Source: purchased

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Let’s Talk State of Wonder

July 22, 2016 Book Review, reviews 17

Let’s Talk State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on June 7th 2011
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 353
Source: purchased
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
five-stars

 

For the month of June I joined a casual readalong led by Care of  Care’s Books and Pie, along with Debbie, and Katie, for Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I thought it quite fitting to do so as I visited Parnassus Books for the first time while at a conference in Nashville. {Side note – if you ever get a chance to visit Parnassus Books created and run by Ann Patchett, be sure to do so!}.

This is not going to be a typical review post, and in fact I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and include spoilers. So if you haven’t read State of Wonder and you plan to – DON’T READ THIS POST YET. And if you are a traditionalist and simply don’t want to know spoilers, DON’T READ THIS POST. And in case you haven’t gotten get the gist yet SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILERS UP AHEAD!!!

I’m not sure why I have never read an Ann Patchett novel because once I read the synopsis of State of Wonder it sounded like the absolutely perfect read for me – a little bit of Clive Cussler trekking through the jungle, some James Rollins and big business conspiracy all wrapped up neatly in a literary package.

Our main character, Marina, works at a large pharmaceutical company as a researcher. She’s worked closely with Anders, her co-worker until he was sent to the jungles of Brazil to track down another doctor doing research for the same pharmaceutical company. When the book opens we learn that Anders has died from an unknown fever and the doctor he had been searching for, and found, buried him in the jungle. Well Anders’ wife is not good with either the idea her husband is dead nor that he was buried thousands of miles away. The CEO of the pharmaceutical company, Mr. Fox, is not good with it either. He still had not received the information Anders went to Brazil to get. So, we have Marina coerced by both Mr. Fox and the wife of Anders to go find out what happened, bring him home, and discover what the heck is going on at the research facility in the middle of the Brazilian jungle.

So many small threads of storylines ran through State of Wonder.

  • Marina and Mr. Fox. They’ve been dating for a number of years and she thinks he’s about to propose in the car as he takes her to the airport but instead he gives her a phone?!? Talk about symbolism! Mr. Fox is her boss, CEO of the company she works for, and though he is a widower, Mr. Fox refuses to acknowledge their relationship. What is up with that! Why does Marina put up with that? They even have to go out of town to dinner where no one will recognize the two together.
  • Marina, the wife and the co-worker. Marina has to tell the wife the horrible news of Anders death while the wife comes to rely on Marina to ‘find him and bring him home.’ The pressure on Marina from both the wife and Mr. Fox is unbelievable! The wife cannot leave because of their children and Mr. Fox is only thinking of his company.
  • Marina and Dr. Swenson. Is Marina going to become a Dr. Swenson just as the good doctor anticipates? Will Marina break and tell Mr. Fox it is a cure for malaria and not the miracle pregnancy drug he’s expecting? I was surprised Marina had the strength to walk away – or maybe it wasn’t strength but more she was completely broken by the end?
  • Marina and the Lakashi people, where the research facility is located deep in the Brazilian jungle. Staying in the jungle amongst the Lakashi allows Marina space and time to focus on becoming comfortable in her own skin and to be able to shed a certain Mr. Fox. Do you think there was any attraction to Milton, the driver and Marina’s often-time rescuer?
  • And most tragic of all, Easter and his relationship with everyone in the research facility, especially Anders, Marina, and the doctor. I’m still disturbed by the ending and it’s been over a month ago I read the book. On the one hand I can understand why Anders did what he did, BUT on the other hand my heart breaks, I’m shocked and horrified. What a philosophical nightmare ~ who is most at fault here? The doctor who kept Easter? Anders that gave him away? or Marina for taking him to look for Anders when she refused to take anyone else from the camp?

This book was a wonderful escape. While there were moments I had to suspend my disbelief {like the anaconda scene}. . . . although I do know of someone who picked up a copperhead just like the local Lakashi picked up the anaconda, so suspending disbelief over that scene was not quite as difficult! I was somewhat thrown off by how proficient Easter seemed to be at most everything.  An unlikely hero yet a hero nonetheless.

