Mini Book Review ~ A Brief History of Oversharing

A Brief History of Oversharing: One Ginger’s Anthology of Humiliation

by Shawn Hitchins
Audio book version


Synopsis:
Musings from a “one-man flash mob” (Toronto Star)

Comedian Shawn Hitchins explores his irreverent nature in this debut collection of essays. Hitchins doesn’t shy away from his failures or celebrate his mild successes – he sacrifices them for an audience’s amusement. He roasts his younger self, the effeminate ginger-haired kid with a competitive streak. The ups and downs of being a sperm donor to a lesbian couple. Then the fiery redhead professes his love for actress Shelley Long, declares his hatred of musical theatre, and recounts a summer spent in Provincetown working as a drag queen.


Nothing is sacred. His first major break-up, how his mother plotted the murder of the family cat, his difficult relationship with his father, becoming an unintentional spokesperson for all redheads, and ̶m̶a̶n̶d̶y̶ ̶m̶o̶o̶r̶e̶ many more.


Blunt, awkward, emotional, ribald, this anthology of humiliation culminates in a greater understanding of love, work, and family. Like the final scene in a Murder She Wrote episode, A Brief History of Oversharing promises everyone the a-ha! moment Oprah tells us to experience. Paired with bourbon, Scottish wool, and Humpty Dumpty Party Mix, this journey is best heard through a lens of schadenfreude.


My thoughts: A cute, funny audiobook read by the author. A group of essays that outline his humiliation through life. I found it easy to listen to and snarky at times. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Shawn Hutchins, and the publisher.


A Brief History of Oversharing


Publisher: ECW Press
Narrator: Shawn Hitchins
Publication: Apr 10, 2018
Unabridged 6 hours 15 minutes
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author
Shawn Hitchins is the author of “The Light Streamed Beneath It” (ECW’ 21) and “A Brief History of Oversharing” (ECW’ 17). His one-man show “Ginger Nation” toured extensively before being filmed in concert (Amazon Prime/OUTtv). Hitchins is an award-winning entertainer, writer, personality, and creator of live performance.

Hitchins was featured on CBC’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers, and Here & Now, and his work garnered notices from the Guardian, GayTimes UK, BuzzFeed, CNN, BBC, BBC World Service, TimeOut NY, Etalk, The Social, and The Toronto Star.

Shawn is a frequent contributor to CBCArts. He is an advocate for affordable mental healthcare and embodiment. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Shawn is in the process of relocating to the Los Angeles area.


The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

by Sam Kean


Synopsis:
From New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold history of science’s darkest secrets.


Science is a force for good in the world – at least usually. But sometimes, when obsession gets the better of scientists, they twist a noble pursuit into something sinister. Under this spell, knowledge isn’t everything, it’s the only thing – no matter the cost. Best-selling author Sam Kean tells the true story of what happens when unfettered ambition pushes otherwise rational men and women to cross the line in the name of science, trampling ethical boundaries and often committing crimes in the process.


The Icepick Surgeon masterfully guides the listener across 2,000 years of history, beginning with Cleopatra’s dark deeds in ancient Egypt. The book reveals the origins of much of modern science in the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700s, as well as Thomas Edison’s mercenary support of the electric chair and the warped logic of the spies who infiltrated the Manhattan Project. But the sins of science aren’t all safely buried in the past. Many of them, Kean reminds us, still affect us today. We can draw direct lines from the medical abuses of Tuskegee and Nazi Germany to current vaccine hesitancy, and connect icepick lobotomies from the 1950s to the contemporary failings of mental-health care. Kean even takes us into the future, when advanced computers and genetic engineering could unleash whole new ways to do each other wrong.

Unflinching, and exhilarating to the last page, The Icepick Surgeon fuses the drama of scientific discovery with the illicit thrill of a true-crime tale. With his trademark wit and precision, Kean shows that, while science has done more good than harm in the world, rogue scientists do exist, and when we sacrifice morals for progress, we often end up with neither.


My thoughts: An easy to listen to story, narrated by the author, who has a pleasant reading voice. Filled with tales of scientists who crossed the line in their endeavors to further knowledge. It even calls out Cleopatra for being the first to do so, trying to determine the sex of unborn children. Some great stories in here. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Clavin, and the publisher.


The Icepick Surgeon


Publisher: Hachette Audio – Little, Brown, & Co.
Publication: July 13th, 2021
My rating: 4/5

About the author– Sam Kean is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bastard Brigade, Caesar’s Last Breath (the Guardian’s Science Book of the Year), The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, The Violinist’s Thumb, and The Disappearing Spoon. He is also a two-time finalist for the PEN / E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His work has appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and he has been featured on NPR’s Radiolab, All Things Considered, Science Friday, and Fresh Air. His podcast, The Disappearing Spoon, debuted at #1 on the iTunes science charts. Kean lives in Washington DC.


