There's no such thing as a used book. Or there's no such thing as a book if it's not being used.
As most others who requested this book, I have a soft...moreThere's no such thing as a used book. Or there's no such thing as a book if it's not being used.
As most others who requested this book, I have a soft spot in my heart for books about reading and bookstores, and this is a great book for bibliophiles. It helps if you already have some knowledge about the second-hand book trade, books, writers and artists, because there will be lots of references that will make most readers scratch their heads… So, if you like simple plot-driven books without any concerns of prose, literary, art, or even music references, leave this book alone.
Esme Garland was from England. She’s now living in New York working on a PhD in Art History with a scholarship from Columbia. Unfortunately, her taste in men is not as sophisticated as her taste in arts and literatures, and she accidentally has gotten pregnant by the most unlikeable man (rich, attractive, blue blood, tanned…just, very self-absorbed), who did not want to have anything to do with the baby, or Esme. So, she was left alone, pregnant, stressed (from school) and lost (in life), although she has decided to keep the baby.
Fortunately for her, she found herself a part time job at a second hand bookstore called The Owl at Upper West Side during this difficult time of her life. Ah, a bookstore staffed with workers who are well read is simply more than just a bookstore. The staff at The Owl are quirky yet human. From the homeless men that occasionally help taking carts and shelves out in the morning and bring them in before the shop closes, a health and organic buff who knows books like no others (George), a guitarist who knows music and it’s healing quality as well as books (Luke), to a customer that always visits with a towel on his head, they accepted Esme as one of their own. One of them we realized has special feelings for Esme before she herself did. Simply said, The Owl did not only satisfy Esme’s financial need, but also her emotional ones. It’s the best thing that has happened to her, other than her child, that is. The bookstore also taught Esme a thing or two about family, about love, about life...and about choices, especially when her finance suddenly reappeared in her life.
As a debut novel, I find the writing quite impressive and sometimes more ornate than I expected. However, everyone who knows me understand what a sucker I am for beautiful writing and quotes that make me think. This book succeeded in both regards. The plot is a bit weak and Esme's love for her boyfriend is a bit over the top, but believable, and acceptable for a new author who did brilliantly with characters and prose. The many takes of Esme on American life and behavior from her British standpoint was fun to read as well. Unfortunately, I cannot quote from the book too much since the copy I read was a pre-release one, but one scene that still lingers in my mind long after I finished the book was when Esme was going on a book call with Luke to buy all books from an old lady:
“These books…,” she begins, and stops. I am frightened; for her, for myself decades from now, struggling to retain dignity with two strangers as they take away my books. I can see the straight line to her grave, to mine…. “They are all my life. These books are all my life.”
It’s hard to not feel emotional reading these lines. Looking at all the books on my shelf and my Kindle…I can’t help but visualizing a straight line to my grave as well. I will be looking forward to each and every one of Meyler’s new books.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.(less)
I don’t read reviews before I actually finish a book. Most of my reading selection and book purchases are based on instincts. The cover definitely hel...moreI don’t read reviews before I actually finish a book. Most of my reading selection and book purchases are based on instincts. The cover definitely helps, and the little blurb on the inside fold of the cover usually differentiates if a book will be put back on the shelf, or going home with me. My Kindle purchases are simplified, but similar versions of the same process. However, after I finish reading a book, I’ll read some of other people’s review to see if we share similar feelings about the same book…
After seeing so many negative (below 3 stars) reviews of this book, my finger hesitated between four and five stars for a long time, before I made up my mind to select the fifth one. I truly enjoyed reading this story, and Thea is among my favorite narrators of all times. This is another one of those books that people who enjoy plot-driven and non-wordy books will hate. This book is narrative-driven, character-driven, but it’s definitely not a thriller or mystery. We definitely don't read it to find out “what has she done?” What Thea has done or is going to do definitely should not be our main concern in reading this book. This book is great because of the characters, imperfect yet lovable. I also loved the book since the author did a great job bringing out Thea’s full character, her self-reflection, her self-doubt, her desire for love (parental/sexual), her worries, her passion for riding and her friends and family…it’s all there. It’s a wonderful coming of age novel. Thea is a conflicted girl. Yes, she’s self-destructive, let her desires rule over her head, compulsive, rebellious, headstrong, judgmental…yet she’s also smart, sensitive, curious, spirited, horse-lover, a great friend and sister, wise beyond her age, full of passion, and knows herself very well even without much guidance from her parents. Unfortunately the story took place in 1930, on the verge of the depression, when women/girls are still treated unfairly. I couldn’t help but imagine what kind of achievements Thea could’ve reached in our present world. She has just the right personality, drive and passion. It’s hard to remember she was only 15 at the beginning of the book, and barely 16 at the end.
