Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion


The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
  • ISBN-10: 1925773825 - Paperback $16.99
  • Publisher: Text Publishing Company (May 28, 2019), 386 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Don and Rosie are about to face their most important project.
Their son, Hudson, is having trouble at school: his teachers say he isn’t fitting in with the other kids, and they'd like Don and Rosie to think about getting an autism assessment. As his parents debate whether a diagnosis might help or hinder, Hudson has his own ideas. Meanwhile, Rosie is battling Judas at work, and Don is in hot water after the Genetics Lecture Outrage. The life-contentment graph, recently at its highest point, is curving downwards.
For Don Tillman, geneticist and World’s Best Problem-Solver, learning to be a good parent as well as a good partner will require the help of friends old and new. It will mean letting Hudson make his way in the world, and grappling with awkward truths about his own identity.
And opening a cocktail bar.


Review:
Graeme Simsion's Don Tillman character is one of my all-time favorites.  The first book, The Rosie Project, had me laughing so loudly that I was getting strange looks from my husband.  I was worried that the next books would not be as good, but fortunately each of the books is a treat!
The Rosie Result is the third in the series and introduces us to Rosie and Don's son Hudson.  Hudson has many of Don's traits and their lives seem to have many parallels.  It is clear that the people around them either don't fully understand them or refuse to accept their strengths. It's a hard period for Don but even tougher for his middle school /11-year old son.  
It isn't just that there are bullies or that the teachers and administrators make mean, humiliating, degrading comments.  Don worries that the loneliness that he felt throughout his childhood and young adult life will follow his son Hudson around. It's something that Don undertakes to prevent in his usual methodical, systematic way. However, no matter how carefully prepared, Don's plans don't go as he hoped.  Fortunately, Hudson has his own strategy and strengths.  
The Rosie Result brings some of our favorite characters in tough, real situations with plenty of humor.  Don's honest and innate kindness come shining through. 

About the Author:
Graeme Simsion is a former IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn his hand to fiction. His first novel, The Rosie Project, was published in 2013 and translation rights have been sold in over thirty-five languages. Graeme lives in Australia with his wife, Anne, and their two children.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Dr. Neal Barnard's The Vegan Starter Kit: Everything You Need to Know About Plant-Based Eating


The Vegan Starter Kit:Everything You Need to Know About Plant-Based Eating 
 by Dr Neal Barnard
  • ISBN-10: 1538747405 - Paperback $14.99
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (December 24, 2018), 176 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

The blurb:
Many are looking to adopt a more healthful diet but may have questions, like: How do I plan a vegan meal? Is protein an issue? How do I make it work if I don't cook? Which are the best choices at restaurants? 

In THE VEGAN STARTER KIT Dr. Neal Barnard, perhaps the world's most respected authority on vegan diets, answers your questions and gives you everything you need to put vegan power to work. You'll learn how to ensure complete nutrition, and get quick-reference charts for calcium sources, tips for modifying your favorite recipes, and examples of quick and easy meals. Everything you need for permanent weight control and dramatically better health is presented.

THE VEGAN STARTER KIT also includes information on healthy eating in childhood, pregnancy, and other stages of life, and a complete set of basic meals, holiday feasts, snacks, among many other features. 


Review:
I've been a carnivore most of my life and hadn't considered becoming vegetarian much less vegan.  However, my doctor and my husband's doctor suggested that we reduce our meat intake and spoke of how undertaking a plant based diet can make a huge difference in our cholesterol levels, reduce hypertension, and help lose weight. 

There is a pilot program at Bellevue Hospital in NYC that we were fortunate enough to enter last week, so I read The Vegan Starter Kit with this new perspective and desire to understand plant based diets.  

Dr Neal Barnard presents strong health based arguments for a plant based diet which helped my resolve. The book is straightforward, logical and not overly complicated. I finished it in an evening but spent more time over the various recipes. If you are considering making a change, reducing your meat and dairy intake, The Vegan Starter Kit is a good way to begin.

