Posts Categorized: Book Review

Book Review: Flight of Dreams

February 22, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: Flight of DreamsFlight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Published by Doubleday on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

In Flight of Dreams, Lawhon takes us on a journey with a re-imagining of the final voyage of the Hindenburg. The Zeppelin flight has always been a source of fascination for me – what really happened? was it a bomb? or the highly flammable hydrogen used as a fuel source? or something entirely different?

The quite plausible scenarios laid out by Lawhon take us on an opulent and mysterious ride through history.

We were first introduced to Ariel Lawhon in her re-imagining of the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress. It’s one of those books I distinctly recall flying through, trying to solve the mystery of how and why this NYC Judge disappeared.  Lawhon created dynamic characters and a plot that encouraged reading straight through the night.

In the beginning of Flight of Dreams we are introduced to a handful of characters. It’s almost like playing a game of Clue – there’s The Stewardess: the first woman to work on board a Zeppelin, a true honor for the time period; The Journalist: forced to join the flight while leaving her 3-month old son behind; The Navigator: a handsome young man in love with The Stewardess; The American: with questionable behavior from his first introduction; and finally, The Cabin Boy: low ‘man’ on the staff desperate for recognition while earning money needed by his impoverished family. Told in the alternating point of view of these 5 characters we get an intimate look behind the scenes of travel aboard the Hindenburg.

Although the introduction of characters, life aboard the airship and multiple story threads takes the first few chapters to build, it is worth the slow progress. We get to see the incredible views from the large windows Taste the whiskey and smoke in the only smoking area on board { can you believe smoking was allowed?!? with hydrogen as fuel??? }. and feel the coolness of the altitude. . . .

But where the author truly shines is in her characterizations of the real lives aboard the Hindenburg. The Cabin Boy, in particular, such a minor character and yet so fully developed. We are allowed into the lives of the characters – their motivations and desires become clearly known to the reader. It’s obvious this author takes her role as author and creator quite seriously.

[Tweet “An intriguing re-imagining of the Hindenburg tragedy as told by @ariellawhon”]

The tragedy becomes all the more real by the final closing of the book because we have journeyed across an ocean with the travelers. We’ve been along as The Navigator attempts to impress The Stewardess with the spectacular view on a mail drop (such a fascinating historical fact!). We are with The Cabin Boy as he is taken under The Navigator’s wing and we are with each person as the fire erupts and envelopes The Hindenburg in 34 seconds.

While I went into Flight of Dreams knowing the tragic end to the Hindenburg, I came away with the sense of each very real person on this airship of dreams. They had hopes, desires, dreams – a full life ahead of them. That the author took a vague historical event and turned it into one of real human drama is a testament to Lawhon’s staying power as a top-notch novelist. Highly recommended. 

Side note ~ isn’t that cover gorgeous?!?

About the Author Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus).

To connect with Ariel Lawhon visit Website | Facebook | Twitter

Flight of Dreams will especially appeal to readers of: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress; The Aviator’s Wife or The Paris Wife

four-half-stars

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Book Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

February 6, 2016 Book Review, reviews 12

Book Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Published by Metropolitan Books on October 7th 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 282
Source: purchased
Goodreads
five-stars

 

With the population of the aging skyrocketing over the past few years more & more thought leaders are looking at what it means to care for the aging. Physician and Harvard Medical School Professor, Atul Gawande, is exceptionally qualified to share his opinion and analysis of death, dying and living while dying. Speaking from both his professional background and his personal situation of caring for aging parents, Gawande makes a particularly relevant case for a revamping of the ‘nursing’ home concept of caring for the elderly.

Your chances of avoiding the nursing home are directly related to the number of children you have.

We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.

Of particular note to me was Gawande made it clear that the nursing home method is the least favorable. Yes, there are some really great nursing homes to be found – the problem comes when patients in the nursing home are required to adhere to the nursing home schedule – eat at this time, sleep at that time, wake up at this time, etc. etc. Of course for the ease of caring for all the patients a regimented schedule is necessary, but I know that I for one would resist every second of it.

The situation is not entirely bleak as Gawande shares in the last few chapters. There are people such as Karen Wilson and Dr. Bill Thomas being true innovators in the care of senior adults & end-of-life care.

