I have seen many books with the author’s face emblazoned across the cover. My usual reaction is, “Oh, baby. You should know better than to put your fa...moreI have seen many books with the author’s face emblazoned across the cover. My usual reaction is, “Oh, baby. You should know better than to put your face on anything.” Most of us don’t represent much of a visual enticement to buy.
Dr. Jean-Murat’s smiling visage on her cover not only made me want the book, I had a strong urge to call her up for a consultation, which I still may do. Her face is so open and reveals such good-heartedness that I suspected not liking her or her autobiography would be hard. I need to know this person, something deep inside me said.
As I read Carolle’s words about her life in Voodoo in my Blood, those initial impressions were strengthened. I’ve never met anyone from Haiti. I’ve heard that it’s a difficult place with lots of injustice and suffering. That may be true, but Dr. Jean-Murat’s words make it into a place of beauty and family and friendship. And many other things, such as malevolent caretakers and a grandfather—a distinguished Voodoo leader—that I wish I could have met.
Read this book. It’s an amazing unfolding of a life. I remain awed when I think of the story Carolle tells us. A brilliant, young girl beats the odds and makes it to the United States and medical school. She’s confronted by one obstacle after another. I won’t recount them all, you can read for yourself. She never gives up and she never pulls punches. Dr. Jean-Murat is unflinchingly honest in sharing her life with us. Time and again I halted my reading of Voodoo in my Blood to contemplate how much vigor and stamina the doctor displayed, not just in medical school but throughout her life. I thought, Where does she get the energy? Where does she get all those friends? She must have more friends than anyone in the world.
Dr. Jean-Murat gives the reader a doctor’s eye view of the medical profession. I have heard that the profession is changing rapidly, becoming more and more under the control of insurance companies. Carolle shows us what’s happening and its effect on physicians and the health care system in an intimate way.
This book had an enormous impact on me. As I thought about how I would review it, the absurdity of reviewing an autobiography came clear. “Well, Carolle, you did great from six to ten, your thirties sagged a little, and boy, those forties . . .” Evaluating a life story is ridiculous.
How do you review an autobiography, except by noting the impression it has on you? Toward the end of the book, when the shaman in Dr. Carolle is coming out and her life is changing radically, I noticed that I was shaking from head to foot. The last time that happened, I was an intellectual young woman working on a doctorate at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. What I was learning was so exciting that it made me tremble. I often had to go for a walk to calm down. The social and political implications of my studies stirred my soul.
This time I was shaking because Dr. Carolle stirred my soul. As she recounted her hesitation to move in a direction that she knew was not only right, but essentially herself, something in me resonated.
Carolle has an intuitive voice that tells her how to treat her patients and what to do generally. I’ve had my own brand of that intuition as long as I can remember. The books I write come from it; they are it. Yet I’ve gotten lost in marketing techniques and developing a distinct brand for myself, in being obsessed with sales figures and money as the measures of success and not valuing what is truly me.
As I read Carolle’s words about her journey, that part of myself that had been buried under the advice of experts came to life. That voice is important. That voice should be followed. Trust in God, Sandy, something in me says. REALLY trust in God.
I’m a different person than I was when I started this book. That’s what coming into contact with a shaman does. That’s how to evaluate a book of this type.
Read this book, it’s good for your soul.
I was given a complementary copy to read and review.(less)
I finished Destinies yesterday and feel like I’ve lost an old friend. I’m in that floating period that comes after finishing a good book: I’m mulling...moreI finished Destinies yesterday and feel like I’ve lost an old friend. I’m in that floating period that comes after finishing a good book: I’m mulling over its scenes, characters, and settings. I’m also wondering what on earth I’ll do until I find another book that carries me away so completely.
Destinies is an epic of sweeping scope that reminds me of famous works about Russia, Dr. Zhivago, for instance. Destinies presents a very original twist on life in Mother Russia and is remarkable in its originality.
It’s the story of a group of German peasants who leave the Rhineland at the invitation of Tzarina Katherine (the Great). Life is rough in the Rhineland. They’re tenants, not landowners, and at the mercy of pretty near everyone in their German life. The village decides to take advantage of Katherine’s gracious offer to bear the expenses of their traveling to Russia, and to set them up with their own farms and all that would be needed to run them: houses, horses, farm implements and seed. Sounds like a good deal, especially when compared to being exploited unmercifully by their landlords and local nobles in the old country.