“Mother would tell us that we were loved even before we were born. But that wasn’t quite true: one of us was loved, the other unknown.”
In the beginning of the book, Thea was dropped off by her Father at the Yonahlossee Horse Camp for Girls in the mountains of North Carolina. The camp was only affordable by the rich, where the girls could learn all sorts of things (including riding and manners) among other similar girls. Although she did not know herself at that time, Thea was sent here because her family was ashamed of something she did or caused. Among a bunch of teenage girls, Thea, who was sheltered in a luxurious home all her 15 years of life, being home-schooled by her physician Dad along with her twin brother Sam, feels out of place. Thea’s Mom, we later found out, was definitely not a normal, supportive and loving Mom. Although they had lots of money and physical needs were met, She did not provide her growing twins with the emotional support teens desperately needed, and she loves Sam more. Sam was the closest “friend” Thea had, along with their cousin Georgie. The animals in the farms were Sam’s world, and the horse Sasi was Thea’s. Being thrown into this mixture of girls, some nice, some not so, forced Thea to grow up and handle her own affairs. Being able to still ride offers Thea tremendous comfort, because it’s great to at least have control of something as simple as a horse. Making a close friend, Sissy, also helps. The whole story was narrated by Thea’s 15 year-old voice. The voice was sometimes naïve, sometimes angry and scornful, and other times lost and scared. The reader couldn’t help but get emotionally involved with her life. On the other hand, we also wait patiently for her to reveal her past, which came rather late in the book, while her “present” error somewhat mimics her past one. In a way, she made her mistakes over and over again. As a mother of a teenager at around the same age, I understand how important guidance is at that age. (view spoiler)[I also understand the curiosity about the other sex, and the pleasures that sex could bring. (hide spoiler)] With a Mom who kept her in a house without any other human contact was definitely not a good way to teach her about the world, or the rights from wrongs. Choosing to send her away was also not exactly problem solving, but it was 1930. Thea’s actions; therefore, were understandable in the way she was brought up.
“I was a girl of fifteen, locked away in the mountains, surrounded by strangers. But I would be all right; I would emerge from this place.”
As a debut novelist, the author’s reign on her story was as good as the Yonahlossee girls’ on their horses. It’s quite impressive considering her storytelling also alternated between now and then to tell Thea’s present and past environment/story. Not one instance I felt bored. Usually an inexperienced author would make the transition from now to the past at the wrong time, I find her transitions smooth, her story telling prose soothing yet gripping. Her descriptions involved all five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and uniquely, smell. Thea’s character, as well as all others, along with the camp, came alive on the pages. I truly enjoyed reading the story and did not roll my eyes at the more sensual scenes (I do that a lot since some people are terrible in those kind of writings). However, a sense of sadness lingers long after I finished the book, for Thea, and for all the other suppressed women in that era. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Before I start my lengthy book review to explain why we need to read another YA dystopian tale, here’s the short version of it.
The Testing is good, re...moreBefore I start my lengthy book review to explain why we need to read another YA dystopian tale, here’s the short version of it.