…terminally ill cancer patients who were put on a mechanical ventilator, given electrical defibrillation or chest compressions, or admitted, near death, to intensive care had a substantially worse quality of life in their last week than those who received no such interventions. And, six months after their death, their caregivers were three times as likely to suffer major depression.

Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need.

I’m having a difficult time narrowing down the quotes to include as I write this review. So much in Being Mortal  is not only great writing but conversations that we should be having, in our families, our communities, and society.

Why I read Being Mortal?

My daughter is hosting a Death Over Dinner event and to prepare for the conversation I thought this book would be truly enlightening. I had no idea how much I would learn! While I’ve had a plan in place for years in case the multiple sclerosis gets so bad I have to have constant nursing care, reading about the nursing homes has me terrified of being stuck in one! My son who has worked for 3 years providing music therapy in nursing homes teases me that he’s already got mine picked out! But seriously, this book woke me up to how much more I need to communicate with my sweetheart and my children about end-of-life wishes.

This book is best for

Anyone with aging parents; anyone aging; anyone concerned with the ever-increasing aging population; anyone who works with the aging…..

Resources

The book itself is a tremendous resource, giving us 4 key questions to consider and/or ask when faced with end-of-life decisions.

  1. What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?
  2. What are your fears and what are your hopes?
  3. What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make?
  4. And, what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?

Frontline Documentary with Atul Gawande

Karen Wilson, founder of first assisted living home in Oregon

Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Green House Project

Atul Gawande’s website has a wealth of research, articles and video.

Atul Gawande on Twitter

[Tweet “Important discussion of what it means to be aging and dying in America #being mortal”]

 

 

five-stars

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The Ultimate Feel Good Novel for Those Who Love Books About Books

January 23, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

The Ultimate Feel Good Novel for Those Who Love Books About BooksThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on January 19th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy
Goodreads
five-stars

People were strange like that. They could be completely uninterested in you, but the moment you picked up a book, you were the one being rude.

Feel good books were ones you could put down with a smile your face, books that made you think the world was a little crazier, stranger, and more beautiful when you looked up from them.

It all starts with Sara arriving in Broken Wheel, Iowa from Sweden. She’s there to visit pen pal Amy Harris who unbeknownst to Sara, has just passed away.

And now I’ve now read this books 3+ times since downloading, and each time it gets better and better.

Why?

Because there are so many under-lying stories that address true-to-real-life problems. The brilliance is in HOW the problems are approached. The wry humor, understanding and acceptance of all is woven into each storyline and character in such a way that even the most hard-hearted can appreciate.  There’s stories of race, religion, sexuality, immigration, relationships and age, loveless marriages and divorce – if you can think of it then this book probably touched on it.

While several of the characters are based off of stereotypes, the characters themselves are fully fleshed out and wonderful in their own right. There’s Caroline, the town’s moral compass and Christian Upholder; Andy, local boy who left to find himself and returned with gorgeous Carl and together they opened the local bar; ‘Poor George‘ who has had every knock life could dole out and I tend to think he stole the show, next to. . . . .Grace aka/Madeleine – Every town has one – the requisite strong female who proudly brings her shotgun to a wedding ‘to celebrate!’ Oh the characters were so much fun and quirky and real. I felt like I was sitting at the local diner.  Or plopped right down into the middle of an old favorite show Men In Trees. Or maybe “the book equivalent of a Meg Ryan film.”  Or even better, the book and movie-version of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe!

I’ve also seen people so completely caught up in their problems that those problems practically creep in beneath their skin and eat them up from within, until it seems as though their reaction to the problem is worse than the problem itself ever was. Those people grow cruel and bitter too, so it’s difficult to remember to feel sorry for them.

How fun is it to read a fantastic book if you can’t tell others about it, talk about it, and quote from it constantly?

There’s always a person for every book. And a book for every person.

Overall, there’s no way I could fully express how much I think you should read this one. It’s got a little bit for everyone.

In trying to capture all of the authors and books mentioned in the book, I highlighted more sections than not!  There’s a passage on Dewey the famous Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World; the back story of how Penguin Books began in 1935 by founder Allen Lane; and oh so many quotes and references to books, all kinds of books!  One thing is clear – Katarina Bivald is a fan of the Brontë Sisters and Jane Austen! That’s got to count for something, right!

