sharp focus is the basic key to leadership, “Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time.”

“…he was a brilliant guy with great design taste and great engineering taste.”   Bill Gates

One of Jobs’ ultimate victories was the knowledge that his adopted father had become enormously proud of his successes and achievements.   This fine and detailed account, an initial draft of history, well makes the case that Jobs (creator of the most successful ever consumer product launches) was a man of whom the entire world was proud.   What he sought as his own less than humble legacy was to come true; he sought “…a legacy that would awe people.   A dual legacy, actually: building innovative products and building a lasting company.”

Steve Jobs – the man who saw the future and built it for us.  

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer as a Nook Book download.   It is also available in hardcover form, as a Kindle Edition download, and in abridged and unabridged audiobook versions.

Note: According to this biography, Steve Jobs once met in the late 70s with a class of Stanford University students and showed them a prototype of a laptop computer.   He informed them that this was the type of PC that Apple would be building and selling in the 1980s.   And Apple did so.   Years later, he told a different class at Stanford that they would one day be using PCs “the size of a book.”   And now we have 7″, 8.9″, 9.4″, 9.7″ and 10.1″ tablet PCs. 

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