The Testing is good, read it.
I usually stay away from copycat books and like authors who think outside the box and come up with their own unique ideas. Harry Potter inspired thousands of witch and wizards books, Twilight: vampires and werewolves. The Hunger Games: Post-apocalypse dystopian with children fighting each other. After going through Divergent, Legend, Delirium, Daughter of Smoke and Bone…especially the disappointing third book after an amazing first book in the Delirium trilogy, I just wanted to say, “Enough already!”
So, after I received the ARC of this book with it’s very Hunger Game inspired cover, I put it aside, and read about 15 other books, none young adult. A few nights ago, I was looking for a fast and easy read, and decided to give it a try. The story pulled my in from the first page, three hours later I reached the ending, and finally took my first breath. Okay, the breath was an exaggeration, but this book was a joy to read. The Testing proved that a certain “formula” would still work with the right creativity under the hands of a talented writer. The reader sometimes needs to have an open mind in these situations.
So, among hundreds of reviews (mostly of 1-2 stars due to the fact that it’s similar to The Hunger Games), I will focus on why this book is worth a read, even though you think you have read your share of similar books.
The story is definitely inspired by and similar to The Hunger Games and Divergent, and it also reminded me a little of City of Ember. There were quite a few similarities…and I admit, some were so similar to The Hunger Games, the I kept telling myself, “Don’t go there; do NOT go there.” One particular scene was her descriptions of the eyes of some wild creatures in a war scene. And, of course, I also glimpsed the possibility of a future love triangle.
The story took place in the post-apocalyptic America. The country was divided into colonies. When a teenager graduates from local school at 16, the Commonwealth government will send an invitation for the crème of the crop to join the Testing. All those who passed the testing will be attending the University and become future leaders of Commonwealth, and will focus on improving present living conditions for all people because the multiple wars had left the land dry and infertile, all living structures broken or destroyed. However, before Cia left for the testing, her Dad told her, “Do not trust anyone.”
The main character, Cia, came from a loving family, a family with 4 boys and a girl. The family work and play together, and also love and feel deeply for each other. This brings a bit of normalcy to the chaos of the outside world. I really enjoyed reading everything about Cia’s family and herself, and I loved her more than any other female characters in the books I mentioned above. Her character is realistic, strong, likable, smart and well developed. The author also did researches, or she actually knows facts on engineering, math, history…as well as current events. All the technical and historical bits were fascinating to read, as well as believable. I think she should receive some credits for writing YA fiction with something more than just a plot and likable characters. For example, here’s a question and answer in the testing process:
Q: Explain the cause of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Stages of War and their impact on North America. A: Use of nuclear and biological weapons increased the pressure near fault lines. This sudden rise of pressure caused earthquake swarms and aftershocks that began in what was once the state of California and traveled across the continent. Earthquakes also disrupted the ocean floors, triggering the first of the floods that signaled the start of the Sixth Stage and submerged what remained of the coastal states, destroying most of the population. The Seventh Stage was marked by a shift in the weather patterns, Tornadoes, radioactive windstorms, and droughts caused the population to decrease even further and tainted all but the hardiest of plants, animals, and food sources. When the weather calmed, those who survived could finally begin to rebuild.
If you don’t like the long wait for the sequel, “Independent Study," there’s actually a free prequel/novella available in the Amazon Kindle store available to purchase. Here’s the link:
“The key is not how much data is analyzed, but how.”
Data is manipulatable. The same set of data can be analyzed to give the exact polar results. With...more“The key is not how much data is analyzed, but how.”
Data is manipulatable. The same set of data can be analyzed to give the exact polar results. With the accessibility of the Internet, we are living in a world of lots of data. “Big Data” is the word the author used. It’s a vast number of data that’s beyond the scope of any normal data analysis program can handle or manage. Lots of data are obtainable, with lots of analyses of these data available, since every single one of the market players are studying these data to gain an edge in competition.
