This is a sharp, snarky, funny, intelligent, philosophical coming of age story with a bitter twist. The three teenagers at its center–one who has to go everywhere with her oxygen tank in tow, one whose leg was amputated, and one who lost an eye–all live with advanced cancer.
Yep. It’s a funny story about kids with cancer.
It’s also touching and inspirational, but not in that sappy made-for-television movie way. The kids use wry humor to deal with their deforming, crippling disease. I get it: that is how I deal with my own disease.
There is love interest, there are plans and schemes, there is rebellion and disobedience, there are parents to rely on and outwit, there are doctors and nurses, there is the secret language of people living with cancer. (Trudging up the stairs to the support group with oxygen tank in tow because taking the elevator is too “last days”, or asking their peers if they “go to school” as a way of finding out how advanced their disease is because being taken out of school is a sign that you don’t have much longer to live, for example.)
Hazel, Isaac and Augustus are intelligent and creative, they love to read and to play video games. They indulge the adults who don’t know how to help them (or themselves) feel better. They have wishes and dreams, and they are also realistic about what can be achieved.
I loved The Fault in Our Stars, a life-affirming book. I have advanced cancer and I have been a teenager, but never both at the same time. If I had had the misfortune to be a teenager with advanced cancer, I think I would have been a lot like Hazel. I hope I would have.
Meticulously detailed, Cruel Deception takes a close look at the Munchausen by Proxy (MBP) prosecution of Tanya Reid. It was published in 1999 and the events it recounts took place in the 1980s, when MBP was not yet known even in the medical world, let alone among law enforcement.
MBP is known today as Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (US, ICD-9 301.51) or Fabricated or Induced Illness by Carers (UK). It describes a situation in which an adult parent or caregiver intentionally induces physical symptoms in a child and then presents the child for medical care. The symptoms mimic actual illness and so the child is subjected to extensive medical tests and procedures. It is not clear why the adult does this, though it is related to the adult using the child to meet their own needs. It is not classified as a psychiatric disorder.
In Cruel Deception, author Greg Olsen looks closely at Tanya Reid's life and relationships in an effort to understand how and why she resorted to harming her own children to the extent that one baby died. Although it is sometimes classified as a "medical thriller", I found it more like a legal one. Olsen is a fly on the wall as the prosecutor, Melodee Hanes, meticulously builds a case from the extensive medical records of two of Reid's children. (For some reason, the third child was not only unharmed, but even testified in her mother's defense at one of the trials.)
The book was updated in 2005 to include information on Tanya Reid's appeals of her conviction for harming her living son and a subsequent trial, conviction, appeal, and retrial for murdering one of her daughters through MBP.
I found Cruel Deception interesting and reasonably engaging, in spite of the narrator's very nasal voice and poor imitation of regional accents. If you're looking for a typical true crime book, this will probably not satisfy you. If you are interested in a legal thriller or a peek into the mind of an MBP abuser, you'll probably like it.
There are three story lines in The Brethren. One takes place mainly in a minimum security federal prison camp where three disgraced former federal judges are incarcerated and from where they operate an extortion scam. A second story line takes place entirely within "the bunker", a windowless room from which Teddy Maynard, the aging and disabled director of the CIA, plays kingmaker and manipulates domestic and international events. The third story line involves the people outside prison and the CIA who are affected by the machinations of the judges and the kingmaker: primarily the judges' lawyer and their victims.
The plot is based on the premise that Teddy Maynard, the CIA director cum kingmaker feels that the US needs a stronger military. To that end, he grooms a relatively unknown member of Congress, Representative Aaron Lake, to become the next president of the United States, a president beholden to the CIA and especially to Teddy himself. With unlimited funds, personnel and influence, Teddy molds reality to his liking.
But all the resources that Teddy commands almost fail to discover Lake's secret, a secret that would surely lose him the election if discovered. The bulk of the novel is about the extensive measures taken by Teddy and the CIA to protect their investment in Lake, eventually bringing together the three story lines in what is probably supposed to be a shocking conclusion.
Not one of the characters in the book is well-developed. None of them have interior lives and none of them are particularly interesting. Indeed, none of them are particularly likable. I was unable to connect with any of the characters enough to root for or against them. Their interactions are formulaic. They seem to have no hopes or dreams, no love, no hate, no regrets, no ambition.
The great potential for including CIA gadgets and "trade craft" to spark interest went unexploited. The legal side of the story--John Grisham's strong suit--is completely neglected. The three women in the book are almost caricatures... but so are most of the men.
The narration by John Muller was marred by his habit of exhaling while pronouncing words, making it sound like he was on the treadmill while recording.
All in all, I found The Brethren a great disappointment. The only reason I listened all the way to the end was my vain hope that there would be a twist in the story and something interesting would happen
The Chamber is a courtroom drama, a legal thriller, and more. It's a transgenerational Southern family drama and it's also the story of a young man entering into radical confrontation with his identity and values, and emerging with both intact.
Adam Hall is one year out of law school and works at a high-powered Chicago law firm. Since the tragic death of his father when Adam was seventeen he has also been the keeper of a family secret: Sam Cayhall, the infamous Ku Klux Klan bomber who has been on Mississippi's Death Row for over nine years, is his grandfather.
Adam gets himself assigned to the firm's pro bono department so that he can represent his grandfather for the final "gang plank" round of appeals, hoping to obtain a stay of execution for Sam. The book follows his work closely from court to court, and we become acquainted with the vast bureaucracy that supports capital punishment in the United States.
Grisham introduces us to the major and minor players in what is almost as formalized as Noh theater. We see what the noblest and basest aspects of human nature in the wardens, guards, and victims' family members, as well as in the bureaucrats behind the system of appellate courts, and we find kindness in surprising places.
