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Monday, June 27, 2011

When to review?

In the beginning of the year, I was able to review within a week of finishing the book (well, technically my posts aren't strict reviews. They really are more like my thoughts on the books since I don't do proper analysis in the technical sense. That's a whole another post.) In fact, that was one of my reading goals.

When I blog about the book soon after I finish it, I definitely remembered a lot more details - especially the ending, and some of the minor characters. I am able to give more examples to support my thoughts.

As time goes by, and life get busy, I am behind in my reviews. I still read - I can't imagine to stop reading just so I can catch up on blogging! I am a reader first, and a blogger second. I take simple notes when I read - a few keywords to jot my memory on a certain plot or character or questions I have, or the page numbers of the quotes I want to include in the review. However, while these notes helped when I blog a delayed review, some details definitely had gotten fussy. Sometimes I couldn't even really remember how the book ended (I am probably getting old and my memory is getting worse!)

That made me stop and think - do we write a better reviews when we blog sooner rather than later? While the former reviews can provide more details, I think there is also value in delaying the reviews. If the characters and plot were strong, we'd still remember them vividly, even several books later. Doesn't it say something if I could hardly remember what happened, only a month later? I might still remember the gist of the book, but the story definitely had faded - some more so than others. If it didn't leave that strong an impression, perhaps it should be rated lower?


This is coming from someone who is 2.5 months or 11 books behind on reviews... I do want to blog each of them because otherwise I really would forget some of them! I looked back at the lists of books I read in 2008, 2009 and 2010. There were definitely some books that I don't quite remember at all. Would my ratings be different then if I have to rate them again now?

What do you think? Do you usually blog soon after you finish a book? Do you find it makes much of a difference?

Book Review - State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett














Title: State of Wonder: A Novel  
Author: Ann Patchett 
Year: 2011
Page: 368
Genre: Fiction- literary

FTC Disclosure: ARC copy from HarperCollins in exchange of an unbiased review

Summary (from goodreads.com):
Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Ann Patchett returns with a provocative and assured novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest. Infusing the narrative with the same ingenuity and emotional urgency that pervaded her acclaimed previous novels Bel Canto, Taft, Run, The Magician’s Assistant, and The Patron Saint of Liars, Patchett delivers an enthrallingly innovative tale of aspiration, exploration, and attachment in State of Wonder—a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love.

Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.

Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher's expectations.

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side. 


