Book Review ARC ~ Funny Farm

Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals

by Laurie Zaleski


Synopsis:
Funny Farm is an inspiring and moving memoir of the author’s turbulent lifewith 600 rescue animals.

Laurie Zaleski never aspired to run an animal rescue; that was her mother Annie’s dream. But from girlhood, Laurie was determined to make the dream come true. Thirty years later as a successful businesswoman, she did it, buying a 15-acre farm deep in the Pinelands of South Jersey. She was planning to relocate Annie and her caravan of ragtag rescues—horses and goats, dogs and cats, chickens and pigs—when Annie died, just two weeks before moving day. In her heartbreak, Laurie resolved to make her mother’s dream her own. In 2001, she established the Funny Farm Animal Rescue outside Mays Landing, New Jersey. Today, she carries on Annie’s mission to save abused and neglected animals.

Funny Farm is Laurie’s story: of promises kept, dreams fulfilled, and animals lost and found. It’s the story of Annie McNulty, who fled a nightmarish marriage with few skills, no money and no resources, dragging three kids behind her, and accumulating hundreds of cast-off animals on the way. And lastly, it’s the story of the brave, incredible, and adorable animals that were rescued.


My thoughts: I flew through this wonderful book in one night. I wasn’t sure what I would think of it, but after reading it, I am happy to say I loved it. The author tells her story of growing up in a dysfunctional family until one day her mother finally got the gumption to leave their dad. They moved into a half a house that was in sad disrepair, but the rent was cheap. It’s a story of her mother and how she made the place into a home and found ways to keep the kids fed. Annie had a deep love for animals, and working at an animal shelter, she gradually began to bring home the ones that no one wanted. It started when they needed a dog to keep intruders away from the house, and snowballed from there. Uplifting and inspiring, recommended. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Laurie Zaleski, and the publisher.


Funny Farm


Publisher: St. Martins Press – 256 pages
Publication: Sept 7th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author: LAURIE ZALESKI is the founder of the Funny Farm, a charitable organization located in Mizpah, New Jersey. Since 2000, the farm has welcomed all kinds of rescue animals. Laurie is also the founder, president and CEO of Art-Z Graphics. She has been named a New Jersey Heartland Hero, is listed in the 2019 Who’s Who of Professional Women, and has received numerous awards and acknowledgments for her work to save animals and educate the public about animal abuse. 


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 ~ The Queen and Prince Philip

The Queen and Prince Philip: The Early Years

by Helen Cathcart


Synopsis:

A celebration of the love story between Britain’s longest reigning monarch and her royal consort. 


If I am asked today what I think about family life after 25 years of marriage, I can reply with simplicity and conviction. I am for it.’ – The Queen, 20th November 1972

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip enjoyed seventy-three years of happy married life together – the longest marriage of any royal British couple in history.


But how did they meet? What did their families think of their burgeoning relationship? What obstacles did the young couple face before and after their marriage? And how did a childhood friendship grow into the love story of the century?

In The Queen and Prince Philip royal biographer Helen Cathcart superbly reconstructs the early years of Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship, tracing their growing affection from the summer of 1939, when ‘Lilibet’ was a teenager and Philip a dashing navy cadet, through their wartime courtship and magnificent wedding in 1947 at Westminster Abbey. She skillfully narrates their adjustment to new parenthood in Clarence House and how, shortly afterwards, both their lives changed forever when Elizabeth ascended the throne as Queen in 1952 and Philip became Prince Consort.

Set against a revealing background of family and wider social events, this is the first full story of their early years together as husband and wife documented from family letters, royal journals and the personal recollections of those close to the royal couple.


My Thoughts: With Prince Philip’s passing a week ago, I was very interested in reading this new book about his and Queen Elizabeth’s lives together. I found this book on their early years and its just perfect for what I wanted. A love story for the ages. Its part of The Royal House of Windsor, which has 2 books, this one and The Queen Mother. Prince Philip is being laid to rest today and is certainly on the minds of millions. He was 99 years old, and they had a very long and happy marriage of 73 years, which I believe I read is a royal record. It’s an amazingly long time for a couple to be together and it highlights the love story and good match between these two.

I found the book to be an enjoyable relating of their early years together, taken from family letters, royal journals, and personal memories of those who knew them best. Recommended. I will be reading the other book in this set next when it comes out on April 28th, since I liked this one so well. I found an article in the New York Times/SunSentinel from November 1997 which claims that Helen Cathcart is actually the pen name for one Harold Albert who died on October 20th, 1997 at the age of 88. So I’m very puzzled who the real author of this new book is. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1997-11-10-9711090167-story.html Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Helen Cathcart, and the publisher.


