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review 2017-10-15 20:21
Edith Cavell: Faith Before the Firing Squad by Catherine Butcher
Edith Cavell: Faith Before the Firing Squad - Catherine Butcher

This biography is concise and inspiring. It features a woman who would not have expected to have her life story interest others, but that is part of what makes Edith Cavell so compelling. She is the sort of woman we all hope we would be if circumstances challenged us the way they did her.


Edith's faith was a significant element of her life and story, and it is included appropriately in this book. From the day she was born until the day she died, the love of God and promise of heaven guided Edith's actions. She did not wish for recognition, only to help others. "When Reverend Gahan said, 'We shall always remember you as a heroine and a martyr,' she replied, 'Don't think of me like that, think of me only as a nurse who tried to do her duty.'"


The author demonstrates how Edith became the kind of woman who would selflessly assist others, even when she knew she was endangering herself. This vicar's daughter, governess, and nurse grew up with the desire to serve a vital part of her character. Not that she is portrayed as unbelievably perfect. Mistakes and faults of character are also explored to give readers a comprehensive picture of who the real Edith Cavell was.


She was an intelligent woman with a servant's heart who willingly gave up her lives for others. Even when Edith knew she was being spied upon by Germans, she continued to help those trying to escape. When she knew the next person she helped might be preparing to betray her, she wouldn't take the chance of turning away someone who truly needed her. Once she was convicted of her 'crimes' she worried only about those she was leaving behind.


The recent 100th anniversary of Edith's execution has stirred up renewed interest in her, and she is a woman worthy of remembering. Her strength and courage in the face of deceit and violence is an inspiration to us all.


I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.


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review 2017-10-10 22:17
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer - Siddhartha Mukherjee

After reading 'The Gene' (Mukherjee's newest book), I saw that a common thread in many of the reviews for that book said that 'Maladies' was the superior effort. It was one of those books that I planned to read "someday" and it took years to buy it and then a few more years to finally get around to reading it. Sometimes it felt like years getting though the book, unfortunately. 


Mukherjee looks at the history of cancer: its origins, its place in history, the different ways people have tried to treat it, the advances, the frustrations, etc. It's an epic look at the people who have diagnosed it, treated it, worked on it, suffered from it. Other than the basics of cancer and bits and pieces elsewhere I can't say I knew much that Mukherjee covers.


Unfortunately the book suffers for it. It is far too long and covers too much. Initially it reminded me of 'Neurotribes' in its approach but like 'The Gene' (although TG suffers a lot more from this), the book really needed a better editor. As other reviews note, it's like Mukherjee threw everything he found in his research into the book. Sometimes that can be a fantastic approach but depending on the audience it can mean the eyes glaze over and it becomes information overload. There are some great parts and cutting though some of the wordier places made it worth for some of the text. For example, I really wanted to know what happened to Carla (his patient) who pops in and out of the text. Some readers probably didn't care for that (understandable) but I found her story of her diagnosis and treatment interesting and hers was a narrative I wanted to follow.


I think there is definitely an audience for this: medical students in general, people who intend to study cancer specifically for school or for their job that is related to the medical field, maybe cancer patients and/or their family members/friends (although that would probably depend on the individual), etc. But as a read for a general audience this was just too much and one of those books that make me wonder who thought this was noteworthy or why it gets so many accolades and awards. 


I got this as a bargain book and that was probably best since I kept putting off reading it but wanted to get around to it eventually. I don't think I'll be reading anything else by Mukherjee, though. 

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review 2017-10-08 02:24
Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography
Renegade: Martin Luther, The Graphic Biography - Dacia Palmerino

I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.


The life of Martin Luther, the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, has been written about for centuries yet now it can not only be written about but visualized as well.  Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography by Andrea Grosso Ciponte and Dacia Palmerino is exactly what its title says about the man who sparked a change in history.