First Sentence:
The news of Anders Eckman's death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationary and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • I have never read Ann Patchett before. I remember Aths from Reading on a Rainy Day highly recommended Patchett's other book, Bel Canto (read her review here). So when the ARC of this book was up for review, I decided to give her a try even though this is not a genre I typically like (remember, it has "A Novel" after its title!) I like the premise has something to do with the Amazonian jungle, science/medicine, mystery and adventure. So I thought I'd pick this over Bel Canto as my introduction to Patchett.
First thought:
  • Why-oh-why did you end the book this way...
Cover Art:
  • I guess the cover set the tone of the book - that this is going to be a slower-paced literary fiction, as opposed to a thriller (the premise totally could have been a fast-paced thriller!). I wonder why there is a dragonfly instead of a moth. It's not a book I'd choose based on its cover...
Title:
  • Just okay for me. I prefer titles that are more catchy or clever
Writing:
  • Patchett's writing is probably what one would described as "lyrical prose". I am no expert on writing style, but her writing is how I would define as lyrical. Usually I prefer straight-to-the point-less-flowery writing style, but I actually quite enjoy her writing, as I almost felt like I was there, in the Amazonian jungle. 
  • There were some very long paragraphs though... e.g. went from bottom of p139 to top of p141. For some reasons sometimes I get lost in long paragraphs (which line am I reading again?)
Plot:
  • There were some plot twists I didn't foresee. Some thought they were a bit unrealistic, but I thought hey, nothing is impossible! Plus this is FICTION. Made-up-stuff. I thought it was actually plausible.
  • There was one plot question concerning Dr Swenson that was not answered. It was asked by the main protagonist Marian Singh, but Dr Swenson was aversive about it saying it didn't matter. As a reader, I want to know! I think it does contribute to the storyline as it'd create different dynamics between the characters
  • I was enjoying the development of the story... until the last 15 pages (specifically from p338 onwards) where Marina and Easter went onto a boat ride alone... It took us over 300 pages to get there, and more things happened in the last 15 pages than the rest of the book? More about that when I discussed the ending below (no spoilers!) 
Characters:
  • Marina Singh - I felt indifferent about her throughout the book, then I totally disliked her in the last 15 pages. I felt she didn't have much of a personality, and she acted much more immature than her 42 years of age I think. While she was well liked by others in the book, it seemed a bit one dimensional. I was totally disappointed in her in the end of the story by two things she did, or didn't do, regarding two different characters (I won't say their names or it'd be spoilers). I think if you had read the book you'd know what I am talking about, if not, ask me and I'd comment with a spoiler tag! I think those actions were totally not her character, not what the author had led us to believe anyway. It was almost like she was a different person. I was also disappointed with this other character who played a main role in the ending - again, this character acted like a different person! Some might argue what this person went through might have changed him/her, but it seemed a rather abrupt change as no details were given (and we had to make a lot of assumptions - which ironically, Dr Swenson had told Marina not to jump to any conclusions)
  • Dr Annick Swenson - I didn't like her at first as she seemed cold, but she won me over as the story developed as we started to see a different side of her. I think she's like one of those professors we feared but respected, and yet hoped they'd notice us and thought we're special - that we had the potential to be something greater than we thought we would ever be
  • Easter - he got to be my favorite character in the book! You can't help but feel for him. I also liked Milton. I think he's very perceptive. Mr Fox seemed a bit one dimensional - your stereotypical big corporate executive from an evil pharmaceutical company. I thought more could have been developed about him and the relationships he had with other characters in the book
Ending:
  • Total disappointment for me. Definitely not one I had envisioned, and not in a good way. Now, I hate predictable books, but what happened here seemed so unreasonable and rushed. It goes beyond whether this has a happy or sad ending. It was almost like the author ended it that way just so there could be a twist. 
Emotion:
  • Two moral or ethical questions were raised: (i) should we leave natives alone or intervene if we could? Did they really want us to intervene? Should we help improve their lifestyle, by our standards, if we could? (ii) scientific or medical research on human subjects and consent. Is consent required when the subject does not understand the research, but the outcome of the research could potentially benefit mankind (including those human subjects)?
What I Learned:
  • The ending can totally make or break a book!
PS:
  • Someone else said she didn't like Bel Canto much because the ending was rushed. For those of you who had read both, or either of the books, what do you think? I know "rush" is relative though...
Read this Author again?
  • It depends on the premise I guess... I don't feel like rushing out to read Bel Canto at this point. Convince me otherwise! :)

Quote:
Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don't know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it's not. It is a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it. (p43)

"Don't be so self-referential. I was telling you a story. I wasn't telling a story about you." (p152)

He used to say we all had a compass inside of us and what we needed to do was to find it and to follow it. (p229)

Your story tells as much by what you leave out as what you put in. (p231)

In this life we love who we love. There wer some stories in which facts were very nearly irrelevant. (p233)


Overall Rating:
3 Stars. Would have been lower because of the ending, but I did enjoy the rest of the story so I think 3 Stars is fair if you "average it out"... If the ending was satisfactory, would've given it a higher rating.
 



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If you won the lottery...

Our last book club discussion was on Lottery: A Novel by Patricia Wood (my review here). It made me think, if I'd won the lottery, would I still want to work (assuming of course, that the prize money is big enough that you don't have to work anymore)?

I have to say, one of my first thoughts is, if I don't have to work, I can just stay home and READ ALL DAY LONG! Okay I will want to travel too, but I can still read while I'm traveling. Hey, an e-reader may finally come in handy (no I don't currently have one... because I borrow 95% of my books from the library... there are some e-books we can borrow but selection is a bit limited right now.)

Yeah, such a book nerd.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tallulah & her new hair do!

We decided to take Tallulah to the groomer's to get a lion cut (let's just say hairballs are not fun, I'll spare you the details.)

There are cats who look funny with a lion cut, but she actually looks very stylish - you can't really see in the picture that she has dots on her body, so she looks like she's wearing a leopard leotard, and her tail is like a whip lol! When she walks, she actually looks like a model down the runway lol. She long hair already felt pretty soft, but now she is velvety soft! I wonder how long it'd last...

