Dark Remedy

Author: Rock Brynner and Trent Stephens
Publisher: Basic Books
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Date Read: September 12th to 16th, 2014
Review:
 I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Brit reads some really strange books”. And yeah, I do, but this one is actually prescribed reading for my breadth subject at uni, Drugs That Shape Society. It’s been an interesting (although completely unrelated to my degree) subject that poses some interesting moral questions regarding the use of legal and nonlegal drugs in society. One of the drugs we study is thalidomide, hence the required reading of Dark Remedy.

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It’s All About Treo

It's All About Treo

Author: Dave Heyhoe
Publisher: Quercus
Star Rating: 3/5
Date Read: August 4th to 7th, 2014
Review:
It’s All About Treo is the touching true account of the brave war dog, Treo, and his human, Dave Heyhoe and their six month tour in Afghanistan to where they were deployed as a search team for hidden explosives. Alongside the Rangers, they would go out on a patrol and Treo soon became known and feared by the Taliban as ‘the black dog’. Dave and Treo saved countless number of lives during their tour in Afghanistan and came home as heroes.

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The Opposite of Loneliness

The Opposite of Loneliness

Author: Marina Keegan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: August 1st to 5th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this copy. This did not influence my review in any way.

The Opposite of Loneliness is an affecting collection of stories and essays by Marina Keegan, who died tragically in a car accident only five days after her graduation from Yale. She was already an accomplished writer and left behind a whole catalogue of work, as young budding writers collate. In her memory, her family, friends and teachers put together nine stories and nine essays for this book, titled The Opposite of Loneliness, also the title of an essay she wrote about leaving Yale.

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A Man Named Dave

Author: Dave Pelzer
Series: Dave Pelzer Trilogy, Book 3
Publisher: Orion
Star Rating: 1/5
Date Read: June 10th to 13th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
This is possibly one of the most unnecessary books I have ever read. The 1 star review is partly my fault, because I was 95% sure I wouldn’t like this book based on the previous two books of the trilogy. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s my fault the book is bad.

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The Lost Boy

Author: Dave Pelzer
Series: Dave Pelzer Trilogy, Book 2
Publisher: Orion
Star Rating: 2.5/5
Date Read: June 1st to 2nd, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
The second book in the Dave Pelzer trilogy is The Lost Boy, chronicling Dave’s life in foster homes from the age of twelve to eighteen. Again I have come to the end and feel immediately like I have to put a few other books in between this and the next and final book, A Man Named Dave. I don’t feel like another book is necessary but have decided to read it for the sake of completeness.

At the start of the book, Dave insists this one is written using the language and perspective he had at that age. He also insisted the same thing in the last book. This is not a completely accurate description as many times I felt the writing to be reflective and also some of it beyond the years of the under-educated teenager he was at the time. We catch up with Dave where we left him in the last book, in the passenger seat of a police car heading outside the city limits, where after medical examinations he meets his social worker and is placed in the first of five foster homes.

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A Child Called ‘It’

Author: Dave Pelzer
Series: Dave Pelzer Trilogy, Book 1
Publisher: Orion
Star Rating: 2/5
Date Read: May 28th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
A Child Called ‘It’ is the story of child abuse survivor, Dave Pelzer. It is a grim and horrific read that makes you sick to visualize what’s occurring. It is not without hope, as we find in the opening chapter how Dave escapes the torment he has suffered for eight years. But it seems to be without credibility.

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The Global Suitcase

Author: Mary J. Dinan
Publisher: New Holland
Star Rating: 2/5
Date Read: April 30th to May 5th, 2014
Review:
Thank you to Goodreads and New Holland publishers for providing me with a copy of this book.

I love to travel and I love to read about travel in all its forms. I love journeys into the unknown and I love exploring my own backyard. You would think this book, a collection of interviews with people who have done exactly that, would suit me perfectly. You would be wrong.

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The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz

Author: Denis Avey
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: September 15th to 18th, 2013
Review:
It is impossible not to be moved by the story of Denis Avey, the man who broke into Auschwitz. A British POW in the second world war, it has taken him 70 years to tell his story. He recognised that it was important for his story to be told and I agree with him.

