Elizabeth R. (esjro) - , - Reviews

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$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
Author: Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 9/6/2015


I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In $2.00 a day, Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Schaefer give readers insight into the lives of the very impoverished in America. While many of these people receive some sort of assistance in the form of medical care or food credits which allow them to survive, they lack the cash needed to pay for a bus fair to travel to a job interview, or to wash clothes at a laundromat. The early chapters of the book focus on how welfare reform contributed to the epidemic of those living on less than $2.00 a day: when AFDC was essentially replaced with programs like SNAP and work incentives such as the EITC, the situation for many poor people was made much worse, especially for those in rural areas where job opportunities are minimal, and the low income work force is treated as disposable. It is the author's careful explanations of how the current situation came about where the book really shines.

Middle chapters focus on specific families. Their back stories are told, their hopes and aspirations (which are not lofty but basically amount to asking for a chance to make a living) shared, and their survival strategies revealed. It is heartbreaking to read about a mother of two selling plasma 10 times a month to pay utility bills, or a semi-disabled father searching for scrap metal to feed the 20+ children and grandchildren he houses under his roof. Indeed there does not seem to be much hope for these people, which is why I wish sites that feature reviews would allow readers to give half stars: the authors have lived their professional lives studying these issues, so I am sure they have strong opinions and suggestions for what needs to be done to help break the generational cycles of poverty described in this book, but sadly, these are not explored in detail. The obvious are mentioned (people need access to stable jobs with living wages, job education, housing assistance, etc.), but I was hoping for more regarding how to make these changes come about. This book raises awareness, but clearly policy changes are needed.

All the individuals profiled have children, which makes it all the more difficult for the parents to find a way out of poverty. It is impossible to go off to a job when you cannot afford childcare, and there is no one who is willing to do it for free who is trustworthy. While reading this book, it struck me that those whose political opinions favor defunding Planned Parenthood mostly likely would overlap on a Venn diagram with those who oppose a more traditional welfare system of giving some cash as well as other benefits. In several of the families profiled here, an unexpected or poorly timed pregnancy forced a mother to leave a job or educational opportunity to care for a child. The children born into these circumstances have little chance of faring much better, so the cycle often repeats. I would be curious to learn the authors' opinions on this: How can we as a society help young women and men make mindful decisions about when to have a family, and how can we help those with children so that their children will not be caught in a cycle of generational poverty?

Overall, $2.00 a day is a fascinating and compassionate read. It is sure to start some lively conversations (or maybe doughnut fights) around the water cooler.


30 Days of Night
30 Days of Night
Author: Ben Templesmith, Steve Niles
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 2/27/2009
Helpful Score: 1


In 30 Days of Night, vampires take advantage of Alaska's long, darkness filled winters to feed. These are not Charlaine Harris' vampires - this is a scary and very violent graphic novel. Templesmith's art style is well-suited to Niles' dark material.


50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True
50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True
Author: Guy P. Harrison
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 1/27/2013


This book is broken into chapters of a few pages each. Each chapter addresses a fairly commonly held belief, such as "Ghosts are they live in haunted houses" and "Atlantis is down there somewhere." The author then makes counter arguments to each claim, using a combination of science, logic, and personal anecdotes. A list of references is given at the end of each section in case the reader wants to delve further into a particular topic.

It is a bit much for one sitting, so I dipped in and out of this book over time. I skimmed chapters that did not particularly interest me, but the range of topics addressed in this book is so varied that there will be something of interest to most anyone. This book is a good introduction to skeptical thinking.


The 7th Victim (Karen Vail, Bk 1)
The 7th Victim (Karen Vail, Bk 1)
Author: Alan Jacobson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 37
Review Date: 11/21/2008
Helpful Score: 4


Special Agent Karen Vail is a profiler with the FBI on the hunt for a serial killer. The killer is nicknamed Dead Eyes by the task force searching for him because of the way his victims eyes are stabbed with steak knives. Vail's struggle to remain human when she is exposed to such brutality is only complicated by problems in her personal life: she is in the midst of a nasty divorce from an abusive husband, and struggles as a single mother to a teenage son.