The tzarina’s plan is to modernize Russia. She intends to settle her new citizens on eastern lands beneath the Ural Mountains, an area undeveloped, sparsely populated and invaded by marauding robber bands and wild tribes. Thousands of individuals—families and whole villages—heed the call. Morrow wisely focuses on one Rhineland village, giving the reader a close-up view of village life and introducing characters that I will never forget. Brilliant, Astonishing, and Impossible to Forget
This book is intricately plotted, but isn’t confusing. It moves like a freight train; the pace being fast and exciting. Right from the beginning things begin to go wrong. I think this work could also be put in the suspense genre. It had me on the edge of my seat and reading into the night.
The plot alternates between the trials and tribulations of the German immigrants and the court life of the tzarina. I wanted to slap that woman. While communicating with Voltaire and the literati of France, and thinking of herself as an enlightened monarch, big (and growing bigger by the day) Tzarina Kate squeezes her own serfs almost to death, which incites a revolt she doesn’t understand.
The book bears the stamp of many hours spent researching everything about her characters, sites and the world around her work. The author presents detailed descriptions of the colonists’ difficult journey to Russia and what happens afterward. For instance, the way that Morrow describes the experience and sounds of the deep Volga ice breaking up during the spring makes you feel as though you’re right there. I can hardly wait to read more by Karleene Morrow.
I received a complimentary copy to read and review.(less)
This novel is about finding and maintaining personal integrity in a culture aimed at destroying it. Paradoxic...moreThe Last Newspaper Man Left Me Breathless
This novel is about finding and maintaining personal integrity in a culture aimed at destroying it. Paradoxically, that culture can be a crucible that permits authenticity to grow. This book is exactly up my alley. I did a great deal of coursework in philosophy as an undergraduate and hold an MA in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling. The personal journeys that form the story are profound, and yet they’re rendered here with spareness and clarity that are stunning.
The Last Newspaper Man tells the story of a young newspaperman trying to make a mark in his own, extremely mediocre, paper. He wants to grab an atmospheric, witness-to-history story featuring some oldster and boost his professional standing. He goes to the Oceanview, a local retirement facility. He quickly finds the subject he wants: ninety-something Fred Haines, a retired journalist.
The two begin a passage that changes both of them. The story’s form is simple: The young journalist visits the old man. They talk. It turns out that Fred was a very prominent journalist in his day, one of the first “yellow journalists.” As Fred Haines tells his story, he presents a draft of a book that chronicles his life, covering horrific events that fly in the face of human decency. As the manuscript is revealed, both men are changed.
I heartily recommend this book. I found it’s content mesmerizing and extremely relevant in today’s world. DiIonno’s writing is exquisite. He sets up a deep and complex existential dilemma with simple words between two men. The book’s structure and execution are brilliant. Give me more, Mr. DiIonno!
A 100% Satisfying Read––Two Thumbs Enthusiastically Up!
I was charmed by this book before opening it. First, the title. The Bookie’s Son. Titillating a...moreA 100% Satisfying Read––Two Thumbs Enthusiastically Up!
I was charmed by this book before opening it. First, the title. The Bookie’s Son. Titillating and a bit shocking. Who has a bookie for a dad? I must have been fated to read this book because the couple on the cover look quite a bit like my parents in the early 1960s. I was positively inclined toward it immediately. The book delivers on its promise.
The story unfolds as twelve-year-old Ricky Davis comes home, goes into his parents’ bedroom and begins taking bets for his father’s bookmaking business. His whacky grandmother wanders around, with and without her teeth and bowl of Jell-O.
The scene was so bizarre that I thought, This is going to be an hysterically funny family drama, sort of like Leave It to Beaver, but with betting on the ponies on the side. Not quite.
Very soon, the forces behind the gambling enterprise appear. Mafioso-like gangsters run betting. In this case, it’s the Jewish Mafia. Thugs as scary as you’ll encounter in literature show up. Ricky’s dad is in big trouble. The author leads the reader by the hand as the family struggles to save itself. Goldstein’s writing is so good, it’s like being with this incredibly disturbed, dysfunctional group of people. The Davis family would drive phalanxes of marriage and family counselors to their knees. Yet they love each other. These people care about each other and are bonded. I loved this book. I’m not going to add more about the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
Mr. Goldstein’s writing is marvelous. He delivers very disturbing, terrifying material very well, as well as the funniest scenes you’ll ever read. I sat in my family room with my dogs staring at me because I was laughing so hard. Goldstein’s story and characters show great emotional depth and range. His weird and very empathetic characters are developed with perfectly paced and very well written prose. The author packs his work with great imagination and verve. Highly recommended!