The funny thing is, Sesame thought her tail is a cat toy - like those fishing pole toy - and kept chasing it when we first took Tallulah home! Tallulah wasn't happy, to say the least :) But she can hold her own. We're lucky that the three cats get along fine - there might be some hissing sometime if they don't want to play, but they don't hold a grunge.

The groomer also said she was very well behaved, so she wasn't a problem at all (when we dropped her off, we heard another cat crying loud!) When we took Tallulah to the vet a couple of weeks ago for her annual check up, the vet said cats' heart rate is usually around 90-100 at the vet since they are nervous. Tallulah? Her heartbeat was 80! She must also have a calming effect on Kunik - the first time we took Kunik to the vet for an eye infection, his heart rate was over the roof (like 120?) For this annual visit, we took them in together (Sesame's annual visit won't be until Nov), and Kunik's heartbeat was just around 90. He's usually a bit more nervous than Tallulah, but I think with her there in the exam room with him, he felt more comfortable. When we first took Kunik home, we stopped by my sister-in-law's house for dinner on the way back (it was a 6 hours drive one way to take Kunik home, and SIL lived an hour away from us), he hid the whole time in her office. After we took him back to our house, he hid for 5 minutes, and didn't want to be lock up in the mud room (as advised - so they can slowly familiarize themselves in the new space). With Tallulah? We put her in a 2nd bathroom when we took her home 2 weeks after we adopted Kunik (we put her in the bathroom so we could slowly introduced her to Kunik), as soon as we let her out of the cage, she went straight for the food. No hiding for her! Give her food and a head/neck scratch, she'd be your BFF! Good thing we keep her indoor only!

Updates

Now I am only 11 books behind on my reviews! Read, and yet to be reviewed:
  1. These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
  2. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
  3. Two Kisses for Maddy by Logelin (Non-Fiction)
  4. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
  5. Addition by Toni Jordan
  6. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  7. Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi (Non-Fiction)
  8. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  9. Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly by Larry McCleary MD (Non-Fiction)
  10. Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon
  11. Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon

What I am reading:
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • An Exorcist Tells His Story by Gabriele Amorth (read aloud with hubby)

Happenings:
  • Work is still keeping me busy - I know, I am sick of hearing myself saying this too, but it's the truth. Hopefully it will slow down a little in July once everything is caught up
  • My personal computer has a virus since last weekend. Luckily hubby is a computer person so he is going to help fixing it - but he has been busy and hasn't time, so I only have limited access to a computer right now, and had not been visiting your blogs as much - sorry!
  • I wish I am one of those people who only need to sleep 4 hours a day. So much I want to do each day!
  • I started tracking food everyday... it's hard to track calories when it's home made food! 
  • I bought another wii game (well the only game we have is wii fit, apart from the free wii resorts and whatever else it is called that came free with the wii) - Gold Gym's Dance - boy I am so uncoordinated! Good thing they have tutorials where you can learn each move... even with an option of slow-motion! My library has Just Dance and Just Dance 2, so I'd been borrowing them instead to see if I want to get my own copy (the library didn't have Gold Gym's Dance)
  • I still want to learn to cook! Borrowed a bunch of cook books, but just hadn't time... I did make a salmon & veggie tart (using pre-made frozen pie crust) that turned out pretty well. I modified a recipe instead of following it 100% due to lack of ingredients. This is a big step for me since I usually can't just throw things together! 
  • I know the reason why I don't exercise - opportunity cost. If I have 30 minutes to go exercise, I would rather use those 30 minutes to read. I know, I could probably listen to audio books while using the elliptical, but hey it's more comfortable reading on a couch. And hey, I can't listen to audio books while using the wii... I have, however, reserved Tina Fey's Bossypants on audio, so will give that a try when it comes in (hard to find audio books that I am interested in... I guess short stories would work better than a novel). Hopefully a funny audio book would help ease the pain...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Did Not Finish - 3 Books

Since I am 14 books behind in reviews, thought I'd do mini reviews for the 3 books I abandoned in May and June (so far...). The 3 books were:
  • So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman
  • The Good Patient by Kristin Waterfield Duisberg
  • Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward













Title: So Much Pretty
Author: Cara Hoffman
Year: 2011
Page: 304
Genre: Fiction - Murder / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from goodreads.com): see here.