 

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Anyone can nominate their favorite bookstore at Readers Recommend Favorite Bookstore Sweepstakes. Sourcebooks will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize; two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald’s fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa). In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, weekly giveaways for those who nominate will be held throughout the campaign. Voting began January 4, and runs until February 19, when the winning bookstores will be announced.

I’ll leave you with a couple of questions asked between the pen-pals Amy and Sara:

Do you think writing books makes you happier or unhappier?

Do you throw books away?

Do you think our dreams are subject to inflation? and does having dreams make us more or less happy?

on Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, Sandition “Do you think Jane had stopped dreaming by that point?”

Stay warm friends!

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five-stars

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Book Review: The Guest Room

January 15, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The Guest RoomThe Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
Published by Doubleday on January 5th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
four-stars

 

What happens when every choice you make is wrong?

The latest by powerhouse author Chris Bohjalian has a bachelor party going catastrophically wrong in the suburban home of Richard and Kristen.  Richard reluctantly hosts his younger brother’s bachelor party thinking it will be much cleaner and tamer than going to a club.  He is so wrong.

The Guest Room follows Richard and Kristen as they learn to deal with two violent deaths occurring inside their home; Richard’s purported actions with one of the girls from the bachelor party; And the fallout with Richards’s job, neighbors, life.

[Tweet “Explosive thriller straight from headlines by @chrisbohjalian “]

In reading The Guest Room several thoughts and emotions came to mind. First, of course, the human trafficking aspect was horrific and all too real.  Bohjalian put a human face and back story to what happens to girls inside human trafficking.  He also brings to light how our choices come back to haunt us. The portrayal of a marriage, the mistakes one makes however big or small and how a couple overcomes, or doesn’t, felt very real.

Told from three alternating point of views:

  • Richard Chapman, investment banker, relatively great husband and father that makes the mistake of his life;
  • Kristen Chapman, wife to Richard, high school teacher and dedicated mother;
  • Alexandra, devoted dancer from Armenia, kidnapped into sex trade at age 15, brought to America at age 19 by Russian mobsters to continue working.

The pace is lightning fast. I couldn’t flip through or read fast enough. The ending is explosive and unexpected. And the storyline reads as though pulled from the CNN headlines. Although the ending wrapped up a little too neatly the fast action and storyline told made up for any small issues. One word of warning ~ be ready with tissues!

If you liked The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan or Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter then you’ll enjoy The Guest Room.

Read this free short story of Alexandra’s life shared by the author.

Visit Chris Bohjalian Website | Facebook | Twitter

To learn more or to support an end to human trafficking visit C.A.S.T. – Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking.

 

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four-stars

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Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

January 4, 2016 Book Review 12

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Published by Vintage on May 18th 2004
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 226
Format: Paperback
Source: purchased
Goodreads

 

After having this one on my shelf for quite a few years I finally picked it up as my first read for 2016.

Christopher, the protagonist, has a form of autism. He seems brilliant when it comes to numbers and remembering facts; dealing with people and social situations, not so much.  The only touch he seems to be able to tolerate is that of an animal – his favorite pet rat or the next door neighbor’s dog – Wellington.

When Christopher discovers Wellington with a garden rake poking out of his fur, he loses it. No one seems to know who or why Wellington was murdered. So Christopher takes it on himself to detect the culprit. His favorite storybook character is Sherlock Holmes.  Christopher uses Holmes’ methods of deduction and reasoning to investigate Wellington’s death.

Christopher’s world is turned inside out as the progression of his investigation continues. We follow along in his head as he tries to make sense of the senseless. Several paragraphs I had to skip over. Whenever Christopher went off on a mathematical equation  my eyes would glaze over and brain would go into a deep, thick fog. But I had to keep reading because the mystery was compelling, the characters heart-breaking and Christopher, whom I wanted to envelope into a long mama hug, could not be touched. To be autistic sounds incredibly difficult, but almost even more so difficult, I think, would be the one to take care of an autistic child. God bless the saints who care for the autistic person.

Recommended for those who enjoyed Flowers for Algernon or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Have you read this oldie?

 

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