Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker


cover175758-mediumThe heartrending story of a mid-century American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don’s work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins–aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony–and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse.

By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?

What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself.

Unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.

With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family’s unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope.

Hidden Valley Road is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a very long time. The story of the Galvin family is heartbreaking and horrifying at the same time. The schizophrenia that afflicted 6 of the 12 Galvin children caused so much suffering and trauma to one family that it is remarkable any of them survived.

Kolker takes the clinical history of the Galvins and weaves it into a cohesive story that spans decades and concludes with a sliver of hope for the next generations of the family. It can be difficult to take a clinical history, especially one involving mental illness, and convert it into a readable, suspenseful story that conveys the humanity of the subjects in a non-exploitative way. Kolker does a fine job of storytelling here, on par with Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and, more recently, Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Absolutely one of the best of the year.

Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Published By: Doubleday Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Dangerous Shallows by Eric Takakjian


cover176712-mediumDangerous Shallows tells the story of a quest to solve maritime cold-cases. The odyssey takes the reader along for a moment-by-moment look at the events surrounding the loss of more than twenty different ships, and includes the stories of discovering their wrecks and learning about the final hours of each of these ships.

Author Eric Takakjian reminisces about devouring the National Geographic issue that featured the recovery of The Atocha, which sets the stage for this very chatty book on wreck diving. I, too, read that NatGeo issue over and over again, poring over the pictures and reading about the divers and their work, so I was right at home with Dangerous Shallows.

Writing in the first person, Takakjian draws you with his stories until you feel as though you’re ready to brave unpredictable currents, errant fishing nets, and sharks just to experience the thrill of standing on a wreck that hasn’t seen the light of day in a century. Takakjian’s storytelling style hooks you right away, and his enthusiasm keeps you enthralled through wreck after wreck.

Takakjian blends history, research and imagination to create plausible if somewhat dramatic recountings of how dozens of ships were sunk, then concludes those often sad stories with exciting tales of his dives on those wrecks.

This will appeal to armchair divers who are fascinated with wrecks and treasure. I expect Takakjian would be a marvelous speaker and hope he gets the chance to go on tour with this book.

Publication Date: February 1, 2020
Published By: Rowman & Littlefield
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Agent Jack by Robert Hutton


cover167989-mediumJune 1940: Europe has fallen to Adolf Hitler’s army, and Britain is his next target. Winston Churchill exhorts the country to resist the Nazis, and the nation seems to rally behind him. But in secret, some British citizens are plotting to hasten an invasion.

Agent Jack tells the incredible true story of Eric Roberts, a seemingly inconsequential bank clerk who, in the guise of “Jack King,” helped uncover and neutralize the invisible threat of fascism on British shores. Gifted with an extraordinary ability to make people trust him, Eric Roberts penetrated the Communist Party and the British Union of Fascists before playing his greatest role for MI5: Hitler’s man in London. Pretending to be an agent of the Gestapo, Roberts single-handedly built a network of hundreds of British Nazi sympathizers—factory workers, office clerks, shopkeepers —who shared their secrets with him. It was work so secret and so sensitive that it was kept out of the reports MI5 sent to Winston Churchill.

In a gripping real-world thriller, Robert Hutton tells the fascinating story of an operation whose existence has only recently come to light with the opening of MI5’s World War II files. Drawing on these newly declassified documents and private family archives, Agent Jack shatters the comforting notion that Britain could never have succumbed to fascism and, consequently, that the world could never have fallen to Hitler. Agent Jack is the story of one man who loved his country so much that he risked everything to stand against a rising tide of hate.

Several years ago, I helped a man research information on the British Union of Fascists and Oswald Mosley. That was the first time I had ever heard of Nazi sympathizers and agitators in England during World War II. At the time, I found it mildly interesting but not enough to do further research of my own, so I was happy to dive into this dry but fascinating book about Agent Jack.

The cloak-and-dagger element of the undercover agent whose work was so secret that no one knew about it for decades is a definite hook to get people to pick up the book. I found the first couple of chapters to be a little dry, with lots of names and strands of stories introduced. However, it all starts to come together and results in a solid historical offering. Recommended.

Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Almost Lost Arts by Emily Freidenrich


9781452170206This book is a celebration of tactile beauty and a tribute to human ingenuity. In-depth profiles tell the stories of 20 artisans who have devoted their lives to preserving traditional techniques. Gorgeous photographs reveal these crafts people’s studios, from Oaxaca to Kyoto and from Milan to Tennessee. Two essays explore the challenges and rewards of engaging deeply with the past. With an elegant three-piece case and foil stamping, this rich volume will be an inspiration to makers, collectors, and history lovers.

The subtitle of this book is “Traditional Crafts and the Artisans Keeping Them Alive,” which accurately reflects the content, but does not come close to expressing the sheer joy and steadfast commitment these artisans find in their work.

As a librarian, I was pleased to see a chapter devoted to Donald Vass, the “Book Mender” for the King County Library System in Issaquah, Washington. Book mending is truly a lost art in libraries, given the relatively low cost and low quality of the books being published today. It’s cheaper to buy a new one than fix a book with a broken spine. Most library systems, including mine, eliminated the Book Menders years ago. It brings me joy to see Mr. Vass carefully attending to these broken books, and the photo of the “century-old cast-iron board cutter” leaves me envious. It also makes me sad to read “he has worried that the program will dissolve with his retirement.” I’m betting that’s true.

There are lots of “lost arts” books out there right now, but this one features some artisans and skills I did not expect. There’s

  • Peter Bellerby, who makes custom globes that are works of art;
  • Brittany Nicole Cox, the Antiquarian Horologist who repairs vintage and ancient clocks and timekeeping devices;
  • Wet plate photographers who actually create *new* tin types;
  • Steve Stepp & Robert Coverston, who create new cassette tapes;
  • Image colorists Matt Loughrey and Grace Rawson who bring new details to life in vintage photos through exacting coloring techniques.

Almost Lost Arts introduces you to these and so many more people across the globe who are keeping the old crafts and arts alive. There is a good balance of text and color photos which blend together to describe the history and the current application of the particular art. The descriptive text is fascinating and well-researched.

I have only two technical issues: there are some editing issues in the advanced copy I received (page 67 in the wet plate photography chapter has some misspelled words, and sentences that repeat); and something that annoys me in books that rely on photos and words to tell the story – when you have captioned photos on a page, end the text block with a period. Don’t make the reader go to the next page to finish the sentence/paragraph then have to go back to read the photo captions.

Other than those two minor quibbles, this is a fabulous book. Beautiful and informative. Buy it for every maker you know who loves the old ways. They will not be disappointed.

Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Published By: Chronicle Books
Thanks to Chronicle Books for the review copy

Emperors of the Deep by William McKeever


In this remarkable groundbreaking book, a documentarian and conservationist, determined to dispel misplaced fear and correct common misconceptions, explores in-depth the secret lives of sharks—magnificent creatures who play an integral part in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans and ultimately the planet.
From the Jaws blockbusters to Shark Week, we are conditioned to see sharks as terrifying cold-blooded underwater predators. But as Safeguard the Seas founder William McKeever reveals, sharks are evolutionary marvels essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. We can learn much from sharks, he argues, and our knowledge about them continues to grow. The first book to reveal in full the hidden lives of sharks, Emperors of the Deep examines four species—Mako, Tiger, Hammerhead, and Great White—as never before, and includes fascinating details such as:
  • Sharks are 50-million years older than trees;
  • Sharks have survived five extinction level events, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs;
  • Sharks have electroreception, a sixth-sense that lets them pick up on electric fields generated by living things;
  • Sharks can dive 4,000 feet below the surface;
  • Sharks account for only 6 human fatalities per year, while humans kill 100 million sharks per year.

McKeever goes back through time to probe the shark’s pre-historic secrets, how the shark has become the world’s most feared and most misunderstood predator, and takes us on a pulse-pounding tour around the world and deep under the water’s surface, from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to the coral reefs of the tropical Central Pacific, to see sharks up close in their natural habitat. He also interviews ecologists, conservationists, and world-renowned shark experts, including the founders of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, the head of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, and the self-professed “last great shark hunter.”

At once a deep-dive into the misunderstood world of sharks and an urgent call to protect them, Emperors of the Deep celebrates this wild species that hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean—if we can prevent their extinction from climate change and human hunters.

