Book Review: Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl

Book: Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl

Published August 2014 by HarperCollins|288 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

An astonishing memoir for the untold number of children whose lives have been touched by bullying. Positive is a must-read for teens, their parents, educators, and administrators—a brave, visceral work that will save lives and resonate deeply.

Paige Rawl has been HIV positive since birth, but growing up, she never felt like her illness defined her. On an unremarkable day in middle school, she disclosed to a friend her HIV-positive status—and within hours the bullying began. From that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. Paige was never sure when or from where the next text, taunt, or hateful message would come. Then one night, desperate for escape, fifteen-year-old Paige found herself in her bathroom staring at a bottle of sleeping pills.

That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning. Paige’s memoir calls for readers to choose action over complacency, compassion over cruelty—and above all, to be Positive.

I liked Positive.  There’s been quite a gap between when I finished the book and when I’m actually reviewing this, so we’ll see how this goes.

Surprisingly, I do remember a little more of it than I thought I would.  She did have a lot of doctor’s appointments and medications, and it wasn’t until she was in middle school that she found out that she had HIV.  I can’t imagine finding out that you were born HIV-positive, and I can’t help but wonder what Paige thought was going on.  I honestly can’t remember if a reason was given for why her mom didn’t mention it until she was older, or what Paige thought she was going to the doctor for but if it’s always been a part of your life maybe she didn’t question it or give it a second thought.

I was sad at how her classmates treated her once word got out she had HIV.  It seemed like the school didn’t do anything to make things better for her and didn’t intervene unless they absolutely had to.  With the adults at her school, I had the impression she was the problem for bringing things to their attention, and not what her classmates were saying and doing.

The writing was okay, and it did go off on a few tangents, but her story is remarkable.  You really see how much the bullying affected her but you also see how she found support from others well.  She was really positive, and you could tell she really wanted to inspire others who struggled like she did.

Her story felt very accessible, and very personal.  The entire time I was reading Positive, it felt like she was telling me the story herself, and I did like how conversational it felt.  I also liked all of the resources and information she had throughout the book and at the end of the book.  I learned a little more about HIV, which was great because I feel like we hear about AIDS a lot more.

3 stars.  I really liked reading Paige’s story- though the school was really frustrating, I admire how Paige wanted to make a difference in other kid’s lives.  The writing was okay, but it seems like she was pretty young when she wrote it, so that might be why.

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Book Review: Banana: The Fate Of The Fruit That Changed The World by Dan Koeppel

Book: The Fate Of The Fruit That Changed The World by Dan Koeppel

Published December 2008 by Plume|304 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Food History

In the vein of the bestselling Salt and Cod, a gripping chronicle of the myth, mystery, and uncertain fate of the world’s most popular fruit

In this fascinating and surprising exploration of the banana’s history, cultural significance, and endangered future, award-winning journalist Dan Koeppel gives readers plenty of food for thought. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, Banana takes us from jungle to supermarket, from corporate boardrooms to kitchen tables around the world. We begin in the Garden of Eden—examining scholars’ belief that Eve’s “apple” was actually a banana— and travel to early-twentieth-century Central America, where aptly named “banana republics” rose and fell over the crop, while the companies now known as Chiquita and Dole conquered the marketplace. Koeppel then chronicles the banana’s path to the present, ultimately—and most alarmingly—taking us to banana plantations across the globe that are being destroyed by a fast-moving blight, with no cure in sight—and to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit.

I thought this was an interesting read.  I didn’t love it, of course, and by the end, I started to lose interest, but there is a lot that I learned about one of my favorite foods.

Like, there’s over 1,000 types of bananas worldwide.  To me, all bananas are the same.  It’s not like, say…apples, where you know there’s a lot of different varieties.  But bananas are pretty consistent, apparently, because they all ripen at around the same the time, no matter what.

What I also didn’t know was that the bananas we eat are basically grown by cloning, and need a lot of human help.  And because bananas are the same, they’re equally susceptible to diseases and stuff.

I could go on and on about the different things I learned about bananas.  It’s something I never really thought about before, and there’s a lot I never realized.  The history and politics behind bananas and how they’re grown and shipped was something I never thought about.  We all know about Dole and Chiquita, but I never realized that they were two different brands of the same type of banana.  It’s something I never really paid attention to before.