  • First Sentence: 
  • They are looking for someone with blond or dark brown or black hair.

My Thoughts:

  • I chose this book because I liked reading psychological thrillers, and I read some great reviews of this one!
  • I liked the cover too - set the atmosphere of the book
  • I was so looking forward to reading this one since the premise sounded so promising - in particular, stories with a big a-ha ending like The Six Sense or Shutter Island. If I had to describe this book, I would say this book had ADD! Why? It was all over the place! (See next bullet)
  • Now, I actually do quite look books told from different perspectives. I also didn't mind if the book jumped between past and present, if it was made clear. This book were told from multiple perspectives and from multiple years and from multiple formats... it was just too much for my brain. For example (this is just made up, since I don't have the book with me anymore as I borrowed it from the library): 
    • Chapter 1, Perspective A in 2001, in 3rd person
    • Chapter 2, Perspective B in 1987, in 1st person
    • Chapter 3, Perspective C in 1991, in "evidence" / document format
    • Chapter 4, Perspective A, in 1986, in 3rd person
    • Chapter 5, Perspective D, in 2002, etc etc
  • See what I meant? I couldn't keep track of the different perspectives, and the different timelines... I felt like tearing the book apart, and put it in chronological order or something! So I gave up at p137 (of 304 pages).
  • I googled to see what the big secret was, and from the little that I read, I wasn't wow-ed. I guess I had to read the book to get wow-ed.

Quote:
... the responsibility of every intelligent person is to pay attention to the obvious. (p4)
















Title: The Good Patient
Author: Kristin Waterfield Duisberg
Year: 2004
Page: 336
Genre: Fiction

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from goodreads.com): See here.

First Sentence: 
From the inside out, these are my layers: bad, good, bad, good, and now - new - again bad.

My Thoughts:

  •  I didn't know anything about this book beforehand, I just saw it at the library and the premise  sounded very promising - I am a sucker for books that promise big secrets!
  • I gave up after 47 pages... I just couldn't get into it. I didn't like the protagonist - she annoyed me. You heard people saying "I don't need negative or toxic people around me?" This is how I felt when I read this book.
















Title: Heads You Lose
Author: Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
Year: 2011
Page: 302
Genre: Fiction - Murder / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from goodreads.com): See here.

First Sentence:
Paul flipped the coin and Lacey called tails.

My Thoughts:

  • I have read Lutz's The Spellman Files (The Spellmans, #1) before. I only read Book 1 - I liked it okay but didn't like it enough to read the rest of the series. It was a bit too chick-lit-ish for my liking and I didn't find it as funny as others. When I heard about this one, I was very intrigued with the idea of 2 authors collaborating on a novel - Lutz and her ex-boyfriend no less, and it didn't sound like they departed on good terms! So I wondered how the story would turn out, and why on earth would she want to do this project?
  • Lutz wrote all the odd number chapters, and Hayward wrote the even number chapters. After each chapter, it included their emails to each other about what they thought of the chapter and what the other should do in the next chapter. Before the story even started, there was an Editor note to explain about this, and the original email Lutz sent to Hayward about why she wanted to do this project. It was kinda fun to read this, until...
  • Until the email exchange between the 2 authors got kinda annoying and distract from the story, and the footnote seemed kinda petty. It was an interesting concept, but it wasn't execute well. A lot of times Lutz was telling Hayward what to write in the next chapter, and kept reminding him that she was the "name" of the pair... (I cheated, and skipped to read just the email exchange, and not the actual story.) It made me wonder if she should have just written the book herself. This might have worked better as a series of blog posts, rather than a book. It was almost like reading a draft of the book instead.
  • The actual story was kinda weak too. I stopped around 46 pages, and didn't really care to find out who the killer was. The characters weren't very likeable either, they sounded like airheads. I guess when the authors wrote this book, they had no idea where the plot was going (since it was dependent on what the other author wrote in the previous chapter), and the characters weren't well defined.
  • I was surprised that Jeffery Deaver, one of my favorite author of this genre (he wrote The Bone Collector), was quoted at the back of the book.
  • If this book was written by two unknown authors, I doubt it would have been published.



