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Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II

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Philip Eade’s book Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II is a fascinating account of the life of the man who gave up a promising and exciting military career in the British Navy to stand in the shadows behind one of the most famous women on earth, and to be relegated to walking 6 paces behind for the rest of his life.If you were to cast actors to play the various parts of the people who filled Prince Philip’s life and then show the story on daytime American TV, no one would believe it wasn’t made-up. From his earliest days when his family was ousted from their royal seat as monarchs of Greece, to his mother’s total deafness and then her hospitalization in an asylum for a “nervous breakdown”, to his philandering father who abandoned his family and lived the high life in southern France and Monaco with various mistresses, and the deaths of his sister, her husband and children in a plane wreck, the marriage of two of his other sisters to Nazis (one of them in the SS), Philip’s education in Germany at a school that became increasingly pro-Hitler, to his having nowhere to call home until he married Princess Elizabeth, the heir to the English throne. Sounds like very creative soap opera material to me. But all of that disordered life helped form the strong and charming character of Philip Of Greece, otherwise known as Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh and finally Prince Philip. Philip is a complex man as is described in this statement “But as well as the quarrels [with Queen Elizabeth], there always seemed to be plenty of laughter, and, although some thought Philip something of a ‘cold fish’, others witnessed a great deal of sensitivity an tenderness. I was grateful that the four pages of the genealogy of Philip’s and Elizabeth’s families were included in the book and I often referred to them as the story unfolded. American readers may still be confused by the titles which change as people die and others get married. There are also many other references to things unknown. For instance, on page 281, the author remarks that Philip “often attended dinners alone and gave speeches while she [Elizabeth] remained behind to work on her boxes or watch television or do the crossword”. Boxes? Is that an arts and crafts project or a reference to diplomatic documents? Sometimes the book seems to be a collection of facts, all of which needed to be stuffed somewhere. At times, the sentences don’t hang together, with phrases inserted merely, it seems, because they existed on a note card having been jotted there during the research phase of the writing of the biography. But on the whole, the account is thorough and captivating, and I feel like I know what made Prince Philip who he is.
The Teeth of the Tiger

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This is the first and last Clancy book that I will ever read. His writing was lazy, his plot trite, his deaths repetitive and boring, and his jeering and childish actions as the shooting terrorists died (stuffing a football into one's hands and saying now he was going to hell because he was holding a pig's skin.) ridiculous. I would give less than 1/2 of a star but someone might mistake the blanks for indecision.
Sullivan's Island

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I enjoyed the beginning of the book, particularly the accounts of the main character's life growing up on the island with a Gullah caregiver. But the end of the book dissolved into a maudlin religious and sappy sentimental conclusion. Very disappointing.
Back in the Game

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I found this book to be boring. Nothing happens in it and I asked myself several times as I read, why did he write this book? I kept waiting for a conflict, for tension, for character development, for some of the story threads to go somewhere, but none of that happened. He describes relationships but does not offer enough information to understand behavior or motivation, so we are left questioning why certain characters acted as they did. I began to think that the big pig farm would end up being the evil capitalistic faceless enterprise that would destroy the environment and make everyone sick, but that story line petered out into nothing. Then I thought that his relationship with the intellectually disabled children he is interested in would create difficulty for him, but nothing happened there either. I consider this book a waste of my time.
Gathering of Waters

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I found the book "Gathering of Waters" to be engaging and evocative. The story is narrated by the town of Money Mississippi, which allows the view point to be from several places at once. The town relates it's history from the beginning of the 1900s to the winds and waters of Katrina and covers Emmett Till's murder and other atrocities of the Jim Crow era. I was disturbed that the evil spirit that invaded the towns people was made to be at fault for the murder of Emmett, preferring that the blame be rested squarely on the men who committed the murder and the society that allowed it. This is the first book that I read by McFaddden and i will look for more.
Minding Ben: A Novel