About the Author:
Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC, is perhaps the world's most respected authority on vegan diets. He is a faculty member of the George Washington University School of Medicine and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Dr. Barnard is editor-in-chief of the Nutrition Guide for Clinicians, a nutrition textbook given to all second-year medical students in the U.S. He is also editor of Good Medicine, a magazine with a circulation of 150,000. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes and The 21-Day Weight-Loss Kickstart, among many others.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Triple Jeopardy: A Daniel Pitt novel by Anne Perry


Triple Jeopardy: A Daniel Pitt novel  by Anne Perry
  • ISBN-10: 0525620958 - Hardcover $28
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 9, 2019), 320 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Daniel Pitt, along with his parents, Charlotte and Thomas, is delighted that his sister, Jemima, and her family have returned to London from the States for a visit. But the Pitts soon learn of a harrowing incident: In Washington, D.C., one of Jemima’s good friends has been assaulted and her treasured necklace stolen. The perpetrator appears to be a man named Philip Sidney, a British diplomat stationed in America’s capital who, in a cowardly move, has fled to London, claiming diplomatic immunity. But that claim doesn’t cover his other crimes. . . .

When Sidney winds up in court on a separate charge of embezzlement, it falls to Daniel to defend him. Daniel plans to provide only a competent enough defense to avoid a mistrial, allowing the prosecution to put his client away. But when word travels across the pond that an employee of the British embassy in Washington has been found dead, Daniel grows suspicious about Sidney’s alleged crimes and puts on his detective hat to search for evidence in what has blown up into an international affair.

As the embezzlement scandal heats up, Daniel takes his questions to intrepid scientist Miriam fford Croft, who brilliantly uses the most up-to-date technologies to follow an entirely new path of investigation. Daniel and Miriam travel to the Channel Islands to chase a fresh lead, and what began with a stolen necklace turns out to have implications in three far greater crimes—a triple jeopardy, including possible murder.

Review:
I'm an avid reader of Anne Perry's mysteries and was excited to read the latest in her recent series with Daniel Pitt, Thomas Pitt's son.  Thomas Pitt's adventures began as a policeman, then as a private detective, the Inspector in charge of the waterways, and then as the Head of Special Branch.  His son, Daniel. faces mysteries but as a young attorney.

This time Daniel is asked by his sister to look into the assault and robbery of a friend of theirs in Washington DC. Jemima and her policeman husband believe that the man attacked and robbed their friend worked at the British Embassy in DC and was able to escape prosecution through invoking diplomatic immunity and traveling to England.  So, Daniel's been asked to defend the young man for another offense but to possibly bring in the crimes of assault and robbery.  Daniel's a junior lawyer and gets the advice and permission of those senior to him, but their investigation leads Daniel to question his client's guilt. 

As Daniel independently investigates, he grows certain that there is something hidden that guides these accusations.  Jemima and her husband must also balance those that helped them during their early years in America with their own sense of fairness and truth.  How far can Daniel rely on Jemima and her husband? How much of the testimony is true? What is pushing the investigation forward? 

Triple Jeopardy gives us better insight into Daniel's strengths and the lengths to which the Pitt family will fight to pursue justice regardless of the personal cost. Also, it's a fun, engrossing read! Highly recommend it!

About the Author:
Anne Perry is the New York Times bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Dark Tide Rising and An Echo of Murder, and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Murder on the Serpentine and Treachery at Lancaster Gate. She is also the author of a new series featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt’s son, Daniel, including Triple Jeopardy and Twenty-one Days, as well as five World War I novels, sixteen holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Revelation, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Los Angeles. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Donna Leon's Unto Us a Son Is Given (Inspector Guido Brunetti 29th novel)


Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon

  • ISBN-10: 0802129110 Hardcover $26
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (March 5, 2019), 320 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:“Your situation is always ambiguous, isn’t it, Guido?”, his father-in-law, Count Orazio Falier, observes of Donna Leon’s soulful detective, Guido Brunetti, at the beginning of her superb 28th Brunetti novel, Unto Us A Son Is Given. “The world we live in makes that necessary,” Brunetti presciently replies. Count Falier was urging his Venetian son-in-law to investigate, and preferably intervene in, the seemingly innocent plan of the Count’s best friend, the elderly Gonzalo Rodríguez de Tejada, to adopt a much younger man as his son. Under Italian inheritance laws this man would then be heir to Gonzalo’s entire fortune, a prospect Gonzalo’s friends find appalling. For his part, Brunetti wonders why the old man, a close family friend, can’t be allowed his pleasure in peace.


