Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March Books 11-24

So I'm going to pre-warn you, this month I've been a reading fiend.  That might be partially responsible for why I haven't been attending my blog as of late - that or the fact that I'm trying to get my house ready to sell.  You take a pick.  It also might have something to do with the fact that last month when my kids refused to take piano anymore, this was during lessons so it was a rude as you can imagine it to be I told them I was getting rid of Netflix, and I did.  So now I have plenty of time to read again.

Things I've Learned From Dying - David R. Dow
So part of my goal for the year was to increase my non-fiction reading although after a month of uping those numbers I did tell J I wasn't sure I could continue.  Let's just say most non-fictions are pretty depressing.  Dr. J said I should read more biographies and I said, "What do you think I'm reading?"  The deal is if you have a life worth putting down on paper there is a good chance a lot of it is sad.  David Dow is no exception.  For work David Dow represents death row inmates during state and federal appeals in the state of Texas.  Now regardless of how you feel about death row the honest truth is most of the people who find themselves there have lived pretty depressing lives and the case that Dow shares here of Eddie Waterman this holds true.  Add on top of that the fact that no matter how you feel about Death Row the way it is done in Texas is just ludicrous and you are already in a pretty foul mood but that is just the back ground for the pain in Dow's life of watching his father -in-law trying to die of cancer while his family keeps trying to force him to fight on, each attempt stealing a little bit more of what little bit of good life he has left.  This was an excellent book but it was extremely sad and it also left me thinking for days about death row and end of life care which I guess is the whole point of the thing.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in the U.S. Military History - Chris Kyle
A few months ago Dr. J told me he wanted to see this movie.  This wasn't a huge surprise.  My husband is a fan of war movies and pretty much everyone we knew was going and watching it together but I wanted to read the book before I agreed to watch it with him.  I have extremely mixed feelings about this story but I want to save my full review until I have a chance to watch the movie so I'm going to table that for now.

Murder on the Home Front - Molly Lefebure
So I was prepared to love this story.  It follows a time in Molly Lefebure's life during World War II when she takes a break from working as a cub reporter and takes a job as the secretary for London Pathologist who is investigating murders, mysteries, suicides, and even war deaths.  I sort of thought it was going to be a real life version of  Foyle's War or The Bletchley Circle.  It wasn't.  I mean it sort of was, everything was there but the style of writing just didn't do it for me.  There are lots of murders but she almost seems too jolly to me.  I don't know.  I can't explain it.  I just wasn't feeling it.  Maybe she just tried to make it too funny.

A Rocket Made of Ice - Gail Gutradt
This is another book I am sort of on the fence about.  The story is beautiful.  It follows Gail Gutradt as she goes to an orphanage in rural Cambodia that takes care of orphans with aids or children made orphans by aids.  The orphanage she visits is full of joy but also heartbreak.  Wayne Dale Matthysse who runs the orphanage is an amazing and interesting man.  Those parts of the story I really enjoyed.  The part I got hung up on was that the organization was horrible.  More than once she'd repeat stories she told earlier in the book.  As a reader I found it very frustrating.

30 Years a Slave - Louis Hughes
I don't know how I've missed reading this book before.  It seems like at some point in high school or college it should have been required reading but I'd never even heard of it until it popped up on my kindle.  Louis Hughes was born a slave and lived that life for thirty years until during the civil war he was finally able to escape for real after three other attempts and get his wife free.  He pretty much just lays out slavery for you.  He talks about what life was like, what slaves ate, what they wore, what they were expected to do, the mistreatment they suffered, and also the kindnesses that they found.  He does this mater of fact.  He doesn't seem to hold grudge but just tells you what life was like.  I think for the me the shocking part was how clueless the slave owners could be and how easily they were able to use religion to justify their actions.  I think this is a must read for any American History class.

Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream - Joshua Davis
I saw the the preview for this movie when I was home for Thanksgiving.  I was instantly intrigued.  It was a Disney movie about four Hispanic teens who build a robot, take it to contest where MIT has a robot and win against 40 other colleges.  It's told in the Disney vein of Remember the Titans, Miracle, The Rookie.  So when I saw the book on the my kindle I was definitely interested but your hoping for some feel good inspirational story this is not for you.  Two thirds of the way into the book you are there, you are a reading about kids who were brought to this country illegal, who have overcome language barriers, poverty, violence and who have become fantastic problems solvers and robot builders regardless of the fact they come from a not a great school in Arizona and have pretty zero money to do so.  What they do have is two amazing teachers who help them dream.  But real life is no a Disney movie and in real life not all dreams come true.  Theses boys happen to be living in a time when Arizona and one particular party has become extremely aggressive toward illegal immigrants.  I refuse to get into an argument about this but am going to say that when we live in a time when we can not fill our science and technical degrees and jobs with American born kids and we have to ship people in from all over the world to do so that if four kids in this country have skill and a knack for this stuff but have refused to give them a way to be part of that shifting of scientist because we hold them responsible for the illegal act their parents committed that honestly roles reversed we would have committed ourselves...well in that case we are just pretty freaking messed up.  And that is all I want to say about that.  So while this story is sort of amazing it is also extremely depressing.

