Blog Posts by Kelley M

Posted by Kelley M on 06/03/15
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I think Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet, stated it best.  This book “is like Crocodile Dundee produced by Monty Python and directed by Woody Allen.”  Albert Podell, the author, recently became the first U.S. citizen known to have visited every single existing country in the world, plus some that are no longer countries (over 190, but who's counting...).  This also brings up the argument of what actually constitutes a country?  Does it need to be recognized by the United Nations?
 
The book is definitely not politically correct.  It is a travel essay book with attitude.  If you are easily offended, this might not be the book for you.  Travelling can be a messy business.  The author gets into the gritty details (disturbing meals, not washing for days on end, bathroom accommodations, etc.).  But, the author is also extremely educated about the countries he visits.  You will learn a lot as you read.
 
When travelling, instead of utilizing the safety, crime and poverty country indexes of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, Podell has developed his own scale that indicates safety, crime and poverty, which utilizes the grade of toilet paper and bathroom accommodations in a given country.  It actually does prove to be a good indicator of safety, crime and poverty, and what to expect when travelling. 
 
The book also offers many unique tips for travelling to unique places (here are a few):
·        Taking heaps of cheap T-shirts with you to use to barter for services and other items in certain countries.
·        How to determine how much gas you will need to purchase to cross a desert.
·        What to do and what not to do in front of visa officers/staff.
 
Summary:   Extremely educational, fun to read, and I think I’ll become a better traveler having read this book.
 
Other similar travel authors/books: Works of Bill Bryson, Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, Michael Palin's travel documentaries, and Tony Hawk’s Round Ireland with a Fridge.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 05/05/15
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Erik Larson, the author of The Devil In The White City, has an amazing talent for turning non-fiction events into spell-binding, detailed and entertaining stories.  His new book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing Of the Lusitania, is no exception.  The great thing about Larson is you don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy his books.  Larson does a great job of telling all sides of the story of the Lusitania, which was once deemed the world’s largest passenger ship.  Despite the seas being declared a war zone by Germany in World War I, the Lusitania continued voyages from New York to Liverpool.  The Lusitania was even outfitted by Great Britain & Cunard to be converted to a warship during wartime, if necessary. 
 
Larson helps you understand the story from a number of perspectives: passengers, the Lusitania ship Captain, President Woodrow Wilson and even the point of view of the German U-Boat Officer who was in charge when the Lusitania was torpedoed.  What never ceases to amaze me is how Larson is able to locate some of the facts that are included in his books and put it all together into something that makes so much sense. 
 
If you’re not used to history-filled non-fiction, I would suggest the audiobook version.  If you’re like me, you’ll want actual pictures of what Larson is describing, even though Larson's descriptions are vivid.  Good pictures can be found in the book The Lusitania: Unravelling The Mysteries by Patrick O’Sullivan, The Unseen Lusitania: The Ship In Rare Illustrations by Eric Saunders and the DVD Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  If you are out of Erik Larson books and need something to read before his next book comes out, you might want to try Jon Krakauer, Nathaniel Philbrick, Douglas Perry or David McCullough.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 04/06/15
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Every time Michelle Moran releases a new book, I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Her latest book, Rebel Queen, did not disappoint. She has previously written historical fiction books about Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Cleopatra’s Daughter, Napoleon’s wife, and Madame Tussaud. Her newest book takes us to a whole different land and era. Rebel Queen tells the story of one of the most famous women of all time in India, Queen Lakshmi (India’s Joan of Arc) and the brave women soldiers (the Durgavasi) who protected her. The story is told from the point of view of Sita, one of Queen Lakshmi’s Durgavasi soldiers. Also interesting was learning more about the lives of women in purdah (the practice among women in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of living in seclusion by means of concealing clothing and the use of high-walled enclosures, screens, and curtains within the home).
 
I have always been of the philosophy that, if a novel of historical fiction is written the right way, it should entice me to further research the era highlighted in the book. Rebel Queen fits this theory. I found the first part of the book to be slow, but steady. The action and plot really picked up towards the last third of the book. It was definitely a read worth finishing. I can’t wait to see what female heroine the author chooses to write about next.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 03/05/15
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I can honestly say that when my husband recommended this audiobook lecture series, Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are, I rolled my eyes, stating that it would be great to use to fall asleep at night.  But, knowing I will soon be traveling overseas, I decided to give the lecture series a try.  I am so glad that I did.  If everyone had to read something like this in school, we might have a better understanding of everyone around us. 
 
Did you know most businesses in Denmark are closed the entire month of July?  How about that you should be punctual in Germany or you might be considered rude?  When in China, if you are at someone's home and eat something unpalatable, you're best to eat it anyway.  When in the Middle East, you may not want to offer your left hand to anyone, for anything.  When in Africa, it is best to make small talk and ask about the health and well-being of one's family before jumping into talk about business.  It's amazing how much smoother the world would work if we knew all these little nuances.
 