The author used the Gates Foundation’s example to let us know that even big organizations with lots of money and analysts can still make a stupid decision with the wrong data or analysis. Ten years ago, the Foundation made a mistake assuming that smaller school s are better for student achievement, which is later proven untrue. He argued that Big Data moves us backwards, since more data results in more time spend analyzing, arguing, validating and replicating results. More of the any above activities will cause more doubt and confusion. Therefore, It’s urgent to learn a way to analyze them so you can just keep your head clear, and not being lied to.
“Any kind of subjective ranking does not need to be correct, it just has to be believed”
What do we believe, and what technique do we use to help us make the decision? Data analysis is an art, and not every statistician knows what he’s talking about. A person with good “numbersense” will be way above the others in avoiding the pitfall. A person with a good numbersense will spot bad data or bad analyses, or know when to stop when collecting his own. Unfortunately, numbersense can’t be taught in a regular classroom, a program or a textbook. It’s only learned from another person or real life practices. After more than 20 years in management in a hospital, I know these people do exist, but rarely. They are wonderful problem solvers. Lucky for rest of us, this book is a great place to start learning about numbersense. The author has a way of explaining complex subjects in a simple and understandable way, and his flow of thoughts is logical and very easy to follow. While analyzing data, the author also explained statistical terms thoroughly, as the term significant does not necessarily means important.
The author used real life news examples where someone made a claim about something and then backed it up with data, and he analyzes them, explaining the process to us along the way. The examples include: Law schools admission data, Groupon’s business model, diets and BMI, unemployment and jobs, our inability to remember prices and CPI, and even fantasy football. These examples were very interesting to read as the author gives step-by-step instructions of how these data we see everyday could easily be manipulated to fool us. My daughter is in the process of applying for college, and I can assure you, after reading the first chapter, I will never look at college rankings the same way.
I think every person in marketing, business, sociology, management or data analysis should read this book, as well as any consumer who wants to make sense of this so called “Big Data.” Numbersense is a great word for people who have the talent of analyzing data and spotting errors or intended manipulation. This book reads very much like Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Stephen Levitt, but is a bit more technical and might take a little understanding of statistics and/or business to fully appreciate the book. My background is business administration and healthcare, and I had a fun ride.
*Thanks to Netgalley and McGraw Hill in providing the advanced reading copy.(less)
This book reads like part House, part Grey’s Anatomy and part diary, yet much, much more informative. By bringing us into his every day life and meeti...moreThis book reads like part House, part Grey’s Anatomy and part diary, yet much, much more informative. By bringing us into his every day life and meeting his various patients at New York Presbyterian Hospital’s emergency department, Dr. Brendan Reilly explains, by example, why US healthcare, or more precise, ER care, has evolved into the complicated, hard-to-navigate maze that we see today; why most young med school graduates decide to to become specialists instead of primary physicians, which our country desperately needs.
The title, One Doctor, was used. Due to the regulation and involvement of the health insurance industry, most of us do not have a doctor who deeply concerns about us, who knows us well, who rallies for the right care in our behalf. On the other hand, we all have a battery of specialists. We have a cardiologist for our heart, a rheumatogist for our arthritis, an urologist for our prostates...and so on. Specialists make much more money, and where we are referred to once our ailment is out of our primary care’s scope. But, they usually do not know our complete health history since they only focus on a specific part of us. Dr. Reilly claimed that the patient with the one doctor that truly care for him, follows him over time and know him well would win this rat race of so-called American healthcare. It’s the difference between life and death sometimes…or worse, between death and insufferable life.