The Boy in the Snow - M. J. McGrath
I couldn't be expected to read all non fiction this month.  M.J. McGrath is a mystery writer.  Her main character is Edie Kiglatuk a half-Inuit woman living in the far north.  Somehow she is just constantly finding herself in the middle of investigations.  The Boy in the Snow Edie finds the body of a dead baby while in Alaska where she is staying as team support as her ex-husband runs the Iditarod.  I actually really enjoy McGrath's books.  There is a certain part of them that is completely unbelievable but on the other hand they a nice complex mysteries that have a lot more going for them then just the typical who did it.  After I read the second story I sent her name to my father in law..

The Bone Seeker - M.J. McGrath
In the Bone Seeker Edie finds the dead body of one of her teen students.  Tensions run high as she tries to find the murderer but also keep the piece between the locals and the military force there to clean up an old army dump who the locals feel sure are responsible for her death.

The Bookseller - Cynthia Swanson
Kitty Miller is living two lives.  In one life she works at a little bookstore she owns with her best friend, she's given up on love, and her parents are still alive.  In another world she is married with triplets, one who has autism, her relationship with her friend Fran is over, and her parents died in a plane crash.  Both words are pleasurable, both words are painful.  Only one world is real and one is a dream.  There was promise here but honestly I just didn't like Kitty that much.

I also read five books about midwifes this month.  I'm going to start with the two fiction and end with the nonfiction.

Frog - Mo Yan
I think I often do a poor job of reading books by non American authors so when I saw this story I had a pick it up.  In 2012 Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  He is most well known for his 1987 novel Red Sorghum Clan which has been made into a movie.  This story is written from the point of view of the nephew of a famous Chinese midwife who during the 50-60 has to spend much of her life enforcing China's one child policy.  You get a glimpse into rural China, the communist party, and sort of the power play going on here between a government trying to pull it's country out of poverty by insisting on a low fertility numbers and people who just want to have more children.

The Reluctant Midwife - Patricia Harman
This was a fiction written by the midwife who wrote her own story in The Blue Cotton Gown I read last month.  It follows Nurse Becky Myers who is caring for his employer Dr. Isaac Blum who after the death of his wife goes into an almost comatose state.  She takes him back to Hope River where he owns a home but finds when they get there the home was auctioned off to pay to for back taxes.  It is depression area America.  There are no jobs to be had and while Becky is trying to find works she keeps being pulled into helping the midwife of the area Patience Murphy deliver babies a job she finds extremely stressful.  The ending was a little weird for me, like particularly how Harman got rid of a second suitor but I otherwise thought the book was pretty good.    

Call the Midwife-Jennifer Worth
The last three books of the month were the Call the Midwife novels.  There is this great BBC show Call the Midwife and a few months ago a friend of mine mentioned that she had just read one of the novels that the series was based on.  I decided then I had to read them so this month I did.  There are three books in the series.  The first is Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth Joy.  It sort of gives you an idea of who Jennifer Worth is and what her job was like as a midwife working in London during the 1950s.  The second book Shadows of the Workhouse gives you some of the sadder stories of the area including elderly people she had the opportunity to care for as a nurse who have lived in workhouses.  The Final Book Farewell to the East End continues with more stories of the area.  You get a really good idea of what this part of London at this particular time was like and even kind of what was happening historically with health and politics.  How the ward affected people, tuberculosis, abortions, the work houses.  These books give a fabulous look into the history of the time and the people.  My only complaint if I had to have one was that I didn't read the books before I watched the TV series.  The BBC series stays so true to the books that I had I done them in reverse order I'm sure I would have been tickled pink by how close they stayed but because I watched the movies first I was more disappointed that their weren't more new stories I hadn't heard before. She does go into a lot more detail here but still I think book first movie second is the way to go.  


  1. I read those last three this month, too! My mom read them and passed them along to me thinking I would like them. I've not seen the TV series, though.

    Glad you had such a productive reading month!

    1. "this month" should be LAST month or I'd be a super, super-fast reader.

  2. I finally read all of these reviews. I'm curious about your thought re: American Sniper. I've not read the book nor watched the movie, but heard about them.

    I am reading a book now about an internal medicine doctor. I wasn't sure if I'd like it, but after reading half the book yesterday, I have to say that it is quite good. Made me think of Dr. J and another friend of mine whose husband is an ER doctor in upstate New York. Made me wonder what they would say if they read this doctor's book.

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