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review 2018-01-17 21:26
Ambition and Destiny
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution - Nathaniel Philbrick

The war for Independence has long been glorified in our history books. However, Nathaniel Philbrick looks through the layers and brings us a untarnished view on the history of the war.

George Washington and Benedict Arnold were two men that became legend during the war. While the war raged on, the two men could not have been more different. Washington worried about the army as the whole and suffered from indecision. Arnold thought of himself and what he could gain from the war. Two men who had greatness before them, but who could not have been more different in their mindsets and goals.
Benedict Arnold became one of the greatest traitors in the history of the United States, and his defection could have demoralized the entire army. However, Washington had been turning the war around, and those who had once been detractors of the Commander in Chief were realizing that he was the only one who could effectively lead the army. Arnold wanted to enrich himself, and come out of the war as a hero, but his actions can speak to anything but. Instead of working toward the betterment of his country, he became a turncoat, and began to work with the enemy, with the urging of his second wife, Peggy.

This is one of the best books on the American Revolution that I have read. While Benedict Arnold and George Washington are the two main characters, there is so much more present. The highs and lows, the good and the bad are all played out on the pages, and no one is spared. From the Continental Congress, to the French allies - every leaf is overturned to give a comprehensive view and greater understanding of what lead to the defection of Benedict Arnold.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the war, and the men who's names have become entwined in history.

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review 2018-01-17 21:18
True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities - John Hechinger

This was a very interesting in depth look at fraternities across America and the increase of binge drinking on campus. It was pretty interesting until about 3/4 of the way and I felt like I had had enough of the statistics and the stories.

It was amazing that it seemed to be only one fraternity that was having the alcohol problems for the most part. As I never got the chance to go to college (I did take night courses), I pretty much requested it just to check it out.

A very informative book that you could tell the author did a lot of research for and interesting for the most part.

Thanks to Perseus Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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text 2018-01-15 16:47
Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.
Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution - Diane McWhorter
At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68 - Taylor Branch
Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 - Taylor Branch
Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 - Taylor Branch

Some suggested reading from publisher Simon & Schuster's newsletter.

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review 2018-01-13 15:42
Sweet concept but it's as appealing as melted ice cream.
Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across Am... Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America - Blanche Ettinger

The premise of the book sounded like lots of fun: author Ettinger loves ice cream and spends her time traveling around the country learning about the brands, their histories, how they're made, the stories behind the creators, etc. Microhistories about foods are often fun and this sounded like a light-hearted but intriguing travelogue.


Unfortunately, it's not. The criticisms are right and the low rating on Goodreads is warranted. Initially it starts off well at first with how and why she is so interested in ice cream in itself. But the writing meanders, goes off on tangents, talks a little too much about herself, doesn't focus on the ice cream. There are some really funny and endearing stories (like how she named an ice cream recipe after her father-in-law who had passed away recently but couldn't get it quite right) and some actually interesting tidbits (like I didn't know one of the founders of Ben & Jerry's had sinus problems hence why it's so big on flavor and texture). 


But the book reads like she had a first draft and then nobody edited it and it was sent to print as it is. It's quite sad because I had really been looking forward to it but was put off on how pasted together it seemed and how often it seemed like so many things just weren't right to the author for any number of reasons. There IS a story and history of ice cream but this book wasn't the place to find it.


Library borrow. Some people might like the approach and not mind how the author went about telling this story but this just reinforces my own experiences of how journalists really shouldn't think their work in the newspapers or magazines or TV, etc. translates well to book form. If you're not that passionate or are put off by the negative reviews, go ahead and skip this one.

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review 2018-01-12 18:48
Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle
Triangle: The Fire That Changed America - David von Drehle

This was a dud. I guess I had higher expectations for this book than I was aware of because all I am feeling is disappointment. Yeah, the book does explain (not that well enough in my opinion) what happened and how it happened, but I felt that the author was much more interested in writing about the men of Tammany Hall. Basically this book is almost all about every man involved, however loosely, in the strike of 1909 and the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. Seriously, I felt that every man in Lower East Side of NYC got a full back story and like maybe 3 women did.


The writing was a little over the top, especially when the author was describing what each character looked like, including the shape of heads. Also he was pre-occupied with how plain or pretty the women in the book were and how feminine they acted. It was a bit weird and not really added any value to the narrative.


Tip of the hat to the author for working on a list of victims who died in the fire. His author note on sources was more entertaining than a lot of the book, the way he detailed how he went about trying to find the names from varying sources and using detective work to whittle down the list.


I did give an extra half star for the author adding in details about Francis Perkins early days prior to working with and then for FDR.



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