I noted “Two Thumbs Enthusiastically Up!” in this review’s title. I have a new practice. If I receive a book to review and I really like it, I pass it on to my husband. He is a very bright, well-educated, and articulate man. (Of course he is, I married him.) He represents the market for the books I accept. He loved this book. Listening to him laughing, practically rolling off the sofa, was delightful. (This actually will become a 3 thumbs-up review soon. Our daughter is reading it and loves the book, too.)
Mr. Goldstein, roll out your next work. We’re ready.
[I received a complementary copy to read and review.] (less)
The sequel to Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (Tales from Earth's End Book 2), Sam & Emily takes the reader...moreThe sequel to Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (Tales from Earth's End Book 2), Sam & Emily takes the reader back to the Earth of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy. The planet is moments from being destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.
Sam Baahuhd, headman of the village on Piermont Manor, carries a naked stranger into the huge, multi-billion dollar, underground bomb shelter on the estate.
The shelter was meant to save the planet's intellectual elite, but because of the speed with which the nuclear threat materializes, it ends up housing the people of the village. These are the staff and field workers of the estate.
It's a cosmic joke: the people of the village are unable to read, spend as much time as they can drunk or stoned, and would rather fight than get a day's work done.
Sam is in charge of managing these rowdies––his people. They would like nothing more than to murder him; that's how the village changes headmen. When Sam brings the battered but lovely stranger into the mix and upsets everything. She's a wildcard in a volatile environment.
"Out of the ballpark! It's a terrific story with wonderful characters––both the good guys and the bad guys––in all kinds of wild situations." Laren Bright, Emmy-nominated television writer(less)
I highly recommend this book. It's a riveting read on all fronts. Terminal Ambition has an opening ch...moreAN IMPORTANT BOOK FOR SOCIETY, AND A GREAT READ.
I highly recommend this book. It's a riveting read on all fronts. Terminal Ambition has an opening chapter you'll never forget. The writing is as high-quality as any you'll find. The author drops you into the lightning-speed, competitive atmosphere of the highest levels of a major law firm. It feels like you're there: The dialogue, descriptions of the clothing, homes, and offices--everything about book's characters and their lifestyles is spot on. Which you would expect, given that the author was a partner in a major law firm. She knows her stuff.
This book would satisfy if it were only a legal thriller, but it's more than that. Its subject is sexual discrimination and harassment in a huge legal institution. This is a topic that maters to all of us, not just women. I have not experienced the criminal harassment that some of the women in this book do. I do know women who have; it's something that spreads across the industries of our nation. From what one of my friends told me, when she finally got the courage up to complain to the highest levels of her company, her bosses did--exactly nothing. I would say that their lack of action damaged their personal integrity. And the perpetrator faced no consequences at all. What did untrammeled freedom to abuse do for his character? The issues raised in this book are important for our society--and our souls.
There's more. Author Kate McGuinness includes the first chapter of the sequel to Terminal Ambition. Wow! It looks like book #2 in the series will be as thrilling and suspenseful as book #1. I hope she writes fast! (less)
The story of a woman of a certain age, single, kids grown, living in a once-dream home which is now too far out, too isolated, and too much, One Hundr...moreThe story of a woman of a certain age, single, kids grown, living in a once-dream home which is now too far out, too isolated, and too much, One Hundred Open Houses follows the heroine's adventures as she tries to find affordable housing in NYC. She "talks" as she visits the apartments for sale, talking to the reader, or maybe herself. It's very interesting, intelligent, observant self-talk. I don't have my Kindle with me right now to give you an example, but I'd gasp at the insights the author offered into life and aging, and real estate. This may not be the book for everyone, but it sure was for me. I am woman of a certain age, whose kids are grown, my husband and I live on a ranch. The nearest grocery (not up-scale food emporium, just regular grocery) is six miles away. I think about moving all the time. Where to? Can I afford anything farther in? Would I want it if I could? Do I really want to give up what I've got for a hovel in the city?
