Reading

Not Cool, Goodreads.

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I got this email from Goodreads earlier this week and suffice it to say I am not happy.  As a book review blogger, I’ve come to rely on Goodreads for their handy “post to blog” checkbox feature that’s right there on the review page.  It pulls everything into some lovely HTML code and I jut plop it over here and my review, links, and rating all just appear like magic.

I’m so sad to be losing this lovely feature.  Not cool, Goodreads.  I hope you replace it with something awesome.

Book Review: On the Spectrum

On the SpectrumOn the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not usually a fan of young adult novels but On the Spectrum is one that really grabbed me and refused to let go.

Clara lives in a world where she wants for little, if anything, but her life is incredibly complicated. Clara’s mother Catherine is a famous ballerina and food, or lack thereof, has always been a central part of Clara and Catherine’s relationship. Clara soon is diagnosed with an eating disorder and Catherine tries to do everything she can to make up for sixteen years of poor parenting. Everything is thrown into disarray one night at a party when Clara is duped by a cute Yale student.

Clara finds herself in Paris, living with the father she never really knew and his passive-aggressive anti-American wife. Clara also meets her little brother, six-year-old Alastair, who is “on the spectrum.” Charged with his care over the summer, Clara is worried about how she will ever know exactly what this weird kid needs when he needs it. Despite her trepidation, Clara and Alastair have a lot to teach each other.

As a step-parent to a kid on the spectrum, I was dubious as to whether the book could really capture what it’s like to be the kid and the parent. I was thrilled to find that Jennifer Gold was spot on when it came to both Alastair’s quirks (though they were really played-up at times) and his father’s fears about his future. This book was so touching and well written. It’s definitely a must-read and I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Patient H.M.

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family SecretsPatient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was nothing short of amazing. I’m extremely interested in neuroscience and the history of the lobotomy — this book was the perfect intersection. Having read several books on memory and lobotomies, I was already familiar with the case of H.M. but this book explored who H.M. was as a person which was never allowed to enter into the scientific case studies.

Author Luke Dittrich writes from a very personal place since it was his own grandfather, Dr. Scoville, who performed the lobotomy on Patient H.M. and so many others, including his severely ill wife. In that sense, Dittrich often comes across at angry and occasionally petulant in his desire to defend all the good that his grandfather did while also mourning the horrors inflicted on unsuspecting patients.

This book is also raises important questions regarding medical and scientific ethics. The woman “in charge” of H.M.’s care during the final years of his life, was the woman whose career exploded into the limelight thanks to her research on H.M.. She also assigned H.M.’s guardian who was a man who was not at all invested in his care. This “scientist” closely guarded her own research and access to H.M. to keep others from learning more about the enigmatic patient. Dittrich also brought to light the possibility that research data might have been falsified. However, we’ll never know since she destroyed nearly all the records and test data prior to her death.

As an avid reader of science and history books, this was a wonderful read. Dittrich brings in enough science to keep those in the field engaged but he also makes it approachable for the causal reader. Writing from a very personal space, Dittrich brings to life the wonderful man known to most only as H.M.. Dittrich balances his disdain for his grandfather’s procedures with facts, figures, and light-hearted tales of growing up as Dr. Scoville’s grandson. Patient H.M. is an important tale of science gone awry and the dangers of being on the bleeding edge of medicine.

Book Review: Saving Abby

Saving AbbySaving Abby by Steena Holmes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Saving Abby was not impressive. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: good writing goes a long way at saving a predictable book. This book was not well written and it left a lot to be desired in the character-development realm.

It initially drew me in but I quickly became lost in Claire Turner’s obsessive behavior. Clare desperately wants a baby — almost to the point of being neurotic. Josh, Clare’s husband, wants Clare to be happy and he convinces her that a baby is just not in their cards. After trying for 7 years, she and her husband decide to give up on this dream and it starts to completely destroy her. I could not relate to this insane need to procreate at any cost.

Despite their prolonged infertility, Claire and Josh discover they are unexpectedly pregnant and shortly thereafter, they learn Claire has a terrible illness. Claire becomes completely unhinged when her need to protect her child outweighs her own need to live. Clare will stop at nothing to save her baby regardless of her husband’s wishes. I’m sure you can figure out what happens from there. The ending can be seen pretty much from page one. I like a book that stings but I also like to be surprised by that ending.

Holmes gets too wrapped up in the love story here. The love of the mother for her child. The love of the husband for his wife. The love of the community for one of their own. It was just too much.  I finished the book regardless and it ended exactly how I envisioned. For those who enjoy a good Romeo and Juliet tragedy, this is the book for you. For reading addicts, this might be one to pass up since it’s just another in a long line of sob stories.

Book Review: Small Great Things

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My experience with Jodi Picoult’s novels has been hit or miss. Small Great Things, however, was a home run and it stayed with me long after I put the book down.

Like many of Picoult’s novels, Small Great Things is told from two perspectives. One is a white supremacist whose son has died and the other is the black nurse who was tending to the boy at the time of his demise. Both accounts are terribly difficult to read and Picoult has done an amazing job bringing both sides of the argument to life. There were times that I had no choice but to sympathize with a man over the loss of his son. Two pages later, I found myself repulsed by his words and actions. It was an intense read.

As always, Picoult has done her research. The medical facts and legal notes stick to reality relentlessly making for a powerful story. I applaud her for the digging she did into the White Supremacist psyche. I know that could not have been easy.

This is a book that cannot be ignored in this day and age. It’s important to understand each other, even when the other side is spouting hate and nonsense, there is a human underneath the doctrine. I’m not expecting this book to change the world, but it certainly presents the human side of people that seem entirely un-human. This book is a must read across the board.