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Showing posts from 2017

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen: A Review

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Not all quacks are snake oil salesmen.  Of course, some of them are and in Quackery you will learn about them.  Some quacks are not out to make a quick buck but legitimately believe in their own ineffective or harmful treatments.  Lydia Kang, a physician, and Nate Pedersen, a journalist, will fascinate you with stories of how doctors used to use substances like cocaine, opium and tobacco to cure disease and did not recognize the dangers associated with them. Tapeworms were used as a diet aid and people thought radiation would cure just about anything that ails. 

I really enjoyed this book and the only fault that I could find with it was that it did not include any current forms of quackery.  Especially with the Internet, misinformation and improper treatments for disease are rampant.  Patients still turn to ineffective treatments and promote them with religious zeal today.

Other than not including current quackery, I really enjoyed learning about all of the unnecessary treatments th…

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave: A Review

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Sunshine seems to have the perfect career and marriage.  She is the star of a cooking channel on YouTube and is about to launch a Food Network show and her own cookbook.  Everything seems to be going according to plan until an unknown hacker reveals that Sunshine is not who she says she is.  She is far from the down home cook who has a farmer for a father.  Instead, she is from Montauk and the most elaborate recipe she has created was a really good grilled cheese sandwich.  She is going to have to start over, which involves reuniting with her sister and niece. 

This was a quick read but it really didn't appeal to me the way that some other novels have.  It was a little bit syrupy and just didn't hit the spot for me.  The author touches on themes of dishonesty on social media but those who are not interested in social media in the first place will not see this as an important piece of literary fiction.  Without that theme, we are left with the inauthentic relationship between…

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old by Hendrik Groen: A Review

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According to Hendrik Groen, "Old is in".  It seems as if he is right.  Many books and movies that have recently been released have older protagonists.  Groen's diary is very reminiscent of A Man Called Ove but Groen is likeable from the very first page.  He and a few of his fellow "inmates" have decided to start the Old-But-Not-Dead Club.  Each member of the group take turns planning an outing that helps the others experience life a little more fully.  The group begins to form a close friendship and stick together as their members encounter health problems and lack the comfort that they could receive from loved ones.

This was such a sweet book and some of the parts were more funny than any of the other books I have read this year.  When Mr. Groen is pulled over for driving his mobility scooter too fast, I just about spit out my tea!  The author has a delightful attitude even with his sad past.  Speaking of this sad past, it is not a huge part of this story.  …

If The Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

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In a small town in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, a newcomer with a mysterious past comes to educate the youth of the town and ends up learning many new things, herself.  Kate is a teacher who was terminated from her previous position but travels to Baines Creek to work as the town teacher.  Sadie Blue is a young woman who becomes pregnant to a man who is cruel and controlling of her.  Roy and Billie were abused as youngsters and take out their frustration on Sadie and other women.  Eli Perkins is a preacher who wants the best for his community but his sister, Prudence, is as mean as Eli is kind.  Weiss tells each character's story in a fair and impartial way.  She leaves no stone unturned and lets readers know that there are often untold reasons for crimes as heinous as spousal abuse and murder.  Oftentimes, that reason is simply poverty and a hopelessness that one will never escape it. 

I really enjoyed this book for its brave honesty and Weiss' refusal to all…

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

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I read my first Lisa Scottoline novel in April of this year.  This book is so much different from One Perfect Lie. This book is more of a comedic memoir than a mystery or thriller.  Scottoline and her daughter, Francesca Serritella, write about their funny lives in a series of essays.  Serritella writes about her hiatus from men and the insanity of forcing guests to make wedding dresses from toilet paper at bridal showers.  Scottoline writes about her disabled dog that is in a wheelchair and how she only wears a bra when she absolutely has to.  Both women write about their daily lives in a way that is both self-deprecating but also empowering to women.

There were definitely some very funny parts in this book but I wouldn't say that it was the funniest thing that I have read.  I have read a lot of comedic essay books by authors like Jen Lancaster who have me laughing from the first page to the last.  What I did really like about this book was the very endearing relationship that S…

Still Here: A Novel by Lara Vapnyar: A Review

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Sergey has been living, and struggling, in the United States for awhile.  His wife, Vica, is perpetually angry at him because he can't seem to keep a job, despite his PhD earned in Russia and his MBA earned in the US.  Vica is frustrated because she gave up medical school in Russia so that she could follow Sergey to the US and now she works in a cancer hospital, where she can't seem to fit in.  Sergey has an idea for an app which will keep a person's online persona alive once a person has died.  Vica desperately wants Sergey to develop and pitch the app so that she can be a rich man's wife like her friend, Regina.