Also, I love looking at real estate. And open houses. I could easily lovingly catalog every open house I visited if I got serious about moving. I liked visiting all those places in the book. The protagonist is learning about life and changing as she makes the rounds on Sunday afternoon. She ends up in a different place than she started. I really liked this book and recommend it. (less)
The sequel to author Todd A, Fonseca's The Time Cavern, Inverted offers more thrills and suspense in the Amish farm country. The series' protagonists,...moreThe sequel to author Todd A, Fonseca's The Time Cavern, Inverted offers more thrills and suspense in the Amish farm country. The series' protagonists, Aaron and Jake, are as charming as they were in the previous volume. Aaron is a brilliant boy recently transplanted from the city, while Jake is his adventurous, tomboy neighbor.
The adventure begins when Jake and Aaron use the time cavern they'd found in Volume 1. When it doesn't work as expected, Aaron is injured and trapped in the past. Jake tries to bring him back, leading her to find another time cavern, the inverse of the one she and Aaron knew. From there, the plot becomes intricate and suspenseful, with more time travelers and unknown perils.
This is reading for intelligent kids. The author seamlessly integrates information about many topics into the text: tree rings and how they measure time, Amish foods, how to siphon, raise a barn, and do woodworking, to name a few. The book provides a nice juxtaposition of the two time periods, showing Amish country in the present vs. one hundred years ago. (less)
I had no idea what a forensic accountant was until reading this novel. (Such an accountant tracks down missing money in cases of financial wrong-doing...moreI had no idea what a forensic accountant was until reading this novel. (Such an accountant tracks down missing money in cases of financial wrong-doing.) I certainly had no idea that a story about a forensic accountant could be exciting, suspenseful, and scary.
Forensic accountant Katarina (Kat) Carter is called in when five billion dollars goes missing from a Canadian corporation mining diamonds. She can't figure out why they called her. She's the least important investigator of her kind in town, and everyone believes the missing CFO did it, anyway. But Kat needs the money, so she takes the job.
An exciting story unfolds. Kat is a more-than-spunky modern heroine who refuses to quit when everything turns against her. Soon, we're learning about the international laundering of dirty diamonds, how pilfered money is moved between nations, drug lords, and big time organized crime. Kat's computer skills are reminiscent of Lisbeth Salander's in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
A great, fast-moving tale that will teach you more about forensic accounting than you knew existed--but in an entertaining and easily understood way. I found out that the author, Colleen Cross, is an accountant. That figures: The depth of the research in this book is way more than what you could get by Googling.
I haven’t laughed so hard over a book in I don’t know how long––though I thought the protagonist Susan should be rushed into an emergency Codependents...moreI haven’t laughed so hard over a book in I don’t know how long––though I thought the protagonist Susan should be rushed into an emergency Codependents Anonymous meeting and not let out until she learned to say, “No!” loudly. What a great storyteller L. C. Evans is! Susan is recovering from being dumped by her rat of a husband. She’s doing fine––until she gets fired, her flake of a sister comes to stay with her infant and moose of a dog, and her elderly mom moves in because of a sprained ankle. There’s more! It seems that everyone in her world is leaning on Susan. How much can she take?
The tale is way more complicated than I’ve indicated, involving ghost tours, a hunk of an old boyfriend reappearing, and a best friend to may or may not be after said boyfriend. Every character is memorable, nutty, and at the same time, feels similar to people we all know. Even the dogs are memorable.The plot moves along at a perfect pace, revealing secrets and more problems. Even ghosts (maybe). Evan’s writing style is breezy, accomplished and funny.
I hope there’s a sequel––I’ll be the first to buy it.(less)
TERRIFIC FANTASY! I was captivated by Susan Ee’s Angelfall. There are so many things to like about this book. It takes place months after an Armageddo...moreTERRIFIC FANTASY! I was captivated by Susan Ee’s Angelfall. There are so many things to like about this book. It takes place months after an Armageddon instigated by angels. Angels are the bad guys? Yes. That’s only one of Angelfall’s quirky elements. The characters are endearing and fascinating: The tough/tender heroine Penryn. Her mentally ill and very dangerous mother. Disabled sister. Absent father. And the hunky angel, Raffe, who may or may not be a good “guy”.
None of these are stereotyped or predictable. Which is so refreshing. I am not a fan of popular fiction. The current preoccupation with faeries, vampires, werewolves, witches, and angels leaves me cold. But this book didn’t.
Superbly well-written and perfectly paced, Angelfall could be used as a model of good writing in any creative writing seminar. The action never ceased as the plot unfolded to reveal unpredictable scenes and situations. Like the politics of angel society. Humans preparing to revolt against angels. And what those angels are up to in San Francisco.
