Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

The Recipe Club is mostly told through letters which is an interesting way to write a book. It begins in 2000, jumps back to the 60s, moves through several years, and then jumps forward to 2002. The major plot is interesting enough that I wanted to find out what the thing that happened was. But the characters. Wow. If the authors tried to create the most unlikable, obnoxious, self-absorbed, whiny, irritating, and dysfunctional characters they possibly could, they succeeded very well in that goal. There was just so much whining, so much “please don’t be mad at me,” so much angst. On the bright side, many of the letters included actual recipes and quite a few of them sounded pretty good. I don’t particularly recommend spending the time it takes to read this book.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 92
Pages Read in 2019: 23,475
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Filed under Realistic Fiction, Reason: LitHub Bingo

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

Born in Japan, the author and his family were “repatriated” to a country none of them had ever been to before: North Korea. They soon discovered the promises of utopia and free healthcare, food, shelter, and a job were pretty much all lies. A River in Darkness tells a sad tale of trying to survive (and sometimes trying not to survive) and starvation under a brutal regime. It’s told simply and is relatively short so it read fast, but it’s an important story to help those on the outside know what life in North Korea is like. I recommend it to people interested in North Korea.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 91
Pages Read in 2019: 23,121
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Filed under Memoir, Reason: LitHub Bingo

X Marks the Spot by Tony Abbott

Devin and Frankie learn about characters in X Marks the Spot, the fifth Cracked Classics book. Based on Treasure Island, the friends are once again sucked into a book. The Cracked Classics are a clever introduction for middle grade kids to classic books. They are fun and funny and just might inspire your kid to read the real thing. I highly recommend X Marks the Spot and all the other Cracked Classics, too (you don’t need to read them all or in any particular order). They make a great family read-aloud!

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 90
Pages Read in 2019: 22,966
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Filed under Middle Grades, Reason: Bedtime Story for the Boys

I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001 is a fictionalized account of the son of a FDNY firefighter and what happened to him and his dad on September 11th. It portrays the feeling and emotions of the morning without being too graphic since it is aimed at children. I highly recommend it to kids learning about 9/11.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 89
Pages Read in 2019: 22,822
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Filed under Middle Grades, Realistic Fiction, Reason: Pre-Reading for Adrian

100 Scientists Who Shaped World History by John Hudson Tiner

Each page (in pretty small print in two columns) gives an overview of one of the 100 Scientists Who Shaped World History. It starts with Pythagoras and ends with Hawking. The focus of each mini bio is on what one or two things they discovered or invented that changed the world and is not meant to even remotely cover their whole life. This book can easily be read cover to cover or by picking and choosing a scientist to read about here and there. It’s a great introduction for kids to lots of scientists from many branches of science.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 88
Pages Read in 2019: 22,724
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Filed under Biography, Reason: Pre-Reading for Adrian

Healed by Miranda H. Lotz

There is so much wrong with this book.

First, the characters are almost universally dreadful, unlikable people (this includes the ones you are supposed to like). The notable exception is Carson and his story suddenly goes into left field when he has a car accident and seizure right at the end of the book (absolutely no way someone with the brain injury he had would remember the details of an accident immediately upon waking up). And then… what? His story just kind of ends there like the author got bored of writing and decided to suddenly wrap it up without tying up any loose ends for the side characters’ stories she had started and only wanted to finish out the main story (that was weird).

Second, the characters are pretty much all stereotypes. What do you think of when you hear lobbyist? That would be Nick. What do you think of when you hear multi-term Senator? That would be Senator Steele. And so on.

Third, it needs an editor. There are many errors where words are missing, spelled wrong, or the wrong word is written (Dottie’s instead of Dorothy’s when referring to the slippers from Wizard of Oz at the Smithsonian for example).

Fourth, the author used way too many similes. About three-fourths of the way through the book she suddenly stopped using so many. I guess she had gotten enough practice writing that she wasn’t so dependent on them anymore.