The author, Professor David Livermore, has written nine books on the topics of cultural intelligence and global leadership.  The lectures are divided into 30 minutes each, which I found to be just long enough to be informative, but not boring. 
Posted by Kelley M on 02/03/15
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There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…
 
If you like the writing styles of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, Sarah Dunant, Donna Tartt or Tracy Chevalier, you might want to give this historical fiction read a try.  The Miniaturist takes place in seventeenth century Amsterdam.  Nella Ortman, an eighteen-year-old, comes to Amsterdam, to begin her life as a married woman.  She marries Johannes Brandt, a merchant trader, who sails the seas.  She is left to her lonesome quite often with the house servants & Johannes’ harsh sister Marin. 
 
Nella’s husband, Johannes, buys Nella quite the extravagant wedding gift, a furniture-sized model of the Brandt household.  Nella seeks out a miniaturist to make furnishings for the replica-sized home.  The artist starts to make items that mirror life and foretell future happenings. 
 
Through the story, you get a great feel for race, sex and class issues in seventeenth century Europe.  I found that the novel did a good job of transporting me to seventeenth century Amsterdam.  The author has a gift for writing descriptive prose, without overwhelming the reader. This is Jessie Burton’s first novel.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 01/07/15
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A book about the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history…  You know this is going to be interesting. 
 
The author, Malala Yousafzai, was shot by the Taliban due to her belief that women should be educated.  It is easy to forget, living in the United States, that the education of females, unfortunately, is not a right extended to all women in the world.  This book is about overcoming that obstacle and speaking up about it, despite the potentially fatal response.  Yousafzai has been an advocate for girls’ educational rights since the age of 11.  I found it so interesting to hear a Muslim family’s perspective on the Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley in Pashtun.  What a perspective-altering book.  I really think the Washington Post summed up this book best when it said, “Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls… and watch a community change.”  If you find it difficult to get through the memoir in paper-form, give the audiobook a try.  Definitely worth the read.
 
Biography, memoir
Posted by Kelley M on 12/02/14
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Can a story about a teenage latrine cleaner be entertaining enough to read 387 pages?  Absolutely.  Nombeko, the main character of The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, is a self-educated girl from Soweto, who has the chance to save the king of Sweden & the world.  In the book, she claims that the probability of this happening is 1 in 45,766,212,810.  The book is about serious topics: discrimination, nuclear weapons, politics…  But, the book somehow manages to be light-hearted & comedic.  This author truly has a special talent for taking difficult topics & making them entertaining & accessible.  The story contains a unusual, eccentric group of characters.  Moral of the story?  No matter who you are, you might just have a major impact on humanity.
 
The Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson, is a best-selling author overseas.  This is his second novel.  His first novel was The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.
 
Fiction
Posted by Kelley M on 10/31/14
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It’s the perfect type of day for a book like Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.  A little gory, a little creepy…  However, you will learn a bunch by reading this book.  Caitlin Doughty’s book makes you think about a topic that most folks like to avoid: death.  This young woman decided to become a mortician at the age of 23.  The book takes a look at not only the adventures of working at a crematory/mortuary, but also gets into the history of rituals surrounding death, both internationally & nationally. 
 
This book just might change your perspective on what should happen to you after you pass away.  The author makes a depressing topic an interesting and entertaining one.  The book is witty and a quick read.
 
If you liked Mary Roach’s book Stiff or the television series Six Feet Under, you might like this read…
 
Non-Fiction
Posted by Kelley M on 10/01/14
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During my formative years, my parents used reverse psychology on me, allowing me to stay up to watch Johnny Carson if I agreed not to complain about getting up for school in the morning.  I was so excited to read a book about this legendary entertainment powerhouse.  Johnny Carson’s long time lawyer & confidant, Henry Bushkin, is the author of this book.  Mr. Bushkin was sworn to secrecy regarding his interactions as Johnny’s attorney, until Johnny’s death in 2005.  Johnny Carson preferred to keep a low profile in his private life so it was great to gain some perspective on the man behind The Tonight Show.
 
While this book is a work of non-fiction, the pace was fast enough to keep my interest.  Especially interesting were the accounts of Johnny’s relationship with his mother & father, his marriages, details about show guests, Johnny’s travels and how he became the country’s highest-paid entertainer during the ‘70s & ‘80s.  It’s important to keep in mind that this is a biography by a longtime friend who, eventually, had a falling out with Johnny.  How the book has been received has been a bit controversial.  Folks like Doc Severinsen have blasted the tell-all book.  However, it’s worth a read if you would like to learn some juicy details about the “King of Late Night TV”. 
 
Biography
Posted by Kelley M on 09/03/14
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Having enjoyed other books by award winning novelist Jon Krakauer, I decided it was way past time to read this book.  I have always appreciated reading about other cultures & religions, regardless of how “on the fringe” they might be.  Under The Banner Of Heaven delves into the world of religious extremism.  The book is about the extremist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (not to be confused with the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints/Mormonism).  It truly is a whole other world, full of prophecies, power struggles, polygamy and more.  So interesting to read about things I know nothing about!
 
Through the story of two brothers (Ron & Dan Lafferty), who commit murder because of prophecy, we learn more about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Sometimes, I pick up a non-fiction book & struggle to make it through.  Jon Krakauer makes non-fiction truly reader-friendly.  If you like this book, check out the author's other books Into The Wild and Into Thin Air.  Both are non-fiction but totally different than this book.  That's the great thing about this author, every book is totally different.
 
Want recommendations on what to read next? Email advisory@ahml.info and we will be happy to assist you in finding a great book to read.
 
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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
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