Sometimes when a patient or family says, “Do everything for me, doctor,” it unnecessarily that they want to try everything possible to live. Sometimes they do not want to hurt the family members who can’t let go, or they’re scared, or they have no idea hanging on could be worse than death. It’s the doctor, a good doctor’s job to find out what these patients really want, since some scenarios can be really worse than death. We all have a different trade-off limit between how much we are willing to suffer to prolong our life, it’s also a responsible doctor’s job to find out. From the various cases we encounter along with Dr. Reilly, we acquire a better understanding of the end of life, terminal illness, palliative care (which is not used enough), the quality of life, letting go, who to assign as surrogate and all other choices we might face in the future which we most likely never prepared ourselves for. We also will learn about the not perfect, but needed advanced directives as well.
As Dr. Reilly stated, “Most of the sad stories happen when this process doesn’t start until it’s too late. That’s how all those folks wind up comatose in nursing home and intensive care units, fogged with drugs and flogged by machines, not a prayer of getting better. It’s a living hell—and the only hyperbole in that phrase is the ‘living’ part.”
Dr. Reilly is a brilliant storyteller and great writer, and also a rare doctor that deeply cares for his patients. I can feel his real concern and love for life and the world. I could also feel the empathy he has for his patients and their families by reading the way he put his thoughts on paper. Several of these stories were deeply moving: Mr. Gunther, who endured a progressive form of cancer earlier in life who now faces another one; Mr. Atkins with a rapidly progressive terminal illness, who does not have time to prepare his family for his death; Ms. Rhodik, who refused to speak, but her family’s decisions are endangering her health. Others were down right disturbing: Fred, who decided that “losing his marbles” was never an option…and many more. We also learn about the cost of a misdiagnosis, as well as the cost of doing too much.
This is a deeply moving book with many though-provoking stories, and lots of useful information from a good and genuinely caring doctor who has over 40 years of experience. Read this book, for your elders, for yourself, for your children…and for the hope of a better health care system in the near future. This book will make you a better patient, advocate, caretaker, healthcare consumer and....human.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advance reading copy. (less)
As a lover for fiction from faraway lands, I noticed and kept track of this title way before publication date. I love to read about how war and histor...moreAs a lover for fiction from faraway lands, I noticed and kept track of this title way before publication date. I love to read about how war and history could affect all of us, no matter where we are, where we were from. This is the debut novel of Sahar Delijani. She drew examples for this story from her parents and other family members, who were actually imprisoned in the Evin Prison in the 1980s. Ms. Delijani was born there. One could safely say that this book is part memoir, part fiction.
The book opened with a heart-gripping chapter. A pregnant woman prisoner, Azar, was being taking to a local hospital fanned by “sisters” and “brothers,” or male and female prison guards from Evin. She was blindfolded and suffering from humility, harsh treatment and contraction pain. When she finally was allowed to sit down somewhere, she thought a doctor was going to see her. Yet an interrogator came in, with paper and pen, hoping to break her during her time of weakness and pain, with her baby about to slip out… This was the best chapter of the book.
Not much is known about the Evin Prison, since most prisoners were blindfolded while being transported within; it has the most efficient interrogative methods that could break any human, and it was crowded. It was built to fit 350 prisoners but holds up to 15,000 all the time. It’s also called Evin University, due to the number of intellectuals who were imprisoned, tortured or killed there. It’s the prison not only for actual criminals, but also intellectuals, students, activists, Christians, journalists… In other words, any one who’s believed to oppose the Iranian government. The prison is right at the border of the city of Tehran, and its cold tall walls could be visible from many homes.
The stories in the book took place during 1980’s in Tehran, where there was a mass arrest of political activists, to the present, around 2011 in Europe, American and Iran. The chapters went back and forth between the two periods. There were many characters, which were all somewhat related to one to one another and somehow looked, talked and act similar to each other due to the lack or development or similar descriptions: dark hair, dark eyes, and stocky for men. They were the prisoners of Evin and their children who grew up with the effect of war and their emotionally broken parents. Among these kids were Omid, Sara, Neda and Forough who were cousins. The kids carry their parents pain, so they are also broken, suffering and in no way happy or normal, although their love for the country remain strong, even after fleeing to the west with their parents.
