Laura S. (BookHappy) - Reviews

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Best In Medicine, The  Revised
Best In Medicine, The Revised
Author: Herbert J. Dietrich
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/4/2007


This book is based on surveys of where leading health professionals would go if they wanted the best medical care. Includes allergy/immunology, dermatology, endocrinology, eye surgery, heart-lung transplants, etc. Possibly the medical industry did not like being graded like this, so this has become a rather hard to find book. Should have continued to come out with updates every few years to keep up with all the new medical centers, etc being built. Then again, a lot of centers have fallen below standards, or rather, the standard keeps being lowered under financial pressures.


Big Fish
Big Fish
Author: Daniel Wallace
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 119
Review Date: 6/13/2012


Big Fish is how son saw Dad
Big Fish by Daniel Wallace is an episodic but charming memoir of how a son sees his semi-mythical dad. The book was made into a Columbia Pictures movie by Tim Burton a while back, with Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Jessica Lange.
Reading this book inspired me to write my own Father's Day tribute, so it must have a certain true-to-life quality in spite of the obvious lies told about the author's dad. Lies such as, he tamed a giant. Or the one about the time he saved a girl in the river from a cottonmouth, and then the girl disappeared, and the snake turned into a stick. There's lots of lies.
But there's lots of jokes, too, and lots of incidents that just strike home as being so funny yet true to life. Like how he had to stand there in the yard listening to the ball game on the radio before he's take his wife to the hospital to have his son, the narrator of the tales.
Read it. Then let it inspire you to write a little something about your own pop, maybe you'll even be lucky enough to let him read it before he passes on and it's too late.


Calling Invisible Women
Calling Invisible Women
Author: Jeanne Ray
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 9
Review Date: 6/1/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Stepping out of the shower to find that the bathroom mirror no longer registers your reflection does tend to give one pause. In Calling Invisible Women, the author addresses issues of self-erasure and feminism in a sweetly humorous way.

The heroine, Clover Hobart, is a doctor's wife and mom of two young adults. She's at the age when a lot of women feel like they're invisible, anyway, but in her case it is literally true. It takes a couple of weeks before she is shocked to discover that she is not the only invisible woman, and in fact that several invisible women have been secretly meeting at a hotel conference room.

The premise would be the stuff of farce or satire or both, but in the author's hands it seems to be merely a premise that allows her main character to go anywhere and be the fly-on-the-wall on the school bus and in her husband's offices.

Along the way she busts up an attempted bank robbery, and orders her grown son to go home when he and a pal enter a tattoo parlor. Once she accepts that there is an upside to being invisible, she becomes fearless!

The invisible women's support group informs her that a certain combination of prescriptions commonly written for menopausal women is the likely precipitating factor in their condition. And how many millions of women will identify with these victims who take meds for osteoporosis, hot flashes, and depression? Lots, I bet.

Only very late in the novel does Clover finally meet a future son-in-law's mother, who is also invisible. She is more radical and insists on storming the gates of the pharmaceutical giant to get justice.

Clover's reporter instincts kick in first in writing a first-person account of the bank robbery while keeping her secret. Only later does she come out of the closet in a clarion call for all invisible women to unite against the corporate monster who did this to them.

It is a likable novel with sympathetic characters who do not waste much time on self-pity. Clover gains support first from her best friend and neighbor, Gilda, her mother-in-law, and other invisible women. Predictably, the men are all hopeless and do not even realize she has become invisible. That list includes her husband, son, and physician. Clover aggravates matters by passively waiting for them to realize what is wrong, though but once they become aware of her condition, they rally to her side.

The themes bear some resemblance to another book I recently reviewed, titled "Goodnight Nobody" -- though they are not really in the same class with each other. But feminists will find pleasure in both.


The Chamber
The Chamber
Author: John Grisham
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 275
Review Date: 6/15/2012


Grisham's The Chamber examines death penalty and racism
A former Klansman is convicted of murder 20 years after the crime; he is sentenced to death. All his legal appeals have been exhausted and now he only has weeks to live.
The former Klansman's grandson has become a lawyer and argues for a stay of execution. The family whole, long troubled history is laid out
He has done a lot of crimes while in those white robes, but did he commit the one crime that he is in prison for? There are some surprising answers to that.
An examination of the death penalty and of racism in America make this an interesting and thoughtful read.


