Monday, November 22, 2010

The American Patriot's Almanac

The American Patriot’s Almanac, by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

The American Patriot’s Almanac is both an academic resource and a story book. Bennett and Cribb have given Americans a beautifully written keepsake of mementos reminding us why we should be proud to be Americans.

The book is divided into months of the year. Each month tells a different story of America, for example: starting in January with the Flags of the Revolutionary War, continuing in June it includes the Declaration of Independence, and ending in December with State Flags, Facts, and Symbols.

No historical event or document is missing. The book reinforces well known facts, and then introduces unknown information that surprises readers. This makes the book interesting and fun for all ages.

As a former middle school history teacher, I would recommend The American Patriot’s Almanac as a classroom resource. If only textbooks were presented to students in this format, students would be enticed to study American history.

I also recommend this Almanac for every home in America. The format enables a family to easily read the monthly entries on daily basis. What an exciting way to promote the American Patriot in us all.

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Book review by Mary Crocco

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lee, A Life of Virtue

Title: Lee, A life of Virtue, by John Perry

Many books written about Robert E. Lee are on bookshelves across America. Lee, A Life of Virtue, by John Perry, is geared toward a young audience. Teachers would do justice to middle school students by assigning John Perry’s book as part of the curriculum when studying the Civil War. Parents who enrich their children’s school work at home may consider purchasing this book.

Perry described Lee, a major general, with role model potential: a diligent, honest student. Readers will understand Lee’s attributes: leadership qualities, determination to get the job done, and responsibility for his actions.

People respected and admired Lee, without fearing him. He brought the best out of his soldiers by being humble, even sharing their deplorable living conditions during the Civil War.

In his book, Perry balances Lee’s virtues by including his flaws: he was too trusting and not forceful enough. This may have cost him defeat in certain battles. Perry describes the battles Lee won and lost, stating probable reasons why. He points out, ‘Lee never pointed a finger, never blamed anyone but himself.’

Lee, A Life of Virtue, is an easy, quick read for students and adults. I recommend the book to be on school and home bookshelves across America.

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Book review by Mary Crocco

Monday, August 16, 2010

Same Kind of Different as Me

Same Kind of Different As me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

Over the Top

Same Kind of Different as Me is a true story about Denver Moore. He was a victim of slavery in the mid 20th century. He escaped on his own and was taken under Deborah Hall’s wings to overcome poverty and homelessness. Miss Debbie, as Denver called her, was a religious, spiritual zealot who helped the homeless. Ron Hall was Deborah’s phony husband who was ‘coaxed’ by his wife to do nice things for the homeless. He complied only after his affair was exposed. Throughout the book, the reader is supposed to grow to like Ron, but it did not work for me. He may have learned to be less judgmental and prejudice, but he remains to be an egotistical jerk in my opinion.

The book is based on Denver Moore’s life, but there is an excessive amount of over the top preachy religious and spiritual nonsense. For example: God talking through Denver, a voodoo rain making aunt, Deborah blaming herself that Ron strayed into the arms of another woman and then to top it off, on her death bed she tells him she has her permission for him to go back to her when she dies. These are just a few.

I think the book should have been written exclusively by Denver Moore. We could have learned more historical facts that would have been enlightening rather than the nonsense we had to endure reading about Ron. Still not sure how Ron got invited to former President Bush's inaugural address! One can assume, but the author just threw that in out of nowhere, which validates my opinion of Ron.

For the very religious, there were words and phrases of godly wisdom that will do your heart good. But when we have to read through Miss Debbie’s gruesome and tortuous two years of dying, it had me believing this was way too much suffering that should have been ended long before. I know I am supposed to come away with all the godly thoughts such as, it is in god’s hands, not ours, but this story had me thinking just the complete opposite.

I always try to acquire something positive from any book I read, whether I enjoy it or not. With that being said, I liked the history Denver related to his readers, but there should have been more. A pearl to realize is that some people can improve their lives when given a chance. We all know this to be true, but I just don’t see or hear of many Deborah Halls in this world. She was an over the top extremist, even Denver realized that.

I would only recommend this book to the very religious and spiritual who could relate to the extreme views and feelings of Miss Debbie and Denver Moore. The book left me with mixed feelings, mostly about Ron Hall, and mostly negative. I was not left with pondering thoughts, but with distaste.

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Book Review by Mary Crocco

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances

Title: The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances
Author: Andy Andrews
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publisher Address: Nashville, Tennessee
ISBN: 978-0-7852-3103-5
List Price: 18.99

Be careful when you cut down trees in your yard! You may discover hidden artifacts from WWII. In this historical fiction novel titled, The Heart Mender, Andy Andrews, as the author, does just that – he discovers a large, rusty old can with personal items belonging to a German submarine soldier from WWII.