And yet, what seems innocent on the Venetian surface can cause tsunamis beneath. Gonzalo unexpectedly, and literally, drops dead on the street, and one of his friends just arrived in Venice for the memorial service, is strangled in her hotel room―having earlier sent Gonzalo an email saying “We are the only ones who know you cannot do this,” referring to the adoption. Now with an urgent case to solve, Brunetti reluctantly untangles the long-hidden mystery in Gonzalo’s life that ultimately led to murder―a resolution that brings him way more pain than satisfaction.


Review:


I've followed and enjoyed Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti series for years. Her latest novel, Unto Us a Son Is Given, gives us a  deeper glimpse into Brunetti's relationship with his father-in-law, the Count Falier.  The Count's best friend Gonzalo has become deeply involved with a younger man and is taking steps to disinherit his family by adopting this young man, effectively naming him his sole heir.  Brunetti, Paula and their children consider Gonzalo practically part of the family, so Brunetti is unsure whether to intervene and in what capacity.

As Brunetti speaks to more of Gonzalo's friends, he grows increasingly apprehensive of the young man's influence and of Gonzalo's infatuation.  Brunetti conducts his own quiet investigation - there is no crime - to help and protect Gonzalo but must also balance Gonzalo's wishes.  Gonzalo's health has been bad and his death makes the investigation moot.  Until a death occurs and Brunetti must determine the motive behind it and prove the killer's identity.

Donna Leon delivers an unusual mystery in that the crime occurs towards the 25% of the novel.  However, she keeps us engrossed throughout because of Brunetti, Gonzalo, and our concern for the friendships involved.  I thoroughly enjoyed Unto Us a Son Is Given.

About the Author:
Donna Leon is the author of the highly acclaimed, internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Donna Leon lived in Venice for many years and now divides her time between Venice and Switzerland.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith



Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
  • ISBN-10: 1328496309 - Hardcover $18.99
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (March 12, 2019), 384 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers program and the publisher.

The blurb:
Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood magic, Aurelia must flee her country after a devastating assassination attempt. Her only option for freedom lies with another warden: her betrothed, Prince Valentin.

To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her.  But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat.  Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

Review:
I admit that I had to put Bloodleaf down a few times because I was too worried about what would happen to Princess Aurelia.   She's headstrong, caring, selfless and tough. She is in grave danger from the start and is subjected to bullying and threats even within her palace.  Her people and their religious leaders seem to despise her for her magical ability which she tries to keep hidden.  But she is willing to take dangerous risks to support those she believes are being persecuted.

The reasons for the hatred, distrust and fear of the princess aren't made clear at the start of the novel. It is only as the action continues and Aurelia is fleeing that we learn more about the dangers that had surrounded her.  Crystal Smith is very effective at keeping the action moving and revealing the nature of her heroine.  As I went deeper into Bloodleaf, I was torn between worrying about Aurelia and not wanting the action to end.  It is a fun read and I can't wait for the other two books in the trilogy.

About the Author:
Crystal Smith is a writer, photographer, and artist who developed an early love of storytelling in a family of voracious readers. She resides in Utah with her high school sweetheart husband and two lively sons. When she isn’t writing or creating, she can be found re-watching Jane Eyre or reading ghost stories with all the lights on. @crysrensmith.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani (Founder of Girls Who Code)


Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani (Founder of Girls Who Code)
  • ISBN-10: 1524762334 - Hardcover $25
  • Publisher: Currency (February 5, 2019), 208 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of Amazon Vine Reviewer Program and the publisher.

The blurb:
Do you ever feel crushed under the weight of your own expectations? Do you often lose sleep ruminating over a tiny mistake or worrying what someone else thinks of you? Do you run yourself ragged trying to do it all at home and at work, with a smile and not a hair out of place? Have you ever passed up an opportunity - a new relationship, new job or new challenge - because you're afraid you won't immediately excel at it?  For you, is failure simply not an option?

You're not alone. As women, we've been taught from an early age to play it safe. Well-meaning parents and teachers rewarded us for being quiet and polite, urged us to be careful so we don't get hurt, and steered us to activities at which we could shine. Meanwhile, boys were expected to speak up, get dirty, play rough, and climb to the top of the monkey bars. In short, boys are taught to be brave, while girls are taught to be perfect.

As a result, we grow up to be women who are afraid to fail.  So afraid of not doing everything perfectly, we tamp down our dreams and narrow our world, along with our opportunities for happiness.  As too many of us eventually learn, being afraid to take risks, to use our voice to take a stand or ask for what we want, even to make mistakes, leads to a lot of disappointment and regret. 

