Book and Speaking Reviews

Check out these BOOK REVIEWS of A Rare Titanic Family:

Istvan "Steven" Zerkowitz of Roger-Wilco says, "Julie Williams has this uncanny ability to take your hand and make you fly with her to times past as you read her wonderful prose. You hear the music in church and you hear the rustle of the dresses shown in the numerous original photographs. You feel the chilly air on your face when she describes the night setting on the doomed ship and you agonize with Albert as he weighs his next steps in the face of mortal danger rushing towards his little family... One of the aspects of Julie Wiliams' writing that I particularly enjoy is that she manages to be interesting for both Americans and people abroad.  Somehow she opens up the lives of her heroes and describes their world in a supremely immersive manner that leaves you sad when you finish reading."

Mike Poirier on Encyclopedia Titanica says, "Williams delves into their [the Caldwells'] escape from the ship and although there remain some unanswered questions, the author chooses not to just assume, but explains to the reader the various possibilities, which is where she shows her skills as a journalism professor....  The pictures in this book are well-chosen, right down to Albert in an antique car with Debbie Reynolds, promoting 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.'  I've read the book twice and this is one of the best books one could purchase for the [100th] anniversary [of the sinking of the Titanic]."  

Tim Trower, writing for the Titanic Commutator, says, "As she pieces together the story of the Caldwell family, Williams writes with clarity, passion, and a thorough understanding of the matter at hand.  This is a well researched book.... Superlatives expended wantonly can sometimes cheapen a book under review, but A Rare Titanic Family deserves all of its accolades and more.  As a passenger account of the sinking, this is another of the must-have books of the centennial [of the sinking]."

A Rare Titanic Family was a selection of the international Pulpwood Queens Book Club in 2013.  The Queens usually select novels, but I'm honored that they recognized that A Rare Titanic Family reads like a novel.  Here's my seal from the Pulpwood Queens:

Sandra Styles of The Musings of a Book Addict says, "This story was told in a hauntingly beautiful way.  It is full of emotions and memories but doesn't dwell on the macabre.  This is a book I will most definitely recommend to my friends."

Lee Thursby, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, says, "A Rare Titanic Family... is the gripping story of the survival of the Caldwell family during the tragic sinking of the Titanic. It is beautifully told by Albert Caldwell's great-niece, Julie Williams." 

Megan Hahn Fraser says in The Library Journal, "Williams presents a warm biography of her great-uncle by marriage, his first wife, and their son -- one of the few families to escape intact from the sinking of the Titanic.... Related with obvious affection for her great-uncle, the author also gives a good sense of the difficulties in piecing together family histories and how even close relatives might not know the whole story.  In addition to Titanic buffs, genealogists and missionary history readers will like this."

A letter from a fan reads:
"I am a longtime Titanic 'fanatic,' and whenever a new Titanic book emerges, I am skeptical.  They range from crap to outstanding.  Your book is truly outstanding, in ALL respects.  You have done your homework really well, dramatized it well, and presented it in a clear, flowing style.  It almost reads itself."  -- Rick Sundin, Jr., Davenport, Iowa

Nichola Manning, author of Back to Books, says, "This is a fascinating story that read like a novel for me.  My first time sitting down with the book I almost read halfway through.... The author has a compelling storyteller's voice which is easy and addictive to read, making this an entertaining and unusual story to read.... I just loved Albert and Sylvia both and thank Ms. Williams for bringing their personal story to the public with all its controversial sidestories put out there for the world to ogle.... A riveting, fast read...." 

Shermika Dunner of ArtBLT writes, "[T]o say I had a great read is an understatement.... The book makes one feel as if they are actually on-board the Titanic with Albert, Sylvia, and their son Alden.  I could visualize the food the Caldwells ate as they dined amongst the ship like royalty. You can feel the fear as the story is told about what happens when the Titanic hits the iceberg and what ensues.  Williams does a great job with giving a lot of historical context; she even delves into what happens to the Caldwells after the Titanic.... The stories told are quite fascinating, and it is refreshing to know that Williams cemented her family's place in history with this book." 