Regina is married to Bob, a wealthy American who develops web applications.  She used to be a respected translator but has since become depressed since losing her mother to cancer.  She spends her days watching TV and eating foods that an app recommends to her based on her viewing habits.  Her mother's best friend, Masha, wants her to adopt a child but R…

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian: A Review

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Richard's life begins to unravel when he hosts a bachelor party for his younger brother, Philip.  One of the guests booked strippers for the party that happened to be captive prostitutes.  The sex slaves, Sonia and Alexandra, end up killing the men who were holding them captive at the party.  This brings unwanted attention to Richard and his family and professional life is greatly affected. 

This story is more than just about exploitation of young women.  It is also about the disintegration of a marriage.  The story could be uncomfortable, at times, but I think that it was an important story for readers.  Sex slavery is such a horrible, but current, topic and one that is important for people to be informed about.  Some of the story could be a bit slow but I really enjoyed reading it, anyway.  The characters were not the best, in this book.  I really enjoyed the characters in Bohjalian's The Sleepwalker but the characters is The Guest Room were very awkward.  When Alexandra sp…

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

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Cass, a teacher who lost her mother after a long struggle with dementia, is driving home from a party on a stormy night.  Her husband, Matthew, warns her against taking a shortcut home because he worries for her safety in such weather.  Cass decides to take the shortcut anyway and sees a woman who appears to be broken down on the side of the road.  Cass stops for a moment to help the woman but is frightened when she thinks it might be a scam and drives away.  After she arrives home, Cass learns that the woman in the car was murdered and someone she had met before.  Cass is deeply disturbed by the tragedy and feels guilty that she didn't try to help the woman.  Soon, Cass begins to suffer from bouts of memory loss, making plans and purchases that she can't remember later.  Then there's the phone calls.  Almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day, Cass answers a call from an unblocked number and a caller who is ominously silent.  Is Cass experiencing a nervous breakdo…

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica: A Review

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I first heard of Mary Kubica's books when I had finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and was looking for similar fiction.  Kubica's books came recommended and I picked up The Good Girland fell in love with Kubica's thrillers.  I was so excited when I heard that she would be writing another book and got my hands on it as soon as I could.  I was not disappointed!

Clara is mother to Maisie and Felix, a four-day old infant, and wife to Nick, a dentist at an upscale dental office that is bleeding money.  Nick takes Maisie to dance class one day to give Clara time to rest and take care of Felix but he ends up in an accident that leaves him fatally injured while Maisie is virtually unharmed and seems to be unaware of what happened.  Clara is understandably heartbroken and believes that there may have been foul play when Maisie starts to have nightmares and flashbacks involving a man in a black car.  Not getting the attention she would like from the police, Clara decides to invest…

My Last Lament by James William Brown

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Young Aliki is a witness to her own father's execution at the hands of the Nazis and lives the rest of her childhood with a local woman and her son, Takis.  When the woman hides a Jewish woman and her son, Stelios, Aliki and Takis are exposed to the world of puppetry by Stelios.  The Nazis that occupy the Greek village learn of the Jews in the basement and they kill the women and the children must fend for themselves.  The children earn money by performing puppet shows for a country that is trying to heal itself after the devastation of World War II and the fall of the Nazis.

I usually like historical novels about World War II and the holocaust but this book just didn't do it for me.  I enjoyed the first third of the book but after the Germans left Greece, the story wasn't as interesting.  I think the story would have been better if the story was centered around Stelios and his mother hiding in the basement of Aliki's home but after that point, there was too much goin…

I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly: A Review

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Clinton Kelly's memoir I Hate Everyone, Except You had me laughing from the very first page to the very last!  I have to confess that I am not an avid viewer of What Not to Wear so I was able to approach this book as it was presented, without any pretenses.  I am so happy that this book found me!  His writing reminded me of reading a book by David Sedaris, another one of my favorite comedy writers.  Kelly can be a bit snarky when he wants to be but he is surprisingly kind to those he writes about.  His observations on life and society are insightful and relate-able.  I really enjoyed this book and I think anyone who enjoys funny, essay-style memoirs will enjoy this book.  It was a wonderful, light read to pick me up on a rainy day.    