I really wanted to give the book 5 stars. It has, as predicted, opened my eyes to the history of Iran, which I only had just a vague idea about. I loved the intended plot; I loved the concept; I loved the way the author narrates, with such lyrical prose and well-used metaphors and symbolism. However, the book is a bit disjointed, the characters were all very similar to each other (except for one or two), the plot did not flow smoothly enough so the book was read like a collection of vignettes. The descriptions were not only weak for characters, but also for the most important place, the prison. The cousins’ home and relationship were just barely scanned over. There’s so much potential to elaborate, to embellish… Unfortunately some sentiments and descriptions were used once too many, like the author was trying too hard to come up with more and new descriptive words or poetic terms. I ended up flipping through pages just to get the book going.
However, I still think this book is worth reading as a debut novel and as an introduction to the sad history and present situation of Iran, since I could feel the author’s love for her country in every single page. A hardback might be better and easier to read than the ebook version due to the various characters that have similar names, descriptions and feelings.
This is a 3.5 star book, the 0.5 extra is for the poetic words and the great opening.
There was a question on one of the book pages I frequent: "Name the last book that kept you up all night." It was an easy question for me to answer. S...moreThere was a question on one of the book pages I frequent: "Name the last book that kept you up all night." It was an easy question for me to answer. Since I read all the time, I hardly stay up all night to finish a book; I have all day to do it. However, in a trip to Thailand many years ago, I hid in the bathroom to finish a book, a rather difficult book due to all the historical facts. I hid in the bathroom so my light did not bother the other members of my family (prior Kindle time). The book, The Twentieth Wife, was by this author. Since then, I've read a few more books by Indu Sundaresan, and none has disappointed me. I enjoyed this story as much as, if not more than, all the others.
This book, like all her books, was written with intensive research into the history of India (also England in this case.) The story is centered around the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a gorgeous yellow diamond that's was held by rulers in Hindu, Mughal, Turkic, Afghan, Sikh and finally British, countries. The diamond was once around 186 carats and its name means "Mountain of Light." It has a curse that is believed for centuries to bring bad luck to all its male owners. They suffered from sicknesses, the loss of their throne, or worse, death. Only women owners could wear it safely without suffering any ill effects.
“The diamond is said to have held a curse. Legend had it that the Kohinoor could be safely possessed only by a woman, that no man who had it would long hold his kingdom, and that it could never be worn in the official crown of a monarch (hence, perhaps, the reason it was worn in an armlet or set in a throne). In India, Persia, and Afghanistan, during the diamond’s tumultuous and bloody history, only men owned the Kohinoor.” **
With her known beautiful words and realistic descriptions of people and sights of the period, along with reliable facts, the story begins when the Koh-i-Noor was given to the Punjab ruler Maharajah Ranjit Singh so he could help the Afghan ruler Shah Shuja regain his lost throne. The story ended with the death of Dulip Singh in Paris and the ownership of Koh-i-Noor in British Empire. From page one, the reader will feel transported back to the sound and sight of old India. Through out the book, you will experience the love of the young who are full of hope for a better future; the power of rulers, the betrayal and loyalty of human, the architecture and sights of India, the brutality of conquest, and the sadness and hopelessness of old age and along with losing one’s country. The smell of Chai and saffron will still linger after you close the book. It’s the best journey a reader could ever hope to achieve.
Other than everything that mentioned above...this story offers a very interesting take on the effect of colonialism. It's quite a sad book to read. I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss for the diamond, for the puppet maharajah Dulip Singh...and for his three children that all had no heir. History, which could never be forgotten, influences all of us. Will the human race really learn from their past mistakes?
If you have time, google the Koh-i-Noor and admire it on the crown of the Queen of England. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, regardless how it was obtained…
**Thanks to Washington Square Press for a preview galley. The quote was from the advanced reader's copy. (less)