Mr. Andrews shares his incredible journey with us during his research. He discovers the items belonged to a German U-boat soldier that attacked U.S. vessels off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The story enlightens the reader with WWII hidden historical facts that come to life while we enjoy the character’s lives during this time. Once we are introduced to these complicated, yet simple, loving, small town people, we are entwined in their lives.

The events of the story resemble a love story and a murder mystery. It is a treat to read a book that not only entertains with unforgettable, strong characters, but also informs the reader with hidden WWII facts. It is a thought provoking story which has the reader question his/her own tolerance and level of forgiveness. Mr. Andrews conveys how we are not expected to forget our personal grievances, but we can be better people if we can forgive what we cannot forget.

I recommend this book to readers of all ages as a true historical fiction with personal growth inspiration.

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Book review by Mary Crocco

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears

A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears, by William J. Bennett

A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears, by William J. Bennett, is a textbook version of a political magazine. It is a commentary which takes the reader from 1998 – 2008. William J. Bennett writes a balanced account of history which has the reader scratching his/her head thinking about the events he/she may have lived through. The key word here is ‘thinking’. This is why I think the book is extraordinary.

Bennett describes ten years of political events that jog the reader’s memory. He writes with his well established conservative view. He wants his readers to be informed about facts leading up to an historical event, and he gives us the background information and tells us why things occurred the way they did. He gives his opinions and reasons for his own actions at the time. The reader is left with knowledge to ponder and food for thought to keep or form new opinions.

Living in the moment of history is one thing, however, going back in time and reading facts about how and why an event happened is another. Bennett brings awareness to his readers and we may experience a new enlightenment that brings closure to our personal political confusion.

As a former American History teacher, I highly recommend this book to middle and high school students, as well as readers of all ages. It is an informative yet thought provoking book.

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Book review by Mary Crocco

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mountain of Crumbs, A Memoir

A Mountain of Crumbs is an extraordinary memoir of Elena Gorokhova. Elena was born in former Leningrad, Russia, and grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia. The story of Elena’s life is written as an honest, fascinating, historical, Russian novel. As readers enjoy sharing the day to day struggles and real life discoveries of Elena, along with her family and friends, we also learn historical facts and knowledge of Russia.
The title originates from Elena’s childhood of poverty; Elena’s grandmother invented the crumb game. With stomachs growling and making do with a piece of black bread and a cube of sugar, she broke the bread and sugar with her fingers saying, “Look at how much you’ve got, a whole mountain of crumbs.”
This began Elena’s disillusion regarding her country’s deprivation and oppression. She felt in her heart there must be a better life beyond Russia. This is the journey Elena takes her readers on with every chapter being a new age which brings enlightenment to Elena.
There is a passion for the English language that allows Elena to reach her goal of leaving Russia. She educates herself regarding the collective vs. capitalism. It is a wonderful read to see Elena succeed and immigrate to the U.S.
I recommend this book, A Mountain of Crumbs, by Elena Gorokhova to all readers. However; I would have liked a glossary of the Russian vocabulary Elena included in her memoir. Also, the Epilogue is a mere three pages and does not do justice to my curiosity about Elena’s new life in the U.S. I am thinking and hoping a sequel may be the reason for this. This book possesses all the elements of an informative text and a great story.

Book Review by Mary Crocco

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The King and Dr. Nick

Is this the way it was?

In today’s media frenzy about celebrities, we all know there is more than one story uncovered in every celebrity death. The question the public is still obsessed over is; did Elvis Presley die of a drug overdose?

Dr. Nick, George Nichopoulos, describes to his readers the intimate role he played as Elvis’s personal physician. He takes his readers to Elvis’s home and on tour to explain the reasons he prescribed the variety of drugs he gave to the King, from 1967 – 1977. Dr. Nick feels compassion for the King, as he suffered from ailments such as: insomnia, gastroenteritis, anxiety, panic disorders; the list is endless. He takes us through his numerous court cases to validate the drugs he prescribed as necessary vs. desired. Discrepancies regarding the two autopsies are brought to light for his readers.

I think the book itself contains an abundant amount of information about Elvis and Dr. Nick. It may fill the void for some Elvis fans; however, I feel it was more of a catharsis for Dr. Nick. George Nichopoulos writes his well – intentioned book to set the record straight, but I think it is just one more book about Elvis where readers should ask themselves, is this the way it was?

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Book review by Mary Crocco