Tag: history

Nov 02

Speed Kings by Andy Bull: Review and Giveaway!

Giveaways, Non Fiction 6

Happy Monday Bookworms!

Let me tell you a story about bobsledding. No, not THAT story about bobsledding (I’m assuming you immediately thought of the classic and heartwarming film, Cool Runnings. That’s where my head went, anyway.) But I’m talking old school bobsledding. Back when it was all sexy and dangerous. Oh yeah, you didn’t know that bobsledding was sexy and dangerous? Well you WOULD know that if you’d read Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World by Andy Bull! *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. You needn’t worry about a biased review though. I never, ever lie about bobsledding. Ever.*


That leaning is super important for SPEED!

Whenever I think of Olympic athletes, I think of people who have trained since childhood in their given sport. I think of athletes so focused on the quest for the gold medal that they forgo traditional schooling and miss their proms in exchange for private tutoring on planes between competitions. The team that would eventually become gold medalists at the 1928 and 1932 Winter Olympic games in bobsledding were anything BUT the athletes I imagined. They were, in the immortal words of Maya Rudolph’s character in Bridesmaids “a stone cold pack of weirdos.” Here’s what the Goodreads synopsis had to say: “There was Jay O’Brien, the high-society playboy; Tippy Grey, a scandal-prone Hollywood has-been; Eddie Eagan, world champion heavyweight boxer and Rhodes Scholar; and the charismatic Billy Fiske, the true heart of the team, despite being barely out of his teens.” As you can imagine, bobsledding is a mere sliver of the story surrounding this charismatic crew.


So, Katie, what did you think of Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World? Thoughtful of you to ask, Katie! It took me longer to read than I expected, but that’s virtually always the case when I read non-fiction, no matter how interesting the subject matter. This book wasn’t what I expected at all, but it was pretty awesome. I mean, do you have any idea how dangerous bobsledding can be? Or that Hollywood has been a crazy bag of scandal since the dawn of time? Or that the dude who invented the Dewey decimal system was kind of a horrible human being? All sorts of craziness goes down in this book. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. The awesome folks at Avery Books are sponsoring a giveaway! Enter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Mar 23

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Audio Books, Non Fiction, Women's Studies 8

Salutations Darling Bookworms!

I love learning new things. I think that’s sort of a bookworm thing, no? Unfortunately, a lot of times I struggle with reading non fiction (with the exception of memoirs.) Thank heaven that audio books exist! I recently downloaded Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff from my local library and holy cats! I went into this book knowing virtually nothing about Cleopatra and came out of it feeling like an expert. Seriously, I hope Cleopatra is an entire category at my next trivia night because I will OWN it.

cleopatraPrior to reading this book, Cleopatra evoked images of cheesy Halloween costumes and Elizabeth Taylor. I knew she had flings with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and that she maybe killed herself with the help of a snake, but that was the extent of my knowledge. What a fascinating life this woman led! She was a brilliant and occasionally ruthless politician. Born into an incestuous dynasty any Targaryen would approve of, Cleopatra’s rule was often mired by familial infighting and assassinations. She became the paramour of two famous Roman rulers and deftly juggled an insane political climate.

Why is it that this powerful woman went down in history as little more than a temptress and minimalist Halloween costume? Stacy Schiff explores the historical records through a modern lense. Schiff strips away some of the cultural bias and explores what Cleopatra’s life and motivations truly were in a historical context. Ancient male historians were pretty quick to dismiss women’s achievements or chalk them up to feminine wiles and witchcraft. Also, the whole snakebite on the boob thing probably didn’t happen. Talk about your inefficient means of suicide. Our girl was smarter than that, y’all. If you have any interest in the life of Cleopatra, I cannot recommend this book enough!

Alright Bookworms, let’s experiment. What is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the name “Cleopatra”?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I do not have Cleopatra’s insane wealth, so, you know. Every penny goes back into keeping me in books!*


Feb 06

Confession Friday: I’m a Historical Figure

Confession Friday 11

Hey Bookworms!