Watch a video about Action Park, the amusement park that Kelly describes in his book:


My rating:
★★★★☆

Books like this one:
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Sleepless Nights and Kisses For Breakfast: Reflections on F…

The Standard Grand by Jay Baron Nicorvo: A Review

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Bellum has gone AWOL and left her husband and home in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  She is already suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from her past deployments and can't stomach the idea of another one.  She follows an older veteran that has set up a camp for homeless veterans called The Standard Grande.  Milt inherited The Standard Grande, an old resort in the Catskills, from his father-in-law and uses it to help veterans become more self-sufficient and acclimate to coming home from a war environment.  Milt is under water on the venture, though, and is being aggressively pursued by a company that wants to use the land for what they say is a golf resort.  The veterans aren't so sure that is the real purpose, though.

This book just didn't hit the spot for me.  Most of the story dragged.  I didn't find it humorous and the mystery wasn't enough to keep my attention.  I actually had to leave this book several times and come back to it while reading o…

Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer: A Review

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Darcy and Boyz divorced due to his infidelity but they were never really compatible to begin with.  Boyz was a uber-successful real estate agent and Darcy is a bookish librarian.  After her divorce and the death of the grandmother who raised her, Darcy moves into her grandmother's old home on Nantucket and begins a peaceful life there as a children's librarian.  She has a new love interest, Nash, and a great group of friends.  The community is smaller during the off-season but now it is summer and the crowds have come to enjoy the great weather.  One of her neighbors happens to be Boyz and the woman he cheated on Darcy with and the other is an older woman with a handsome grandson that might be competition for Nash.

After reading the emotionally charged Human Acts by Han Kang, I wanted something a little lighter to read.  Secrets in Summer did just that.  What a great beach book!  I loved the descriptions of Nantucket and found myself envying the characters for their breezy is…

Human Acts by Han Kang: A Review

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A while back, I read Han Kang's book The Vegetarian and was impressed with the unique style and story.  If I'm being honest, I enjoyed The Vegetarian a bit more than Human Acts but I think that Human Acts is a more important work.  The book centers around the shooting and death of middle-school student Dong-ho.  The young boy was shot by the military and his body was disposed of in an unmarked, mass grave.  The book follows Dong-ho, his family, friends and acquaintances and discusses the political turmoil that occurred in South Korea in 1980.  The description of the aftermath of the events puts the reader in the middle of the events.  The book was hard to read but not because of the writing or translation but because of the subject matter.  I think this is an important book for readers to experience because it teaches us about the horrors of political extremism and the military state.

My rating:
★★★★☆

Reviews of books like this one:
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Exit West …

The Party by Robyn Harding: A Review

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Kim and Jeff Sanders are throwing a party for Hannah, their daughter, on her sixteenth birthday.  Kim and Jeff are very hands on parents and Kim immediately lets the five girls know that the party will only consist of a sleepover, pizza and a movie and not any drugs, alcohol or boys.  Jeff thinks it might be time to let his little girl have a little bit of fun and gives the girls a bottle of champagne.  The girls have a different idea and don't think that is enough.  Each girl sneaks in their own alcohol and drugs and things quickly spiral out of control.  One of the girls gets so intoxicated that she falls into a glass table and ends up cutting her face and eye.  Life is about to change drastically for the girls and their families.

This is an amazing ride of a story!  There are tons of twists and turns and it was so exciting to read it.  There were elements in this book that I didn't expect.  There were also very important elements, as well, such as the lessons about a pare…

Coversations with Friends by Sally Rooney: A Review

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Frances and Bobbi used to date and are now best friends who perform poetry together.  When they meet a writer, Melissa, and her actor husband, Nick, the four quickly form a tight friendship.  Frances soon falls in love with Nick and begins an affair with him.

I really didn't find this book too interesting.   It was actually boring for most of the book.  The only interesting part that I found, Frances' health scare, ended very anticlimactically.  The whole book was actually very anticlimactic.  The characters were all equally unlikable.  All of them were selfish, pretentious and uninteresting.  None of the characters had a unique voice or personality.  While the writing was very fluid, I just couldn't enjoy myself while reading this book because the story and the characters were so flat.

Sally Rooney, Lucy Caldwell, Peggy Hughes and Sara Baume discuss new Irish literature in this video:


My rating:
★☆☆☆☆    

Reviews of books like this one:
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier: A Review

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I first heard about the Hogarth Shakespeare project when I saw Margaret Atwood's retelling of The Tempest, Hag-Seedon the shelf at my local library.  Being that I am a fan of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, I immediately checked the book out and read it.  The project asks accomplished writers to retell the works of Shakespeare.  In New Boy, Tracy Chevalier retells the story of Othello with the characters being elementary school children.  It is the 1970s and Osei's father is a diplomat from Ghana.  His recent transfer has moved the family to a Washington, DC suburb.  Being the new kid, and the only black kid in his school, is never easy but he quickly befriends Dee, one of the most popular girls in the school.  Ian, the local bully, sets his targets on the new boy and begins his plans to harm the budding relationship Osei and Dee share.

