Monday, February 19, 2018

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

SunburnSunburn by Laura Lippman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the book and the story but it didn't grab me as much as other Lippman thrillers. It was a lot of hype about a page 2 story. Disappointed with the ending. Characters weren't as strong as I would have liked.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Educated: A MemoirEducated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful memoir. Very well written with the objectivity of a woman who has processed her experiences and made her peace with the girl she was and the woman she is. Tara's childhood was filled with violence and extremist ideology. Her father faithfully read his scriptures and made interpretations that were extreme. He built a more strict religion than his Mormon neighbors yet continued to move the goal posts to fit his mood.

This is not a book about Mormonism. This the movement of one girl breaking free of the internal and external restraints that held her hostage. She gives a fair and balanced account of members in her family. None are cast as completely villainous or saintly. Yet the underlying current is that the home was ruled by a controlling father, deeply troubled by multiple mental illnesses left untreated and unchecked. Bipolar, paranoid, violent and, at times, psychotic, he preached anti-establishment, anti-government, and end of the world.

Additionally, the author experiences a complicated, contradictive relationship with an older brother that switched quickly from protector to violent protagonist. There is a parallel of sorts between the brother and the father. Both are capable of horrific abuse and neglect yet also of deep love. Neither are mentally stable yet the people surrounding them allow their reality to dictate their own existence. It is an extreme example of group gaslighting to the point that the sane questions his or her sanity.

In the same valley 65 years earlier, my dad stood and stretched his back after thinning sugar beets. In a moment of clarity, he saw his life if he stayed complacent; thinning sugar beets, hungry and poor. He quit that day and announced he was going to college. Without support or money, he worked whatever jobs he could get, joined ROTC, and eventually earned a Ph.D.

What the author so beautifully illustrates through her words is how she gained freedom through education, self analysis through historians and therapy, and how her journey, although still continuing, is one that she chooses and can enjoy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake

Just Between UsJust Between Us by Rebecca Drake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The reason this book gets four stars is because of the author’s forensic knowledge. How to cover your tracks after committing a murder. The story is well thought out but I felt a little unresolved with the ending. I also wished I knew more about a couple of the characters. That said, it is a solid thriller as the pieces come together.

View all my reviews

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

Need to KnowNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a dangerous secret that will threaten her job, her family—and her life. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—is threatened.‎

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

This is a seriously surprising thriller. My mind flipped from one opinion to the other often throughout the book. I'm still uncertain about who can be trusted. Which I think is the point. Great way to spend a day.

Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

View all my reviews

Roomies by Christina Lauren

RoomiesRoomies by Christina Lauren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute story. Can’t help but empathize some with Holland, fall in love with Calvin. It’s not a deep read, pretty much a story that we know but with a musical twist.

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Every Note PlayedEvery Note Played by Lisa Genova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mother winner by Lisa Genova. From the outset, the book is about ALS but it’s also about forgiving, living, and grieving before death. Very well written, as usual.

Hitler, My Neighbor: Memories of a Jewish Childhood, 1929-1939 by Edgar Feuchtwanger

Hitler, My Neighbor: Memories of a Jewish Childhood, 1929-1939Hitler, My Neighbor: Memories of a Jewish Childhood, 1929-1939 by Edgar Feuchtwanger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly a unique insight into Hitler’s Nazi Germany through the eyes of a child that lived across the street from Hitler. A Jewish Child that also recalls the changes made in textbooks, curriculum, and teachers as Hitler gained power and their family fell from societal grace. Very well written. Very much enjoyed it.

In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope by Rana Awdish

In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of HopeIn Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope by Rana Awdish
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What I liked about this book is that the author is not only a trained medical doctor but she has an innate gift of using language and metaphors to describe deep thoughtful and feelings. The story itself is very well written and includes both objectivity and subjective interpretations as a patient would feel and think.

The book is about the author’s experience as a clinical scientist and her journey to the other side of the paradigm. At seven months pregnant, she suffers a hemorrhage within her body that is initially diagnosed as HELPP Syndrome. Her organs begin to shut down and she even has an out of body experience when her heart stops. It is fascinating and terrifying. Yet this is only the beginning of her journey.

Raina’s experiences taught her how to be a better clinician. She understood the very, very essential skill of compassion and connection to her patients. She discovers that, as a patient, she needs the humanity of the doctor and trusts the doctor that connects to her as a person instead of just a patient. She beginning of a movement in the medical field in developing this skill.

I enjoyed this book immensely and would highly recommend it to all.

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible FuriesThe Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a tough book for me to read, I will have to admit. I don’t read a lot of books that detail sexual encounters. For the most part, I think that is an adolescent way to sell a book that has little story. So, although I was enjoying the story and the dialogue in the previous chapters, I began feeling uneasy when the protagonist is about 14. The crass talk in the bar really put me off. In skimmed through and was in the midst of his 21st year and put the book down. I was finished. I really didn’t need the details of Cyril’s homosexual encounters or Julien’s heterosexual ones.

The book sat for less than 12 hours. I was still interested in the story and the clever writing and decided I would give it another try and skip large passages. As the book progressed, I skipped less and less until I was fully enjoying the characters’ journeys. In fact, I didn’t put the book down until I finished it in the wee hours of the morning.

In retrospect, I recognize Cyril’s journey of learning who he is to accepting who he is to being completely honest about who he is and how that impacted his relationships was apparent in his view about sex. To complicate the matter, the story is mostly set in Ireland, a country that is very contradictory with its laws yet secret behavior. Cyril’s sexuality became less about sex and more about his own integrity and his relationships. Which is precisely why, once I largely skimmed some of his years, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It touched me deeply as I journeyed with him through the decades and his complicated relationships with those that were most important to him. In fact, besides the witty dialogue and description, it is the relationships that Cyril navigates that has me still thinking about the book today.

Ultimately, I can’t help but think of the saying, “Those who care don’t matter. Those who matter don’t care.” I would also add, “They just love.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Long Way Down by Michael Sears

Long Way Down (Jason Stafford, #3)Long Way Down by Michael Sears
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a mediocre book that continually referred to the events two years earlier and in an earlier book. There were holes in the story, I thought and I actually read it thinking it was another book by this name. It wasn’t a bad book, by any means, just not my style.