Fifth, it was just weird when the lobbyist was given open-ended tickets to the Bahamas for his whole family by his pharmaceutical company owner boss just for literally doing his job. The author in the end notes said she was a little concerned about a pharmaceutical company reading her book and thinking she was talking about them and suing her. Clearly she has not read a plethora of medical thrillers where pharmaceutical companies are portrayed far worse (and far more realistically).

Sixth, it was really bizarre that she had the mom deliver the baby at a children’s hospital, particularly since it was set in the DC area where there are plenty of hospitals to choose from. Generally delivery at a children’s hospital is reserved for people who know ahead of time that their babies will have medical needs at birth. It also seemed odd that as an active duty military member’s wife she was not giving birth at a military hospital, nor were military hospitals even mentioned (she was about to deliver in the car so I could see going to the closest hospital – but I’d think they’d at least be attempting to go to a military hospital in the first place).

Seventh, the whole incident of the doctor being reprimanded for delivering the baby. It was an emergency. He was around while no other doctor was. ER nurses or doctors (as opposed to L&D nurses and obstetricians) sometimes deliver babies. It’s just the way it is when someone comes in very close to delivery and there is not time to locate the right doctor. This is not cause for being reprimanded.

Eighth, it didn’t make sense that the family always went to the children’s hospital where the baby was born for medical care even though the father was active duty military. They were never seen at a place like Bethesda, nor were any military hospitals mentioned. Now, it would be reasonable if there were no doctors who could deal with infantile spasms at a military location, for them to be referred to a non-military location and doctors. But they never saw a single military doctor at all.

Ninth, it was a big deal that they had to pay a fortune for vigabatrin and the insurance denied covering it initially. But, as an active duty military family, wouldn’t they have Tricare? I googled and Tricare covers vigabatrin for babies diagnosed with infantile spasms. So that whole part of the story makes no sense. (Also, as an aside, my googling found that vigabatrin can be prescribed for older kids with seizures that are not infantile spasms. A doctor in the book commented that the drug is only for infantile spasms and never prescribed for anything else and indicated that’s why it is so expensive, but clearly that is not the case.)

Tenth, the author clearly wanted to book to be Christian and by the end she was quite successful. For most of the book, however, the religious elements seemed very forced. Like she was going along and suddenly realized she hadn’t put a random prayer in or mentioned God in a while. It just didn’t happen organically for so much of the book.

Eleventh, The doctors were complete idiots about medical marijuana. In my experience, doctors actually know quite a bit and many are in favor of it even in states that do not allow it. I’m not sure if the author thinks CBD oil is addictive (kind of got that feeling) or what, but it seems that she doesn’t understand the drug schedules and what they mean and why beyond a google search and wikipedia article. She also does not understand what a clinical trial is, nor does one of her doctor characters (who would definitely understand what a clinical trial is in real life).

Twelfth, having grown up in the DC area it really bothered me how she referred to monuments by their full names. It sounded overly stuffy and formal and not at all how someone who lives in DC would refer to them (think the Abraham Lincoln Memorial instead of the Lincoln Memorial). It made the characters seem insincere and less believable.

Now, even with all negatives, it wasn’t all bad. The character of Carson was lovely and real. By the end, the writing had gotten tons better (perhaps this is why many published authors say to never publish your first book, or at least don’t publish it until you’ve written your second and have gone back and edited your first). She has the ability to be a good story teller and for the first half I was actually interested to know what happened to the baby (by the second half I kept reading mostly to just get it finished). Even with these few positives, due to the many issues I have with it, I don’t recommend taking the time to read Healed.

2 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 87
Pages Read in 2019: 22,612
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Filed under Realistic Fiction, Reason: Asked by the Author

Who Was Fidel Castro? by Sarah Fabiny

Aimed at kids, Who Was Fidel Castro? gives a good overview of the life of the Cuban dictator. It’s pretty neutral as far as whether he was a good or bad person (as the book says, it depends on who you ask). There are lots of illustrations and several asides to explain things like guerrilla warfare and communism. I highly recommend this book to kids learning about Castro or Cuba.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 86
Pages Read in 2019: 22,310
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Filed under Biography, Middle Grades, Reason: Pre-Reading for Adrian