Book Review: HE WANTED THE MOON by Mimi Baird

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Dr. Perry Baird, a rising medical star in the late 1920s and 1930s, presciently began to study the biochemical root of manic depression, just as he began to suffer from it himself. By the time the results of his groundbreaking experiments were published, Dr. Baird had been institutionalized multiple times, his medical license revoked, and his family estranged. He later received a lobotomy and died from a consequent seizure, his research incomplete, his achievements unrecognized.

Mimi Baird grew up never fully knowing her father’s story. Decades later, a string of surprising coincidences led to the recovery of a manuscript that Dr. Baird had worked on throughout his brutal institutionalization, confinement, and escape. This remarkable document, reflecting periods of both manic exhilaration and clear-headed health, presents a startling portrait of a man who was a uniquely astute observer of his own condition, struggling with a disease for which there was no cure, racing against time to unlock the key to treatment before his illness became impossible to manage.

Fifty years after being told her father would forever be “away,” Mimi Baird embarked on a crusade to piece together the memoir and the man, to understand the legacy she had inherited…

(Synopsis from Broadway Book paperback edition; image from goodreads.com)

As soon as my copy of He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird arrived in the mail, I immediately wanted to start reading the May book for the Pi Beta Phi book club, Pi Phi Pages. However, I have a rule about my book club books and that is to finish the previous month’s book before I start the next one, so I knew I had to finish reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand before I could start He Wanted the Moon. (You can read my review of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand here.) Continue reading

Book Review: MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND by Helen Simonson

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From the 2011 Random House Trade Paperback edition:
“In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But, then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?”

(Story synopsis and cover image from goodreads.com)

Major Pettrigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson was the Pi Phi Pages read for April. Seeing as how this is now mid-May and I am just now writing my review of it, you might be able to tell that I struggled with reading this novel. I wouldn’t say that the writing of Helen Simonson is bad, I just had a hard time connecting with the characters. Continue reading

Book Review: THE 14TH COLONY by Steve Berry

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Shot down over Siberia, ex-Justice Department agent Cotton Malone is forced into a fight for survival against Aleksandr Zorin, a man whose loyalty to the former Soviet Union has festered for decades into an intense hatred of the United States.

Before escaping, Malone learns that Zorin and another ex-KGB officer, this one a sleeper still embedded in the West are headed overseas to Washington, D.C. Noon January 20th–Inauguration Day–is only hours away. A flaw in the Constitution and an even more flawed presidential succession act have opened the door to disaster, and Zorin intends to exploit both weaknesses to their fullest.

Armed with a weapon left over from the Cold War, one long thought to be just a myth, Zorin plans to attack. He’s aided by a shocking secret hidden in the archives of America’s oldest fraternal organization–the Society of Cincinnati–a group that once lent out its military savvy to presidents, including helping to formulate three plans to invade what was intended to be America’s 14th colony–Canada.

In a race against the clock that starts in the frozen extremes of Russia and ultimately ends at the White House itself, Malone must not only battle Zorin, he must also confront a crippling fear that he’s long denied but which now jeopardizes everything.

(Synopsis from Minotaur Books hardcover 2016 edition; cover image from Goodreads)

The 14th Colony by Steve Berry is the 11th book in the Cotton Malone series. Apparently April must be the month that I read Steve Berry novels, because last April I published my review of The Patriot Threat (You can read that review here). As I’ve mentioned before, I always enjoy reading historical fiction novels and Steve Berry does a great job of incorporating historical legends or pieces of history into his novels. (To see a list of the books I’ve read so far, visit my 2016 Books page.) Continue reading

Social Responsibility: It’s the Little Things

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With the countdown on for the end of the school year, I have my students creating photo essays. For their photo essays they are to take one of the themes that we have examine in World Literature throughout the year either persuade their audience or tell a story. The most important things I want them to do though are to capture their own images and to have a coherent, unifying statement. However, this post isn’t really about their projects, but about our last theme of the year: Personal Legend and Social Responsibility.

Continue reading

Six-Word Memoirs

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It’s not every day that writers are limited in the number of words that they can use when they are writing. This is especially difficult when constructing the memoir. While memoirs are obviously shorter than autobiographies, the idea behind them is the same: write something that is authentic to you and tells a story. While my senior World Literature students are familiar with memoirs, today we started writing a different type of writing: Six Word Memoirs. Continue reading

Book Review: THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot

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Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells – taken without her knowledge in 1951 – became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells  have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. 

(Story synopsis from Broadway Books paperback edition; cover image from goodreads.com)

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I’m not a science-minded personal in general (although I do love reading about and learning about psychology), and I knew that the Biomedical class at the high school I work at had read part of the book, but I hadn’t heard much about it from the students. I also don’t remember ever hearing about Henrietta Lacks before. However, I was given the book to read by someone who thought I might enjoy it. At the time I was given the book I was in the middle of reading Half the Sky, and so The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was set to the side for a little while.

When I did finally get a chance to start reading Rebecca Skloot’s nonfiction novel Continue reading

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