Depicting the life of Luther from his childhood to his death, the biography focuses on his time as a monk led up to and through his break with Rome.  At 153 pages there is only so much that can be covered and only so much context as well through sometimes the visual aspect of the graphic novel does come in handy.  While the short length of the book obviously foreshadowed only the barest minimum that could be covered on his life, yet the graphic novel aspect seemed to offer a way to enhance the chronicling of Luther’s life.  Unfortunately the artwork looks like screen caps of a video game with so-so graphics with only a few great pages of art, usually at the beginning of each chapter.


The overall quality of the biographical and artwork content of Renegade is a mixed bag of a passable chronicle on Luther’s life and so-so artwork.  While some younger readers than myself might find it a very good read and hopefully make them want to know more about Martin Luther and the Reformation, I found it a tad underwhelming.

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review 2017-10-06 11:16
A gripping book about twelve extraordinary women
What Regency Women Did For Us - Rachel Knowles

I received a copy of this paperback from Pen & Sword History and I freely chose to review the book.

This is another great book by Pen & Sword that are quickly becoming one of my favourite publishing companies for non-fiction books.

This small volume is packed with information. After a brief introduction that sets the Regency period, particularly how life was for women at the time, the book discusses the lives of twelve women who played an important role in the UK during that period. As the author comments, they were not the only women of note at the time, but they did make a significant difference to Britain, and a difference that survives to this day. They come from all walks of life, their professions or interests are diverse, some were married and had children but half of them never married, and I must confess that although I knew some of them, I had never heard of the others. And I learned a great deal by reading this book even about the ones I was somewhat familiar with.

By now, you must be wondering who these twelve women are.

Chapter 1 is dedicated to Eleanor Coade, whom the author calls ‘the king’s stone maker’, a business woman who took charge of the artificial stone manufactory that bore her name and was very good at creating a high quality product and also at marketing. I had never realised that many of the statues, garden sculptures, and facades of buildings I have visited were made using her stone.

Chapter 2 introduces us to Caroline Herschel, who always keen to assist her brother, became an astronomer of note in her own right (and she discovered many comets).

Sarah Siddons, the actress that lifted the reputation of actresses and well known for her tragic roles, is discussed in chapter 3.

Marie Tussaud, of Madame Tussaud’s fame, is the subject of chapter 4. And although I was familiar with the wax museum, I discovered I didn’t know much about this fascinating woman.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to Mary Parminter, mountaineer, traveller, and benefactress to other women.

Writer and mother of historical fiction Maria Edgeworth is discussed in chapter 6.

In chapter 7 we learn about Jane Marcet, a woman so eager to learn and to help others learn, that she wrote the chemistry for dummies of the period, so that women and people who had not had access to much formal education could understand the subject. She used the format of a dialogue between female students and teacher and also provided examples of experiments that could easily be done at home. Faraday gave her credit for his early steps in science and she was very well regarded and a best-seller of the time.

Chapter 8 is taken up by Sarah Guppy, who was an amateur engineer and although did not always get credit for her inventions she truly deserves to be in this book.

Jane Austen is the subject of chapter 9. Although she died during the period, the author chose to include her. She is probably the most famous woman in the book, and the one I knew more about, but I learned some new things and her chapter is a good introduction to readers who are not familiar with her life, works, and period.

Harriot Mellon had an awful childhood but she went on to become and actress and eventually a banker, and her private bank exists to this day. And her legacy, that found its way into many charitable causes, has also endured.

Elizabeth Fry is perhaps best known for having been on the back of the £5 note for a while. I read about her when I studied Criminology, as she was a big prison reformer, but I did not know about her role in creating a training school for nurses well before Florence Nightingale, and her life is fascinating. She was a truly passionate and generous woman, always devoted to improving the lives of others.

The last woman the author chooses to include is Mary Anning. She was from humble origins but became a great fossilist and her fossils are still on display in many museums today.

