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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet by Heraldo Muñoz

Title: The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet
Author: Heraldo Muñoz
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Basic Books
Publish Date: September 2, 2008
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Augusto Pinochet was the most important Third World dictator of the Cold War, and perhaps the most ruthless. In The Dictator’s Shadow, United Nations Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz takes advantage of his unmatched set of perspectives—as a former revolutionary who fought the Pinochet regime, as a respected scholar, and as a diplomat—to tell what this extraordinary figure meant to Chile, the United States, and the world.Pinochet’s American backers saw his regime as a bulwark against Communism; his nation was a testing ground for U.S.-inspired economic theories. Countries desiring World Bank support were told to emulate Pinochet’s free-market policies, and Chile’s government pension even inspired President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. The other baggage—the assassinations, tortures, people thrown out of airplanes, mass murders of political prisoners—was simply the price to be paid for building a modern state. But the questions raised by Pinochet’s rule still remain: Are such dictators somehow necessary?

Horrifying but also inspiring, The Dictator’s Shadow is a unique tale of how geopolitical rivalries can profoundly affect everyday life."

My Two Cents:

"The Dictator's Shadow" is a nonfiction book about life under Agosto Pinochet in Chile. It talks about how Pinochet came to power and how he was able to consolidate his power for so long. Pinochet's regime is still a regime that is studied a lot in political science. Pinochet is a hero to some and a villain to others. His rise to power is very interesting, especially for me, a person who spent a lot of time in undergrad studying Latin American history.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this book is the author. Heraldo Munoz served under Salvador Allende, whose government Pinochet ousted and currently serves under Michelle Bachelet. He has seen his country through many different time periods and has often been on the front lines of great change. Because of who he has worked under, there is a bit of a political bend here, which is why it may be best to have a fair understanding of Chile's political history prior to reading this book.

Munoz gives a lot of detail about what Pinochet's government was like and how people lived their lives under it. It is a very interesting history because it is not just a regurgitation of the facts. He gives a lot of context about what was actually happening to the people of Chile from everything just repeating a list of what Pinochet did. This book will appeal most to those who have an interest in Latin America history and have a basic understanding of some of its recent history.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Title: Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person
Author: Shonda Rhimes
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: November 10, 2015
Source: Library

 What's the Story?:

From "Before her Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes was an expert at declining invitations others would leap to accept. With three children at home and three hit television shows on TV, it was easy to say that she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. Afraid of cocktail party faux pas like chucking a chicken bone across a room; petrified of live television appearances where Shonda Rhimes could trip and fall and bleed out right there in front of a live studio audience; terrified of the difficult conversations that came so easily to her characters on-screen. In the before, Shonda’s introvert life revolved around burying herself in work, snuggling her children, and comforting herself with food.

And then, on Thanksgiving 2013, Shonda’s sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything.

The comment sat like a grenade, until it detonated. Then Shonda, the youngest of six children from a supremely competitive family, knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her."

My Two Cents:

"The Year of Yes" is a memoir by Shonda Rimes, one of the most popular television series creators out there. I have loved so many of her shows like Scandal and Grey's Anatomy but what I didn't know about Shonda Rimes is that she is a major introvert and has always been afraid to say yes to things that might put her out of her comfort zone. This book is about the year that she decided to put all of that aside and say yes to everything, even the things she was incredibly afraid of.

In my own life I know that I say yes to too many things but I also know that I try to avoid the things that are going to make me feel like I'm putting myself too out there. I think it's a feeling that a lot of people can find understanding with. This book recounts how Shonda Rimes was able to turn things around by saying yes to more even if it meant stepping out of her comfort zone. She finds out that by being afraid, she was holding herself back. It's not rocket science but I think it is incredibly helpful to see how others have changed their lives to give you the power to want to change your own. It's a great lesson for us all!

I really like the way that this book was written. Rimes speaks to readers as friends and confidantes and really makes you feel like she's letting you in on a secret. I can only hope that I am able to heed some of her advice!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review: Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

Title: Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
Author: Joby Warrick
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: September 29, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "When he succeeded his father in 1999, King Abdullah of Jordan released a batch of political prisoners in the hopes of smoothing his transition to power. Little did he know that among those released was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man who would go on to become a terrorist mastermind too dangerous even for al-Qaeda and give rise to an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East.

     Zarqawi began by directing hotel bombings and assassinations in Jordan from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion of that country in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency. By identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, the CIA inadvertently created a monster. Like-minded radicals saw him as a hero resisting the infidel occupiers and rallied to his cause. Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings continued for years until Jordanian intelligence provided the Americans with the crucial intelligence needed to eliminate Zarqawi in a 2006 airstrike.

