The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

So, fair warning, this book covers a few hot button topics.

Matt Beaulieu, a successful neurosurgeon, first met his wife, Elle McClure, a college professor retired from NASA, when she was a few days old. His devotion to her only grew from that day as they grew up as neighbors, friends and ultimately lovers. They have everything they could ever hope for, except for a child. Then one fateful day Matt gets the call that changes his life forever. Elle has fallen from a ladder and suffered from a head injury.

Matt is forced to face the fact that Elle will not recover from her injury. Knowing that Elle feared most a slow death like her mother’s death, Matt decides that they will discontinue life support.

Before that can happen though, Matt is presented with news he never expected, that they had never considered. Elle is pregnant. He feels that Elle would have done anything to have a child, even face her worst fear but Matt’s mother Linney believes otherwise and she is fighting to have Elle’s advanced directive followed.

What an emotional book. I listened to this on audio, narrated by Robin Miles. The narration was wonderful, the emotion of the book was conveyed remarkably well.

This is a book that I feel will stick with me for a while. I’m still digesting some of the information. From my background I was really interested in the medical ethics of this case. But what this book does is make you look beyond the case studies of ethics and makes you focus on this event, this woman and this child. What would she have wanted?

Well written and one of the first books I’ve read where the entire relationship is basically shown through the husband’s eyes. We get snippets of Elle’s views from diary entries but our real picture is from Matt’s perspective. It’s a great use of storytelling as we are left trying decide what Elle would have wanted from the way Matt perceives Elle’s wants and desires.

Great read, but have those tissues handy.

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Book Review: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau was my local book club’s read for the month of September. It’s the first book in DuPrau’s Ember series.

 

I decided to an audiobook version of The City of Ember narrated by Wendy Dillon. The audiobook was amazingly done. It was one of the first audiobooks that I’ve listened to that has added sounds like dripping water, doors creakily opening, or bustling streets. It wasn’t during every minute of the book but at key moments and I felt like it added something to the experience. Wendy Dillon did an excellent job narrating, even though at first I wasn’t sure if I liked her voice for one of the characters, it really grew on me and I was totally drawn in to the story.

 

The City of Ember is a town built by the Builders. A nuclear war was occuring and in order to save man kind they built an underground city. They put instructions in a metal box for how to get out of the city with a timed lock for 200 years. It was to be entrusted only to the city’s mayor and it’s purpose to only be explained to each predecessor and no one else. They thought it important that the outside world not be known to the children that were to be raised there, that way the people would not know what had been lost. However, as time went on, one of the mayors died suddenly and the box and it’s importance were lost. It’s the only light in the world of darkness. This is the only city. There’s storehouses of food and supplies and a generator that provides power to the city. There’s a problem though. The supplies are starting to dwindle and the generator keeps failing. The blackouts are getting longer and more frequent.

Lina and Doon have come to the age where the citizens of Ember receive their first job, Assignment Day. There’s what’s considered good jobs, like messenger and greenhouse worker, and then there’s bad jobs, like pipework laborer and street cleaner. Each student before they graduate must pick a piece of paper out of a bag which will assign their occupation. Lina gets pipework laborer and Doon gets messenger. Doon chases Lina down after the ceremony and asks to trade. Lina is confused at why he would want to give up such a good job for pipework laborer when Doon explains that he wants to work close to the generator because he thinks he can fix it.

The blackouts become more frequent and the whole town is starting to become a bit unhinged. Lina’s grandmother seems a bit loopy herself and has torn apart their apartment looking for something. That’s when Lina spots a metal box. The very one the Builders and sent down. Inside is a paper that’s been torn to bits by her toddler sister. She tries to piece the puzzle together and brings in Doon to help. Even though it is fragmented and barely legible, they start to realize that this paper may be Ember’s salvation.

 

The book definitely has an interesting premise. It’s hard to imagine something that immense built underground that could last that long. It’s also interesting to see how a society develops in that situation. Was a quick and easy read that successfully got me hooked to the series. There are certain places where I wish more was explained, which may happen in later books. I also felt that at times things were to simple, or the characters understood things too quickly or easily. It was easier for the story to move over it quickly but for the two main characters that have no knowledge that there is an outside world there were times that I was surprised that there wasn’t more difficulty in certain aspects. Maybe it’s because it is a young adult book and the author felt the audience wouldn’t care about such small details.

It’s nothing that ruins the book and I think if you’re looking for a quick and fun read that it’s worth the time.

Book Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire is Stieg Larsson’s second book in the Millennium Series. This is another book that I’m using for the Nordic Mystery Challenge 2012 . I’m going to write the review assuming that you have read the first book in the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. If you haven’t read it yet go do it, great book and their may be spoilers for it below.