Still, it was interesting to read what they did in order to outdo and compete with each other.  Particularly Chiquita (which used to be United Fruit).  What they did in Central America was absolutely horrible.  I won’t go into it, but it sounds like some pretty horrible conditions were there all because of, well, money.

One of the main things we see in the book is the book to save bananas from disease.  There’s a lot of different research going on to save the fruit we all know and love.  It sounds like it’s pretty hard, though, because bananas don’t have seeds, so banana scientists are trying to figure out what to do.

While the book was pretty informative, I did start to lose interest.  The book wasn’t told in a completely linear fashion, and it jumped around a lot.  One minute, you’re reading about banana plantations in the 1950’s, and the next minute, you’re reading about some researcher in the 1930’s.  It was hard to keep up with what was going on because the focus kept jumping around, both in time and with people.  I ended up skimming  some parts about halfway through the book.

I will say that if food history is your thing, this might be worth checking out.  Or if you just want to know more about bananas.

3 stars.  While I learned a lot, it also jumped around a lot, and that made it hard to keep all of the information straight.

Books I Couldn’t Finish: Masters Of The Air by Donald Miller

masters-of-the-air-coverBook: Masters Of The Air by Donald Miller

Published October 2006 by Simon & Schuster|671 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/History/World War 2/Military History

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Masters of the Air is the deeply personal story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. With the narrative power of fiction, Donald Miller takes readers on a harrowing ride through the fire-filled skies over Berlin, Hanover, and Dresden and describes the terrible cost of bombing for the German people.

Fighting at 25,000 feet in thin, freezing air that no warriors had ever encountered before, bomber crews battled new kinds of assaults on body and mind. Air combat was deadly but intermittent: periods of inactivity and anxiety were followed by short bursts of fire and fear. Unlike infantrymen, bomber boys slept on clean sheets, drank beer in local pubs, and danced to the swing music of Glenn Miller’s Air Force band, which toured U.S. air bases in England. But they had a much greater chance of dying than ground soldiers. In 1943, an American bomber crewman stood only a one-in-five chance of surviving his tour of duty, twenty-five missions. The Eighth Air Force lost more men in the war than the U.S. Marine Corps.

The bomber crews were an elite group of warriors who were a microcosm of America — white America, anyway. (African-Americans could not serve in the Eighth Air Force except in a support capacity.) The actor Jimmy Stewart was a bomber boy, and so was the “King of Hollywood,” Clark Gable. And the air war was filmed by Oscar-winning director William Wyler and covered by reporters like Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite, all of whom flew combat missions with the men. The Anglo-American bombing campaign against Nazi Germany was the longest military campaign of World War II, a war within a war. Until Allied soldiers crossed into Germany in the final months of the war, it was the only battle fought inside the German homeland.

Strategic bombing did not win the war, but the war could not have been won without it. American airpower destroyed the rail facilities and oil refineries that supplied the German war machine. The bombing campaign was a shared enterprise: the British flew under the cover of night while American bombers attacked by day, a technique that British commanders thought was suicidal.

Masters of the Air is a story, as well, of life in wartime England and in the German prison camps, where tens of thousands of airmen spent part of the war. It ends with a vivid description of the grisly hunger marches captured airmen were forced to make near the end of the war through the country their bombs destroyed.

Drawn from recent interviews, oral histories, and American, British, German, and other archives, Masters of the Air is an authoritative, deeply moving account of the world’s first and only bomber war.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really love history, and thought Masters Of The Air looked really interesting.  It’s a book I’ve been reading off and on for a while, but I had a hard time getting through it.

I only got about 100 pages in before deciding that this book isn’t for me.  It’s not that it’s uninteresting, because I did think it was a pretty informative book.  Before I picked this book up, I never thought about the Air Force not being its own entity.  For me, it’s always been separate branch of the U.S. military.  But it seems like there were different incarnations under the Army- at least from what I could tell.  There’s this guy, William Mitchell, and he fought hard for an independent Air Force.