Knowles has chosen a fantastic group of women to write about. Her writing style is fluid, easy to follow, and includes both information about the personal lives of these women and about their contributions to the period. These brief biographical chapters are a good introduction to anybody who wants to get some idea about what women’s lives were like at the time, whilst at the same time providing a glimpse into what made these twelve women extraordinary. Their intelligence, their determination, and their passion shine through in those few pages. I must confess I would be happy to read a whole book on any and all of these women.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in women’s history or looking for an introduction into the Regency Period that looks more closely at the role women played. It is a gripping read and I hope it will go some way to help these women get the attention they deserve.

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review 2017-10-03 09:21
Beeindruckender Seelenstrip
Wir waren keine Helden - Candy Bukowski

„Wir waren keine Helden“ von Candy Bukowski wurde mir 2016 vom Verlag edel & electric zur Rezension angeboten. Mein Grund, dieses Angebot anzunehmen, scheint ein wenig banal: in der Inhaltsangabe ist die Rede von einem Punker. Aufgrund meiner eigenen Vergangenheit mit bunten Haaren, glänzenden Nieten und schweren Stiefeln werde ich da stets hellhörig. Ich hoffte auf einen Roman, mit dem ich mich identifizieren konnte und der mich an meine wilden Jahre erinnerte. Vermutlich brauchte ich deshalb sehr lange, um mich für die Lektüre bereit zu fühlen. Ein Nostalgietrip verlangt eben die richtige Stimmung.


Als der Punker Pete vom Himmel fällt, ändert sich für Sugar alles. Überzeugt, erwachsen zu sein, verlässt sie ihr Kaff im Nirgendwo und stürmt der weiten Welt entgegen, in der Liebe, Schmerz, Traurigkeit, Hoffnung und vollkommenes Glück auf sie warten. Sie reitet die Wellen des Lebens, wird brutal unter Wasser gedrückt und taucht doch jedes Mal wieder auf. Sie ergreift Chancen, scheitert, traut sich, zu springen, um herauszufinden, ob sie fliegen kann und begreift irgendwann, dass Durchschnittlichkeit auf ihre Fragen keine Antworten bietet. Sie kämpft, um ihren Platz im verwirrenden Gefüge des Universums zu finden. Aufgeben ist keine Option. Denn Helden geben niemals auf.


