Monday, January 23, 2012


Yay I am only 13 books behind in my review (9 fiction and 4 non-fiction). Well for the 2011 books I read anyway. I have another 4 (including 1 NDF) to review yet for 2012. But at least I am catching up, as it had been over 20 books behind for a long time!

Part of the reason was probably because I am reading rather slow this year, so I am not as many books behind. So far in January, I'd only finished 3 books, and had another 2 DNF. I am about half way through my current book, A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. So I will finish at least 4 books this month (and if I read something fast/short after that, I may be able to squeeze in another one). This is far less than my usual 8 books on average. Ah well, quality over quantity.

It's also Chinese New Year today! Happy Chinese New Year to those who celebrate it! There is not much atmosphere here though. I do miss the food... maybe next year I'd make more of an effort to celebrate it. I was thinking of going to the Asian grocery store for something, but it had been cold / road conditions hadn't been the best, so we abandoned that idea.

Kitties are doing well. Sometimes I wondered if Sesame should have been called Sesa-you instead of Sesa-me since he is quite "me-centered" :) He doesn't like you petting him if he doesn't want you to, but you'd better pet him when he wants it! Though I should learn from him - everything is a toy to him. The whole house is like Disneyland according to him. Empty boxes? Yay! Plastic pen? Yay! Toilet paper roll? Yay! If we could only have such an optimistic outlook and find fun in everything.

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

Book Review - Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave

This was my November book club choice. I'd heard some good things about it so I was looking forward to reading this story. I am a bit torn about how I feel about it.

The first half of the book was very engaging, and what a strong first sentence - "Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl." (implying that people are happier to see a coin than an African girl). However, the second half slowed. And I also did not like the ending - not because it was happy or sad, but because it was ambiguous. I just do not like ambiguous endings. I know some readers like that because they can finish the story with their own imagination or have their own desired ending, but I prefer the author to tell me because it is their story, not mine.

The story were told from two perspectives - Little Bee (the African girl), and Sarah who met Little Bee in Nigeria on that fateful day on the beach that changed both of their lives. I liked the Little Bee chapters much more than Sarah's. Someone from the book club asked if the book would have been better if Sarah's chapters were eliminated. Well, her side of the story did provide some background, so I don't know how that'd work. I guess I just did not know how I felt about Sarah - I really admired a couple of actions she took, but at the same time, she seemed rather naive for a 32 years old and she made lots of decisions I disliked also.

I also wondered about Little Bee's language ability - it did not seem like she knew much English beforehand (that was the impression I got anyway, since she lived in a rural little town in Nigeria), and yet she spoke too poetically and with much sophistication from someone who learned most of her English in the detention center watching TV. Though I suppose some people are more gifted with languages than others. (Note, I was not aware that English was Nigeria's official language, though according to wiki, English is more for the urban elite, and not for rural areas.)

The story sometimes was too contrived [Spoilers] - Little Bee's detection "friend" hanged herself, Sarah's husband hanged himself.  Little Bee and Sarah's boyfriend Lawrence both mentioned the word "just" and its implication separately, e.g. calling someone "just" a co-worker when it wasn't necessary ("she is a coworker, vs. "she is just a coworker"), as it implied some guilt. The cop got called about Sarah's missing son would also arrest Little Bee, then Little Bee would be back to Nigeria so soon for deportation, even though she was in the detention center for 2 years prior... [/Spoilers]

I am not a writer, but I also thought the author seemed to tell more than show - mostly with Little Bee telling us what hapepend. I think my disappointment also came from the hype - the back of the book said "Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how they story unfolds." But I didn't really feel the magic. I kept waiting for the magic. The message of the story was an important one (what refugees had to do to survive), and I don't disagree with that, but I thought the execution could have been better. However, it did make me think, if I was in Nigeria on that fateful day, what would I have done? Would I have done what Sarah did? or Andrew? Or something else altogether? I simply do not know. I think it is one of those scenarios that you won't know how you'd react until it happened to you.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book was to read about Little Bee's survival/exit strategy (see 3rd quote below) - what her mind set was even when she was in a seemingly safe place. But the author didn't really have to devote a whole chapter to it as it just got boring after a while - we got the message already. I also liked the author's subtle humor (see 4th quote). As you could see, all the quotes came within the first 50 pages. I really wish the rest of the book was as strong.

Note - there were some brutal, violent moments in the book. So be warmed as I know some readers couldn't stomach graphic descriptions.

We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived. (p9)

In your country, if you are not scared enough already, you can go to watch a horror film. Afterward you can go out of the cinema into the night and for a little while there is horror in everything. Perhaps there are murderers lying in wait for you at home. You think this because there is a light on in your house that you are certain you did not leave on... Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it. For me and the girls from my village, horror is a disease and we are sick with it. It is not an illness you can cure yourself of by standing up and letting the big red cinema seat fold itself up behind you. (p45)

In the immigration detention center, they told us we must be disciplined to overcome our fears. This is the discipline I learned: whenever I go into a new place, I work out how I would kill myself there. In case the men came suddenly, I make sure I am ready. The first time I went into Sarah's bathroom I was thinking, Yes Little Bee, in here you would break the mirror of that medicine cabinet and cut your wrists with the splinters. When Sarah took me for a ride in her car I was thinking, Here, Little Bee, you would roll down the window and unbuckle your seat belt and tip yourself out of the window, no fuss, in front of the very next lorry that comes the other way. (p47)

In the canteen there was a television that was always on. I began to learn more about life in your country. I watched programs called Love Island and Hell's Kitchen and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and I worked out how I would kill myself on all of those shows. Drowning, knives, and ask the audience. (p49)  

3 / 5 .
(The first half would have been at least a 4 / 5, but the 2nd half did not live up to the expectation.)

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review - The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I know many bloggers love this book (or other books by Selznick). This is my first book by the author, and unfortunately it just didn't work for me. It has an interesting concept - a story combined with pencil drawings. The drawings were nice, but didn't wow me. Maybe because I had seen some really amazing pencil drawings. The story was fine, but a bit simplistic and slow for me. I kept waiting for some magical moments but they never arrived. I don't remember the ending now (3 months later), but whatever it was, it didn't blow my mind. Maybe I am spoiled by Shawn Tan's books? His stories were even simpler, but I felt inspired from his books.

I know I am totally NOT the target audience, so I am sharing my thoughts from an adult's perspective - someone who is not familiar with children's books (at least not for this age range - amazon listed it as 9 years and up). Maybe if I read this with a kid, I'd have felt differently. Or I am just too old and cynical lol.

I know the movie came out not long ago, and had good reviews too. But I doubt I'd be watching it any time soon. There are some quotes I did like from this book:

Some magicians started off as clock makers. They used their knowledge of machines to build these automata to amaze their audiences. The sole purpose of the machines was to fill people with wonder, and they succeeded. No one in the audience could figure out how these mysterious figures danced or wrote to sang. It was as if the magicians had created artificial life, but the secret was always in the clockworks. (p113)

"Sometimes I think I like these photos as much as I like the movies, " she said. "You can make up your own story when you look at a photo." (p193)

"Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason?" he asked Isabelle. "They are built to make you laugh, like the mouse here, or to tell the time, like clocks, or to fill you with wonder, like the automaton. Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do." (p374) 

2 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review - Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth

Yep, another YA dystopian trilogy. But I do like this one - it did remind me a bit of The Hunger Games, though I still thought the Hunger Games is better, probably because it tugged on my emotion more (Katniss' love for her little sister).

The main protagonist, Beatrice/Tris (she decided to go by Tris later) reminded me a bit of Katniss - strong, smart, but sometimes she acted before she thought through it. The 5 factions each 16 years old had to choose which one they belonged to were Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). I liked the world-building in the book.  It did make me think, if I had to choose, which faction would I choose? I think most likely Erudite. I doubt I'd ever be a Dauntless, but those who chose it thought:

But becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it., that's the point. (p239)

It didn't really explain why you could only choose one, but I supposed that was the whole point of dystopian fiction - there were elements that were out of the characters' control, and it was up to them to do something about it:

My father says that those who want power and get it live in terror of losing it. That's why we have to give power to those who do not want it. (p68)

I could also guess who Four (another character) was right off the bat, so it didn't quite come as a surprise. I liked him too, but we did not know a lot about him yet. The other characters didn't leave as much of an impression (I could hardly remember their names now) but there were quite of few supporting characters. I had to laugh though when I read what Tris thought about having a pet - that's exactly what I felt before I became a kitty mama:

What is the point in providing food and shelter for an animal that just soils your furniture, makes your home smell bad, and ultimately dies? (p193)

While part of the plot was predictable (you know, like Tris can't die yet in Book 1) I am not quite sure where the next book would lead us, so I look forward to it! Hopefully it'd just be as fast paced as this one, and we'll get to know the characters a bit more, and that it doesn't suffer from "middle book syndrome" where the author saved the best bits for the last book.

If you like YA dystopian, go read this series!

4 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Book Reivew - Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan

Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan

Part memoir, and part recipes, I was getting hungry while reading this book. The author's family fled from Iran to California in 1978, and she talked about the Persian food she grew up eating, the French food she learned cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and the fusion food (combining the two) she served in her own restaurant.

I am not familiar with either Persian or French cuisine, so it was interesting to read about recipes such as Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant, Orange Cardamom Cookies,  Roast Duck Legs with Dates and Warm Lentil Salad, and Rose Petal Ice Cream. She also mentioned persimmon and how Californians had no idea what they were missing out on with this wonderful fruit (they found lots of persimmons wasted from people's yards in California). I love persimmon! Though I grew up just eating it as a fruit, or as a dried fruit (you have to soak it first before eating it. I much prefer it fresh). I also knew about pomegranates, which the author also grew up eating, since I was a little kid (many years ago now :) so I was amazed how it'd become a buzz food here in the US in recent years. When she talked about Persian food, it actually reminded me a bit of Chinese food too. I was so glad I won a copy of this book, so now I didn't have to type up the recipes from the book!

But above all, this book really was a tribute to her mother. Her mother had such a big influence on her and you could tell between the lines their love for each other. Her mum was a remarkable woman,  and I was so touched by their stories that it made me missed my mother, who lives overseas, that I called her right away (I don't like talking on the phone much... so I don't call as frequently as I should... and my mum doesn't email.) It was a heartwarming story, though the author did not go into a lot of her own personal life, such as how she met her husband, or her relationship with her sisters. Hence why I thought this was written more in her mother's memory (she did dedicate it to both her parents. Her dad just did not get mentioned as much as the mother.) I liked her mother's thought on parenting:

She believed a parent's job was to provide love and security without staking any claims on a child's future, that children owned their dreams, their mishaps, their triumphs, and their failures. (p98)

I could also really identify with the quote below - like the author, I had lived in 3 different countries (her - Iran, US, France. Me - Hong Kong, Australia and US). I often have no idea how to answer the question, "where are you from?" because well, I call all three my homes. Do I really have to be exclusive and choose just one? 

Paris, San Francisco, Tehran, all claim a part of me. As I looked out the window on the plane home from Paris, I thought about how the ktichens where I was shaped belong to all these places, and yet none claim to be the center. I'll always negotiate that in-between culture. And I'll alwyas rely on the longing for these places, and I'll always be learning to move between them without falling through the gaps. (p203).
I recommend this book to those who like food, cooking, and like to learn about other culture!

4 / 5 .

Note - The book was originally borrowed from the library, though I'd also won a free copy from another blogger, Chocolate and Croissants.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Review - Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 1 - 3 (out of 5) by by Koushun Takami, Masayuki Taguchi

Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 1 - 3 (out of 5) by by Koushun Takami, Masayuki Taguchi (GRAPHIC NOVELS)

I have never heard of this book before until The Hunger Games - some people said The Hunger Games author, Suzanne Collins, stole the idea (a bunch of teenagers killing each other off in a game) from this book, written by a Japanese author. I was curious, and wanted to see how close the two stories were. My library did not have the novel, but had the graphic novels instead. So I decided to read them.

It was probably a good thing that I read the graphic novels instead! I think there were like 40+ kids in this game, and with all their Japanese names, I would never have remembered who was who without the visuals! In fact, with 24 kids in The Hunger Games, I already got confused with a lot of the minor characters. Anyway back to this series...

Each of the ultimate edition is THICK. It wasn't until I was done with Book 3 (all the volumes my library had) that I found out there were 2 more volumes! And I couldn't find them in any of the library in my network... so I googled the ending instead (interestingly enough, the plot/characters/ending in the graphic novels differed a bit from the original novel, as did the movie!)

Now, I could see where people said Collins may have copied the idea from this story (if she did indeed read this story). The premise really was very similar. However, I think that was where the similarity ended. The reason behind the game, how the game ended, and most importantly, the personalities of the characters, were all very different, so the two stories had a very different feel to them. I mean, look at all the vampires stories out there - most of them are about vampires and non-vampires falling in love, but yet they are all different.

Due to the numerous characters in this series, only a handful of them were more developed, but I guess this was more of a plot-driven story to see who'd win ultimately. I supposed, since I read the graphic novel version, the character development might also be lacking a bit compared to the novel (just a guess). I also would NOT recommend this series for those until 18 years old - it had A LOT of adult content - violence (more so than The Hunger Games) and sex (to think these were 9th grade students). I am not sure whether the original novel included sexual content or not (but I presume the violence would still be there, given the premise.)

I did like the ending of this story (well, from what I could tell from searching google).

This story was also made into a movie, and I watched that too. As mentioned, some plot development and what happened to the characters were altered, but the overall story was still the same. Interestingly enough, there was no sexual content at all in the movie, but the violence was probably worse because now you got to see all the blood and gory.

Overall, I still liked the Hunger Games better, because I cared about the characters. With this series, I just wanted to see who win and how it ended. But you have to give credit to the author for using such a controversial and thought provoking topic as the backdrop of the story. This story also was not dystopian - it could be something that was happening in today's world instead.

3.5 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Book Review - No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

Fourteen-year-old Cynthia Bigge woke one morning to discover that her entire family–mother, father,brother–had vanished. No note, no trace, no return. Ever.  Now, twenty-five years later, she’ll learn the devastating truth.

Sounds so intriguing! I mean, if I wake up tomorrow and find my family gone... I wouldn't know what to do.

This was a fast paced, engaging thriller, and I nearly missed my bus top when I read it on the way home. The characters were likeable but not memorable. The twists were good but not WOW. The way the twists were revealed were a bit anticlimactic, but it did keep you guessing. The loose ends were tied up at the end.

I would try other books by this author (this was my first, based on Thrill Week's recommendations, thank you!) if I want something "light and fluffy" (if you can call this genre light and fluffy lol). Though I have to admit, now that it'd been 3 months since I read it, I hardly remembered the plot - when I read some spoiler reviews, I remembered what happened, but not without those prompts. So it was fun to read while it lasted, but it did not have much staying power. But I guess that's what light and fluffy reads are for! If I remember every single book I read, my brain would explode.

3.5 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I was looking forward to this book - there was such a hype on the blogs about this. I should know better since my reading taste seems to be different to the majority of the bloggers. I thought this book would be magical (hey it's about the circus after all!) well, it started off well, and captured my interest, and then it just went on, and on, and on, and on, and on... and a quarter of the way through the almost 400 pages book, and still nothing happened.

Maybe this would work better as a movie, as I'd love to see how Celia did her magic, and what the opening night bonfire looked like. But that'd probably only last just seconds, instead of multiple pages.

If you like descriptive, flowery, wordy story, then go for it. Not for me.

0 / 5 Did Not Finish

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Monday, January 9, 2012


Wow, came across this video. Riusuke Fukahori 深堀隆介 is crazy talented!

Just watch - all the goldfish are PAINTED!

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

Book Review - Hot Lights, Cold Steel by D. P. Lyle

Hot Lights, Cold Steel by D. P. Lyle

Forensic criminalist Dub Walker is called upon when an old friend enlists his help in finding her 19-year-old daughter.  I saw this book in the library's new book section, and I found the premise intriguing as I was hoping it'd be like Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series with a forensic criminalist as a protagonist. The author is a cardiologist, a writer, and a story and technical consultant for several popular television shows, including 1-800-Missing, Cold Case, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, House, Judging Amy, Law & Order, Medium, Monk, and Peacemakers - pretty impressive credentials!

I was disappointed with the story. I felt like there was no character development for Dub Walker - then after I had finished the book, I found out that this was #2 in the Dub Walker series, so that might explain the lack of character development (I am guessing all his background was discussed in #1? Unless #1 was written in the same manner...) So there was a disconnect because I had no idea who he was or what he was like, apart from he just knew all this people or had all this knowledge and could solve the crime just like that.

While the protagonist did use a little bit of scientific or behavioral knowledge to solve the crime, it was no where near as engaging, interesting, and detailed as Jeffery Deaver's story. So overall, a fairly unremarkable thriller for me, though there were a handful of good reviews out there. Maybe my expectations were just too high, or that I should have started with Book 1 - the cover did not indicate that this was a series at all - I guess you could read it as a stand alone if you really don't care about knowing the characters. While I prefer plot-driven to character-driven novels, I still have to care the characters enough to keep on reading. Why else would I waste my time on reading something I don't care about - be it the protagonist or the victim or villains. I need some emotional attachment.

2 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review - Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb

Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb

As you can guessed from the book title, this book is about Henry and his 3 sisters - and how they dealt with a family crisis when something happened to mum. I thought the book started out okay... then 5 days later and about half way through, I just got bored. Normally I would have stopped, but since this was for a book club, I thought I'd try a little harder, so I skimmed the rest to see what happened instead (yes I cheated!) Well, not much happened until maybe the last couple of chapters, so I didn't feel like I missed much. The book could have been a lot shorter (funny, both goodreads and amazon said it is 352 pages? But I made a note that it was 430 pages?! Maybe it had been shortened since?!?!)  Regardless of the actual number of pages, it still felt too long.

But the main reason I didn't like it was because of the characters - it seemed like EVERYBODY was a stereotype. EVERYBODY had to have an extreme flaw. Now, I get that we are not perfect and we all have flaws, but what is the likelihood that everyone in the family had a different behavioral disorder from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)? It just seemed quite unrealistic. Henry just happened to be the glue that brought everyone together because he... well I am not going to spoil it for you if you decide to read it. Just know that everything was so contrived, and everything was tied in a nice little bow at the end of the story as someone else from the book club put it. Though most of the people at the book club did liked it (except me and my friends, who are younger than the rest of the group).

This book reminded me a bit of The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (see my review here) minus the Shakespeare reference. This book was published prior to the Weird Sisters though.

I did find a few quotes I liked (I do have 2 younger sisters after all):

"And we were never locked in closets. We chose to go there all on our own. To hide." (p14)

To me, the wind has always seemed like a person, with all the mood swings and rampaging, out-of-control emotions that we have. Sometimes it's angry and whips around corners, sometimes it ruffles the river as it hurries toward the ocean, sometimes it puffs on by, gentle, caressing. (p25)

The problem I see with fights between sisters is that the fights can degenerate to scorching meanness so quick, the words cutting right to the marrow, because sisters know how to hurt each other with pinpoint accuracy. They have history and hurts and slights and jealousies and resentment and they don't know how to rein it in, filter, or how not to be brutally honest with one another. (p95) 

1 / 5 .

Note - The book was borrowed from the library.

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

Book Review - Letters for Emily by Camron Wright

Letters for Emily by Camron Wright

Grandpa was dying from Alzheimer's disease, and so he decided to write a book of poems for his granddaughter, Emily, while he was still alert. As Emily and her parents and relatives read the letters later, they were full of riddles - what did they mean? Could it have been a hidden fortune? Or something else?

I read this book soon after The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright (see my review here). In fact, I went to the library specifically to borrow The Wednesday Letters, and then found this book nearby since the author's last names were the same. The premise sounded inspiring, and I ended up liking this book a bit more than The Wednesday Letters - but mostly because of the riddles. It was fun to try to solve the riddles, but of course the story was written for the characters, not the readers, to solve the riddles, so we did not always have enough clues or were exposed to every riddles (sometimes we just got the answer - the message - instead.)

The writing was just okay, similar to others I had read in this genre. There wasn't a lot of character development, so you don't really get to know them, as it focused more on the message. It just didn't get as emotional or touching as I hoped it would be. It was interesting to learn that the author was inspired to write this story based on writings from his own grandfather.

I did found a couple of quotes I liked:

This disease is a thief. It begins with short spells of forgetfulness, but before it's finished, it steals everything. It takes your favorite color, the smell of your favorite food, the night of your first kiss, your love of golf. (p2)

Parents are strange and wonderful creatures. When you're small they seem bright, shiny, and invincible. As you grow, that image starts to fade. It's a sobering moment, but the time will come when you realize they are not the heroes you imagined. They are just people struggling to do the best they can, just the same as you are. You will feel let down, betrayed, even ashamed. This is the time, Emily, when you need to forgive your parents for being human. (p179). 

3.5 / 5 .

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

Book Review - On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry by John Toussaint and Roger Gerard

On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry by John Toussaint and Roger Gerard

Read this as part of my work book club since we work in healthcare improvement. If you have been working in this area for a while, it's interesting to compare what we do to what ThedaCare did/do (where the authors are from.) but there is not a lot of "new" thing to learn - though due to our different organizational culture and size, there are definitely some differences in how we approach this. If you or your organization is new to process improvement / eliminating wastes, then this is a good start to see what can be done.

The book description posted on goodreads did a good job summarizing the content so I'm just going to copy/paste it below:

Part case study, part manifesto, this groundbreaking new book by a doctor and a healthcare executive uses real-life anecdotes and the logic of lean thinking to make a convincing argument that a revolutionary new kind of healthcare — lean healthcare — is urgently needed and eminently doable.

In On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry John Toussaint, MD, former CEO of ThedaCare, and Roger A. Gerard, PhD, its chief learning officer, candidly describe the triumphs and stumbles of a seven-year journey to lean healthcare, an effort that continues today and that has slashed medical errors, improved patient outcomes, raised staff morale, and saved $27 million dollars in costs without layoffs. Find out:

• How lean techniques of value-stream-mapping and rapid improvement events cut the average "door-to-balloon" time for heart attack patients at two hospitals from 90 minutes to 37.

• What ThedaCare leaders did to replace medicine's "shame and blame" culture with a lean culture based on continuous improvement and respect for people.

• How the lean principle of "building in quality at the source" broke down divisions among medical specialties allowing teams to develop patient care plans faster.

• Why traditional modern management is the single biggest impediment to lean healthcare.

• How the plan-do-study-act cycle coupled with rapid improvement events cut the wait time at a robotic radiosurgery unit from 26 days to six.

• How the lean concept of "one piece flow" saved time in treating ischemic stroke patients, increasing the number of patients receiving a CT scan within 25 minutes from 51% to 89%.

• How senior leaders at other healthcare organizations can begin their own lean transformations using a nine-step action plan based on what ThedaCare did — and what it would do differently.

Toussaint and Gerard prove that lean healthcare does not mean less care. On the Mend shows that when care is truly re-designed around patients, waste and errors are eliminated, quality improves, costs come down, and healthcare professionals have more time to spend with patients, who get even better care.

3.5 / 5 .

Note - Borrowed from the library

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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review - The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

Read this 4 months ago, and just got around to writing my thoughts about it now. Or should I say, my lack of thoughts. I honestly do not remember much of the plot or characters when I looked at the title. I read the description, and it brought back a bit of memory. So it was a fast thriller / mystery while it lasted - at least I finished it and wanted to find out what happened, though I did make a note that it was a bit predictable, without many twists or turns. It was a debut novel.

I picked this one up after hearing good things about the author's latest book, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes.  I actually won a copy of Two Deaths, and will give it a try since the author may have improved in the past 4 years.

I did like this quote: "That a man was measured by the way he acted, not what he had." (p290)

2 / 5 .

Note - borrowed from the library.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review - Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

This was Sarah Addison Allen's first book, and many of her readers' favorites. Earlier in 2011 I read The Sugar Queen (my review here) and really enjoyed it, so I decided to read everything else by Allen. Magical realism became a new favorite genre for me.

I read this back in September, and now 4 months later, I hardly remember the plot but I remember it was a cute, sweet but predictable story. I could see its appeal to readers given its magical aspect, though it was magic without a feasible explanation (yes I am weird about that, it's hard for me to just believe in magic without some logic. In fact, have you read the article about Santa Clause from an engineering's perspective?  No I am not an engineer, but my mind works kinda like that.)

Anyway I digress.

None of the characters really stood out (apart from the apple tree!) and I remembered some of them were a bit stereotypical. I did enjoy Allen's writing though. My favorite part of the book was reading about the unusual pairing of exotic favors in cakes or other dishes - they sounded magical (hehe - see, there is a plausible explanation for this type of food magic!) 

At that time, I gave this book a 3.5. But now I think I'll lower it to 3 since it didn't have much staying power for me, unlike The Sugar Queen.

3 / 5 .

Note - borrowed from the library.

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review - The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar

The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar 

Mostly based in India, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were once best friends. Due to circumstances, they had drifted apart and had not seen each other since. Thirty years later, one of them was dying in America and her last wish was to see her friends once more. Would they be able to honor her wish? I chose this ARC to review (out today!) because I wanted a good friendship story.

I liked the characters (loved their names!) - they were all flawed but seemed realistic. Though some characters were developed more than others. In fact, I thought the two male characters (husbands of two characters, who were also friends with all four girls back in the days) were the more complex characters even though they were not the main focus. I also was hoping for a more emotional read - after all, a close friend was dying! - but I thought it fell a bit flat.

One of the other themes of the book reminded me of Megan's Way by Melissa Foster - what would you do if you have a terminal disease - would you go for treatments or not?  If not, why not?

Usually I shy away from literary fiction because I do not like overly descriptive story without much action. Fortunately I did not have much problem with this book, as the writing was quite easy to read. I also liked that I learned a little bit more about modern India. 

This is definitely a character-driven novel, and more about the journey than the destination. Because of that I am quite disappointed by the ending - not quite how it ended, but where it ended. I thought there would be more to the story, or at least the book should have an epilogue to tie up some lose ends. Right now it just felt unfinished.

3.25 / 5

Note - ARC was given HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased review.

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

Monday, January 2, 2012

What a great start...

What a great start in 2012 - my first book is a Did Not Finish! :)  It is The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson, which is for one of my two book clubs. I'll share my thoughts about it in a separate post.

But true to my word, I am not wasting time on books I don't enjoy. So 2012 will probably be a year of book abandonment!

I hope you had a better start than I did :)

Note - I am enjoying this graphic novel series in Chinese (originally from Japan) called Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫. I am not sure if it comes in English, but they are short stories about this talented unlicensed doctor practicing on patients... (ummm looks like they DO come in English? See this link).

It seems like I like graphic novels in Chinese better than in English (they are mostly translated from Japanese manga). The other graphic novel author I liked from last year was Fumi Saimon, again, I don't know if her books are translated into English... I guess these books have become my guilty pleasure when I am in a slump.

Books Read in 2012

  1. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2 Stars)
  2. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu (4 Stars) 
  3. The Restorer (Graveyard Queen #1) by Amanda Stevens  (3.5 Stars)
  4. 1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen #8) by Anne Holt (3.5 Stars) 
  5. Half-Past Dawn by Richard Doetsch (3 Stars) 
  6. The Devotion of Suspect X 容疑者Xの献身 by Keigo Higashino 東野圭吾(4.5 Stars) 
  7. The Three Coffins (Dr. Gideon Fell, #6) / The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr (3.5 Stars)
  8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (4 Stars)
  9. Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer (4 Stars) 
  10. Legend by Marie Lu (4 Stars) 
  11. Delaney's Shadow by Ingrid Weaver (3.5 Stars)
  12. The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi  (3 Stars)
  13. The Phantom of the Post Office by Kate Klise (3 Stars)
  14. XO (Kathryn Dance #3) by Jeffrey Deaver (2 Stars)
  15. Into the Darkest Corner by Elisabeth Haynes (3 Stars)
  16. The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams (3 Stars)
  17. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova (3.75 Stars) 
  18. UnWholly (Unwind Trilogy #2) by Neal Shusterman (3.5 Stars)
  19. On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves (3 Stars)
  20. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (4 Stars)

  1. A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (3.5 Stars)
  2. The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow 
  3. How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy) by Julia Cameron (2 Stars)
  4. Helicopters, Drill Sergent and Consultants: Parenting Styles and the Messages They Send (Love and Logic series) by Jim Fay (4 Stars)
  5. What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir by Alice Eve Cohen (3.5 Stars)
  6. French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon  (4 Stars)
  7. Bringing the Baby Home: An Owner's Manual for First Time Parents by Laura Zahn (4 Stars) 
  8. HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan  
  9. The First Eight Days of Being a Mom by Gea Meijering

Did Not Finish (DNF):
  1. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  2. The Night Circus: A Novel by Erin Morgenstern  
  3. The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan 
  4. Darkfever (Fever, #1) by Karen Marie Moning  

  1. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 6) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫 
  2. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 7) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫  
  3. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 8) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫 
  4. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 9) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫  
  5. Black Jack 怪醫秦博士/ 怪醫黑傑克 (Vol 10) by Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2nd Blogging Anverisory and Reading Goals in 2012

As of 1/1/12, I'd have been blogging for 2 years! Can't believe it. The biggest reward is to get to know some like-minded bloggers! :)

I will continue to blog in 2012 as time permitted :) Hopefully I can do a better job, and post more consistently than I did this year. I am such a spontaneous/mood blogger that I blog only when I feel like it...

Let's see what goals I should set for 2012:

#1 - I like what Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness said about not becoming a reading robot (see her post here), and specifically that reading should be a transporting experience. So I want to continue to emphasis on quality over quantity, and choose books I really want to read, and abandon books that couldn't hold my interest. I already know 2012 is going to be a very busy year for me due to several projects in the works.

#2 - I will continue to try to blog every book I read (and not finished). I think I will do shorter, more to-the-point reviews. Well, truth be told, my posts aren't actually reviews since I don't go into deep analysis over language, structure, plot, characters... I really just want to share my thoughts on the book. And if I can write shorter posts, maybe I won't be so delayed on my reviews!

#3 - I also want to continue to read out-loud some books with hubby. Maybe we'll aim for 3 this year. It takes more time to finish the book when I read it out loud to him (compared to me just reading it silently to myself), but we do enjoy the experience, and it gives us something to do together.

#4 - I don't care how many fiction or non-fiction I read, as long as I read both! I am such a mood reader, so I can't plan ahead what I will read next (apart from the book clubs read - I belong to 2 of them)

#5 - Lastly, I still want to give at least 1 audio book a try, while being on the elliptical! 2012 is a year to get healthy! :)

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

Review Reading Goals in 2011

Let's reflect - these were my 10 reading goals set on 1/1/11. Let's see how badly I did lol:

  1. Quality over quantity. If I can reach 100 books again for the 4th year in a row - fine. If not, I won't stress out much about it.

    Well, it depends on whether you count the Chinese books I read!
    I read
    71 Fiction
    , 24 Non-Fiction, and 16 Chinese books. Thus in total - 95 (excluding Chinese books) or 111 (including Chinese books). Granted, quite a few of the Chinese books were graphic novels... so I'd let you be the judge. I probably would have finished over 100 (excluding Chinese) but I was in a reading slump starting in October. I was still reading, but my pace had slowed down A LOT. I usually read 2 books a week, but now it usually takes me at least a week to finish a book... To see the complete list of books I read in 2011, see here.

  2. Read approximately half fiction and half non-fiction 

    BIG FAILED! I read roughly 3 Fiction : 1 Non-Fiction instead... I blamed other blogs lol, since most of you read fiction, and so many of the books you read sounded so good!

  3. Continue to blog every book, hopefully within a week

    BIG FAILED! It started of well, but in the second half of the year I fell way behind due to work. In fact, I am still not done with all my reviews yet...  25 to go! I guess I read faster than I blog...

  4. Let's see if I can stick to doing BTT every week!

    Another BIG FAILED! I think I did just once (the New Year resolution about setting up 2011 goals!) I guess I sometimes forget to read BTT every Thursday, and I don't always blog on Thursday ( prefer blogging on Friday night and over the weekend, when I don't have to worry about getting up early the next day).

  5. Keep recommending books to others and encourage non-readers to discover the magic of books!

    YES! I definitely did. When it comes to fiction, I usually recommend according to the reader's taste. The book I specifically recommended at least 4 times this year though, was
    My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
    by Jill Bolte Taylor - another blogger's brother suffered a stroke, a co-worker's mother suffered a stroke, a husband of a friend of someone else I kinda know suffered a stroke, and my sister-in-law who  works with people who may have had brain injury in the past so I thought this may help her communicate with them... I actually read this back in 2009, but it comes in handy (unfortunately....)

  6. As much as I love my local library, I should at least read 10 of my own books... there are 170+ waiting...

    Well, it again depends on how you look at it... If you only count the books I bought myself, then it's only ONE BOOK. However, I did read another 18 books that I didn't borrow from the library, but I received them this year as part of a book tour or ARC reviews...

  7. Give audio books a try, while trying to exercise (bought an elliptical and have hardly used it... because I'd rather use the time to read instead... and I can't read it and use it at the same time. Perhaps audio books will help lower the opportunity cost)

    FAILED! I borrowed them, but didn't end up listening to them as I'd hoped... which also meant I didn't use my elliptical either. Oops.

  8. Read 5 books with husband - he prefers audio books and I prefer reading. So to spend more quality time together, maybe we'll pick a book and I'll read to him instead. We did one book together last year and it seemed to work quite well. Since English is not my first language, he can correct my pronunciation too. Kill multiple birds with one stone :)

    We completed 2 books together (
    Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua and Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff) and we had started another 3 but didn't finish yet as I needed to return them to the library (Steve Jobs, Unbroken, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.)

  9. Read 5 books I won't normally choose. Even if I can't finish, at least give it a try.

    I'd say yes - I tried historical fiction, historical non-fiction, chick lit, magical realism, literary fiction, women's fiction... Most of my fiction books were rated between 2 to 3.5 Stars though, I think mostly because I was reading out of my comfort zone. Some ended up being very good, but most were just so-so for me. I am glad I gave it a try this year so find out what I really like, and don't like.

  10. Just enjoy reading... it shouldn't be a chore

    I'd say yes - I abandoned 15 books in 2011!! You can see what they are at the bottom of this post.