Okay are you still with me? The second book starts with Mikael Blomkvist having returned to Millennium magazine which is no longer in financial woes due to the success of his book about the Wennerström affair. Lisbeth Salander left Sweden after the Wennerström affair and has been travelling the world. Lisbeth has refused to talk to Blomkvist and he’s slightly distraught that she’s no where to be found.

Blomkvist and the Millennium crew have decided to take on a new expose and release an issue on human trafficking after being approached by Dag Svennsson who with the help of his girlfriend’s research claims to be able to take down people in high positions within the government for trafficking charges, some of them the very ones who wrote or passed the trafficking laws. This is surely going to stir up some trouble. Meanwhile Salander returns from her globe trotting trip to pay a little visit to her legal guardian Nils Bjurman who seems not to be following the rules she laid out.

Our stories become intertwined and there’s another murder to be solved. Except this time the police have their sights set on LIsbeth Salander and Blomkvist is trying his best to find out the truth.

I really haven’t given much of the story line but I wanted to tread carefully on giving too much away and I was worried I was starting to sound like a book report. Larsson has truly made one of the most interesting characters that I’ve read about with Lisbeth Salander. In this book we get to spend a lot more time with her and getting to know her and her past. I feel like that I know part of me shouldn’t like Salander, lets face it she’s really easy to not like, but I find parts of her endearing and can say that I understand her reasoning behind her actions.

Larsson was skillful at writing two views of a story line and keeping you on the edge of your seat. Giving you enough of a glimpse at each character’s psyche and thoughts on the current situation while also intricately weaving murder and crime plots. I’m woefully sorry that he has passed away and we won’t be receiving any new great works of fiction from him.

So what about you all? Who are the characters that you have found most interesting in fiction?

Book Review: The Deep Zone by James M. Tabor

Let me preface this review by saying that I did receive this book for free from Random House through their #earlybirdread program. It’s a program that they host through twitter. If you follow @atrandom you can find out when they post the link to sign up for a chance to receive a novel they are excited about in the office. You can also check out the #earlybirdread hashtag on twitter to find out what people are saying about this month’s book. The Deep Zone by James M. Tabor was an #earlybirdread from a few months ago.

 

 

Hallie Leland is a disgraced microbiologist trying to start out her new life as a cave diving guide. She’s determined to not let her dismissal from a government science laboratory cloud her future and has decided to put that life in her past. But then she gets an urgent summons back to that world and she’s quickly thrown back into the world she has tried to leave behind and she will have to use all of her skills as a cave diver and the knowledge of the project she was working on before her dismissal to save the world from a deadly epidemic.

This book scratches so many personal “itches”. The science, the medicine, the extreme world/exploration, and the emergency preparedness. A deadly virus has broken out and may be the worst epidemic the world has seen. A medicine that Leland was working on prior to her embarrassing dismal from the government lab may hold the key to stopping the epidemic. One small problem: the key ingredient to this medicine can only be found in a very deep and dangerous cave. Now Leland will have to go back to the cave for a sample in a race against time.

One thing  that Tabor has managed to do beautifully is making each side of the story compelling and interesting. Too often when I’m reading a novel that tells how different groups in the story are moving through I get bored with at least one side of the story and feel myself racing to get back to the story of the group I am interested in. Not in this case! Each groups experiences as we are on this fast paced journey are interesting and aid in making a complete story.

I think Tabor also manages to convey the fast paced craziness that happens in an emergency situation. You feel rushed at points just like the characters do and at points it felt like everything was happening so quickly, but you knew that it was critical it happened this way if they were ever going to get ahead of the disease.

Definitely a great book to pick up for those who love action packed thrillers with some medicine and science thrown in. Loved this book and I think more people should be talking about it 🙂

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou  learned early on in life that the way to avoid having to keep up with the lies was to just say the truth with such a straight face that everyone just assumes you’re being sarcastic. How else was she going to explain the frequent disappearances and the cuts and bruises on her skin when she’s shows back up?

Karou is mysterious even to those who are closest to her and she spend her days filling sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real.  Those who see her work applaud her at her creativity. But maybe these creatures aren’t things of just her imagination?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone takes place in the beautiful back drop of Prague, but also takes us to many exotic locals. Karou is charged with running errands for a devil with a dwindling stock pile of teeth. She has no clue what his need of the teeth is but that’s not the only thing she is unaware. She’s unsure of who she is herself and where she came from and she is quickly being brought into the middle of an otherwordly battle that’s been going on for decades. She’ll have to learn quickly and may find the details to her own past along the way.

This novel was beautifully written. The world Taylor has created is rich with detail and interesting characters. Daughter of Smoke and Bone has filled my need for a new epic fantasy world. I did feel that the book got a little slow in the middle, but there was a turning point for me that totally had me hooked at the end and I can’t wait for the sequel.  I’m hoping that the characters get flushed out a  bit more and I can’t wait to see where she takes the story.