Another interesting thing was that a lot of the pilots experienced some form of oxygen deprivation- very few died from it, but something 50 to 60% experienced it.  A lot of it was because of poor planning- there was such a focus on getting the planes (and men) into the air that they didn’t think about little things.  There was a bigger focus on bombing strategy and not a lot on preparing the crews to survive in the conditions necessary to actually executing that strategy.

So why didn’t I finish it?  I had a really hard time getting through it.  It’s very detailed, and just from the 100 pages or so I read, it was clear to me that Miller put a lot of research and time into this book.  Even randomly picking up the book and reading a chapter didn’t help- I felt like I was struggling to get through it.  Since it also focuses more on military history, it’s more technical than what I’m used to reading, and that was a contributing factor in my inability to get through it.   It’s not for lack of trying, and as much as I wanted to get through it, I knew it was time to put it down and walk away.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

DNF.  I don’t feel like it’s fair to give a star rating for something I didn’t get very far into before deciding to not finish it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books For People Who Have Never Read About The Tudors

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers from all over share their own top ten list based on the topic of the week.  You can find all Top Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Books For People Who Have Never Read About The Tudors

Tudor England is one of my favorite time periods ever!  I’ve been fascinated with the Tudors ever since I did a research project on Elizabeth 1 in high school, and since it’s the only era in history I’ve consistently read about, I knew it would be a great topic.  I went for a combination of non-fiction and fiction, and you can’t go wrong with any of the books I talk about.  All links will lead you to goodreads!

Non-Fiction:

  1. The Wives Of Henry VIII by Antonia Frasier.  There are a couple other biographies about the 6 women who were married to Henry VIII (that I know of) and I knew I had to include at least one of them.  I’d go with this one, since it gives the best overview of his wives.
  2. Henry VIII: The King And His Court by Alison Weir.  It’s a really good look at Henry VIII himself, and it’s a pretty long book with quite a few details, but it also give really good insight into Henry’s life and who he was.  (I will say, you can’t go wrong with Alison Weir, who is one of my favorite authors).
  3. Winter King: Henry VII And The Dawn Of Tudor England by Thomas Penn.  Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include it on this list, because I actually haven’t finished it…because I put it on hold months ago- like, last year months ago.  But even though I haven’t finished it, it’s still an interesting read, because it touches a bit on the Wars Of The Roses, which led to the Tudors sitting on the throne.
  4. Jane Boleyn: The True Story Of The Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox.  It’s been ages since I’ve read it, but it’s a great biography of the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn and a lady-in-waiting to three Tudor Queens.
  5. The First Queen Of England: The Myth Of “Bloody Mary” by Linda Porter.  I feel like this biography of Mary is good one to read, since it’s actually a really good introduction to who Mary Tudor was and what influenced her to be the person and Queen she was.

Historical Fiction:

  1. Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb.  It’s a great YA paranormal historical fiction about a witch living during the reign of Mary Tudor…and she just happens to be in service to the future Elizabeth I.  It’s a good look at what life was like during this time.
  2. Gilt by Katherine Longshore.  I was debating whether I wanted to include this one or Tarnish, but I went with Gilt because it’s about Katherine Howard, and she doesn’t pop up too often in books about this time period.  (Well, in books that I’ve read).
  3. Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer.  It’s a great middle grade book about Mary Tudor, and I think it would be a great way to introduce the time period to kids.
  4. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory.  I thought about putting The Other Boleyn Girl on this list, as it’s a book a lot of people probably know.  But I actually like The Boleyn Inheritance better!  Partly because it focuses on Anne Of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Jane Rochford, but also because Gregory can tell a story that keeps you reading.  This one in particular has you invested in the characters.  (Side Note: You can’t go wrong with any of her Tudor Court books.  I haven’t read The Other Queen, but I highly recommend the rest of the series).
  5. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir.  I tried really hard to include only one Alison Weir book, which was really hard since I’ve read so many books by her.  She’s made the jump from non-fiction to historical fiction sometime in the last few years, and so I felt like a 2nd appearance was warranted.  Overall, her historical fiction is super-accurate and authentic (for those who like that in historical fiction), which is the direct result of writing historical fiction set during the time periods that she researches for her non-fiction stuff.