Wednesday, June 23, 2010

20. THE SURVIVORS CLUB - Ben Sherwood


If you want to learn "the secrets and science that could save your life," just turn the pages and enjoy.

Mixed with examples (the Central Park jogger, mountain lion attack survivors, and more) plus scientific research, Sherwood attempts to find the secret to why some people survive and others - don't.

Some of the answers are easy. For instance, you only have a limited time to get out of a downed plane, but you may have been listening to your iPod or playing with your kids during the emergency landing speech. So, you don't know where the nearest exits are located. Would you climb over the seats to get to them?

Other answers are not. U.S. armed forces are asked about survival techniques, and one man says you need a belief in God. What if you lack this? Several of the stories also indicate the arrival of a supreme being who helped or saved them. Does this mean my atheist friends are dead in similar situations?

What makes this book even more fun is the test: there is a link online to determine your own survivor skills and nurture them. Is there one answer? No, but there are several, and I found the entire book motivational and touching, especially when he says that he and his wife named their son, "Will" on purpose.

4.5 out of 5.0 Corpse Reviver>.

19. THE ASH GARDEN - Dennis Bock


As Emiko draws in mud upon her brother's back, the work of Anton is rushing in a silver bullet down from an airplane toward Hiroshima, about to change the world.

Anton and his colleagues created the atom bomb, stopping World War II. However, when the bomb hit, it not only killed Emiko's friends and family, it severed the emotional tie between Anton and his wife, Sophie.

Nearly fifty years later, after reconstructive surgeries on her burned face, Emiko approaches Anton at a conference where he continues to explain the correctness of this act. She asks to speak with him on tape. Through their discussions, the reader learns far more about the connections between the three characters.

What started as an amazing premise with lyrical prose ended abruptly for me. I will allow you to discover and interpret the final pages for yourself, but it was a book-throwing moment for me. I felt let down, as if so much momentum had been built for... what? Bah.

2.75 out of 5.0 Dirty Pashes.

18. CATHERINE DE MEDICI: RENAISSANCE QUEEN OF FRANCE - Leonie Frieda


When my friend, Becky, showed me photos of a trip to Italy, I didn't fully understand the role of the Medici family and took her advice on reading material. This lead me to Catherine, who became queen of France and is one of the most fascinating of the Medicis.

Frieda writes non-fiction like fiction, telling history with warmth and deep descriptions. From the flowers in the gardens to the weather, the divine detail made me forget I was reading a biography.

Catherine de Medici was best known for using sorcery, astrology, and necromancy to bring down her enemies and raise her husband, King Henri, and her sons. However, many of the tales about Catherine are tamed in this biography with explanations using her background, health, and examples from the era.

Overall, it was a fascinating look at a powerful woman whom I had only known as Diane de Poitiers enemy in prior books. The drawings of the "real" Diane were enough to satisfy my royal history urges for a few weeks.


4.0 out of 5.0 French Connections.