Ridgeline

by Michael Punke

Synopsis:
In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier–a clash of cultures between a young, ambitious nation and the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.

As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, seeks to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.

Throughout this taut saga–based on real people and events–Michael Punke brings the same immersive, vivid storytelling and historical insight that made his breakthrough debut so memorable. As Ridgeline builds to its epic conclusion, it grapples with essential questions of conquest and justice that still echo today.


My thoughts: Having really enjoyed Punke’s previous work, The Revenant, I didn’t hesitate when offered a chance to read this new book, Ridgeline. I’ve long had a fascination with the old West, my favorite movie it Tombstone. I’m glad I read this book, as it was just what I needed for a change of pace. Wonderfully written and it kept me involved the entire book with the descriptive writing and action. I was provided a complimentary copy by the author and publisher.


Ridgeline

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co – 384
Publication: Jun 1st , 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author– Michael Punke serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also served on the White House National Security Council staff and on Capitol Hill. He was formerly the history correspondent for “Montana Quarterly, “and an adjunct professor at the University of Montana. He is the author of “Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mine Disaster of 1917, “and “Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West. “His family home is in Montana.


Book Review – LIGHTENING DOWN

Lightning Down: A World War II Story of Survival

by Tom Clavin


Synopsis:
The incredible true story of fighter pilot Joe Moser’s war in the sky and secret survival at Buchenwald during World War II.

On August 13, 1944, Joe Moser set off on his 44th combat mission over occupied France. Soon, he would join almost 150 other Allied airmen as prisoners in Buchenwald, one of the most notorious and deadly of Nazi concentration camps. Tom Clavin’s Lightning Down tells this largely untold and riveting true story.

Moser was just 22 years old, a farmboy from Washington State who fell in love with flying. During the war he realized his dream of piloting a P-38 Lightning, one of the most effective weapons the Army Air Corps had against the powerful German Luftwaffe. But on that hot August morning he had to bail out of his damaged, burning plane. Captured immediately, Moser’s journey into hell began.

Joe Moser and his courageous comrades from England, Canada, New Zealand, and elsewhere endured against impossible odds in the most horrific surroundings… until the day the orders are issued by Hitler himself to execute them. Only a most desperate plan might save them.

The page-turning momentum of Lightning Down is like that of a thriller, but the stories of imprisoned and brutalized airmen are true and told in unforgettable detail, led by the distinctly American voice of Joe Moser, who prays every day to be reunited with his family.

Lightning Down is a can’t-put-down inspiring saga of brave men confronting great evil and great odds against survival.


My thoughts: I found this book written by Tom Clavin to be a winner. The story of Joe Moser and his experiences after going into the service is just outstanding. I enjoy many books on World War II, and this is a good one. Clavin became a fighter pilot, which was his dream, and he had some hairy times in the air. But many of his pilot friends didn’t make it back. Clavin eventually had his plane damaged and had to bail out. He was sent to a concentration camp and things became very harrowing after that. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Clavin, and the publisher.


Lightning Down


Publisher: St Martin’s Press – 320 pages
Publication: Nov 2nd, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author– TOM CLAVIN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and has worked as a newspaper and web site editor, magazine writer, TV and radio commentator, and a reporter for The New York Times. He has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, and National Newspaper Association. His books include The Heart of Everything That Is and the bestselling Frontier trilogy, Dodge City, Wild Bill and Tombstone. He lives in Sag Harbor, NY. 


BOOK REVIEW ~ The Real Diana Dors

by Anna Cale


Synopsis:
The story of Swindon-born film star Diana Dors is one of fame, glamour and intrigue. From the moment she came into the world, her life was full of drama. Her acting career began in the shadow of the Second World War, entering the film world as a vulnerable young teenager and negotiating the difficult British studio system of the 1940s and 50s. Yet she battled against the odds to become one of the most iconic British actors of the 20th century.

This book follows her remarkable story, from childhood in suburban Swindon, to acting success as a teenager and finding fame as the ‘the English Marilyn Monroe’. Many remember her as an outspoken and sometimes controversial figure, grabbing headlines for her personal life as often as her film roles. For Diana, image seemed to be everything, but there was more to her than the ‘blonde bombshell’ reputation suggested. A talented actor, she worked on numerous film and television projects, building a fascinating career that spanned decades.

Set against the backdrop of the changing social landscape of twentieth century Britain, this book charts the ups and downs of her diverse acting career and her tumultuous private life, to build a fascinating picture of a truly unique British screen icon.


My thoughts: I was wanting to learn about the actress Diana Dors, so I picked up this book on her. It tells about her ups and downs as she began working towards her early goal of being a star. She started as a teenager, learning the ropes, studying acting, and went on to get a start in the industry. Her love life certainly didn’t help her career any. This is an interesting book on her, sharing what she went through. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Anna Cale, and the publisher.


The Real Diana Dors


Publisher: Pen & Sword – 208 pages
Publication: Sept 30th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Anna Cale is an arts and culture writer who specialises in classic film and television. She has written for a number of publications and websites, including Little White Lies, Film Stories and the British Film Institute, and has also appeared on Radio 4.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Victim Eleven


by Tom Chorneau

Synopsis:
Cole’s house had been on the market for only a couple of weeks before the arrest. He’d never heard of the guy—a seventy-two-year-old retiree living in another part of Sacramento County—but the cops said he was the Golden State Killer, who was suspected of committing at least fifty rapes and more than a dozen murders back in the 1970s.


The mailman said one of the attacks took place inside Cole’s house.

So Cole, an investigative reporter by trade, set out to confirm that the crime actually took place, and who committed the murder. Along the way, he found something even more compelling. All this time, the cops had been sitting on evidence that the Golden State Killer had an accomplice.


My thoughts: I wanted to add this to my list of things I’ve read on the Golden State Killer, and did. Its a well written story that kept me involved to the end. Thriller mysteries aren’t usually my thing, but it was worth the read. Just thinking about there being another DeAngelo type out there is creepy. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Chorneau, and the publisher.


Victim Eleven

Publisher: Dart Frog Blue –
Publication: Jun 30th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Tom Chorneau is an award-winning journalist with more than three decades in the news business. He has served as a reporter and staff writer at a number of outlets including the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle and his work has appeared in many publications including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Scotland Yard’s Casebook of Serious Crime

Scotland Yard’s Casebook of Serious Crime: Seventy-five Years of No-Nonsence Policing

by Dick Kirby


Synopsis:
Times change and not always for the better. Dick Kirby, a former experienced Met detective and now best-selling author, maintains that the current politically correct culture coupled with an inept Crown Prosecution Service and aided and abetted by the Police & Criminal Evidence Act, has slowed the pursuit of criminals and justice to a snail’s pace.


As this gripping book clearly demonstrates it was not always so. During the 20th Century, uniformed officers were visibly part of the community, patrolling their beats and protecting the public’s property. Detectives detected, cultivated informants and, like their uniform counterparts, knew the characters on their manor. What’s more, they were backed by their senior officers, who had on-the-job experience.


Drawing on both celebrated and lesser known cases, the author vividly describes crime fighting against merciless gangsters, desperate gunmen, inept kidnappers, vicious robbers, daring burglars and ruthless blackmailers. Using his first-hand knowledge he highlights the often unconventional methods used to frustrate and outwit hardened criminals and the satisfaction gained from successful operations.


My thoughts: Another good true crime read by Dick Kirby, about the ins and outs of policing over the last 75 years. Well researched and full of cases, I enjoyed this one a lot. Many great stories about this time period regarding the pursuit of criminals. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Dick Kirby, and the publisher.


Scotland Yard’s Casebook of Serious Crime

Publisher: Pen & Sword – 224 pages
Publication: Jun 30th , 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Dick Kirby was born in the East End of London and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1967. Half of his twenty-six years’ service was spent with Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Squad and the Flying Squad.

Kirby contributes to newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, as well as appearing on television and radio. The Guv’nors, The Sweeney, Scotland Yard’s Ghost Squad, Brave Line Death on the Beat, Scourge of Soho, Crime and Corruption at The Yard and London Gangs at War are all published under the Wharncliffe True Crime imprint and he has further other published works to his credit. On retirement he lives near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Kirby can be visited at his website: http://www.dickkirby.com.

BOOK REVIEW ~ Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond: Secrets of a Private Flight Attendant

by Saskia Swann and Nicola Stow


Synopsis:
Brace yourself for a turbulent read in this hilarious and scandalous memoir, filled with shocking true stories that give a rare insight into life behind the scenes of a private jet’s cabin crew.


Heavily in debt, and earning peanuts as a ‘trolley dolly’, Saskia Swann desperately needed to get her life back on track. After a chance meeting, she landed a job as cabin crew – but this time on a private jet. 


Suddenly, she found herself transported into the glittering world of oligarchs and billionaires where the hostesses wear Prada, seven-course meals are served on fine china, the bodyguards carry guns, and the mile-high shenanigans not only take place in luxury cabins, but in the cockpit itself. 