The author’s use of place enthralled me. I was born in San Francisco and spent most of my life on the San Francisco Peninsula. The book is set in my old stomping ground. So when she describes Penryn and company heading for Page Mill Rd and crossing El Camino in Palo Alto, I could visualize the scene exactly. The same was true for her locations on Skyline and in San Francisco. When authors site a story in a physically real place that I know, I get really perturbed if the location isn’t portrayed correctly. Ee does this perfectly.
I’m looking forward to the next installment of the Penryn & the End of Days series.
I highly recommend this book for adults who like intense fantasy with horrific elements and violence. I didn’t find either disturbing, but some might. I would recommend this for older Young Adults.Angelfall(less)
In Over the Edge, Brandilyn Collins tackles the natural human tendency to attack those least able to defend themselves. This goes along with the prope...moreIn Over the Edge, Brandilyn Collins tackles the natural human tendency to attack those least able to defend themselves. This goes along with the propensity to blame innocent people for their disabilities. In the old days, this tendency expressed itself in witch-hunts. Now we see it with cries to balance public budgets by cutting support to mothers and children.
Collins points out a new form of persecution: The unwillingness of influential portions of the medical profession to acknowledge that Lyme disease can have long-term debilitating effects. The refusal has resulted in insurance companies cutting off payments for long-term treatment. Some doctors who have continued to treat chronic cases of Lyme have lost their licenses.
It’s such a crazy scenario to anyone who’s seen people suffering from chronic Lyme disease that it seems like something out of Kafka. Yet it’s true. Collins’ fights the insanity around Lyme disease with an imaginative, totally believable story that thrills as it imparts information. I could have read about the disease for days without understanding its impact on those who have it. When I see her main character, Janessa McNeil, struggling to get off the floor in her own kitchen or trying to remember a few words, I get it.
The plot is complex, fine-tuned and surprising. Collins’ writing is simple and elegant. It conveys the emotional impact of the disease powerfully. Heroine Janessa McNeil presents herself as a strong woman in the direst circumstances. I’m not going to say anything more about the plot; I don’t want to spoil its surprises.
In writing Over the Edge, Brandilyn Collins neatly handles a couple of potential writing snafus that drive me nuts.
The book is sited in Palo Alto, CA, the Stanford Medical Center, and the vicinity. I lived in Palo Alto for six years and in towns within twenty minutes of it for most of my life. I’ve been treated in Stanford Hospital several times; I’ve worked at Stanford University.
When an author locates a book in an area I know well, I want to feel like I’m back on my home turf, driving down the streets with her as she describes the scene. I want to feel a jolt of recognition when the landscape and sociological terrain is depicted accurately.
Some authors make mistakes that any local resident will pick up, citing highway names incorrectly and portraying routes that don’t exist. That inaccuracy makes me doubt the writer and the story.
Collins gets it right. I felt like I was cruising down El Camino Real as she describes Palo Alto’s major thoroughfare. I felt secure with the book’s deftly handled details and relaxed into the story.
I was not aware that Collins was a Christian writer when I began this book. As a Christian and a writer, I have strong feelings about the way Christianity and spirituality are portrayed. I hate it when a writer takes me 300 pages into a novel only to turn the book into a vehicle for talking about Jesus. That feels like a con. Just as bad are “spiritual” authors who have angels, devils, miracles, and divine interventions hopping out on every other page. That’s doesn’t fit my religious experience at all.
Collins’s description of her character’s interior state as she reaches for the Bible is absolutely spot on. The way Janessa uses Scriptural passages and holds on to particular words or phrases in her despair fits my experience. I felt the parts of the book laying out spiritual phenomena were excellent, indeed among the best I’ve read. (less)
Not one of Faye Kellerman's best. I have a big problem with the holes in her research. She has some scenes occur in a town 4 miles from my house, Solv...moreNot one of Faye Kellerman's best. I have a big problem with the holes in her research. She has some scenes occur in a town 4 miles from my house, Solvang, CA. The way she describes the town and her characters trip there is impossible. Wrong (nonexistent) highway to get there, landmarks out of order in terms of actual driving. Drove me crazy. Liked the story, but, Faye, get a research assistant. Her scenes of horses and horsemanship in other books also drove me crazy with their plain old inaccuracy.(less)