Now I’m off to read everything Ann Patchett has ever written. Highly recommended for men and women! For anyone who fell in love with Indiana Jones or enjoys the adventure novels of Clive Cussler, James Rollins and Lincoln Child – with lots of fantastic descriptive writing.

Have you read State of Wonder? What are your thoughts on that ending?

five-stars

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How to DIY MFA

July 12, 2016 Book Review, reviews 1

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.

How to DIY MFADIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community by Gabriela Pereira
Published by Writer's Digest Books on July 8th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 294
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

In 7th grade Mrs. McNeary introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle. Although we were surly middle schoolers, Mrs. McNeary read A Wrinkle in Time to us every afternoon. By the time the third day rolled around I had already been to the school library to check out A Wrinkle in Time. By the fourth day, I had the book finished and had checked out A Wind in the Door, Book 2 in the Time Quintet Series. I remember thinking that if I could write like anyone, I wanted to tell stories just like Ms. L’Engle. I also wanted to be a pilot, Navy Seal, and marine biologist, but writer was always at the top of my list.

Fast forward to adulthood where I never quite made it to pilot school, the Navy didn’t want me, and marine biology was only a passing interest because of A Ring of Endless Light. . .my absolute favorite L’Engle novel. Somehow I fell into the non-profit world, children’s advocacy, and writing grant proposals. I didn’t consider myself a writer though. Most grant proposals are dry and technical – where’s the imagination in that?

While trying to find other readers to talk with about books I fell into book blogging. I thought that writing reviews and sharing my world was not real writing. Where’s the imagination in talking books? In order to be a real writer I would have to get my MFA. or so I thought.

Then I came across Gabriela Pereira’s site DIYMFA.com

All of the sudden I realized, wait, I am a writer. I may not be Pulitzer-Prize-worthy, but I’ve been a writer for years! Can you imagine the elation and relief I felt?

So when I read that the entire DIY MFA method was being published in a book I knew I had to get it. As much of a resource as the site has been, the book, I knew, would be chock-full of wisdom. I pre-ordered the book even though I had access to the advanced reader’s copy. After reading the first few chapters I quickly figured out that this book was going to be a much-used and much-loved writing resource, along with my copy of On Writing, Bird by Bird, and Writing Down the Bones.

[Tweet “From writer’s voice to writing workshops the book @DIYMFA is sure to be a favorite resource.”]

Gabriela lays out the foundation of writing in a methodical and easily-understood manner. The book is sectioned into the 3-part mission of DIY MFA: “write with focus, read with purpose, build your community.” From there the book is pared down into bite-sized chapters with clear actionable steps/homework. For example, in the Read with Purpose portion we learn to “Read Like a Writer,” and the four types of books a writer should utilize {also known as “the four C’s”}: “competitive titles, contextual books, contemporary books, and classics.”

Gabriela is a big fan of acronyms and tips which further helps to cement the tools learned. For example, the term ‘habits’ becomes:

H = Honor Your Reality

A = Add Constraints

B = Block Time and Batch Tasks

I = Iterate

T = Ten Percent Rule

S = Set the Mood

Gabriela is candid and practical throughout the book. There is no shortcut to becoming a good writer. Practicing is repeated over and over, or actually, what I came to term as Gabriela’s favorite word ~ “iterate, iterate, iterate.” That was my only issue with the book – why say iterate when practice works just as well?

If you have any desire to improve your writing, whether as a blogger or a long-time writer, pick up this book. It is sure to become your favorite writing resource – I know it is now mine!

Side Note: There’s countless worksheets and cheat sheets and even a private online resource for those who purchase the book. And while I would highly recommend purchasing the book, there are still plenty of free resources at DIYMFA.com

Gabriela also hosts a podcast with fantastic guests and resources! Learn more here.

Connect with Gabriela Website | Twitter | Facebook

What writing books/memoirs/resources have you read and/or use?

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four-half-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: 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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