Ich bin zwiegespalten. Wie bereits erwähnt, hoffte ich, mich mit „Wir waren keine Helden“ identifizieren zu können. Einerseits konnte ich das – und andererseits auch wieder nicht. Es ist kompliziert. Obwohl die Leser_innen die Protagonistin des Romans unter dem Namen Sugar kennenlernen, wurde für mich schnell deutlich, dass es sich bei diesem Buch um eine Art Autobiografie handeln muss oder es zumindest starke autobiografische Züge aufweist. In einem Interview bestätigte Candy Bukowski diesen Eindruck; sie erklärte: „Candy und Sugar sind eins. In jung und gereift“. Candy alias Sugar wuchs in einem kleinen Dorf in Westdeutschland auf und verbrachte den Großteil ihrer Jugend in einer abgeranzten Kneipe, in der man es mit dem Jugendschutz nicht so genau nahm. Mit 17 zog sie Zuhause aus und entschied sich für eine Ausbildung zur Buchhändlerin. „Wir waren keine Helden“ fokussiert allerdings weniger die harten Fakten ihres Lebens, sondern konzentriert sich auf Candys/Sugars emotionale Erlebenswelt. Ihre Beziehungen stehen im Mittelpunkt, sowohl ihre romantischen und freundschaftlichen Beziehungen, als auch ihre Beziehung zu sich selbst. Bukowski sorgt selbstverständlich für den nötigen Kontext, damit ihre Leser_innen verstehen, welche Begegnungen in welcher Lebenssituation eine Rolle für sie spielten, doch meist bleibt sie vage und beschränkt sich auf das absolute Mindestmaß an Informationen. Für ihre Geschichte ist es kaum von Bedeutung, wann sie wo lebte und welchen Beruf sie dort ausübte, entscheidend sind die Menschen und Gefühle, die sie in ihren Lebensabschnitten begleiteten. Candy/Sugar ist eine Stehauffigur, die sich trotz herber Rückschläge niemals davon abhalten lässt, ihr Bedürfnis nach einem freien, wilden Leben zu erfüllen. Diese Autobiografie versprüht ungeheure Lebenslust, nahezu unstillbaren Lebenshunger und darin erkannte ich mich durchaus wieder. In diesem Sinne konnte ich mich also definitiv mit „Wir waren keine Helden“ identifizieren. Was mir jedoch Schwierigkeiten bereitete, war der große Altersunterschied. Candy Bukowski wurde 1967 geboren und ist demzufolge 22 Jahre älter als ich. Sie könnte meine Mutter sein. Diese Spanne ist zu weit, als dass wir viele Berührungspunkte hätten. Ich kann nicht nachempfinden, wie es war, Anfang bzw. Mitte der 80er ein Teenager zu sein und ihre Erfahrungen in der Zeit, als ich jugendlich war, sind von einem erwachsenen Blickwinkel geprägt. Uns trennt eine ganze Generation, wodurch ich ihre stellvertretende Protagonistin Sugar eher objektiv betrachtete, als eine intensive persönliche Bindung zu ihr aufzubauen. Außerdem muss ich zugeben, dass ich ihren Schreibstil als übertrieben literarisch empfand. Ihre verschleiernde blumige Poetik, die ab und zu durch provozierende Direktheit aufgebrochen wird, erschien mir zu abgehoben und lyrisch. Wie alle Leser_innen weiß auch ich einen bildhaften, üppigen Schreibstil zu schätzen, doch Candy Bukowski überschritt die Grenze zum Gekünstelten, als wollte sie ihrem Werk mehr Gewicht verleihen, als es eigentlich hat. Letztendlich handelt es sich eben doch „nur“ um die Geschichte eines Lebens, die trotz aller unkonventioneller Pfade lediglich eine außergewöhnliche, einmalige Biografie unter vielen ist. Candy Bukowski ist genauso einzigartig wie ich, wie ihr, wie jeder Mensch auf der Welt. Ihr Schreibstil vermittelte mir, dass sie sich selbst als besonders besonders sieht, obwohl sie das vielleicht gar nicht beabsichtigte. Dadurch wirkte „Wir waren keine Helden“ leicht pathetisch, womit ich bloß bedingt zurechtkam.


„Wir waren keine Helden“ ist ein sehr ehrlicher Seelenstrip, der die Grenzen zwischen Autobiografie und Fiktion im Ungewissen lässt. Obwohl sich der Generationenunterschied als schwierig erwies und ich Candy Bukowskis Schreibstil etwas affektiert fand, erkenne ich uneingeschränkt an, dass sie sich ihrer Stärken und Schwächen bewusst ist und ihr (emotionales) Leben in diesem Roman schonungslos offenlegt. Das erfordert Mut und verdient meinen Respekt. Sie ist zweifellos eine beeindruckende Frau, deren furchtlose Bereitschaft, außerhalb der Norm zu denken und zu leben, zu scheitern und dennoch immer wieder aufzustehen, bemerkenswert ist. Nichtsdestotrotz ist „Wir waren keine Helden“ meiner Ansicht nach ein Buch, das man lesen kann, aber nicht muss. Wer Interesse an Autobiografien hat und gern Einblicke in die Lebensweise anderer Menschen erhält, ist hier an der richtigen Adresse. Wer hingegen lieber zum klassischen Roman greift, sollte vielleicht noch einmal überlegen, ob eine andere Lektüre eventuell passender ist.


Vielen Dank an den Verlag edel & electric für die Bereitstellung dieses Rezensionsexemplars im Austausch für eine ehrliche Rezension!

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/candy-bukowski-wir-waren-keine-helden
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