This book imparts many lessons, including bullying, kindness and racism.  The bullying and racism aspects of the book were very realis…

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor: A Review

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I was a big fan of The Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd so when Penguin offered to allow me to read an advanced copy of a book by the iconic author's daughter as a part of their First to Read program, I was ecstatic.  What I learned is that each author must be appreciated based on their own work and not be compared to authors that have come before them.  Ann Kidd Taylor's work is completely different from the southern fiction that I enjoyed from Sue Monk Kidd, but still just as fun.

The Shark Club takes place, primarily, in an island hotel in the Gulf of Mexico.  Maeve and her brother lost their parents when she was very young and moved into their grandmother's hotel.  The twins are friends with Daniel, a boy who is grieving the fact that his father left him and his mother unexpectedly.  When Maeve is bitten by a shark and saved by Daniel, she falls in love with both Daniel and sharks.  Soon after her engagement to Daniel, she travels to finish her dissertation so that she ca…

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

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When I read Backman's A Man Called Ove, I fell in love with the author's smooth writing style and quotable lines.  And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a sweet little novel about a boy and his grandfather and a boy and his father as the grandfather/ father begins to suffer from dementia.  I appreciated how this book is, mostly, from the perspective of the grandfather.  So often, books are written with the family's pain and anguish at center-stage but we often fail to forget how isolating and frightening this diagnosis can be for the patient.  While we lose one family member, they lose everyone while their body is still here on Earth.  This book also contained some words of wisdom for all of us, such as how grandparents spoil their grandchildren to apologize to their children for not being able to spend as much time with them (and also a word of warning for workaholics).  I want to emphasize that this book was not the tearjerker that so many books on de…

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki: A Review

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Lady recently asked for a trial separation from her husband, Karl, and is living with her two sons, Seth and Devin.  Seth is an 18-year-old selective mute and Devin is a very talkative toddler.  Lady has accepted a contract to write a book about her experiences with Seth and has hired S Fowler to watch him while she writes.  S is actually Esther Shapiro, an aspiring artist that had an art project that turned out badly.  She has decided to reinvent herself in the image of her alcoholic mom in order to begin a new art project.  Soon, all the lies of all the different characters begin to have an effect on their relationships.

I had mixed feelings about Woman No. 17.  Lepucki's writing style is beyond compare and it was a very easy read.  The story and the characters didn't do much for me, though.  I actually didn't like any of the characters.  Well, maybe with the exception of Devin but he is a toddler so how can I not?  I found Seth to be about as manipulative as S was and …

Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan: A Review

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Julie is a single mother and struggling to come to terms with her part in the tragic death of her friend, Reba.  Sweet, innocent Reba's death was ruled a suicide but Julie believes that she may have killed her friend.  When Reba's old boyfriend, August, shows up with questions and tells her that Reba kept a diary, she travels back to home with August to find the diary and find out what really happened to Reba.

This book had a great beginning.  It takes place in a town full of racism and Reba and August were the star-crossed lovers there.  Julie was an orphan who lacked the love she needed from her new family and looked for it elsewhere.  In addition, there seemed to be an element of a mystery that was unfolding.  It lacked any kind of surprise and the ending was very predictable, though.  While the writing was fluid and kept me moving in the beginning, that lack of a complex story line made it difficult for me to enjoy the book towards the end.  The characters were very stere…

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith: A Review

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Young Adult fiction is not my favorite.  I don't read very much of it and, when I do, there has to be something else about the book that intrigues me.  For Windfall, it was the idea of a young person winning a lot of money in the lottery and being a little bit lost as to what to do with it.  This book was also a bit of a teen romance, as well.

Alice has had her fair share of bad luck.  When she was nine, both of her parents passed away and she moved from San Francisco to Chicago to live with her uncle, aunt and cousin, Leo.  Leo and Alice have been best friends with Teddy since she moved in with her new family but, recently, Alice has started to have stronger feelings for him.  On the night of Teddy's eighteenth birthday, Alice buys him a lottery ticket as a gag gift, thinking it a long shot that anyone would ever win.  A surprise to both of them, Teddy does win and now has over 50 million dollars to spend.  For a young person who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his mot…