The blurbs on the book's cover and the considerable publicity surrounding focus on the extensive research the author did into the operations of the FBI's profiling unit. This research pays off in this book, as the terminology and processes used makes those aspects of the story ring true. However, some of the plot twists do not. I can't say anything more because I don't want to give away the surprises, but I found the ending a bit too contrived. Also, the chapters focusing on the serial killer's perspective are silly rather than scary and too frequently sprinkled in - after the third chapter it is clear that killer thinks women are *****es and wants to rid them of their eyeballs, yet the reader is reminded of these things in chapter after chapter.

Fortunately Karen Vail and her team of agents and cops are likable and more realistic than the killer. They propel along the entertaining if somewhat implausible story. This book should appeal to fans of Thomas Harris, Stephen White, and others who enjoy stories about the minds of serial killers.


The Accident
The Accident
Author: Chris Pavone
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 1/28/2014


Isabel Reed is an aging literary agent, past her career prime in the fast-moving world of publishing. She receives a hard copy manuscript of "The Accident," written by an anonymous author. The seemingly credible tale is an unauthorized biography and expose of Charlie Wolfe, a wealthy and powerful media mogul. The revelations in the book are so shocking that Wolfe and perhaps even the US government is willing to kill to prevent its publication.

The Accident is a story that takes place in one day, told in chapters that focus on a particular character (or characters, when their paths cross). Once the players are introduced in the first few chapters, the story really takes off as Isabel find herself in a cat and mouse chase with would-be assailants, with few allies in the double-crossing world of publishing. I did think that the pace lagged a bit during the third part of the book, but Isabel is a clever protagonist and Pavone keeps some surprises for the end.

Fans of The Expats and thriller readers will enjoy this one


The Accidental Alchemist (Accidental Alchemist, Bk 1)
The Accidental Alchemist (Accidental Alchemist, Bk 1)
Author: Gigi Pandian
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 6/10/2016


This is a paranormal mystery that reads like a cozy. I like Dorian, the gargoyle who enjoys french cooking. Lots of tips for food substitutions to make recipes vegan. So if you like cozies or are looking for vegan cooking tips this is your book!


The Advocate's Daughter: A Thriller
The Advocate's Daughter: A Thriller
Author: Anthony Franze
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 4/30/2016


This is a surprisingly great legal thriller from a new to me author. This one had me reading until the letters blurred (I am getting old.) 4.5 stars because the ending was a bit implausible, but a fun ride nonetheless.


AEIOU: Any Easy Intimacy (Aeiou)
AEIOU: Any Easy Intimacy (Aeiou)
Author: Jeffrey Brown
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/9/2012


I love the way Jeffrey Brown manages to capture the small moments of importance in relationships. This book is no different - fans of Clumsy will be pleased.


After the Storm (Kate Burkholder, Bk 7)
After the Storm (Kate Burkholder, Bk 7)
Author: Linda Castillo
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 27
Review Date: 11/21/2015


This is not the best in what has consistently been an excellent series, but it is still worth a read. Even a mediocre Kate Burkholder story is still better than 99% of the drivel out there.


The Agency
The Agency
Author: Ally O'Brien
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 7/16/2009


The Agency introduces Tess, an aggressive yet insecure grunt at a prestigious entertainment agency. Tess has plans to strike out on her own, and plans to take her clients with her. However, the dalliances in her active personal life have made her many enemies: mostly female. When she simultaneously becomes a murder suspect, gets dumped by her secret boyfriend, and her highest-earning client is threatened with a plagiarism lawsuit, Tess fears that her open legs may have closed too many doors for her.

I bought The Agency because it is co-written by Brian Freeman, who is a thriller author that I very much enjoy. This is a night and day departure from his other work. The Agency is a sex and shopping (for clients) novel: it features a sassy heroine, illicit affairs, and lots of celebrity name dropping. I particularly enjoyed the jabs taken at the publishing industry and several best selling authors. Initially Tess might be off-putting to some because of her behavior, but the character shows a potential for growth. The Agency is a smart and sexy beach read.


Ain't Too Proud to Beg (San Francisco Dog-Walking Group, Bk 1)
Ain't Too Proud to Beg (San Francisco Dog-Walking Group, Bk 1)
Author: Susan Donovan
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 188
Review Date: 4/22/2010


This is a quick and easy read that dog lovers will enjoy. It is kind of like Sex and the City meets Marley and Me meets a lifetime movie in which someone is seeking revenge. I am not a big romance or chick lit reader, but I was entertained. The "thriller" aspects are a little cheesy, but I guess people can't just stand around gazing at each other all the time.