The Queen and Prince Philip
Back cover


Publisher: Sapere Books – 229 pages
Published: Apr 14th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the Author– I found an article in the New York Times/SunSentinel from November 1997 which claims that Helen Cathcart is actually the pen name for one Harold Albert who died on October 20th, 1997 at the age of 88. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1997-11-10-9711090167-story.html So who wrote this book?


Book Review ~ MY NAME IS SELMA

My Name is Selma: The Remarkable Memoir of a Jewish Resistance Fighter and Ravensbruck Survivor

by Selma van de Perre


Synopsis:
An international bestseller, this powerful memoir by a ninety-eight-year-old Jewish Resistance fighter and Ravensbrück concentration camp survivor “shows us how to find hope in hopelessness and light in the darkness” (Edith Eger, author of The Choice and The Gift).

Selma van de Perre was seventeen when World War II began. She lived with her parents, two older brothers, and a younger sister in Amsterdam, and until then, being Jewish in the Netherlands had not presented much of an issue. But by 1941 it had become a matter of life or death. On several occasions, Selma barely avoided being rounded up by the Nazis. While her father was summoned to a work camp and eventually hospitalized in a Dutch transition camp, her mother and sister went into hiding—until they were betrayed in June 1943 and sent to Auschwitz. In an act of defiance and with nowhere else to turn, Selma took on an assumed identity, dyed her hair blond, and joined the Resistance movement, using the pseudonym Margareta van der Kuit. For two years “Marga” risked it all. Using a fake ID, and passing as non-Jewish, she traveled around the country and even to Nazi headquarters in Paris, sharing information and delivering papers—doing, as she later explained, what “had to be done.”

But in July 1944 her luck ran out. She was transported to Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp as a political prisoner. Without knowing the fate of her family—her father died in Auschwitz, and her mother and sister were killed in Sobibor—Selma survived by using her alias, pretending to be someone else. It was only after the war ended that she could reclaim her identity and dared to say once again: My name is Selma.

“We were ordinary people plunged into extraordinary circumstances,” Selma writes. Full of hope and courage, this is her story in her own words.


My thoughts: I feel this book is well written and engaging. It tells the story of Selma van de Perre and her experiences during the 2nd World War living in the Netherlands with her family. When they all end up in different directions, leaving Selma the last one, she has to figure out the best way to avoid being picked up by the Nazis. She changes her name and her look to seem non-Jewish, becoming Margareta van der Kuit, and blonde too.

If you are a reader of this type of book, as I am, you may want to check this one out. This book comes out May 11th. This is my second book about women resistance fighters in the last few months. They sure are some very brave ladies with some harrowing stories to tell. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Selma van de Perre, and the publisher.


My Name is Selma

Publisher: Scribner – 224 pages
Publication: May 11th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author– Selma van de Perre was a member of the Dutch resistance organization TD Group during World War II. Shortly after the war she moved to London, where she worked for the BBC and met her future husband, the Belgian journalist Hugo van de Perre. For a number of years she also worked as foreign correspondent for a Dutch television station. In 1983 Selma van de Perre received the Dutch Resistance Commemoration Cross. She lives in London and has a son.


Book Review (ARC) ~ AUTOPSY

Autopsy: Life in the trenches with a forensic pathologist in Africa

by Ryan Blumenthal

Synopsis:
As a medical detective of the modern world, forensic pathologist Ryan Blumenthal’s chief goal is to bring perpetrators to justice. He has performed thousands of autopsies, which have helped bring numerous criminals to book.


In Autopsy he covers the hard lessons learnt as a rookie pathologist, as well as some of the most unusual cases he’s encountered. During his career, for example, he has dealt with high-profile deaths, mass disasters, death by lightning and people killed by African wildlife.

Blumenthal takes the reader behind the scenes at the mortuary, describing a typical autopsy and the instruments of the trade. He also shares a few trade secrets, like how to establish when a suicide is more likely to be a homicide.


Even though they cannot speak, the dead have a lot to say – and Blumenthal is there to listen.


My thoughts: I often find these kinds of books fascinating, where people who do autopsies share some of their more strange or famous cases. I can think of at least 2 TV shows about a similar subject, one where the lead was a male, and one where the lead was a female. I was a fan of both shows. Being curious about death is pretty natural, I believe. This book, by Ryan Blumenthal discusses cases in Africa, which makes it unique from the start. There are a certain number of people killed by large wildlife, insects, lightening, even malaria. There are a wide array of deaths, related by the author in an interesting manner from his early years of his time at that profession. A read on the shorter side for those who are interested in this sort of medicolegal mystery. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ryan Blumenthal, and the publisher.