0 Stars for all 3 books - Did Not Finish.
 

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Book Review - Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson














Title: Before I Go to Sleep 
Author: S.J. Watson
Year: 2011
Page: 368
Genre: Fiction - Murder / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense

FTC Disclosure: ARC copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased review

Summary (from goodreads.com):
'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

First Sentence:
The Bedroom is Strange.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • I like creepy psychological thriller! 
First thought:
  • Lots of potential, but could be better... 
Cover Art:
  • I really liked it - the black part of the cover (at least from my ARC) is actually detached, and the actual image of the cover is a full length shot of the woman looking into the foggy mirror. Fit the book really well!
Title:
  • Fitting as well
Writing:
  • It was easy to read
Plot:
  • The premise definitely was intriguing. Some compared to Momento (I couldn't quite remember if I had watched this or not - which was quite ironic since both the movie dealt with memory loss lol - checked with my husband and we did watch it. I had wanted to watch it for a long time, and now I remember I was a bit disappointed because it wasn't as good as I had expected). It also reminded me a bit of 50 First Dates (though of course this book is not a romantic comedy.)
  • The 2nd part of the book - which was Christine's diary - I think could have been a bit faster. It felt a bit redundant - I got that she had to start each day from scratch, but it got tiresome after reading it for the 50th time (okay I am exaggerating,  but you got the picture when each chapter started off almost the same.) In contrast, the big reveal seemed to happen a bit too fast, so the story's pacing seemed a bit off.
  • The big twist in the story - I suspected that all along so it didn't give me the big a-ha moment. It was merely confirmed... I guess once you read a lot of this genre, you are likely to guess what the twists are. I still kept reading though to see if I was right, so that's a good sign. 
Characters:
  • I think we got a good sense of who Christine was (at least the Christine who lost her memory). I could feel her fear when she woke up everyday not knowing who she was, or when she found out new details of her old life
  • Apart from Christine though, I didn't think the other characters were quite as well developed, but I supposed this was Christine's story and was told from her perspective, which was a flawed perspective
Ending:
  • I thought the ending was a bit ambiguous. I wish it wasn't, but then again I never liked ambitious endings so it wasn't just this book.
Emotion:
  • I wasn't as scared as I thought it would be. Though I couldn't imagine how I'd behave or react if I was Christine - waking up everyday not knowing where I was - THAT is a scary thought. 
What I Learned:
  • I still don't like ambiguous endings! 
PS:
  • I think this book would have been stronger if the middle part was edited a bit so this would be a faster paced thriller. But not bad for a debut author!
  • The back of the ARC said Ridley Scott had bought the move rights already! I think this might actually turn into a good movie since they would have to edit down the plot, so it might become faster pace. Who should play Christine? For some reasons I kept thinking Jodie Foster, but I forgot if she was Christine's age. Christine might be younger than Foster. If you had read the book - what do you think? Who would you cast?
Read this Author again?
  • Likely, depending on the premise!



Overall Rating:
3.5 Stars. Has a lot of potential, but also has some room for improvement.
 



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review - Revelations (Jane Perry #3) by Laurel Dewey













Title: Revelations (Jane Perry #3) 
Author: Laurel Dewey 
Year: 2011
Page: 464
Genre: Fiction - Murder / Mystery / Suspense / Thriller

FTC Disclosure: Tracee, Pump Up Your Book PR Specialist and Virtual Book Tour Coordinator contacted me to see if I was interested, in exchange for an unbiased review

Summary (from goodreads.com):
In this third Jane Perry novel, Laurel Dewey takes Jane out of Denver to the small town of Midas where the Chief of Police is a close friend of Jane's boss. Jacob Van Gorden, the fifteen-year-old son of a prominent area businessman, has disappeared and all signs point to his abductor being Jordan Copeland, a man who committed a similar crime decades ago. Jane settles into this little community for much longer than she wants, living with a preacher and his family (including their eccentric teenage daughter who was Jacob's girlfriend). There are signs that Jacob is still alive, so the clock is ticking. And as Jane investigates Jordan Copeland, she begins to have doubts about his guilt and begins to uncover signs of devastating – and even deadly – secrets all around Midas.

Meanwhile, Jane must deal with two considerable secrets of her own. One hits her in the gut before she leaves Denver and the other creeps up on her from the most unlikely of places. And on top of this, Hank Ross, owner of a bar in Midas, has somehow managed to find a way beneath Jane's armor-plated defenses, forcing her to contend with feelings she hasn't allowed to surface for a very long time.

Revelations is the most powerful and personal Jane Perry novel yet. Teeming with the passions and ambiguities that make Laurel Dewey so compelling to read, it is a breathtaking story of mysteries revealed and withheld.


First Sentence:
Jordan Copeland ran like a monster through the rain-soaked woods, chased only by his demons. 

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • Murder / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense has always been my favorite fictional genre. This was what I used to read 99% of the time. I still like it, but now it is harder to find ones that are satisfying - after you have read a lot of this genre, sometimes the plot became too predictable. So I am always looking for new authors to try! Even though this is Book #3 in the series, I asked if I had to read the previous books, and was told that they could be stand alone.
First thought:
  • When Tracee contacted me, she said they are hoping all reviews will be posted on 6/14/11 - so I haven't read any other reviews of this book yet and I can't wait to see what others think! It is quite unusual to be one of the first to review it (or read a book with no prior reviews anyway!) So this review definitely is not influenced by other review :)
Cover Art:
  • I love pictures of trees. Trees full of leaves, or bare trees. In fact, I have taken similar pictures of tree branches. So yes I like the cover - it is relevant to the story, and it looks kinda creepy too so you know bad things are gonna happen!
Title:
  • While it fits the story, it's not really attention catching. I like wittier titles. This just describes the book but there is no surprise that makes you go "ah, now I know what the title implies!"
Writing:
  • This is a pretty long book at 464 pages. It was a little slow to begin with, but once you get into it, it was a pretty fast read. 
  • I think there were parts, especially when it came to Jordan, that could speed up a little. From memory, like most books in this genre, the sentences and paragraphs were fairly short. However, when it came to Jordan, those paragraphs got a lot longer
Plot:
  •  Kept you guessing! Although some parts seemed a little convenient where many characters experienced the same theme - their histories were revealed. 
  • I think chapter one was the weakest chapter. It was a short chapter, but it wasn't very clear and if I was to pick up this book, just to read the first few pages to see if I wanted to read the rest of the book, I might have given up. I knew it was there to set up Jordan as a main character, but it left me confused instead (well, might be that was the whole point, since Jordan was sometimes confused...)
  • I liked how the author answered all the unanswered questions in the end! Sometimes in other books, the authors might raise some questions that seemed utterly important, and made you guessed what happened. Life Sentences: A Novel by Laura Lippman came to mind - there was this BIG SECRET, that you just know the answer would made you go "aahhh... that's what happened! That explained it!" but it never came. I googled a lot to find out what happened and found others experience the same as I did! I think the author said she was going to explain it in her blog or website or something... but I couldn't find it at the time and forgot about it altogether. So I appreciated that this author tied up all loose ends, even the ones I had forgotten about!
  • I was able to guess two big plot twists though (or I had the suspicion where the plot was going), but that didn't really take the enjoyment out of reading the story (one concerning Jacob, and one about his family)
Characters:
  • Even though I hadn't read the previous 2 Jane Perry books, I got a pretty good sense of whom Jane was in this book. Some others might not like her - she swears, she was a recovering alcoholic, she didn't always follow protocol - but I liked her independence, her smarts, and she had a sensitive side too. I particularly liked reading about her and Bo - even though their relationship was a minor one in the book, it demonstrated what type of person Jane was. I didn't expect that side of her. In fact, that might be what I liked the most about the book (remember the ?, !, trash bag ?)
  • The minor characters, like Bo and Vi, in the book were well developed, you got a sense of who they were even if they did not play a big role. I wish Jane's partner/boss was developed a bit more though but you still got a sense of his personality. I wanted to taste Hank's food!
Ending:
  •  Definitely a hook to make you read the next book! Another secret!
Emotion:
  • While it was not the best murder/mystery I had read, it was still exciting to find a new author you like! Almost like trying out different chocolate, and find one that you want to buy again :)
What I Learned:
  • It took me 7 days to read this book (was busy though) but I didn't feel like it took that long. Weird. I think the story did suck me in, but I just didn't have much time to read that week. 
PS:
  • Now I have to go read the other reviews to see if I am in the minority of liking this book - somehow I doubt it :) Makes me wonder if Tea Time with Marce will like this one since she is into this genre too!
Read this Author again?
  • I think so! I might have to go read the first two in the series! 

Quote:
"It's the little things, you know? People are always looking at the elephant in the room and I'm always looking at the peanut." (p36)  

"When faced with uncertainty in our lives, I always harken back to something my wife's grandfather told her to say during times of trepidation. It was just ten words but in those words, there was both comfort and courage to continue. Those ten words were: I will be all right and one day I will die."" (p153)

"Two people look at a bridge. One sees a place to jump and the other sees a place to cross over. But when it's all said and done, it's still just a bridge. It's our perception that gives its power." (p363)

Overall Rating:
4 Stars.  



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review - The Man with the Beautiful Voice: And More Stories from the Other Side of the Couch by Lillian Rubin














Title: The Man with the Beautiful Voice: And More Stories from the Other Side of the Couch 
Author: Lillian Rubin
Year: 2004
Page: 176
Genre: Non-Fiction - Medical

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from goodreads.com):
In her long career as a psychotherapist, acclaimed author Lillian Rubin occasionally encountered patients who demanded a very special, even unorthodox, therapeutic approach. For the first time, Dr. Rubin tells the stories of her most fascinating, most challenging cases from the other side of the couch, focusing not just on the patient, but on her own inner process as she confronts the issues each case raises.

First Sentence:
It's my first day at the clinic where I'm about to begin my internship, the necessary prelude to getting licensed as a psychotherapist. 

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • Would like to learn more about psychotherapy - just a personal interest since I was a psych major and am working on a project related to this topic. I love reading medical related non-fiction anyway, especially when they are case studies (in layperson terms, not in scientific jargon)
First thought:
  •  Interesting!
Cover Art:
  • Indifferent, though it's relevant to one of the cases
Title:
  • It's taken after one of the cases - not sure if it's my favorite case in the book, but a memorable one
Writing:
  • Easy to read
Plot:
  • The book included several case patients Dr Rubin had in the past - so it almost read like short stories
  • There were both success and failure stories in the book - so Dr Rubin wasn't just tooting her own horn. Some patients were long term patients, requiring years of theraphy. There was no magical treatment that cured the patients overnight
Characters:
  • Dr Rubin seemed well liked and approachable. I liked that she explained why she took a certain approach with different patients. It was almost like you could hear her inner thoughts as she assessed the patients
  • She was also very honest - you'd think being a psychotherapist she'd be sympathetic - yes she was, but just not 24/7. She's human after all! 
Ending:
  • I read this a while back and couldn't quite remember how it ended. However since this was a collection of patient stories, the ending wasn't quite as critical as say, a fictional story.
Emotion:
  • There was one particularly sad story, and I am sure it haunted Dr Rubin. But I guess we had to remember that the doctor could only do so much - their role was to guide the patient, it really is up to the patient to make their own decision
What I Learned:
  • The term "passing" in relation to race. Haven't heard of it before (explanation in wiki). 
  • For couple therapy - the therapist was not supposed to see the couple individually (according to Dr Rubin anyway), e.g. if the husband told the therapist he cheated, and the therapist told the wife then it broke patient (the husband's) confidentiality. If the therapist chose not to tell the wife, and the wife found out later, she would not trust the therapist as she might think the therapist sided with the husband and kept the wife in the dark
  • If a patient asked something and the therapist did not want to answer yes or no right then since either option was appropriate (because of the consequences), answered the question in a way that left the option open instead (e.g. "if you complete the next step, then we can readdress the issue then" instead of saying yes or no to that issue straight away)
PS:
  • Made me wonder if someone had to go through therapy himself/herself, in order to become a good therapist, so they'd know what their patients go through? Since I had a psych major, I had considered going back to school to learn about therapy/counseling. However, I had a fairly stable, non-dramatic life. Would I be sympathetic enough?
Read this Author again?
  • Most likely
Quote:
Freud himself knew that there was no cure and no transformation, only the possibility of transcending. Which is why he promised only to turn neurotic suffering into ordinary pain. (p159-160)

Overall Rating:
4 Stars. Learned something new!



All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.