All Souls' Night (Blood Ties, Bk 4)
All Souls' Night (Blood Ties, Bk 4)
Author: Jennifer Armintrout
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 176
Review Date: 3/23/2009
Helpful Score: 1


All Souls' Night is the last in the Blood Ties series, which started off strong with The Turning then quickly took a nose dive. Readers new to the series should not try to being here, as this installment picks up pretty much where Ashes to Ashes left off. The Oracle is dead, Cyrus is alive (again), and The Soul Eater is still threatening to eat both Cyrus and Nathan to become a god. Carrie, Nathan, Max, and Ziggy must thwart his evil plan.

If you have read the other books in this series it is worth reading this one as all the loose ends are tied up. However, be forewarned that the gross-out factor is very high in this book - for some reason Armintrout goes nuts with the torture and gory descriptions. Fortunately Carrie's sarcastic humor is still intact, which keeps this book from being totally goofy.


All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
Review Date: 8/30/2016


Well-researched and timely, but written in a surprisingly dry academic style. Occasionally the author relates personal experiences, and it is at these times, along with the one-on-one interviews with famous single women such as Anita Hill, that the writing becomes engaging.


Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
Author: Jenni Lapidus
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 11/16/2007
Helpful Score: 5


I was somewhat disappointed in this book. The relevance of the essays to the book's theme was frequently questionable, and much of the material from the more widely-known contributors was reprinted from another source. However, I enjoyed several of the pieces very much. I particularly enjoyed the essay about dining solo in restaurants, and facing that dreaded question "Just one?" Several authors also address the loneliness that cooking for one can induce, which is something that most anyone who has ever lived alone can relate to.
In the end I read some of the essays in their entirety and just skimmed the others.
Although there are recipes included at the end of some of the essays, this is definitely not a cookbook.


American Born Chinese
American Born Chinese
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 58
Review Date: 4/10/2015


American Born Chinese is a charming graphic novel about loneliness, prejudice, and acceptance of oneself. The illustrations are wonderful, especially the characters' faces. I didn't like the ending though; it was weird.


American Salvage (Made in Michigan Writers)
American Salvage (Made in Michigan Writers)
Author: Bonnie Jo Campbell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/28/2013


I am generally not a big short story fan, but this book is brilliant. Bonnie Jo Campbell is an impressive author and creator of characters that jump off the page. Although these stories are very dark and feature characters in sad situations, there are glimmers of naive optimism. This is a must read!


The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
Review Date: 1/26/2013
Helpful Score: 2


The author wants to learn about the how the food Americans eat is grown, distributed, and served, as well as learn about the workers who make these things happen. She works as a farm worker, clerk in a Walmart produce department, and in the kitchen at Applebee's. Tales of her experiences on these jobs and living in poor communities amongst her co-workers are interspersed with bits of history about American agriculture and the rise of unhealthy eating. While this book does a better job of pointing out problems than solutions (as most of this genre tend to do), it is an entertaining read and provided an interesting behind the scenes view of Walmart and Applebee's. (I have never liked Applebees. The last time I ate there was after Hurricane Sandy because it was the only thing open. I don't plan on eating at Applebee's again unless there is another hurricane and my food goes bad.)


Amish Confidential
Amish Confidential
Author: Lebanon" Levi Stoltzfus, Ellis Henican
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 8/14/2017


This book was very interesting. The only parts that were not were the chapters concerning the author's TV show (we don't have cable, so that is arguably on me) and social security. Other than that, I found it to be a quick read and answered a lot of questions I thought would be inappropriate to ask at the PA Dutch farm market that is open Thurs-Sat near our town.


And I Don't Want to Live This Life : A Mother's Story of Her Daughter's Murder
Review Date: 9/4/2017


WOW. This book is emotionally engaging and a page-turner.

I picked it up because I was curious about "Sid & Nancy." Although Sid Vicious is mentioned in the beginning, I quickly forgot about him and became engrossed in the sad story of Nancy and her family. The story of the Spungens shows how the mentally ill fall through the cracks of society's safety nets, which are ill-equipped to help them.


Angus
Angus
Author: Charles Siebert
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.8/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 5/1/2009
Helpful Score: 3


This slim novel is narrated by Angus, a young Jack Russel who finds himself in a life-threatening predicament. As he struggles to return to his family, he ponders his life so far and the strange but wonderful relationship between man and dog. Beware: this one is a tear-jerker!


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