Reviewer James Anderson describes A Rare Titanic Family on Amazon as "A magnificent story," calling it "A 'word-perfect' telling of a true life story showing an extraordinary degree of research.  But more importantly, a wonderful account of family relationships and personalities."

Patrick Bryan Miller says on Amazon, "Another reviewer stated that Julie has the wonderful ability to make the world of the past come alive, and that is why I am such a fan of hers.  The first book of hers I read was about the Wright Brothers, and I learned so much from that one about their world, as I did from this book of the same era.  A great testament to this book is that Julie spent more time on their lives before and after the Titanic disaster than on the disaster itself because the lives of the survivors were often interesting in their own right.  This measure of respect brought home that these were real people, not just characters in a Hollywood flick."

Amazon reviewer Elaine adds, "Not only is 'A Rare Titanic Family' a great story in and of itself, but also it turns out to be a tribute to the 'ordinary man.'  But for the Titanic, Albert Caldwell did nothing in life that would render him 'famous.'  But his story is told with such great affection by his grand-niece that his own love of life is magnified, and we glimpse the worth of a good man.  Albert loved life.  He loved people.  He loved God.  And he worked to support his family, his church, his community.  The Titanic may have made him famous, but goodness made his life worth living, and that's why his grand-niece's vindication of him from bribery may be so believable in the end."

Sergio Martinez Cotos-Alvarin, of Barcelona, Spain, founder of the Titanic Passengers and Crew Facebook group, says, "A wonderful and easy-to-read book! I didn't know anything about the Caldwells and I didn't expect their story to be specially interesting, but it is!  When I began to read I couldn't stop until the end.  So, if you have a wishlist of Titanic books, this one has to be in your top 5 (in the number 1 spot).  And it is very well edited."

Mike Herbold, a reader in California, says, "I received A Rare Titanic Family and thank you for it.  However, you have destroyed my Titanic reading schedule.  Your book is so well written, and so easy and enjoyable to read, that I have put aside four other Titanic classics and am reading yours instead."

Andreas Pfeffer of the Titanic Museum Germany (Dortmund, Germany), praises the accuracy of the book and notes that the Second Class on the Titanic is little known.  He is pursuing having the book translated into German.  Thank you, Andreas!  He often mentions my speaking engagements on the news ticker on the museum's web page.  If you read German, click here to read the news ticker.  The home page of the German museum is pictured above.

Blogger and reporter Emily says in Inked by a Left-handed Writer, "Williams' writing transcends time, putting readers on the Titanic with Al, Sylvia and their baby boy, Alden, as they fled around the world. Readers experience the suffering they felt as they listened to wails of other passengers who died in the freezing waters that night.  She brings her readers to the same realization Al had, the realization that his entire family's survival was a rarity, the realization their lives were spared because of a chance encounter.  Using her uncanny ability to weave historical detail and beautiful narrative together Williams takes readers on an unforgettable journey." 

In a Facebook post, Jeffrey L. Jensen says about A Rare Titanic Family, "You will enjoy the read and be sadly disappointed when you come to the end, not that it will have been bad, but because you'll be sad to leave its pages.  Maybe leave one page unfinished at the very end so you never technically finish."

Reader Belinda Gregorio says, "You have written an amazing book!  I felt like I was in the room with your uncle as he's telling his story. He would be proud of you!  I recommend this book to all Titanic fans!"

Reader Jane Sides says, "I saw the article [in a local newspaper] about you and was inspired to read your book about your Titanic relatives.  I couldn't put it down and when I had to, I couldn't wait to return to it!  I'm usually not attracted to books that are historical in nature but do enjoy interesting biographies and your book certainly fits the bill there.  I thought it was very well written and I enjoyed it so much!  Thank you for sharing the story!"