The title, ‘The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz’, is somewhat misleading but it does not make Avey’s story any less incredible. While a POW, Avey worked alongside the Jewish who were prisoners in Auschwitz III Monowitz. This is not ‘the’ Auschwitz where the mass murders through gassing occurred, although it wasn’t far from there, this is where they housed those fit enough to labour for the German war effort – until of course they were worked to death. On two occasions, Avey swapped places with a Jewish man named Hans, putting his own life at risk so that Hans could have a decent feed and a sleep where he wasn’t in fear of at any moment suddenly being put to death. I think it amazing that Hans would swap back the next day, knowing what it was he had to go back to. The British POWs weren’t treated well, but it was better than the Jewish men were treated.

As well as being the story of Avey’s swap with Hans, this also the story of Avey’s chance meeting with another Jewish man named Ernst, who had a sister relocated through the Kindertransport to England. What followed had me in tears on the train.

I worry that stories like Denis Avey’s, like Hans’ and Ernst’s, will fade as time goes on and we progress further and further from the days of World War II. I think it is so important that we do not forget what happened during the time, lest it happen again.

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Author: Christopher Hitchens
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: December 16th to 21st, 2013
Review:
Christopher Hitchens pissed off a lot of people in his time. In my opinion – totally worth it.

Hitchens is a full force of no apologies against religious tyranny. He brings forth all its shames, its misdemeanors and the misconceptions surrounding religion in all forms – no religion escapes his critical eye and words. He knows what he’s talking about, he has done his research and he’s experienced it first hand. This is what makes him an authority on the subject as opposed to a blabbering troublemaker who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. He is witty and insightful and shamelessly pulls apart religion, piece by piece, to show how humanity is better off without the illusion of god in any of his names or forms.

Being an atheist myself, God Is Not Great did not surprise or shock me, only re-affirmed my own thoughts and ideas and gave them support. I applaud Hitchens for his effort as it cannot have been easy to write something like this, but I’m glad he did.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America

Author: Mark Schimmoeller
Publisher: Alice Peck
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Date Read: February 4th to 8th, 2014
Review:
Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book. This did not influence my review in any way.

The unique story of Mark Schimmoeller, who after college left an internship to pursue a dream of unicycling across America, is unlike anything else I have ever read. How many people do you know who ride a unicycle, let alone decide to trek across America on one? It’s an impressive feat to say the least. One Schimmoeller is fairly modest about, really. These days he has hung up the unicycle (but not quite for good) and lives a sustainable lifestyle in the woods with his wife, not far from the home he grew up in. The book is written in an alternative perspective, one based on his time on the road, the other of his quiet life where he has no electricity or water, instead uses a rain catchment system and a solar cooker and is fighting to save the land surrounding him from development.

I enjoyed the imagery presented in this book of not only the woods where he lives, but also of the places he traveled through and the interesting characters met along the way. However, I felt there were a lot of irrelevant passages about his dreams (that made no sense, as dreams in real life often don’t) and random recountings of his childhood that disrupted the flow of the narrative. I liked how he related his unicycle journey to the life he knew at home, but a lot of little anecdotes didn’t feel like they belonged. This made the book seem much longer than it was and made it difficult to finish. I found my attention wavering as I inched towards the end, even though I was curious to see how it all wrapped up – it just took some work and concentration to get there. Maybe they should have been a little harsher on the cutting room floor (applies for books too yeah?).

Schimmoeller mentions that he likes happy endings, and this is apparent in the way he glosses over how plain difficult it must have been to travel such distances on a unicycle in such ever changing environments. Any hardships are brushed off, fixed by a meal and a good night’s sleep, making it seem fairly easy to pedal cross country on a bike with only one wheel. While we definitely should encourage people to achieve great things, it’s something else to ignore all the bad bits. And even if your journey over all was a success, of course there’s going to be bad days and rough days and days where you want to go home. It’s not realistic to pretend that they don’t exist. I’m not looking for drama, just a bit more raw honesty would have been nice.

Other than the lengthy descriptions I found Schimmoeller to be a talented writer, although in some parts he came off a little self-righteous I was able to move past it due to my sheer interest in his way of life so different from my own. I can sympathise with him about the threat of further development in his secluded area, and to be honest his travel adventures made me want to have my own – just maybe with four wheels instead of one.