Posts Categorized: reviews

Book Review: The Versions of Us

May 20, 2016 Book Review, reviews 7

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 Versions of UsThe Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 416
Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

 

Eva and Jim meet at Cambridge in 1958.  Eva is a writer while Jim is either pursuing art or law in the different versions. What begins as a beautiful love story from a chance meeting turns into version 2 and version 3. Each one slightly different, yet enough to change the trajectory of their story. It’s the equivalent of three different ‘what if’s?’ Which is a brilliant idea for a story as most of us play the what if game in our minds and in our journals.

The writing is lovely and immersive. The subtle nuances of each storyline is fleshed out.

Perhaps that’s how love always arrives in this imperceptible slippage from acquaintance to intimacy. Eva pg 12

But.

I had difficulty following the different storylines as each chapter changes. I felt disjointed in reading The Versions of Us. It was almost hard work keeping up with which version was which. I wanted to love the book. I truly did. It was a smart story, incredible idea and beautiful writing. I just had a hard time keeping up.

[Tweet “A novel of ‘what-if’s’ spanning 60 years and 3 ‘versions of us'”]

Side note ~ there are wonderful references to books and publishing houses throughout the book:

Pale brown hair, in need of a cut; a Penguin paperback in his free hand. Eva can just make out the title on the spine, Brave New World . . .

He shifts the paperback he is carrying–Mrs. Dalloway; he’d found it on his mother’s bedside table as he was packing. . .

It was fun finding the references to literature and pop culture throughout the book – everything from Shakespeare to People magazine. Even David Bowie has a mention.

Have you read this one? Am I right that we all tend to play the ‘what-if’ game in our heads or am I the only one 😉 ?

 

*With tremendous thanks I received The Versions of Us from the publisher for the purpose of an honest unbiased review.*

 

three-stars

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On a Journey with The Passage

April 21, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

On a Journey with The PassageThe Passage (The Passage, #1) by Justin Cronin
Published by Ballantine Books on June 8th 2010
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 766
Source: purchased
Amazon
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

I was not going to read The Passage. I absolutely positively wasn’t going to read it.

It was too hyped up plus I read a review that said it was about vampires, and y’all know I don’t do vampires. And I read it was going to be a trilogy and I hate waiting for sequels.

But then I read that the third and final book is coming out in May.

And I read this review and this one and this one. I decided I would pick up the book, read the first page, and if it didn’t grab me in that first paragraph, then sayonara The Passage.

Wouldn’t you know, it grabbed me and sucked me in with the very. first. sentence!

I’ve always been a huge fan of Indiana Jones, Clive Cussler’s, Dirk Pitt, James Rollins, Sigma Force and Michael Crichton’s every book ~ these adventure novels are perfect escapism reading.

The Passage is filled with flawed human characters, deftly created by a master storyteller.

Epic in scale. Plays on our every mortal fear and conspiracy theories. A scientist stumbles upon a deadly virus that makes terminally ill patients ‘cured’ of their cancers. These patients also appear to have an age reversal ~ becoming younger and more virile {yes, bad pun I know!}. Then a month later all of those patients are dead? Can you not just see all kinds of entities all over this? A virus that cures ailments and makes you younger – yes, please.

So what does this secret government agency do? Collect 12 human test subjects to experiment creating the ultimate ‘cure’ for disease, aging and death.

Somehow the experiment goes horribly wrong. But you knew that was coming, right? Because the book is 776 pages. And everything I just told you is in the first chapter!

[Tweet “Epic tale questions humanity & asks ‘what would you do’ #thepassage”]

The Passage is disturbing, makes you think and wonder what you would do.

3 Reasons I love The Passage

  1. it’s a hero’s journey, but the hero turns out to be a girl.  {no spoiler here – it’s on the book flap and Goodreads description}
  2. it’s along the same lines of a true epic like The Lord of the Rings 
  3. it makes you think. oh does this book make you think ~ and ask everyone around you “what would you do?”

2 Reasons The Passage is intimidating

  1. I love big books and I cannot lie. But with The Passage and the alternating time frames and the ‘have to read it at break-neck speed’ because I have to find out who lives made me feel like after I was finished that I need to go back and start from the beginning. a. because it was so good, and b. because I probably missed clues along the way.
  2. The whole thing seems so plausible. Terrifying.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys epic adventure novels, Michael Crichton-esque conspiracies and The Walking Dead.

Ok, I’ve got to know ~ have you read it? What did you think? Or were you like me and avoided it like the plague for the longest time?

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four-half-stars

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Book Review: Pretty Baby

March 25, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

Book Review: Pretty BabyPretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Published by Mira on July 28th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 380
Source: purchased
Goodreads
four-stars

 

Truly psychological in the thriller category, Pretty Baby takes us on a slow burn to a crashing climax. Also, probably more true-to-life as well, truth be known. Everyone has hidden motivations that dictates their every move.

Heidi is a bleeding heart devoted to her work with literacy. Her husband, Chris, is an investment banker focused on money, money, money. While Willow is the homeless, disturbed teenage mother that Heidi takes in, much to her husband and daughter’s chagrin.

Told in alternating chapters, Chris, Willow and Heidi slowly peel away the layers of crazy. Heidi can be a bit annoying and obnoxious to those who do not share her same concerns for society’s underprivileged and/or abused. Willow is the tragic image of all that can, and does, go wrong in an abused child’s life. Chris gradually becomes the mirror to Heidi and Willow, giving us an up close glimpse.

Pretty Baby was, overall, sad for me. Having worked with abused children and families for so long I know how heart-breaking it is to see a child you just can’t reach. . .to want to take a child under your wing and give her safety, shelter and love. What many don’t realize (or want to accept) is that there’s a lifetime of hurt, pain and trauma to overcome. Children are not automatically grateful for the love and care – many resist, push boundaries, test you to see what it will take to make you give up on them.

Pretty Baby clearly depicts what happens when what motivates us gets skewed; when perceptions are completely wrong; and how the best of intentions can all go horribly wrong.

Recommended for those who enjoy Tess Gerritson, Lisa Unger and Heather Gudenkauf.

What psychological thriller have you read recently? I need some recommendations to get me through til Kubica’s latest comes out in May! 😉

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four-stars

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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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