It’s Friday! I haven’t been to ye olde confessional in a long time, but there’s something I need to get off my chest. It’s no secret that I adore historical fiction with an intensity that likely isn’t healthy. Sometimes I get so swoony over Jamie Fraser (or something totally unrelated to Jamie Fraser. I mean, not EVERYTHING is about Jamie Fraser, right?!) that I put on a wistful face and forget how RAD it is to live right now.


Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Sometimes I’ll just sit around thinking, “can you imagine life before electricity?!” Or, “wouldn’t it be weird to grow up with horses and then CARS happen?!” Or, “Indoor plumbing is the bomb diggity. I’m glad it’s a thing!” Recently I had a revelation. I AM A HISTORICAL FIGURE.

Yeah. What’s as life changing as electricity, indoor plumbing, and cars?! The friggin INTERNET. I’ve lived on both sides of it! The digital age, y’all. Someday our grandchildren are going to goggle at us the way I goggle about the pre-electricity, horse riding, stink fest I love so dearly. I’m my own historical fiction heroine now, y’all. Watch out!

 Now that I’m basically my own American Girl Doll, I simply must know. Have any of y’all pondered how history will view our little sliver of now?


Jan 07

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See: A Lesson in Reading the Synopsis Before Purchase

Asia, E-Readers, Family, Non Fiction 24

Hey Bookworms,

How is everyone doing today? I just finished slogging through Lisa See’s On Gold Mountain. It taught me a very important lesson. You should always read the synopsis of a book before you click purchase. This was on sale for the kindle so I snapped it up thinking, “Oh Lisa See! Always such great tidbits on Chinese cultures- quick reads too!” No. No, no, no.

This book was not fiction. It was the geneological account of Lisa See’s family. It wasn’t historical fiction. It was just history. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that you don’t get to take liberties in well researched factual accounts. While there were parts of this book that were enthralling, I found myself picking up bits and pieces of trivia that I’ve gotten out of See’s fictional work, and thinking, “Oh. That’s where she got this! Yeah. Works better when you can edit…”


This book was published in 1995 (which I discovered after-the-fact) which is well before most of the novels I’m familiar with by See. I really enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan I liked it so much that I picked up Peony in Love. That one was probably longer than necessary, but by the end I felt like I finally understood some of the Chinese religious traditions I’d learned about in college. The book brought them to life for me and I was pleased. Then I tackled Shanghai Girls a few years later and devoured it in a few days.

There’s so much in On Gold Mountain that I could see in the other books- the destruction of Chinatown and construction of the doomed China City, immigration fraud and paper sons, racial bias, religion, foot binding- it’s all there. It’s just not NEARLY as entertaining. Truth be told, I was into the book for about the first third of it. Once we started hitting the 50s and there was business launch after business launch, I started losing interest. The second half of the book was a slog. I just wanted to finish it so I could read something else since I’d already made it more than halfway through (that’s my DNF threshold. If I make it to the halfway point, I must finish it.)


The business launches and moves from one part of the city to another were lost on me. I have zero concept of the layout of San Francisco, Pasadena, Sacramento, Los Angeles, or any of the surrounding suburbs. Moving from one street to another meant ZERO to me. Also, there were a CRAP TON of characters. I’m not judging here, I get that Chinese tradition was different, but dude. Fong See had 4 wives. And 8 zillion children. And we learned every one of their stories. Plus uncles and cousins and then the Caucasian relatives? Spinning head.

Bottom line here? If you’re not a member of the See family or have an intense interest in the history of Chinese immigration and LA’s Chinatown, just don’t bother. You get all the juicy highlights of the family’s experiences in See’s fiction, and it’s a lot more concise and entertaining. There are some 450 page books I can read and not even notice the length. This felt like a thousand pages. Learn from my mistakes! Read the abstracts before buying the sale books!