The Crown Rose
The Crown Rose
Author: Fiona Avery
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 7/1/2012


A Medieval Tale of Royalty, Religion, and War in The Crown Rose
The Crown Rose by Fiona Avery is a medieval tale that rests on a solid foundation of research. Avery explores the stories behind Isabelle and King Louis, brother and sister who were both canonized as saints by the Catholic Church. Set circa 1244 in Paris and environs, Isabelle deals with finding her life mission while Louis, already king at a young age, fends off an English invasion and recovers holy relics.
Amid the historical characters are three beautiful ladies who comprise the mysterious Order of the Rose. They escorted the newly widowed Queen Blanche back to safety years earlier, and now protect the current king, Blanch's son Louis and his siblings. Who are these women, who never seem to age? Are they angels? Or are they something even harder to believe and accept? And how do they know the equally mysterious and powerful Jean, who lives in seclusion in a tower in a remote corner of the northwestern woods?
A good tale although it seems to be written for a youth or teen audience. Runs a little over 400 pages


Death of a Charming Man (Hamish MacBeth, Bk 10)
Death of a Charming Man (Hamish MacBeth, Bk 10)
Author: M. C. Beaton
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 6/13/2012


Death of a Charming Man a puzzle of how he got his comeuppance
The above title by M C Beaton is another in a long line of charming murder mysteries in which a rather lazy Scottish policeman, Hamish Macbeth, always manages to solve.
In this one, the grim little town of Drim is set agog by a stunningly attractive young man who enjoys pitting one admirer against the others. Every female with a breath is coloring her hair and working out at the local exercise studio to reduce the size of her bum. Of course business is booming for the hairdresser and instructor, but even they are caught in the web of the Charmer.
The Charmer evens takes Macbeth's sweetheart Prsicilla out to dinner now that's going too far.
Macbeth drives up from his base in Lochdubh to observe the goings-on and then to investigate the disappearance of the Charmer a case that appears to be a non-case because there has been no official complaint of a missing person. It looks like Macbeth is on a wild goose chase until all of a sudden ooh, I can't say any more or I'll give it away.
Along the way there's also time for fishing for trout, with a little help from a paganish child named Heather, foiling a burglary, and house-hunting with Priscilla.
So is the Charmer missing or not, dead or not, gone off to his rented-out house or on vacation or what? You'll have to read it to find out, sorry.


Death of a Dentist (Hamish MacBeth, Bk 13)
Death of a Dentist (Hamish MacBeth, Bk 13)
Author: M. C. Beaton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 86
Review Date: 6/13/2012


Death of a Dentist but you know the drill
Many of us would like our dentists to meet an untimely end so that we can get out of an appointment we dread. Yet when the suffering Scottish policeman Hamish Macbeth is desperately in need dental care, it would have been better if the said victim had chosen another time to be murdered.
Macbeth visits the dentist in Braikie (Braikie being 20 miles from his home base of Lochdubh which did not have a dentist), named Gilchrist, even though the word-of-mouth is that he only knows how to pull teeth. There's a real dentist in Inverness but of course that's a longer drive and he'll cost more.
Alas, just when Macbeth was to see Dr. Gilchrist, he turns up dead in his own dental chair with a nasty bit of revenge drilling done on his own teeth. The doctor's, that is.
Not only does Macbeth have to chase down a murder while trying to ignore his mouth pains, he also has a robbery to solve. Someone broke into a safe and took two-hundred-and-fifty thousand pounds in 20-pound notes. It was to be the bingo prize in the huge annual jackpot that drew players from miles around. A crime wave and a cary crisis all in one week, too much for poor Hamish.
Gilchrist was a bit of a ladies' man, who liked to buy flashy clothes and cars. Was he being pressed for debts, or was there a woman scorned somewhere in the past? Is there any connection between the two crimes? On the surface there doesn't appear to be. Yet after a couple hundred pages, Macbeth does unravel the whole tale. You'll have to read it to find out what it was.


Death of an Outsider (Hamish MacBeth, Bk 3)
Death of an Outsider (Hamish MacBeth, Bk 3)
Author: M. C. Beaton
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 59
Review Date: 6/13/2012