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Minding Ben by Victoria BrownI received this book from the Early Reviewers as a bonus to the book I actually ordered. When I read the back cover, the story line interested me because during graduate school, in the early 1980s. I lived in New Jersey with my brother’s family and their live-in nanny from Antigua in the West Indies. She told me many stories of other nanny’s behavior toward their white charges and it was interesting to compare her experiences to this book.The book, autobiographical in part, is about Grace Canton who at the age of 16 left Trinidad to come to America. She escaped poverty and narrow life opportunities, but left a much loved mother, sister and ill father. After several unhappy experiences occurring over the first year that she spend in America, she landed a job with a family living in New York City, minding the little 3 year old boy. She suffered the indignities of unfair work requirements, the meanness of the mother of the little boy (“make me a sandwich with the turkey but make yourself one with bologna – it should still be good”) and a sexual pass by the father. Like other reviewers at LibraryThing, I found it rather surprising that the drive that brought Grace to America seemed almost to disappear once she arrived. She allowed herself to be treated with such disrespect by her employer even though at one point she could have taken her friend’s Kathy’s job, with much better pay and living arrangements. Several people suggested that she could model and yet Grace did not explore that idea at all. Also, like other reviewers, I felt that the story ended rather abruptly, as if the author became bored with the project and decided to stop writing. In all, I think the author’s writing style was good; the story line was interesting and the characters well drawn. We will always remember Kathy’s bedazzled clothing. It is a successful first book and I will look for more from Ms. Brown.
Return of the Thin Man

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I received The Return of the Thin Man as an Early Reviewer Book in audio book form. The Return of the Thin Man is a newly released book that contains two stories and a sketch. The first, After the Thin Man, takes place immediately following The Thin Man and the second, Another Thin Man, takes place a few years later. Both were written by Dashiell Hammett as screen plays, sequels to the widely popular 1934 movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. The sketch is an 8 page summary of another Thin Man movie idea. By then, both Hammett and the screen writers were tired of the series and wanted to end it. The book includes a lengthy description of the creation of the Thin Man series, Hammett’s life, and the relationship Hammett had with the producer of the movies and the movie company. I found the history very interesting and it served to make the stories more enjoyable. The two stories contain the same intricate plots that Hammett is famous for, but his style of wording is lost in the loose screen play format. The audio version uses various actors complete with accents and so it sounds like a radio program with narration. I enjoyed listening to the book very much. I loved the witty interplay between Nick and Nora so much that I borrowed the whole set of movies from the local library so that I could see Hammett’s characterizations played out by the well cast couple.
Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free

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In Dancing with Max, Emily Colson relates her experience raising a mildly autistic child as a single mother. It is a heartfelt portrayal, full of empathy, love and humor. As indicated by reviews here and at Amazon, many readers clearly have found the story heart-warming and uplifting. I can certainly understand that reaction. However, as a mental health professional who works with children, I have mixed reactions to the book. First, being based largely on information from as much as two decades ago, the book ought not be taken as descriptive of how autism is treated in the USA today. While the author reportedly could not find services for her son, and the staff at the day center did not understand his behavior, I doubt that such could happen today (except perhaps in the poorest of US states and rural areas). Twenty years ago, when I was working with autistic children and young adults in a large eastern city, lots of services were available to them, including special classrooms, pull-out services in school, group homes, respite services for parents, after school programs, and counseling services. (Likewise, the state of Pennsylvania had similar services by the early to mid 1970s). With autism so much in the news, it would be unfortunate if someone came away from this book with a distorted knowledge of what is available today for children and adults who are diagnosed with the condition. Second, to be frank, I found the conservative religious fervor that permeates the book to be off-putting. Autism knows no bounds of religion or culture. Thus, autistic children are routinely born of Jewish parents, Hindu parents, Buddhist parents, and Muslim parents, not to mention animists, atheists, agnostics, and followers of Confucius. How nice that Max’s mother found strength and solace in her religion. But love of a mother for her child (disabled or not) is a universal human feature, and evangelical Christianity certainly has no monopoly on the attribute. Lest that seem an over-reaction to the book, see its extended prologue and epilogue by the author’s father, reformed felon Charles Colson. Colson senior uses his daughter’s book to gain converts to his extremist form of religion, with a bizarre and slanderous caricature of biological science. (He equates a belief in evolution with a form of eugenics reminiscent of Nazi Germany). If Mr. Colson took time to read a little popular science, he would find that one of the most exciting conceptual advances in the past 20 years has been recognition that ethics, morality, and even belief in the supernatural have a biological (and evolutionary) basis. In sum, this is a heartwarming tale of a mother’s compassion and love for her disabled son. But it is a memoir, not an account of how autism is treated today. Interestingly, in biblical times, an autistic child would have been thought to be possessed by the devil. Today (we’re repeatedly told in this book), Max is a “gift”. Now that’s evolution!. :-)
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