Margie Cone, who read A Rare Titanic Family, says, "The book was wonderful!  I so enjoyed reading about the Caldwells' experiences…they were so adventuresome!  I cannot imagine going off to Siam as a newlywed!  That had to take real courage.  Many thanks for making it possible for me to read Albert and Sylvia’s story.  You are a gifted writer….you just brought it all to life for me!"

Reader Jenn Clevenger Langley says, "I had never heard of Sylvia or Albert before I visited the Titanic museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I have done a lot of research and watched countless documentaries, and read books and so far neither of them had come up; but when I got my boarding pass, I was Sylvia!!! Not really expecting anything I remember walking into a room at the museum and there she was, with her husband, and baby... and even little Alden's shoes, in the display was also a copy of your book, and it was the first thing I grabbed once in the gift shop!! Such a great book, I couldn't put it down."

Randy Bryan Bigham, writing on Facebook, said, "I highly recommend this book. It is touching and has an unusual scope. It is also beautifully written and meticulously researched, which is hardly surprising considering the author is so widely published. It was one of the most enjoyable reads I have had of a Titanic-related title in some years."

Here are reviews of Julie Williams AS A SPEAKER AND PERFORMER:

After the One-Woman Show, where I performed as Sylvia Caldwell:

"Julie Williams' presentation to The Shelby County Arts Council was fascinating and professional.  All who came enjoyed the session and most couldn't wait to purchase a signed copy of her book.  I would not hesitate to recommend Julie to another organization."  
                                                                                                Bruce Andrews, Executive Director,
                                                                                               Shelby County Arts Council, AL

"I have been receiving calls and emails about how much everyone enjoyed you -- 'Sylvia.'  
They are so pleased I found you."
                                                                                                Bellann Fitts, Birmingham, AL

"We so enjoyed your presentation of Sylvia. It was delightful and we all were drawn into the story. Thank you for sharing this incredible journey with us."
                                                                                                 Denise Glenn, Birmingham, AL

"Alea Club loved your Titanic monologue. It was so personal. Everyone was amazed that you could remember all of the stories you told! They loved you, and thank you again."
The same writer invited me to another organization, and sent this note afterward:
"Last night at JeffCo Historical Association, you were fantastic!  Thank you for giving your dramatic monologue!"
                                                                                                 Judy Haise, Birmingham, AL

"It was so great to be at Julie's presentation -- please let her know that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a whole lot in the process. She weaves a wonderful tale."
                                                                                                Armin Sethna, St. Louis, MO

After a Titanic PowerPoint show:

"The pleasure was all ours! We thoroughly enjoyed your talk as well as speaking to you personally....  You are an exceptionally interesting speaker.  It was such a pleasant evening!"
                                                                                                Donna Stallions

"What great memories of seeing you present 'in costume' the amazing story!.  You may definitely quote me....your presentation is spectacular and so engaging!"
                                                                                                Gail Barton
                                                                                                Librarian, then at Samford University, Birmingham, AL

After a Wright Brothers PowerPoint show:

"Not only is Julie an excellent writer, she is an excellent speaker. Our library patrons were mesmerized by her sincere presentation on Wings of Opportunity a year or so ago and they're already looking forward to reading A Rare Titanic Family and hearing her speak again."
                                                                                                John Tidwell
                                                                                                Adult Programs Coordinator
                                                                                                H. Grady Bradshaw/Chambers County Library,
                                                                                                Valley, AL
"Julie Williams passed the 'brown bag test' at the B. B. Comer Memorial Library with flying colors!  She brought the Wings of Opportunity story to life in a way that was appealing to our lay person audience.  She demonstrated her knowledge about the Wright brothers and their experience in Montgomery with enthusiasm, humor and poise.  Our brown bag participants have seen many presenters over the last 17 years and they have consistently stated on evaluations that they 'love a good story' rather than an academic lecture.  Julie's technique does both!  She doesn't neglect the facts, but her storytelling technique is superb!"
                                                                                                Shirley Spears
                                                                                                Library Director
                                                                                                B. B. Comer Memorial Library, Sylacauga, AL