Book review: Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession, by Tyler Stoddard Smith

Do you believe in destiny? I don’t, especially when good things happen to people I hate. Then again, when good things happen to people I love, I usually end up hating them for their success in the long run anyway. So maybe that’s destiny.

 

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Book review: Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women, by Sarah Helm

And yet it is precisely because this was a camp for women that Ravensbrück should have shaken the conscience of the world. Other camps showed what mankind was capable of doing to man. The Jewish camps showed what mankind was capable of doing to an entire race. Ravensbrück showed what mankind was capable of doing to women. The nature and scale of atrocity done here to women had never been seen before. Ravensbrück should never have had to fight ‘on the margins’ for a voice: it was -and is- a story in its own right.

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Book review: North Korea Undercover, by John Sweeney

Award-winning BBC journalist John Sweeney is one of the few to have witnessed at first hand the devastating reality of life in the controversial and isolated nation of North Korea.

Posing as a university professor, Sweeney went undercover to gain unprecedented access to the world’s most secret state. He spoke to people who have seen the horrific dark side of the regime and saw things which have been hidden for years from the eyes of the western world: huge factories with no staff or electricity; hospitals with no patients; uniformed child soldiers; and the world-famous and eerily empty DMZ – the De-Militarized Zone where North Korea ends and South Korea starts – all framed by the relentless flow of regime propaganda from omnipresent loudspeakers.

Sweeney also visited South Korea and met defectors from the North who told him the other side of the story: gulags within a gulag state, dire poverty, blunted lives, hideous torture, effective infanticide of disabled babies, stick-limbed children dying of famine and mass graves of political prisoners that could only be dug when the spring thaw set in.

With the world’s eyes focused on North Korea, Sweeney’s timely account is a stunning piece of reportage from the country the author describes as the strangest place he’s ever visited. A combination of first person experiences, new and revealing interviews, and history, North Korea Undercover examines the country’s troubled history and provides a window into life there today. Goodreads.

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Book review: A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson

We’re dying from the moment we’re born.

In Life After Life Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy – would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have. Goodreads.

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Book review: Mythology 101: From Gods and Goddesses to Monsters and Mortals, Your Guide to Ancient Mythology, by Kathleen Sears

Explore the fascinating myths of Greek and Roman civilizations

The tales of gods and heroes are often turned into tedious discourse that even Ovid would reject. This easy-to-read guide cuts out the boring details, and instead, provides you with a thrilling lesson in classic mythology.

From the heights of Mt. Olympus to the depths of the Underworld, this book takes you on an unforgettable journey through all the major myths born in ancient Greece and Rome, such as Achilles’s involvement in the Trojan War; Pluto’s kidnapping of the beautiful Proserpina; and the slaying of Medusa by Perseus, the heroic demi-god. You’ll also learn all about the wonders of the world as well as the greatest creatures ever recorded in history.

Like Charon navigating the River of Wailing, Mythology 101 will guide you through the most glorious (and completely terrifying) tales the ancient world has to offer. Goodreads Continue reading

Book review: Religion 101: From Allah to Zen Buddhism, an Exploration of the Key People, Practices, and Beliefs That Have Shaped the Religions of the World, by Peter Archer

Discover the origins and traditions of world religions!With so many religions in the world, it isn’t always easy to recall each faith’s key influences, spiritual figures, and dogmas. Written in easy-to-understand language, “Religion 101” offers a fascinating–and memorable–glimpse at the sacred stories, traditions, and doctrines that have influenced today’s most popular religions. Goodreads

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Book review: Severed: A history of Heads Lost and Heads Found, by Frances Larson

From the western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred brutal massacres, to the Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of Japanese opponents home to their girlfriends; from the memento mori in Romantic portraits to Damien Hirst’s platinum skull set with diamonds; from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores the bizarre, fantastical and confounding history of the severed head, and offers us a new perspective on our macabre preoccupations.

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