Autopsy

Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers – 159 pages
Publication: Apr 13th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Senior specialist forensic pathologist and associate professor at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Forensic Medicine. His chief field of interest is the pathology of trauma of lightning (keraunopathology). He has been involved in the publication of numerous articles and textbooks on lightning and electrothermal injuries and has helped generate both national- and international standard operating procedures and guidelines for lightning strike fatality and electrocution victims.


BOOK REVIEW ~ They Called Him a Gangster

They Called Him a Gangster: My Secret Life with Meyer Lansky, the Financial Genius Behind the Mafia


 

Synopsis:
A powerful memoir about a secret life with the head of the mafia.

Only few people are well acquainted with Meyer Lansky, known as the ‘Mob’s Accountant’ who, in his youth, managed the investments of the New York mafia and was considered one of the leading figures of the city’s underworld.

Most of the stories known to the public are related to his past illegal activities. But as we are all aware, there is more than one side to every story.

The Other Side of the Story is a captivating biography that sheds a positive new light on the character of the “Gangster”.
Zali de Toledo was a teenager who arrived in Israel into a new culture, wishing simply to make a fresh start in her beloved country.

While working as a waitress in the “Dan” hotel lobby, the two met, as fate would have it. Soon, an intimate relationship developed between them and their secret love blossomed and flourished.

In this riveting unique memoir, de Toledo reveals the powerful love affair she had with Lansky, the hundreds of letters he wrote to her over the years, the other personality and sensitivity of the man who was, in the eyes of many, a criminal, the little things between him and her, and the tough decisions they had to make.


 

My thoughts:  This isn’t your typical gangster memoir, I found. It has a whole different angle and flavor to it. Be prepared for something different from your usual mob book. This is more intellectual and political, dealing with current affairs of the time, and affairs of the heart too, you could say. I enjoyed reading this book because it was different from your usual shoot-em-up gangster title, and more of a love story, with the very-married Lansky trying to return to Jerusalem to spend some time with his mistress. His detractors have been keeping him away based on his former bootlegging reputation, while his health declines. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, the author Zali de Toledo, and publisher BooksGoSocial, for my unbiased review.


 

GangsterMeyer


 

Publisher: BooksGoSocial – 250 pages
Publication: Aug 2nd, 2020
My rating: 3/5 Stars


 

From the author– Meyer Lansky always said that the truth has three realities: mine, yours and the truth’s own. So many books and articles have been written and movies have been made about him, mostly based on the FBI files or hearsay. In the 70’s, Gabriel Bach, former State Attorney and then Judge of the Supreme Court of Israel, brought these files over, and they found their way to Prof. Walkaway, a historian at the Tel Aviv University, who told me there was nothing for which Meyer could be put on trial.

I have written here my side of the story, the other truth, from Meyer’s point of view, as per his own words in the many letters he wrote to me.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Gentle on my Mind

Gentle on my Mind: In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell


Synopsis:
The page-turning, never-before-told story of Kim Campbell’s roller-coaster thirty-four-year marriage to music legend Glen Campbell, including how Kim helped Glen finally conquer his addictions only to face their greatest challenge when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Kim Campbell was a fresh-faced twenty-two-year-old dancer at Radio City Music Hall when a friend introduced her to Glen Campbell, the chart-topping, Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated entertainer. The two performers from small Southern towns quickly fell in love, a bond that produced a thirty-four-year marriage and three children.

In Gentle on My Mind, Kim tells the complete, no-holds-barred story of their relationship, recounting the highest of highs—award shows, acclaimed performances, the birth of their children, encounters with Mick Fleetwood, Waylon Jennings, Alan Jackson, Alice Cooper, Jane Seymour, and others—and the lowest of lows, including battles with alcohol and drug addiction and, finally, Glen’s diagnosis, decline, and death from Alzheimer’s.

With extraordinary candor, astonishing bravery, and a lively sense of humor, Kim reveals the whole truth of life with an entertainment giant and of caring for and loving him amid the extraordinary challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. This is a remarkable account of enduring love, quiet strength, and never-faltering faith.


 

My thoughts:  This was a wonderful though ultimately sad read. I’d seen the documentary a few years back that I found so profound, and this was the perfect follow-up to it. So very moving, it shares a lot more about Glen’s background I didn’t know. Their love story is also rather amazing by itself, with some major challenges, but Kim was in it for life. I do think this really shined a light on Alzheimer’s and got people thinking and talking about it. Not to be missed by real Glen Campbell fans, or those with an interest in Alzheimer’s. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, the author Kim Campbell, and publisher Thomas Nelson for my unbiased review.