The characters in The Chamber are multi-dimensional; they grow and develop over time. Some of them change; some don't. Almost without exception, they feel like real people. We believe them.
Michael Beck's narration is good. I can't speak to the accuracy of the regional accents he employs, but more importantly, his characterization never gets in the way of the characters. He never sinks into caricature, and it is always clear who is speaking.
I enjoyed The Chamber and I recommend it. It is not a happy, pleasant book, but it is a good one.
This is one of Patterson's best books in the Alex Cross series. The story is gripping, the plot develops logically, yet with unexpected twists that keep it exciting. Characters are well developed. Just an excellent Patterson.
But the narration! Michael Kramer's narration is both breathless and breath-y. Almost every sentence ends with an audible puff of air that became extremely annoying within the first five minutes. In this book with a number of international characters, it was a shame to have a narrator who was unsuccessful at differentiating accents. In fact, it was very difficult to tell the characters apart. There seemed to be one voice for the American males and one for the UK males. The English accent was supercilious and unlike any real English accent I have ever heard.
The narration is why I gave this great vintage Patterson only two stars. It was a deep disappointment.
What a dumb book.
The writing was riddled with inappropriate literary references and even a few misused words.
The premise, an FBI special unit comprised of agents with the ability to see ghosts, is strange, but whatever. I thought it would be fun. It was just dumb.
The female characters were all fluttery and dependent on the strong, decisive male characters.
The sex scenes were gratuitous, completely unnecessary to develop either the story or the characters.
The police procedural aspects were poorly conceived and executed.
The ending was predictable.
Why did I listen to the end? Two reasons. The narrator, Luke Daniels was pretty good. He is the reason I gave this title an overall two stars instead of one. The other reason is that I'm a compulsive reader and a book has to be abysmal for me to stop before the end.
If you like ghost stories, you might like this. If you like police procedurals, save your money.
The science is old and watered down to middle school level. The narrator sounds like he is bored but has been instructed to "read with expression".
I couldn't be bothered to finish. Don't bother to buy it.
What an amazing book! It took me completely by surprise.
I've seen the movie, which was was an adventure-thriller adaptation of James Dickey's book. But James Dickey's book is not an adventure-thriller, not in that sense. It is much, much more.
James Dickey was not only a prose author; he was also a poet. In fact, he was perhaps better known as a poet, having been a Poet Laureate Consultant to the (US) Library of Congress, among other honors, and he finished his life as a professor of English at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, where he was also poet-in-residence.
The soul of a poet sings through the prose of Deliverance. The descriptions of the river, the trees, the people and the protagonist's inner landscape are both closely observed and stunningly rendered. The sentences are simple, the vocabulary accessible, yet the writing soars and lifts the reader with it.
Four middle-class suburban guys who like to hang out together decide to go whitewater rafting in an all-but-inaccessible part of Georgia and terrible things happen. The environment--natural and human-- is trying to kill them. They have to react, they have to save their own lives and escape. At what cost?
Four men enter, three men leave. All three survivors are badly injured and at least one is profoundly changed. He is Ed Gentry, vice-president of a small advertising agency. (Dickey worked in advertising early in his career.) The story starts slowly, gently, as befits a legend of the South. We meet the men, and especially get to know Ed: his work, his wife, his son, his personal history. We start to see how his life is ordered, how he thinks, how he experiences the world.
We experience this journey through Ed's eyes and through his soul. We become intimate with his loves and his terrors. We share his wonder at his own mental and physical abilities. We become one with him as he faces the challenge of his life and its aftermath.
Will Patton's narration is impeccable. I don't see how it could have been better.
Forget about the movie. Listen to this book!
The writing ranges from indifferent to awkward, but that is not the only reason I rate this books as merely "ok". It had the potential to be so much more than it is.
Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed is capable of close observation--no critical care physician can lack this ability--and some of her descriptions are very closely observed, indeed. It is a shame that these are mostly limited to the physical appearance of the people she meets and of their clothing, homes and cars.
Yet we cannot call Ahmed shallow because the religious experience she underwent in the Kingdom was clearly deeply felt. I am disappointed that she did not spend more time exploring it and less time looking for well-worn metaphors to describe it.
The main problem with In the Land of Invisible Women, in my opinion, is that it never quite seems to decide what kind of book it is. Is it the description of the author's religious itinerary? Then why leave that almost exclusively to the section on her Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca)? Is it the story of a Western-trained double-boarded physician who happens to be a woman practicing in the very different and restrictive conditions experienced by female physicians in the Kingdom? Then tell us more about that.
Is this a book about Saudi culture? Then spend less time on describing cars, jewelry and clothing and more time on behavior, attitudes, laws and social expectations. Is it a book about the history of Wahabi extremism in Saudia? Then write it as a history and don't try to squeeze it in as background in artificial-sounding conversations.
The main problem I found with this book is its lack of focus. There is so much potential here for a riveting memoir or a fascinating analysis. Ahmed sold herself short by taking the easy way out.
This book will be particularly interesting to people with little or no knowledge of Islam, people who don't know many Muslims. Think of it as a long, chatty letter from the friend of a friend and you won't be as disappointed as I was.
Not a bad book, just not as good as it might have been.
I received The Rook as a gift and wasn't at all sure of what I was getting.
At first, I thought it was young adult science fiction or a "girl power" sort thing. I was wrong. Slowly and without my becoming fully aware if it, I was pulled in and became really involved in the story. I liked the protagonist and wanted to know more about her past and her present, was interested in what would happen to her in the future. I was fascinated by the "historical" passages, and at the end of the book I wanted more stories from The Rookery.
The narration is of the best kind - smooth and as transparent as the window in an observation chamber. You really feel as though you're listening to the protagonist herself.
This is a very good light novel, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to science fiction and fantasy fans of any age or sex.
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