Book Details:
Book Title: Emperors of the Deep by William McKeever
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 320 pages
Genre: Environment, Ocean Wildlife, Marine Life
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release date: June 25, 2019
Tour dates: June 25 to July 12, 2019
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (Intense underwater moments and descriptions of interactions with Sharks both in diver and hunting situation)
Buy the Book:
 
 
Watch the trailer:
 
About the Author:
Photo Credit: Debra Somerville
William McKeever is a writer and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder of Safeguard the Seas, an NGO dedicated to ocean conservation. He is the producer and director of the forthcoming feature-length documentary Man Bites Shark.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram 

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Ends July 20, 2019

Play to Live by Brian Vandongen

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Book Description:

Play To Live: Life Skills and Joy Through The Natural Talent To Play by author Brian VanDongen takes you back to your childhood to remind you about what being a child is all about. Playing! We all have those fond childhood memories of growing up playing with our friends in social settings. Developing social skills and learning how to handle friendships and relationships.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that those skills we learned for the building blocks which lay the foundation for the rest of our lives. What are our children learning right now? How are they playing now and what part are we playing in how our children interact with the world around them.

For many children, their idea of play and playing now consists of talking to friends online and playing with electronic devices, staying safe indoors, and not venturing further than their own small safe world which we have created.

Inside Play To Live you’ll discover:

  • Understanding what it means to play.
  • Where play has gone and what has changed?
  • How playing inside the box promotes the simplicity of play.
  • Why risky play is not the same as dangerous play. Are we too overprotective?
  • That climbing up the slide is just as important as sliding down.
  • Getting muddy outside and rediscovering nature is imperative.
  • That play is serious business and so much more.

Inside Play To Live: Life Skills and Joy Through The Natural Talent To Play you’ll read about case studies and reports followed by tips, tricks, and information to help you. If you would like to rediscover what it means to play, then grab a copy of Play To Live right now!

To follow the tour, please visit Brian VanDongen’s page on iRead Book Tours.
 
​​Meet the author:  ​

 

Brian is a life-long “parks and rec kid.” Now, he is a parks and recreation professional. Brian has created, designed, and implemented transformational recreational programming for thousands of residents. ​ Through his work as a park and recreation professional, Brian helps people play and find their natural talent to play.

He believes everyone has that talent, but it is sometimes hard to find or even suppressed in today’s society. ​ Fortunately, play at its most basic level is easy, fun, healthy, and desirable. That playful talent just needs to be unleashed.

Brian has helped thousands of people find their natural talent to play and become happier and healthier people through the power of play.

Book Details:

  • Book Title: Play to Live: Life Skills and Joy Through the Natural Talent to Play by Brian VanDongen
  • Category: Self-help/ Inner Child; creativity, 119 pages
  • Genre: Adult Non-Fiction (18+)
  • Publisher: BVDPlays
  • Release date: April 30, 2019
  • Tour dates: June 17 to July 5, 2019
  • Content Rating: G

Connect with the author: Website ~  Facebook ~  Twitter ~ Instagram

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Ends July 13, 2019

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Me, Myself & Ideas by Carrie Anton & Jessica Nordskog


054EA89F-A8A9-4BAB-AF05-653C6974C99FFrom the publisher: From brainstorming mavens Carrie Anton and Jessica Nordskog comes this inspirational guide to generating fresh ideas—all without setting foot in a conference room.

An essential resource for any self-employed, freelance, or work-from-home professional, Me, Myself & Ideas offers tips, tools, and a host of exercises aimed at crushing mental blocks and forging ahead with creative solutions. Whether you’re stuck on a logistical problem or experiencing a creative dry spell, the activities in this book are sure to get you thinking (and creating) in new and powerful ways.

This fabulous book is a must-have for anyone who currently works solo, or is thinking about making a leap in that direction. Anton and Nordskog offer page after page of inspirational and creative ideas to help readers have even more big ideas. The format is bright and appealing, causing you to keep reading even if the particular chapter isn’t of interest. These two are skilled writers and clearly have extensive experience in ideation. Recommended.

Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Published By: Andrew McMeel Publishing
Thanks to Netgalley for the review book

Uncultivated by Andy Brennan


AE58666F-AE06-45C9-A5BC-E497B0EB24D2From the Publisher: Long before the advent of conventional farming methods–which have focused on constant growth, human intervention, and genetic homogeneity–­the apple had already grown to become the ubiquitous all-American symbol it is today. Known for their hardiness, ability to adapt to new environments, natural diversity, and plentiful bounty, wildly grown apples were once known as ”America’s fruit” throughout the trading world. Yet those apple trees–known as pippins–have nearly vanished from the American agricultural landscape, and so, too, have the complexities and nuances of wild apples and their cider. Andy Brennan, founder of Aaron Burr Cidery in upstate New York, has been making a case for their return.

In Uncultivated, Brennan’s hero is the tenacious wild apple and the supe­rior cider it produces. In candid and at times philosophical prose, he shares his decades-long experience working with naturalized trees–from discovering new tastes and textures to understanding how the wild apple tree guided him toward a successful, environmentally conscious business. At the heart of his story is Brennan’s faith in nature, and its unfailing ability to deliver us from our own mistakes.

Andy Brennan is the owner of Aaron Burr Cidery, a small homestead farm located in New York State’s Catskill region that supplies cider to some of Manhattan’s most popular restaurants, including 11 Madison Park and the Gramercy Tavern. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast magazine, and numerous other publications.

Brennan writes eloquently about the industry that feeds his occupation – cider-making – and focuses intently on heirloom or lost strains of apple trees. Having grown up in the Apple Country of western NY, I know a little bit about apple trees and orchards. Brennan does an excellent job of sharing information about the cultivation of apple trees, and what it means to entrepreneurs like himself. I am so happy to see attention being paid to those lost varieties of apples, and make an effort to support farms that are attempting to bring them back. (I’m looking at you, Hurd Orchards!) Before I read this, I didn’t know much about cider-making and how the variety of apple has such an effect on the end product. Fascinating stuff. Recommended for apple enthusiasts and anyone interested in the cider industry.

Publication Date: June 12, 2019
Published By: Chelsea Green Publishing
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

Monster She Wrote by Lisa Krieger & Melanie Anderson


9CD8CA8F-41F6-4647-8B19-E4A3B5E67949It’s been years since I took a deep dive into early gothic and speculative fiction, and never just focusing on women authors, so I thought this would be a nice refresher. Kroger and Anderson have written a *readable* and engaging piece of non-fiction that delves into all the kick-ass women who wrote science fiction, paranormal, horror, and speculative fiction from the 17th century on. Many of them wrote using male pseudonyms, but others started their own publishing houses just for women!

While I especially enjoyed the chapters on the early writers in the field, I also found many unfamiliar authors to explore who wrote for the pulps, or who wrote under male pseudonyms. This book had me scouring my bookshelves for English and Victorian ghost story and short story collections to see if I actually had some of the stories referenced. I now have a stack of ghost story books all set for a summer reading project and am thinking about putting together a reading challenge for my Litsy friends using the authors referenced in the book. Here are a few I plan to explore…

Authors to Revisit:

  • Margaret Cavendish (Mad Madge)
  • Ann Radcliffe
  • Mary Shelley
  • Mary Anne Radcliffe
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Charlotte Riddell

Authors to Explore:

  • Regina Maria Roche
  • Margery Bowen
  • L.T. Meade
  • Charlotte Dacre
  • Marjorie Lawrence
  • Amelia Edwards (apparently the model for Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody character)

These are just a few of the authors featured in this handy book. Find it when it comes out. This one’s a winner, folks!

Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Published By: Quirk Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review book

For the Love of Books by Graham Tarrant

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cover160804-mediumPeople who love books and reading and authors will enjoy this book. It’s like a compilation of People magazine stories, but focusing solely on authors. There is information galore on famous feuds, who drank what and when, how and where certain authors liked to write, muses and obsessions, and just plain gossip. However, buried under the 21st century, short attention span sections is some real, solid information about authors, writing, and reading. This would be an interesting companion text in a World Literature course – teach the serious stuff but temper it with the messy, human side of the authors. Recommended for people who enjoy trivia and unusual takes on traditional literature and authors.

Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Published By: Skyhorse Publishing
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy