Showing posts from March, 2014

Book Review: RSD in Me!

RSD in Me! by Barby Ingle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never heard of RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) before I read this book, although I have friends with Fibromyalgia, which sounds similar as far as managing constant pain and coming up with strategies to manage daily life with a chronic condition. RSD is a chronic pain condition generally brought on by trauma or injury, and is characterized by a burning sensation in various parts of the sympathetic nervous system.

As a social worker I really appreciate the general tone of this book of being your own advocate and being hopeful about a positive outcome. One of the main things I do is help clients taking control of their future and advocating for their own needs and future, and author Barby Ingle-Taylor does an excellent job of encouraging chronic pain patients to effectively navigate the stages of grief while maintaining a positive outlook on life. She advocates using faith, psychotherapy and associated techniques, and a support …

Book Review: Heist School Freshment

Heist School Freshmen by Alan Gallauresi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a teenage brother, and Heist School Freshmen sounds like it was written by him. This is a good thing, in this case, as the story is about teenage boys who band together, led by their intrepid leader Angelo Bastillo - who now goes by Angel because it just sounds way cooler - to attempt a treasure hunt of epic proportions in their very average high school. It also meant I understood a lot of the lingo and text speak, which is very encouraging for an otherwise uncool older sister like me.

I really enjoyed the story, and I think the series has potential. The character development was detailed and largely accurate for modern teenagers. I am also a big fan of anything that gets boys to read, and I really think that this story would be great particularly for middle schoolers. It has suspense, teenage “romance,” a lot of comic interludes and even a little SAT prep thrown in, all narrated by Angelo. I would recommend this…

Book Review: Buried Threads

Buried Threads by Kaylin McFarren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rachel and Chase keep a blooming love alive while on an underwater Japanese treasure hunt. Buried Threads follows the pair during the second installment of the Threads series, where they run into the Yakuza, a soul-seeking monk, a greedy treasure hunter, a conniving Geisha, and a weird prophecy they are destined to fulfill.

While the second book in a series, I read this first and had no trouble with continuity. There is some basic history of Rachel and Chase revealed during conversation, but their relationship blossoms during this book in a way that makes sense even without the first book. It is definitely a thriller, complete with sex, swordfights, and supernatural battle. I really enjoyed the writing and plot development, and while there were a lot of characters to keep track of there was some character development that didn’t hinge completely on plot twists. The sex scenes were a little much for me but that’s never been som…

Book Review: Emerge

Emerge by C.D. Verhoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when the Earth is simultaneously hit by a plague and attacked by aliens? Well obviously you mutate and go underground. But what happens then when you have no choice but to ascend to the surface once again? Emerge is a futuristic tale of a group of people who assumed they would live out their lives in an underground bunker only to be catapulted to the surface, and led out to find their new home Exodus style.

I loved the Biblical imagery and the sci-fi/fantasy plot. I think it will make a great series, as this is the introductory book. I was a little annoyed by the organization of the story as it was not linear but the flash backs weren’t very well defined either, although by the end of it I had a pretty good grasp of the history of the culture as well as the current state. I was also a little annoyed by the introduction to each character’s voice with the use of the parenthetical (insert character name here) because it’s prett…

Book Review: If I Were King

If I Were King by Randa Handler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read If I Were King aloud to my 3 and 5 year old, as the audience suggested was preschooler/prereader. It’s a cute story about a zebra who plays a game with other jungle animals to pretend to be in each others shoes, and the second part is the zebra discovering herself. My 3 year old lost interest about half way through, so I think actually I would up the audience slightly to more like 5-7 year olds. The 3 year old just kind of said yay, jungle animals like at the zoo! The 5 year old was more into it, but still did not quite grasp everything. That being said, I loved the premise of the book, which was teaching children how to put themselves in other people’s shoes, as well as figuring out who they were as a person. Using animals is always a good vehicle for this I think, because children can grasp differences in animals far more easily than other people. I think I would have liked more illustrations throughout for the kiddos, …

Book Review: Chords, words and some news from times long past

Chords, words and some news from times long past by Barry Hogstrom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Chords, words and some news from times long past, Högström weaves a tale about four friends (two sibling sets) and their parents that span the decades from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. Loosely narrated by Paul Lee, who was the most removed from the group, the basic message I took from this story was that you can’t escape your past, whether you know about it or not. The book was set primarily in the late 70’s and the early 90’s, with a fair chunk of 1950 thrown in. It told the story of brothers fighting over one woman, and life catching up to their parents’ indiscretions in the not so chaste post World War II era. Also interesting was parts of the novel were set in Sweden and parts in New York, and the connection between the two is Big Pharma.

While this story waxed a little long and oddly lyrical - in style of some of the artsier movies from the 70’s - it was engaging, as there is always the nig…

Book Review: An Unspoken Compromise

An Unspoken Compromise by Rizi Xavier Timane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had not heard of Rizi Timane or his ministry prior to reading this book, and I am very interested to learn more. This is part memoir, part treatise, of a woman who believes she was actually born a man, and the journey she took to become he. It is a fascinating and honest account, and I appreciate that not all of the interactions or endings were portrayed happily. I think people need to know exactly how difficult it is, particularly when you add the element of faith, as Rizi is a practicing Christian, or as he puts it, a “Jesusian.”

As a Christian, reading this book is challenging. I have always been one to point out the flaws of humanity when practicing their faith (Crusades, anyone?), and although I do not know if I agree entirely with his interpretation of Scripture I love hearing interpretations other than my own. I also appreciate honest debate, and particularly that Rizi takes his own medicine, so to speak. R…

Book Review: The Electric Affinities

I got the distinct impression a lot of drugs were done during the writing of this book. As I was not alive during the 60’s and 70’s I can only assume this was not uncommon based on the history books, but wow, it must be nice to have lots of money to buy lots of drugs to help you ponder the meaning of life and be able to get it wrong so many times and start over. Honestly, it was a well written and fabulously descriptive in its characters, particularly in their unstable emotional states, but I just found myself really not rooting for anybody. The book kind of answered the question nobody asked, at least nobody who is not completely preoccupied with their own internal turmoil. And really who has time for that? A story just as good and only a paragraph long was the Preface, about how the author found the notes for the book in a long lost cave in Paris. I actually thought that was more esoteric and fateful than the “resolution” of the Robert and Maya story. Still, if you are looking to ge…

Book Review: Future Prometheus: Emergence & Evolution

Future Prometheus: Emergence & Evolution by J M Erickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when a disease wipes out most adult males’ higher level emotional function? Future Prometheus, by J.M. Erickson, explores one of the few men left capable of meaningful social interaction, ironically due to his position on the autistic spectrum. While men are driven out and women take over civilization, he is continues his experiments with stasis, eventually achieving success with some longer term. He is assisted by robots who are becoming increasingly sentient, and thus he is able to streamline his interactions while still trying to salvage some vestige of humanity.

This sci-fi combines several classic elements, a disease that targets a sector of the population and runs rampant, robotics/cyborgs taking steps toward sapience, and an unlikely hero thrust in a position of savior because of an otherwise weakness. I like that autism is shown in a positive light given that the current rates ar…

Book Review: The Maynwarings

The Maynwarings by Digger Cartwright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intrigue, politics, and a good old-fashioned showdown in the Old West is what you will find in The Maynwarings, by Digger Cartwright. If you are a fan  of Westerns in general this has the gunslinging and the morals, as well as some interesting, if more modern, twists like the first female attorney in the country and anti-gambling legislation in Nevada. And unlike your white hat/black hat spaghetti westerns, the good guy isn’t always the winner.

I was really impressed with the character development, and there was a full cast of characters. The book follows the Maynwaring family, the patriarch Barron and his wife Eleanor and their four grown children - Breckenridge, Mary Catherine, Houston and Stokes. He has the distinction of being the first US Senator from the newly formed state of Nevada, and is an influential and generally well liked businessman and landowner in Carson City. When a sneaky newcomer starts buying up propert…

Book Review: Happy Utopia Day, Joe McCarthy

Happy Utopia Day, Joe McCarthy by J.T. Lundy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love farce, and I love politics (okay love/hate politics) so this book is right up my alley. Seriously, how can you even pass up a title like Happy Utopia Day, Joe McCarthy? Lundy imagines Joe McCarthy’s utopia and then blows it way out of proportion, just like any good farce should. I doubt I agree with all the politics and presumption but it is a funny read without getting too preachy.

Hero and all around special snowflake Chris Thompson is a mostly honest customs agent (except for that Bangladesh thing he let slide) who, completely out of the blue, gets sent on a secret agent mission by the President. Fancying himself the next James Bond (ba da BA DA) he takes off on a mission that of course turns out to have a terrible twist, and he must decide whether or not he can save us all. It all centers around a secret program put into place by Joe McCarthy himself to save the American way of life, but has been horribly…

Book Review: The Admiral of Bolivia

From the moment I started reading the narrator voice in my head sounded like one of the Goodfeathers, from the popular 90s cartoon Animaniacs. Honestly, I had a rough time getting through this book; it was desperately crying out for an editor. I had bad feeling when I read the Introduction and there was an author’s note basically giving you permission to skip half of the first chapter. First rule of sales, never give anyone an excuse not to buy! 

I also felt like the author had a hard time separating the character, who was an almost caricaturist Bronx firefighter, complete with racial slurs, disdain for anything non-NY especially Midwesterners (which by the way, does not go over well EVER with this Midwesterner, caricature or not,) and unintelligible wiseguy speech, from the rest of the story as a whole. The description and plot were written in similar style with abrupt transitions and lots of awkward similes. In addition, the grammar, spelling and punctuation as a whole was awful, so …