GentleMind


Publisher: Thomas Nelson – 304 pages
Publication: June 23rd, 2020
My rating: 5/5 Stars


The Author- Kim Campbell was married to legendary country/pop star Glen Campbell for thirty-four years until his passing in August of 2017, following a long and very public battle with Alzheimer’s. The award-winning documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, shared their family’s journey with the world and opened up a national conversation about the disease. Kim’s work as an advocate for people with dementia and for their families has taken her to Capitol Hill and the United Nations, and she is the creator of a website called CareLiving.org that encourages, informs, and inspires caregivers to take care of themselves while caring for others. She also established the Kim and Glen Campbell Foundation to advance the use of music as medicine to unlock forgotten memories, restore and rebuild neural pathways, alleviate depression, manage behaviors and boost cognition. Kim is an honorary faculty member of the Erickson school of Aging Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, holds a BFA from East Carolina University, and studied interior design at UCLA. To book Kim for speaking engagements, go to apbspeakers.com.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Cali Girl

Cali Girl how did you make it in the Treacherous Streets of Detroit


Description: Through the eyes of the author, this Autobiography is a very inspirational read.
A young woman shares her journey with the world, to help them relate to her experience. She took a chance and wore her heart on her sleeve. This stories unique twist involves a young woman who crosses the country as a “Cali Girl” and then steps in the treacherous streets of Detroit. There she finds herself living different life styles that are similar to millions of reader’s stories. The similarity will help connects the world with this beautiful woman’s testimony.

At first she couldn’t see what her journey had in store for her. It wasn’t until her life changed for the better, a young woman started to see the truth from her experiences. This woman’s started to see the truth from her experiences. This woman’s true story helps people heal from sexual, physical, mental, verbal abuse, as well as death loss, addiction issues, abandonment issues, and any transitional change that may affect a person.


 

My thoughts: This is a different kind of biography that follows this young lady as she goes from one place to another, one city and state to another, trying to find where she fits in and belongs. Never really feeling wanted, because of her childhood, she moves herself on at times, after she’s an adult if things don’t feel comfortable. It’s a tough way to live, especially when she goes to Detroit, Michigan to meet a female, hoping for a relationship to blossom. One did for a while, but ultimately it doesn’t work out and she has to find somewhere else to stay.

Once again, she finds herself where she really knows almost no one, and is unfamiliar with the streets, the bad areas, etc. I enjoyed the book as I’m from Michigan (near the Flint area) and wanted to see how her time went in Detroit of that time. I found it interesting of course, as a snapshot of her experiences of that time and place. The writing needs the guiding hand of an editor to do a bit of massaging, but it is an honest read.  Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tianna Jones, and the publisher.


 

CaliGirl


 

Publisher: URLink Print & Media – 264 pages
Publication: Oct 8th, 2019
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Silver Swan

The Silver Swan:  In Search of Doris Duke


 

Such a mysterious person, this Doris Duke. It’s almost like she didn’t want anything much of herself left behind for posterity, as she was going to live as she pleased. And she certainly had the money and will to do so. The author was granted free rein to go through Duke’s papers for this book, but she just didn’t write letters much, and shunned publicity, as she was hyper-private. Doris was a very tall, athletic woman, at least six foot in her prime, and she enjoyed physical activities like swimming in the ocean and tennis. I’ve read a previous book about her years ago, but I don’t recall much from it. Much seems to be made of her being expunged from the Social Register, but it seems to have meant nothing to Doris herself, who probably made light of the fact.

I enjoyed reading about her life, her marriages, her parents and brother, along with the power company and university and offshoots that the family left as their legacy. I’ve always enjoyed reading about philanthropists and imagined being able to do that and how it must feel so wonderful to help others and leave behind something that will live on and do good things for people long after you are gone. It’s just too bad Doris Duke didn’t leave more of herself behind for us to get to know her better. It doesn’t really feel like there’s much of her in the book, despite all of the paperwork that was used to research her, she still seems quite ephemeral and out of reach.  Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Sallie Bingham, and the publisher.


 

DORISDUKE


 

Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux – 338 pages
Publication:  Apr 7, 2020
My review:  3.5/5 Stars


 

The Author- Sallie Bingham is the author of several memoirs, short-story collections, novels, plays, and poetry collections. Her work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in the Atlantic, New Letters, Southwest Review, and other publications. Sallie’s books include Passion & Prejudice and The Silver Swan.