Saskia soon realised that the job wasn’t quite what it seemed though: her billionaire boss expected far more from his hostesses than just cocktails and nibbles…
In this gripping exposé, Saskia Swann pulls back the first-class curtain on the lifestyles of the mega-rich and famous. 


My thoughts: I love the whole premise of this book, and it reads easily. Saskia Swann seems to have an eye, or the luck, to see the next thing in her life coming, rather than just waiting around to see what life is going to toss to her. Saskia is loving her job as a private flight attendant, and her coworkers a great deal. Things get a lot shakier once she learns what her current boss is expecting her to agree to. The books shows some behind the scenes looks at different lifestyles and cultures of the high flying. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Saskia Swann and Nicola Stow, and the publisher.


Above and Beyond


Publisher: Lume Books – 257 pages
Publication: Jun 3rd, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the authors– Saskia Swann worked for six years for one of the world’s leading airlines before becoming a corporate flight attendant on private jets. She lives outside London. Nicola Stow has been a journalist for more than 20 years working for leading newspapers and magazines. She is also the co-author of Cabin Fever: The Sizzling Secrets of a Virgin Air Hostess by Mandy Smith.


My Update for the blog.

I’m just wanting to let everyone know that I am back in the hospital again, with a large stone blocking my kidney. This was as bad as the last time. I was even in here on my birthday, which hurt the most, I believe. There is much improvement again, but I knew something else was happening, and sure enough they came and told me that I have an infection in my blood now that has to be treated/dealt with. So first the infection, 28 days on IV medication, Then the stone and stent. What a fun summer haha.

But I hope you are well and keeping good, as always,

I,ll be back!

Val

BOOK REVIEW ~ Shakespeare’s Gardens

by Jackie Bennett and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Photographs by Andrew Lawson


Synopsis:
Shakespeare’s Gardens is a highly illustrated, informative book about the gardens that William Shakespeare knew as a boy and tended as a man, published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April 2016. This anniversary will be the focus of literary celebration of the man’s life and work throughout the English speaking world and beyond. The book will focus on the gardens that Shakespeare knew, including the five gardens in Stratford upon Avon in which he gardened and explored. From his birthplace in Henley Street, to his childhood playground at Mary Arden’s Farm, to his courting days at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and his final home at New Place – where he created a garden to reflect his fame and wealth. Cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, these gardens are continually evolving to reflect our ongoing knowledge of his life. The book will also explore the plants that Shakespeare knew and wrote about in 17th century England: their use in his work and the meanings that his audiences would have picked up on – including mulberries, roses, daffodils, pansies, herbs and a host of other flowers. More than four centuries after the playwright lived, whenever we think of thyme, violets or roses, we more often than not still remember a quote from the 39 plays and 154 sonnets written by him.


My thoughts: Originally published March 3, 2016, this book is a biography using gardens that Shakespeare was very familiar with at different times in his life. It’s just bursting with beautifully done photos and information on the bard and many of the flowers and plants that he often worked into his writings. It’s a great look at the various types of gardens that were around in Shakespeare’s time, and how they’ve evolved. This is put together for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death for those that are interested in him and gardening. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Jackie Bennett, and the publisher.


Shakespeare’s Gardens


Publisher: Frances Lincoln – 192 pages
Publication: May 11th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the authorJackie Bennett is a former editor of The Garden Design Journal, the English Garden Magazine and Gardening with the National Trust. She began her career in television, producing gardening and natural history programmes before become a full time writer. In 1990, she won an award for nature writing in the BBC Wildlife Magazine Awards and her books include The Wildlife Garden Month by Month (David & Charles 1990 — reissued in 2011), The Cottage Garden and Wild About the Garden (1997 a Channel 4 tie-in book for the TV series presented by Carol Klein). She won the Garden Writer’s Guild Gardening Column of the Year 2009 for a series about her own Norfolk garden. Jackie has studied garden design and landscape history. She runs writing workshops for the Society of Garden Designers and for the Cambridge and Oxford Botanic Gardens.

Andrew Lawson is widely regarded as England’s leading garden photographer. He has provided the photographs for many books, including Good Planting by Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse on Gardening, Designing Gardens by Arabella Lennox Boyd, Little Sparta (9780711220850) by Jessie Sheeler, The Garden at Highgrove by HRH Prince of Wales, and The English Garden by Ursula Buchan and The New English Garden also by Tim Richardson. He holds the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal for Photography and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Garden Writer’s Guild. His garden in Oxfordshire is open under the National Gardens Scheme.