Interestingly my library had this book in the young adult section. I feel like it’s definitely on the upper range of young adult, along with book of the hunger games sort. There’s nothing completely explicit in it but there are battles and there is some other qualities that I think wouldn’t be easily understood by the younger YA crowd.

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

 

I am using Room by Emma Donoghue for the What’s in A Name Challenge 5 for category 4. A book with a type of house in the title  You can find the challenge by clicking the image above to go to the Beth Fish Reads blog.

 

Why you might ask? A  room isn’t a house you might say. But in this story, Room is a house, in fact for 5 year old Jack, it’s the entire world.

We open the novel on Jack’s 5th birthday. Right a way you notice something a bit odd. Jack refers to all the household objects as proper nouns, like Table, Wardrobe, and ultimately his space as Room. As if it is an entire world and the objects it’s population. Jack and his mom spend the entire time in Room. They cook and eat, have exercise time, and even a bit of television time. How can Jack still believe that Room is all there is when they have a television? Well television is fake world, but Room is real world. At night, Jack hides in Wardrobe while Old Nick visits his mother. Old Nick brings food and Sunday treat, but Jack never sees him. His mother doesn’t want him to see him.

Thus opens the traumatic world of Jack and his mother. Jack’s mother is starting to realize that Room will be getting too small for Jack soon and he really needs to know about the real world. But how will she tell him? Will Jack even believe her? She knows that she needs to figure out a plan to get them out, and unfortunately she knows she will have to involve Jack.

This story can be quite heart wrenching. However, I really liked this novel and found it masterfully crafted around this difficult subject. The part I found most interesting was the psychology behind it, basically the state of mind of the characters and also the bonds that they formed. The bond between Jack and his mother amazed me. Especially how she adapted into being in Room and trying to make Jack feel normal. I wonder how I would be in that situation? Would I form the same loving bond? Or have resentment? It’s hard to imagine, I don’t think anyone could know what they would do.

 

I haven’t given much of the story here, because I believe the enjoyment of the book is watching the story unfold, reading the interactions yourself. It is beautifully written. There are some disjointed sentences and made up words, but it adds to the story, because you could see how it would come about in the situation, especially with a five year old boy. I think Emma Donoghue did a great job giving Jack a voice, and really getting into the how the mind of a five year old in that situation may act or think.

 

If you’ve been avoiding Room by Emma Donoghue because of the hype give it a shot. I agree with others though, I think this is the type of book that is a hit with some people and a miss with others. It will possibly be too heart wrenching and difficult for some to read. But one thing that I’ve been learning lately is to not avoid a book because of the hype or because everyone is reading it. Sometimes that hype is much deserved!

Book Review: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Hello everyone! This is going to be my first book for the Nordic Mystery Challenge!

The Snowman takes place in Oslo, Norway and is the fifth book in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series. This is my first Jo Nesbo novel so I haven’t read the previous books in the Harry Hole series, but I have to say it was pretty easy to jump into without having read the previous books. No gaping holes in the plots, you get the feeling that some of the relationships are further developed in previous novels, but enough information is given that you don’t feel lost.

Anyway, back to Oslo. We open up to a newly fallen snow in a chilly November day in 1980. A woman pulls up to a house and tells her son to wait in the car. The son asks questions but she dismisses him, as she is going in to have one last goodbye romp with the man she is having an affair. During their passionate moment, her lover gets startled, fearing he’d seen a face in the window, closer inspection reveals a snowman. The lovers part ways and the woman comes back to the car, where her son says that he saw him. Startled, fearing her son had seen her with her lover, she asks him who he saw. He says the snowman. Relieved she pulls away and starts down the street, when her son then leans forward and says “We’re going to die” (Jo Nesbo, The Snowman)

This is a synopsis of the opening chapter of The Snowman. And honestly when opening chapters end with sentences like that, how can you not be hooked?

This book satisfied every mystery novel need that I had. I haven’t read a book that satisfied my mystery craving this well in such a long time. Jo Nesbo managed to explore every idea of “who done it” I had in interesting ways. Harry Hole is the epitome of broken detective. Haunted by his past, recovering alcoholic, and brilliant mind. Lots of twists and turns, I think any fan of mystery/murder genre will love this book.

I will definitely be picking up more of Nesbo’s work, as I believe he may be well on his way to becoming my new favorite author.

Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I finished listening to an audiobook version of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, narrated by Tara Sands yesterday. And wow, it’s just an amazingly written book. As it should be since it discusses the language of flowers.