     But his movement endured, first called al-Qaeda in Iraq, then renamed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seeking refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq-Syria border. And as the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi's dream of a sweeping, ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate. 

     Drawing on unique access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Joby Warrick weaves together heart-pounding, moment-by-moment operational details with overarching historical perspectives to reveal the long trajectory of today's most dangerous Islamic extremist threat."

My Two Cents: 

"Black Flags" is a fantastic book that explores the origins of ISIS/ ISIL/ da'esh (choose your fave) and why and how the group has become such a force for evil throughout the world. If you paid any attention to this past election cycle in the United States, you couldn't go but a minute for without hearing something about ISIS. The terrorist group is one of the number one threats (if not the number one threat) causing disruption throughout the entire world. This book explores how ISIS came to be and especially focuses on Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, one of the masterminds of the organization.

This is such an important read in order to understand how this group came to be and why it is so difficult to combat them. I thought that the author did a really good job of explaining the situation to people who may not think about current events so much as well is giving new information and insight to those who follow current events very closely. Especially in the political climate of today, books like this are so important to thoroughly read in order to understand what is going on and what we are facing in the broader scope of the world. This book has a ton of detail and I thought the author did a good job of making information accessible to everyone. This is definitely an important read and a well-done one at that!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States! In honor of the day, I wanted to share some of my favorite MLK quotes!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.”  

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Do you have any favorite MLK quotes?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Matilda by Roald Dahl

Title: Matilda
Author: Roald Dahl
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Puffin
Publish Date: 1988
Source: Owned (finally!)

What's the Story?:

From "Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings."

My Two Cents:

One of the best things about being an adult is that I can buy all of the books I want. Okay, maybe not all of the books because there would just not be room for my family and I if I bought ALL OF THE BOOKS but I can buy my favorites from the different seasons of my life. Growing up, I was lucky enough that my dad would take me to the library whenever I wanted. One of the books that I checked out countless times was Matilda by one of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl.

If you're a book lover, this book will resonate with you, even if you are an adult. Matilda is a book lovers' character. She breathes books. She believes in the power of books to change her life and they definitely do. I loved her as a child for many of the same reasons that I love her now. She is secure in her own power even with her family constantly telling her that she's worthless because she speaks her mind and is interested in more than just "watching the telly." She isn't afraid to be different and she believes in herself. She's a great, strong character and one that has stood the test of time.

Roald Dahl is still one of my favorite authors. His books, including Matilda, are incredibly inventive and entertaining. I love how vivid his characters are. He knows how to write in such a way to get kids to want to read and to be interested in what is happening to the characters throughout the book. Not only is our main character, Matilda, amazing but it's hard to forget secondary characters like Miss Honey and The Trunchbull. This was such a fun re-read for me!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Leaving for Las Vegas! Help!

I feel bad complaining about the cold since it's going to be really warm here in the DMV by the end of the week. I am counting down the days until I can hop a plane and go to Las Vegas this weekend with the Husband. This will be the first real vacation that we've had since having our girls. This will also be my first time in Las Vegas and I always love exploring new places!

Now Las Vegas has never been high on my places-to-travel list. I am not a big gambler. I have nothing against it but I only really know how to play blackjack and slot machines feel a little boring to me. We are going out to support my best friend and her husband as they officially launch their company. I'm sure we'll have a good time!

So I need help! What should we do in Las Vegas? Have any of you ever been? What are some of your not-to-be-missed sights?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

Title: A Perilous Undertaking
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: January 10, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Veronica Speedwell returns in a brand new adventure from Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries...

London, 1887 . . Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman's noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime."

My Two Cents:

"A Perilous Undertaking" is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn. I loved the first book in the series and was very excited to get back to Veronica's adventures in Victorian England. I was not disappointed with this book! While this book can largely be read as a standalone, I wholeheartedly recommend reading the first book as it is a good one. Also, it'll give you greater insight into Veronica and some of the other characters in the book.

Veronica is such a good heroine. She is whip smart and funny throughout the book. She uses her wits to solve the mystery at the center of the book. Lady Sundridge wants Miles exonerated and Veronica is down for the job and will find satisfaction simply solving the mystery. However, Veronica also wants to figure out more about Lady Sundridge and whether or not she holds the key to shedding light on exactly where Veronica came from. I really liked following Veronica and Stoker as they solve the mystery. They have a great banter that kept me entertained.

In this book, we get more insight into her character and where she came from. Since she is the product of an illicit relationship, her full origin is still shrouded in a good bit of mystery. We also find out more about Stoker and why he doesn't have the warmest relationship with his family. I really liked how the author built the characters with a bit more detail in this book. It made me feel more in tune with them. I am anxious to see what future books hold for these characters!

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