Sunday, July 28, 2013

Five Days is An Eternity

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged HospitalFive Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley, I received a temporary ebook of this title. On to the review.
Five days is a long time. Five days in a hurricane and its aftermath is an eternity. I'm not sure how many people will stay the course through the 400+ epages and 500+ paper pages to the end.

Sheri Fink attempts to shine a spotlight into those dark days at Memorial Hospital during Katrina and its aftermath--but the information is overwhelming, the shadows obscuring, and there are no heroes to celebrate or villains to excoriate at the end. Not to say that Fink does not give all medical and emergency workers their due as heroes--but there is not a single person to rally the story around--and the probable villains are too big (government unpreparedness, corporate greed, and the usual human cluster-f*** in emergencies).

I have an interest in bioethics, so that's what kept me reading. I think Fink makes it clear what happened to the patients at Memorial who lost their lives due to injections of morphine. I think she also makes it clear, without meaning to, that disasters of this scope create insanity. Do they create criminality? I don't think it's at all crystal, beyond the shadow of doubt, clear why it happened. Is there a difference between people who shoot guns at rescue boats and people who end up making very bad decisions that cause other people to die? Is it ok to compare disasters to war because that's the only other thing we know where people die in such quantities, amidst physical, emotional, mental and spiritual stress?

It's an important book, these are important questions to raise. I wish it had been possible to pare down the pages, because this does not have the sheer storytelling power of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that pushed it onto the bestseller list for such a lengthy span. This is a book that asks the questions, that should spark a national debate--but as the background history of disaster preparedness in New Orleans illustrates, humans don't often give these questions the discussion, decision-making, and deeds that follow through.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Jewels of Paradise

The Jewels of ParadiseThe Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally catching up on some reading--boy was I surprised to find Brunetti missing! A stand-alone, Jewels still has Donna Leon's trademark wit and appreciation of her adopted city, lovely Venice. Caterina Pellegrini is a musicologist whose specialty is Baroque opera. She's been working in England and mightily bored. She jumps at the chance to accept a temporary position back in her hometown. It's all very mysterious, of course. She must examine the contents of two chests purported to belong to a neglected opera composer from the Baroque period--with two heirs chomping at the bit for the money surely to be gained from the verification and sale of their contents. Loved it!

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tongue-in-cheek Tips for Intergalactic and Interdimensional Travel:7 of the funniest writers in Sci-fi and Fantasy

I think Gini Koch rises to the top of the sci-fi pile--her Alien series is like reading a cross between Men In Black and Clueless. Heroine Kitty  always has her hairspray and retro rock playlist. Sir Terry Pratchett's first book introduced sentient luggage and his Discworld novels have helped us howl ever since. He is the best footnote writer ever. Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe advises you to never leave your home without a towel. This advice may work better for Brits. Darling Diana Wynne Jones unleashed her stinging wit not only in the Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but in the Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin. Her gentler side is showcased in the Chrestomanci novels. And you can find many laughs in author/editor Esther Friesner's Bronze Bra series, otherwise known as Chicks in Chainmail.  Don Perrin and Margaret Weis' Mag Force 7 trilogy is hilarious--think "A-Team" in space.  And if you can find used copies of Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiard novels from the 70s, you'll see some of their inspiration! Thurb. Grab any and all of their books that you can. But my copies are not for sale.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

3 Most Sympathetic Sociopaths

There's just something about a sociopath...not a psychopath, mind you, no Dexter or Hannibal here. Mallory is a cop who was found wandering the streets of New York as a child--by a cop who took her in and raised her. She has a peculiar but stringent sense of honor, breaks the law with impunity, and solves her cases. Carol O'Connell is still writing entries in the series, hurrah!  Thomas Perry won an Edgar for his first novel, The Butcher's Boy, about a Mafia hit man. The sequels are great, and Perry went on to create another great character, Jane Whitfield--not a sociopath. And John R. Maxim created a bunch of lovable killers in his Bannerman series. Bannerman's mother worked for the CIA, unbeknownst to him, and was their handler. When she died, he inherited them. But the government wants to kill them all. Reds, the movie, could have been inspired by these wonderful novels. So that takes the total to more than three, but you'll love me for it.

Top Brit Chick Lit-- 6 authors I'm so hooked on I pay extra to order new from the UK (blush)

Not only that, they are part of what fills up my house, because I re-read them! Generational sagas akin to Rosamund Pilcher and Maeve Binchy: Marcia Willett, Erica James. Romantic comedies: Katie Fforde, Christina Jones, Jill Mansell, Milly Johnson. I am an unabashed Anglophile, and these authors satisfy like no others. Also, you may have noticed this pet peeve of mine: I have a perfectly good imagination, ta very much, so why should I waste time and money on pages of sex scenes while I could be reading story? These authors all have the right touch of romance and reality, fantasy and frivolity. No thanks, Sophie Kinsella and Cecelia Ahern, you are ok, but these ladies are the best. Joanna Trollope is reliably published in the US, so I wait for hers, but she would be another drama writer on the list. Robin Pilcher was carrying on for his mom, but there hasn't been anything new for a while.

Spellbound Falls

Spellbound Falls (Spellbound Falls #1)Spellbound Falls by Janet Chapman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those guilty pleasure things. I love the setting and the plot. This is on par with how I feel about Debbie Macomber's  books. The writing is not that great, but the storytelling is good. This is a new series, or continuation of the Highlander series, mixing magic and smalltown folks. I liked this, so I'm reading the rest, and I went back to her Highlander books. She is getting better as a writer after 10 years and I just could not stand the multo mach Highlander males, so I prefer these. They also do not waste half the book with sex scenes, though there are some.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me (Linnet Ellery #1)This Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though Linnet does not realize how creepily lucky she is and we, of course, do, the sheer enjoyment of the lawyerly and werewolf/vampire/urban fantasy sendup is just too good! I ordered number two in hardcover. Linnet is a human lawyer, fostered by vampires, who is getting caught up in supernatural business and politics. We don't know why people are trying to kill her, and they don't know why it never works! I am content for her to be dim in this first book and trust that she'll wise up.

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River of Stars

River of StarsRiver of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kay's language is as beautiful as ever, but I agree with other reviewers--to many authorial digressions. I read a book like others watch movies, become immersed-and the voice of doom and history really breaks the spell. But Kay may be paying an homage to Chinese literature as well as history? Chinese movies, while beautiful and action-filled, are usually tragic. Not sure if this achieves high tragedy (did not cry, as Kay as sometimes made me do), but as always, I think Kay achieves high art.

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The Harvard Psychedelic Club

The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for AmericaThe Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America by Don Lattin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book needed tighter editing, there are some needless repetitions. Looking at the other reviews, it seems obvious that one has to have some background in the 60s and 70s and/or some experience with entheogens to appreciate most of the book. Context is all...but highly readable, thought-provoking.

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The Imperfectionists

The ImperfectionistsThe Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of Lit-Lovers most-liked Bookclub books. The most interesting character was the newspaper, though it could have been developed more. Most of the actual characters were desperate, dismal, and dreary. I prefer my books to have some uplift. This was a first novel, though. Might give the writer another chance.

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