Review: Christmas Greetings from the Presidents

president As we fly through the holiday season, I like to pick up a few different holiday themed books to keep me in the mood. When I saw this one, I knew it would be something right up my family’s alley. All things political are the theme around here lately, so I figured we could use a dose of the goodness, from a few of the past presidents, to bring a bit of positive back in.

Christmas greetings is a compilation of various Christmas addresses from Coolidge to Obama. Inside you’ll find tidbits about the world at the time, from the Depression to 9/11. It also includes pictures of the National trees and some of the activities that were happening at the White House. My favorite pictures are the family pictures, whether staged or candid. They show the lighter side of the presidents.

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If you have a history buff in your family, or perhaps you have a little Christmas nut, like myself, grab this book.

~Melpomene

Grab Christmas Greetings from the Presidents http://amzn.to/2fZy8bl

Review: Escape From Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden

11797365This is a hard one to review. Here we have the story of Shin Dong-hyuk. Born and raised in a North Korea political prison camp Shin eventually escapes. Very few are so fortunate…..I was torn for my feelings for Shin. Even Harden did not seem to like him very much. So many of the things Shin does are hard to accept….However, he was a product of his environment. I can’t imagine what myself or any other would do in his situation. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age that some people never have an opportunity to know what being treated as a human is like. We can’t possibly understand that to turn in someone else, knowing that it will most likely cause their death, means that we get to live another day. Yes, it is easy to *say* that we would rather die then turn in another just so we could continue on for a few more hours, days, or months….however, we have been treated with kindness at some point in time. We have laid down on a blanket of fresh grass and truly tasted freedom. But what if we have only known the inside of a prison camp such as those in North Korea.

It’s hard to stop trying to figure out the why and to not pass judgement of Shin. If he were perhaps a better man would it have made any difference in the death of others? Would he be alive today to try to better his life? What lengths would you go to for a grain of rice?

What makes us the person we are today? It’s hard to read this book and flat-out deny that environment does not play a major role in that. However, not everyone in the camps do what Shin did to survive. So where does that come from?

What strikes me most is that it’s only when Shin decides to change how he deals with another human that he finally finds his freedom. I just wonder if Shin would change anything if he could go back in time….

This is a depressing eye-opening read if you really want to know what goes on outside of your borders….Perhaps one that Dennis Rodman should read…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

Review: End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

13414676This is a really nice book. I can’t fault the writer at all. However, I have to say it was gut wrenching for me. Schwalbe and his mother had a very special bond. Hell, from what I grasp, she had a special bond with everyone she knew. She seemed like she was a truly amazing person.

The part that was really hard for me was the dedication Schwalbe had for his mum. No, it wasn’t a bad thing. It was an amazing thing. When my father died, I can’t lie, I was, perhaps more devastated by my lack of involvement in his final days. That is so very hard to write. To admit to. Sure, I can blame circumstances. Being in a different country, blah blah blah, but that doesn’t ease the guilt one feels. Then to read a book where Schwalbe went to such great lengths….well it was very hard. Yes, he was lucky. His mum was lucky. We can all say, well, he had a job that allowed him to be by his mother’s side so often. That’s all. He could afford to spend 5 hours a day with her when she was having treatments. He could call her a dozen times a day. Reality is more simple than that though. He made it happen. Amazing sacrifices he made to make sure his mother was surrounded by love in her final years…

I’m jealous of his dedication. Of his courage. His sacrifice. Of those hours, days, weeks, months, and years he had with his mum at the end. Reading this book made my gut clinch with my own guilt…I miss my dad…I wish I had been the kind of daughter to him that was like the son Schwalbe was to his mum…I wish I had that opportunity…

There’s nothing else to say really…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

6493208I really found this book interesting. It also brings up some questions. I mean I can see both sides. I can understand why the family was somewhat confused. At times angry with what was done with their mother’s cells. At the end of the day, I guess what happened wasn’t done intentionally.

I found the epilogue at the end the most interesting of all. That’s where all the real ethical questions come into play. If you read this book and decide it’s not for you part way though, well, I encourage you to just skip to that part and read it.

Here’s my thoughts…of course, it would only be in a perfect world that my thoughts could come to life…so there is that….

There’s no doubt that things like this should continue on. The things that have been accomplished because of Henrietta Lacks cells are just mind-blowing. I mean, honestly, it’s just amazing. Things like this have always went on, but the public just isn’t aware of it.

The scientists that used her cells did so with no intention of making a profit. At some point was profit made? Sure, you bet your arse it was. That’s where it needs to stop. It’s also noted that a few different researchers with different cells are not limiting any research and refusing to allow others to do their research. This is wrong. If a patient can’t control the rights or make profits off of their cells, why should a company or pharmaceutical company do so? I’m afraid that as time goes on, more pharmaceutical companies will control more of these things. They will not give samples, that cost them nothing, to further research. Instead they will control it and only let them out to the highest bidder…or not at all…simply to protect their own interests…and this is where the world will suffer.

If we expect the people who give these samples to receive no recognition or profit, then by damned, companies shouldn’t either. Companies should not be withholding samples to scientists for further research…..Once you allow them to control these samples you are allowing them to delay vital information that could provide cures for many diseases. Of course, cures means less profit for these companies, so it’s really in their best interest to regulate what is released. This, IMHO, is a recipe for disaster.

Bottom line, I really encourage you to read this book. Yes, the book is slanted towards Henrietta Lacks’ family. However, that doesn’t change the fact that many people have no idea of what happens when they give a sample of blood. Of that tumor cell that was removed from them during surgery. Of placentas that are delivered with their children. It’s just mind-boggling.

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Review: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

15790837Oh my word. I just love David Sedaris. I would love to try to match wits with him at least a few times…perhaps pick up trash with him on summer afternoon. I love to enjoy his books via audio simply because he is just so delightful. His voice and his delivery is half the fun when it comes to enjoying his book.

This one is no different than any of his other books. I love hearing about his family. I marval at how he has moved beyond his wayward youth…

I also never giggle more with any other author. I am often shocked and outraged. So much so that I can’t stop laughing! Outraged or not, he is spot on! That’s what makes him so brilliant! If only we were all so brave to be so honest and open with the things we see around us…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Review: “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” By Gina Barreca

  
I’ve been reading Gina Barreca’s columns in my local newspaper for years. I love her brash attitude that reminds me so much of my own, her exasperation at injustices that no one should allow – no one!, and her talent for capturing just the right facet of a social issue to make a difference. 

 The dozens of essays in this book are tied together by section headings such as “I’m not needy; I’m wanty” and “If you met my family, you’d understand,” but more importantly woven together by the exploration of feminism.  

Barreca doesn’t bash men or bash women who like men. She doesn’t tell me I can’t wear pantyhose or I have to be pro-choice or I shouldn’t read smut. What I think Barreca says is that women should do what they do for themselves. For themselves! What a concept. If cooking for your husband makes you happy, do it. But don’t do it because he tells you to, because you feel worthless to him if you don’t, or because society tells you that’s all you have to offer if you’re a housewife. Get it? Read the book. You’ll get it. 

For me, it was nice that someone put a bunch of my thoughts into rational written form and then published it for all to read. For others, Barecca might not echo your exact thinking, but she will give you some food for thought. 

-calliope

Buy ‘IF YOU LEAN IN, WILL MEN JUST LOOK DOWN YOUR BLOUSE?’