Death of an Outsider is a good reason to watch what you drink or eat
In this episode of the long-running serial, policeman Hamish Macbeth is called away from his beloved Lochdubh to relieve another officer in Cnothan. (all towns are in northern Scotland)
Hamish doesn't want to go to Cnothan, where nothing ever happens anyway. It will take him away from his croft, from his sheep, and further from the sight of the perfect Priscilla, the love of his life, even thought she does show suspicious signs of wanting to improve him.
In Cnothan, nobody tells incomers (strangers) anything if the residents can help it. It is bad enough he has to ask directions to the local police station that he is supposed to report to.
The house at least has a functional kitchen, but no television. The parsimonious regular policeman and his wife have set the central heating on a timer for two hours in the morning and two in the evening, and that's enough for anyone.
Fortunately for Macbeth, the town is united against a really nasty incomer an ENGLISHMAN!
Now that we have gotten identification of the victim out of the way, we can move on to means. But there's the sticking point we haven't got a body and in fact Hamish never turns up a body, due to the strange method used to kill and dispose of him. Could it be those witches that the widow claims attacked her earlier, or more earthly enemies?
But there's other strange goings-on. Why did Sandy leave his post at the lobster farm and go drinking late Saturday night? And what secret did Sandy discover at the farm the next day that he thought he could get paid good money to keep his mouth shut about? AND why does Hamish have to suppress news about how the victim died?
A skeleton is found in a field but ID-ing it is iffy no teeth! Ergo no dental records to match. There's a good one for ya.
Suspects: Could it be the widow, who had been forced to sign over all her money to him years ago? Ah, but she was out of town that night airtight alibi. Could it be the minister's wife, who have been so humiliated when he lectured her on using a microwave in front of everybody. Or maybe Sandy who was so pixilated he could have done it and not remembered a thing but he turns up dead, too. There's few more suspects but you'll have to read the book to find out which one dunnit.
Also along the way, Hamish helps a widower return to the living and pay attention to a young grandson, falls in love with a tousled lady artist named Jenny, and cooks steak for his beloved dog Towser. The local papers blare headlines about a POLICE COVERUP.


The End of Work:  The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era
Review Date: 3/16/2012


The first part can be pretty depressing, as Rifkin lists whole categories of work that are being replaced by machines -- even service jobs!
However, the latter section of the book shows strategies that might be used to spread out work so that more people can remain employed. I think we would have to fight the establishment to get these options adopted, tho.


Eve: The History of an Idea
Eve: The History of an Idea
Author: John A. Phillips
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 8/12/2009


Few of us stop to ponder the fact that there are two creation stories of man and women in the Bible. The first story is that God created man in his image, "male AND female he created them" and they were apparently equal and both good. But then there is the troublesome second story of Adam and the hapless Eve who was deceived by a snake in the garden of Eden.

Eve blamed the snake and Adam blamed Eve (he'd say anything to get off scot-free, hey?).

But the author looks deeper into the symbolism and history of the female archetype and goddess, who was often accompanied by a snake symbol. Does the snake represent evil, or the kundalini energy, or wisdom?

A very interesting book whether or not you are particularly religious in the conventional sense. Anyone with an interest in mythology, the feminine archetypes, and the roots of the earth-mother religions will find much to chew on here.


Faces of the Gone (Carter Ross, Bk 1)
Faces of the Gone (Carter Ross, Bk 1)
Author: Brad Parks
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 7/7/2012


Carter Ross is the hero of this tale of a reporter who breaks the mystery of who killed four people and left their bodies in a vacant lot, where they'd be sure to be found the next day.
Carter is a bit unusual as a hero figure. He is not impressive physically. He is described thus in one scene: There was no real meat hanging on his shoulders, no thickness in the chest or arms that might suggest he was dangerous. He looked like any one of those yuppies who spend time in the gym strictly for vanity, doing arm curls to get a small bulge in their biceps, with their only goal to look good in a tight T-shirt...
The less said about his repulsive boss, the better. Although I must say, he demonstrates that Carter Ross has too many R's in his name.
The mystery begins when as I said, four bodies are found in a lot in easy walking distance from all the major housing projects in the city of Newark. Only the names of the victims are released, since the police can only speculate that the crime is related to a stickup job.
Carter begins probing and soon finds that the common denominator is that all the victims dealt in drugs, at least part-time. Now, that is not much of a scoop in itself, since you could say the same about millions of other Americans.
But eventually it turns out that they dealt in a particular brand of heroin called The Stuff original brand name, hey? Its primary trait is that it is a purer commodity by far than the usual street drug.
When the story hits the papers, the bombs really start to fly. Four buildings are hit in one night, with the damage including the complete demolition of Carter's home and the presumed loss of his cat, Deadline. Bylines are a double-edged sword, that way.
And eventually the identity of the Mr. Big behind the marketing and distribution genius of The Stuff is revealed in the final pages, with our hero making a narrow and suitably thrilling escape. No car crashes, tho just so you know. This tale is a wee bit more cerebral and satirical than the usual fare.
And funny, with more hilarious situations and dialogue than you could find outside of a Stephanie Plum mystery. Did I tell you about the part where he and a confederate tricked a distributor into revealing more details of The Stuff's operation, who its recruiter was, and more about Mr. Big?? No? Oh, I gotta tell ya, siddown and don't drink anything or you'll get the computer screen all wet . . . Y'see, it's more about using your gray matter than your muscles when it comes to getting information.


Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum, Bk 14)
Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum, Bk 14)
Author: Janet Evanovich
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 945
Review Date: 6/13/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This is not the one where Stephanie, Connie and Lula wind up in Las Vegas trying to nail a no-show.
This is the one where the basement and yard of Morelli's house get dug up in the mistaken belief that Dom Rizzi buried nine million buckaronies from a bank robbery there.
Dom is released from prison, and the other guys who were in on the heist want their share of the proceeds -- like now.
This is also the one where Stephanie grandmother and her friends make an alliance with Zook against the griefer, Mooner. Granny is relentless, no wonder they call her Scorch.
This is the one where Stephanie has to help Ranger with security for Brenda, a somewhat over-the hill but still oversexed rocker who is being stalked by a weirdo who also happens to be a cousin of hers. Figures.
Is Zook really Morelli's love child from high school days? (NO NO NO!!!!!)
WACKY humor as always -- Wait till the pizza attacks Brenda.


The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
Author: Stephen Jay Gould
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 8/6/2009
Helpful Score: 3


Great book of essays in natural history previously printed in Pensee magazine. Much food for thought on issues still controversial in some circles even today. Evolution, Darwin's voyage to the Galapagos -- and errors he made in failing to identify which bird specimens came from which islands -- so he wound up having to rely on tagged birds that others on the voyage had collected.
The title comes from a famous essay about how odd it is that the flamingo's beak bends in the opposite direction from most other birds' -- also it has the larger beak part on the lower location rather than the upper. All the better to filter, my dear.
Topics run the gamut from flamingos and other birds to mammals like apes and man, Darwin, and the history of scientific thought on all these puzzling designs in natural history. Excellent and very readable essays.


The Fyre Mirror
The Fyre Mirror
Author: Karen Harper
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 6/13/2012


An interesting murder mystery set in Elizabethan England with Elizabeth I herself in a starring role. A serial killer uses fire as a weapon, or more accurately a mirror as a fire-starting weapon.
The young queen plans to pose for a portrait in the countryside of Surrey, but one of her artists is burned to death -- which really ticks her off big time.
Is there any truth to the "running boy" legend, or is it just a fairy tale that the locals like to amuse the visitors with?
Lizzie cannot solve this without the help of the canny Dr Dee and her Plot Council. But you can help!


Goodnight Nobody
Goodnight Nobody
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 789
Review Date: 6/1/2012


"Goodnight Nobody" is a very good novel that is several cuts above the average mystery which is forgotten as soon as you finish it. An unusual mix of the literary with satire and mystery, it is hard to peg but easy to recommend.

Kate is a fish out of water in her new Connecticut suburb, where everyone else is a Supermom and is careful to feed their kids only organic foods.

She tries to befriend Kitty, but unfortunately she turns up dead when Kate and her kids show up for a play date. Oops, sorry to bother you, Kitty. Oops, the discovery turns on her latent reporter instincts and she is off nosing around for leads and interviews.

There is much humor and hilarity in the novel, aside from the satire. Her own feelings of inadequacy, fed by her children's excellent timing in upchucking, her inventive lies which backfire on her, her best friend Janie who calls her back to herself as a reporter -- I only wish she had referred to her new hometown as Upchuck more often.

Underneath are themes of self-erasure and identity. Women marry and move to "Upchuck" and we hardly have any idea what they did or what they were before they moved. None of the housewives have a paying position outside the home, and they are rather shocked when it is discovered that Kitty was helping write or research a famous columnist's material. On top of that, Kate's own husband seems to be less than supportive of her efforts to uncover the truth behind Kitty's murder. At the end, Kate and hubby Ben are separated while they sort out their marriage.


The Hot, Shot, and Bothered
The Hot, Shot, and Bothered
Author: Nora McFarland
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/1/2012