The Language of Flowers follows the life of Victoria, a ward of the state her entire life. It opens with her in a group home, on her eighteenth birthday, or at least what the state has decided is her eighteenth birthday for emancipation purposes. We find that she has been a troubled youth, closed off from others. The only thing she seems attached to or happy about seems to be flowers. She uses them to communicate her feelings, although she knows that most don’t know what she is trying to tell them and in actuality, she doesn’t care that they don’t know.

This is how our story opens. We continue to follow Victoria as she ventures out into the world, stumbling and then gaining ground, meeting people from the past. We also get to know her past, and how she came to  know so much about flowers and their meanings, through flashback chapters.

This novel is a story of families, struggle, and meanings. Most of all I think it is a story of conveying feelings and finding a way to communicate, even if we are broken. Beautifully written, the story is as beautiful as the language of flowers, it is also a heart wrenching tale. I loved learning all the different meanings of flowers, you may rethink your favorite flower after reading this, and while looking for a link to the book I found that their is a A Victorian Flower Dictionary companion for this book, that the author worked on. I love that she has worked so thoroughly on this book to add that detail as the flower dictionary  plays such a central role in the novel.

As for the narrator of the audiobook she did an amazing job of bringing the character to life. She was able to give a child like voice to the character in the flashback chapters and bring the age and maturity to the voice in the present day chapters. Each character in the novel had a distinct voice. It was a wonderful listening experience and I highly recommend it.

So check out The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, in either print or audiobook, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell follows two co-workers, Beth Fremont and Jennifer Schriber-Snyder, who know that their employer The Courier monitors their e-mail but still continue to send personal e-mails to each other through out the work day.

Lincoln O’Neil is stuck in his place in life. He’s living at home with his mother after spending years in school getting degree after degree in an effort to figure out what he wants to do with his life. It’s his job to monitor the e-mail at The Courier that gets caught in their e-mail filter and then send warnings. He sort of hates his job and feels slightly weird about reading other people’s e-mails. But there is something about Beth and Jennifer’s exchange that catches Lincoln’s eye. He looks forward to seeing their e-mails show up in the filter and decides that he’s not going to send them a warning.

Okay first of all, I know reading that part makes you go, eww creeper, but in reading it you really don’t get that feeling. I love the style that the story is written in. You get chapters that are just the e-mail exchanges between Jennifer and Beth and  this is your only look into their characters. I really enjoyed this section, it made me think of e-mails I would send back and forth with my girl friends in graduate school. The witty banter, thrown in with the oh my gosh can you believe this happened. The other half the story is told from Lincoln’s perspective, his reactions to the e-mails and a deeper look into his life as he searches for what he wants to do and where he wants go in life.

 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. More people need to read this! It’s fast, it’s quirky, it’s funny and then throws in the serious moments in life as well. Something about it when I was reading it made me think about Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. I think people that enjoyed that book will enjoy this one as well.

 

Happy Reading!

Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

So remember how I was going to read The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier last week? That didn’t happen. I picked up this book on my e-reader for a few hours one day when I didn’t have The Illumination handy and I got completely sucked in and had to finish the book.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is set mostly in Ethiopia in an underfunded, mostly charity hospital that everyone calls Missing. The book definitely tells the story of lives, how they intermingle, the effects of different people’s choices on the others, but I would have to say that the main characters are Marion and Shiva Stone.

Marion and Shiva Stone are identical twins born in Missing hospital, seemingly to Missing’s only surgeon, Thomas Stone and his surgical assistant Sister Mary Joseph Praise although no one is sure how this has came about. Sister Mary Joseph Praise has hidden her pregnancy from everyone and it isn’t until she is found sickly and pale in her room that her secret is discovered. She is rushed to the surgical theater where after complications, her twins Marion and Shiva are born and Sister Mary Joseph Praise passes away. This is the start of Marion and Shiva’s incredible lives.

The book follows Marion and Shiva, now basically orphans since their mother’s death and their father’s abandonment. But some of Missing’s other faithful employees take it upon themselves to raise Marion and Shiva as their own. We learn about Ethiopia, underfunded medical care, and the coups that occur in the boy’s life. We follow them on their adventures, learning the dangers of living in this area and we discover with them the marvels of medicine, and how it’s study can be a treatment itself.

A wonderful book, definitely a sweeping saga that takes many twists in its 600 pages (in ebook format). It does have some graphic scenes, such as the description of fistulas, a condition that occurs in females who are married off young, become pregnant and then have complications with pregnancy due to their body being too immature to complete the birthing process. Descriptions of other diseases and surgeries are also found through out.

I loved this book, I have a feeling its going to be one that I recommend to a lot of people and will talk about to everyone. I also think it is a great read for anyone in the medical or public health field or anyone interested in such topics.

If you’ve been on the fence or had it on your to read shelf forever pick it up, you won’t be disappointed.

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