But it doesn't have to be this way. In a book inspired by her hugely popular TED Talk, Reshma Saujani shows us how we can end our love affair with perfection and rewire ourselves for bravery.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews with girls and women from around the country, stories of women changing the world one brave act at a time, and her own personal journey, Saujani shares an array of powerful insights and practices to make bravery a lifelong habit and enable us to be the authors of our biggest, boldest, and most joyful life.

Review:
In Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani shares her story to help make the case that the relentless striving for perfection leads to a narrowing of goals and also of achievements.  There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, but as I read the book, much of my own experience dovetailed with Saujani's statements and claims.  Her message of shaking off the criticism (internal self critics and external critics who use a tougher standard for women), learning to take failure as part of the learning process, etc.  these are straightforward messages that are helpful to have reinforced.  But I was also hoping for more than this message repeated in many ways and anecdotes.  Fortunately, Saujani does suggest exercises for bravery in the last 1/3 of the book.  Chapters on "Building a Bravery Mindset", "Get Caught Trying", "Nix the Need to Please", "Play for Team Brave", and "Surviving a Big, Fat, Failure" have concrete suggestions.

About the Author:
Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology while teaching girls confidence and bravery through coding.  She's been named one of Fortune's 40 Under 40, a WSJ magazine innovator of the year, one f the 50 most powerful women changing the world, Business Insider's fifty women who are changing the world, and an AOL/PBS MAKER.  She is the author of the NY Times bestselling book for young readers Girls Who Code.  Learn more about her at ReshmaSaujani.com

Monday, December 10, 2018

Insurrecto by Gina Apostol


Insurrecto by Gina Apostol
  • ISBN-10: 1616959460 - Paperback $17
  • Publisher: Soho Press Inc (November 15, 2018).
  • Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program and the publisher.

The blurb:
Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte's Philippines, collaborating and clashing int eh writing of a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War (In the Philippines it is known as the "War of Philippine Independence.") Chiara is working on a film script and writes her own version.  Insurrecto contains within its dramatic action two rival scripts from the filmmaker and the translator -- one about a white photographer, the other about a Filipino schoolteacher.

Within the spiraling voices and narrative layers of Insurrecto are stories of women -- artists, lovers, revolutionaries, daughters -- finding their way to their own truths and histories. Using interlocking voices and a kaleidoscopic structure, the novel is startlingly innovative, meditative, and playful.  Insurrecto masterfully questions and twists narrative in the manner of Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch, and Nabakov's Pale Fire.  Apostol pushes up against the limits of fiction in order to recover the atrocity of Balangiga, and in so doing, she shows us the dark heart of an untold and forgotten war that would shape the next century of Philippine and American history.

My review:
I confess that I was drawn to this book after hearing Gina Apostol speak at an author's event.  Insurrecto is an unusual novel because of the topics it covers, the characters Apostol creates and the novel's setting.  I enjoyed reading and learning about the Philippine American Insurrection (which is viewed as the war for Philippine Independence in the Philippines).  Insurrecto teaches details of the war that weren't covered in the history classes that I'd taken - we learn more about the actual brutality of the war, the ways that the US took to holding its first colonies and the water torture used against the Philippine rebels.  These details of colonial period,  the conquest, and the indiscriminate massacre of the local villagers was fascinating to me.   Apostol covered this setting and topics without any data dumps or excess of information - she does it with a soft, deft touch.

The main characters of the wealthy, glamorous American filmmaker and the cosmopolitan/anthropologist like Filipino American translator are vividly created and their respective creations in their scripts are also fleshed out.  Apostol gives us complicated characters with wit and inside jokes that frequent visitors to New York and Metro Manila will appreciate.  Unfortunately, I did not find either these two leading women simpatico and instead was exasperated by their quirks and pretensions. The cultural criticism and anthropologist's view makes the book stand out but I wish that Chiara was more likable rather than memorable.

About the Author:
Gina Apostol is the PEN Open Book Award-winning author of Gun Dealer's Daughter, as well as a two-time winner of the National Book Award in the Philippines for novels Biblioplepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata.  Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies and journals including The Gettysburg Review; the Penguin anthology of Asian American fiction, Charlie Chan is Dead, Volume 2; and the Feminist Press Anthology Go Home!