Nora McFarland's Lilly gets the picture and solves murder
I missed the first installment in this trilogy about Lilly Hawkins, the TV photographer who also happens to solve murder mysteries. The writing is EXCELLENT, and I do not toss that compliment around lightly.
The plot of Hot, Shot, and Bothered centers around two events: one is the wildfire that threatens an upscale subdivision of Elizabeth Lake (in the Bakersfield, California area), and the other is the discovery of the body of Jessica Egan, a young woman who has devoted years to the cause of conservation of the environment.
Lilly is seemingly outraged less by the fact of Jessica's death than by the slander that accompanies it. Jessica is described as a party girl who ran with the wrong drugging-and-drinking crowd since she was a teenager, and unfortunately drank too much before getting into a small boat the night she died.
But Lilly knows a lot more about Jessica's past and about her true character Lilly recognizes the description of Jessica as completely contradictory to the girl she knew in high school. How does a bit of a goody-goody slide all the way over to hopeless lush? Not bloody likely, is the answer to that.
Lilly also has the good fortune to be one of only two photographers on the right side of a breaking story about the fire and a visit from the governor. She interviews the brother of the victim, who happens to be one of the firefighters on the line. She manages to alert her news partner Rod to get over there before the roads are closed. And she even latches onto the key bit of evidence in the back yard (literally! in the back yard!) of the victim that unravels the whole sad story.
EXCELLENT lifelike characters, EXCELLENT seamless writing, good use of humor, and realistic and convincing detail about the news biz. Four stars. I really like this series and this author and will try to alert others to read her.


How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History (previously titled The Hinge Factor)
Review Date: 10/6/2009


I am admittedly a bit of a history nut. I have enjoyed Barbara Tuchman's books, for example. I tell you this just for background.
While I liked the book "How Chance and Stupidity have Changed History" I am not sure what kind of audience would like it most, or what different readers may get out of it. I am a bit concerned that some will come away thinking that history has been totally random, and that would be a mistake.
The authors pick such a wide range of historical events, from the fall of Troy to an item from the Gulf War, and this is one of the weaknesses of the book. Historians are still debating what really happened in Troy, with some pointing to a reported earthquake as the cause of a crack in the walls of the city. So I think the author should have left that one out.
He is on firmer ground when discussing episodes of Agincourt or WWI, for example. Did you know that the personal animosity between two Russian generals would cause them to lose a battle despite a huge superiority in numbers? (650,000 Russians to 135,000 Germans) Or that rain and a poor choice of battleground would turn the tide at Agincourt in Henry's favor?
It's a book well worth reading for another take on key events in Western history.
PS -- If you like naval history, you might especially enjoy the chapter on the chase to sink the Bismarck. PPS -- The History Channel had a fascinating episode on the British effort to sink its twin, the Tirpitz.


The Job
The Job
Author: Douglas Kennedy
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 22
Review Date: 7/7/2012


Ned Allen is your typical ad salesman. He sells ads for a prominent computer magazine, living in a very nice New York apartment with his beloved wife Lizzie, who works in public relations.
All of a sudden, the company he works for is bought twice within the span of two months, and he is out the door. He life begins to stumble on its downward-mobility course where is sells software by phone. Finally he is rescued by a an old buddy who tells him about a wonderful new equity fund sales job that he would be perfect for.
This is frankly the best part of the book and on the one hand you wish that this segment were the whole book, but on the other hand you know that Ned might have been more suspicious and exercised more due diligence if he had not been so desperate at that point.
His native street smarts do kick in, of course, and save him from being hopelessly set up for a murder said street smarts also help him set up his own revenge. Has to be read to be appreciated. Many parts of this novel are surprisingly applicable to the financial scene a la 2008 or so. One minor character also happens to have worked for a dozen years in London for a little place called Lehmann Brothers....


The Last Juror
The Last Juror
Author: John Grisham
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 382
Review Date: 6/15/2012


Grisham's The Last Juror follows brutal crime from beginning to end to end (not a typo)
As usual for a Grisham story, the novel is set in Mississippi, but this time in the 1970s.
This one is also set in three parts, rather than in one week or month such as The Runaway Jury which covers the course of a trial.
In 1970, a college dropout (Willie Traynor) decides to buy the newspaper he is interning at he just happens to also have a wealthy grandma. (Nice to be able to buy your own job security, hey?)
Traynor covers the story of the brutal murder of a young widow by Danny Padgitt, the trial and aftermath. A death penalty is proposed for Mr. Padgitt but instead he is sentenced to prison.
What he does when he gets out forms the last third of the novel and I will let you find out how it comes out.


Lifeguard
Lifeguard
Author: James Patterson, Andrew Gross
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 588
Review Date: 5/9/2010


Action-packed thriller/mystery about characters that you can care about. Lifeguard Ned Kelly could be put away for a murder he did not commit, purely on circumstantial evidence. A gorgeous beach dame invites him for a romp in her richly-appointed hotel room, and hours later he learns she is dead.
Unfortunately for him, all his friends are from the wrong side of the tracks -- and also wind up dead. So he heads for the old homestead outside Boston to find someone he can trust. The plot keeps getting thicker and thicker and you will not want to put this book down.


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