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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Twisted Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport confronts an old nemesis, now more powerful than ever as a U.S. senator, in the thrilling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling Prey series
Lucas Davenport had crossed paths with her before. A rich psychopath, Taryn Grant had run successfully for the U.S. Senate, where Lucas had predicted she’d fit right in. He was also convinced that she’d been responsible for three murders, though he’d never been able to prove it. Once a psychopath had gotten that kind of rush, though, he or she often needed another fix, so he figured he might be seeing her again.
He was right. A federal marshal now, with a very wide scope of investigation, he’s heard rumors that Grant has found her seat on the Senate intelligence committee, and the contacts she’s made from it, to be very…useful. Pinning those rumors down was likely to be just as difficult as before, and considerably more dangerous.
But they had unfinished business, he and Grant. One way or the other, he was going to see it through to the end.

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Twisted Prey is the 28th book in the bestselling series by John Sandford. The teaser here is that Federal Marshal Lucas Davenport may finally be able to put paid to the evil Taryn Grant, who got away a few books back (see Silken Prey). An “accident” involving a US Senator is brought to Davenport’s attention, and soon enough, all the wonderful characters of Sandford’s imagination come out to play. I especially enjoyed reading the pithy cop talk between officers Bob and Rae; the scene with the donuts was spot-on!

Taryn Grant is quite the narcissist in this book, as she manipulates others to do her bidding. Despite Davenport’s more-than-a-hunch feelings that she is the bad guy, there is no clear evidence linking her to the accident in the beginning of the book. She’s got plenty to hide, though, and does it well. Shame that such a smart female character has to be so evil. She is not my favorite bad character – despite her ambition she seems too flat for my liking.

There was a bit too much politics in this installment to be perfect; all the discussion of defense contracts and the like bogged the story down a bit. This was a middle-of-the-road book; familiar characters doing familiar things, yet it took just a touch too long to wrap up. This may be due to the setting being Washington, DC – when the stories take place in Minnesota there is something oddly comforting about the location. I wonder how much of the story was written out of inspiration vs having to wrap up the Taryn Grant situation?

However, no Prey book is truly heinous. We also find that Davenport isn’t untouchable, as an encounter with some bad guys leaves him screaming like a little girl (one of the funniest vignettes in the book). He is getting older and feeling it, which is a refreshing touch.

Twisted Prey is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours of your time, however, long time Sandford fans may feel a little let down with the heavy concentration on the politics. Let’s see what happens in the next installment – maybe Lucas will be back on his home turf again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up on Amazon.

Natural Causes: The Epidemic of Wellness by Barbara Ehrenreich

A razor-sharp polemic which offers an entirely new understanding of our bodies, ourselves, and our place in the universe, Natural Causes describes how we over-prepare and worry way too much about what is inevitable. One by one, Ehrenreich topples the shibboleths that guide our attempts to live a long, healthy life — from the importance of preventive medical screenings to the concepts of wellness and mindfulness, from dietary fads to fitness culture.

But Natural Causes goes deeper — into the fundamental unreliability of our bodies and even our “mind-bodies,” to use the fashionable term. Starting with the mysterious and seldom-acknowledged tendency of our own immune cells to promote deadly cancers, Ehrenreich looks into the cellular basis of aging, and shows how little control we actually have over it. We tend to believe we have agency over our bodies, our minds, and even over the manner of our deaths. But the latest science shows that the microscopic subunits of our bodies make their own “decisions,” and not always in our favor.
We may buy expensive anti-aging products or cosmetic surgery, get preventive screenings and eat more kale, or throw ourselves into meditation and spirituality. But all these things offer only the illusion of control.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Natural Causes is like having two books in one. The beginning section discusses whether eating “right” and exercise will truly extend our life expectancy, or if those admonitions are erroneous. The author makes some good points, while others seem a bit dubious to me. Her writing is at times self-deprecating and humorous; other times erudite.

The second part of the book is a bit dry, as she delves into the philosophical side of what is “self”, and how we think about death and dying. There is also well written chapters about inflammation, cancer, and how we may be doomed to succumb despite positive thinking and the best efforts of our oncologists.

As a long distance runner, I felt an uncomfortable feeling as the author worked through debunking exercise “myths”. Did I agree with her or not? I agreed with the section on medical ritual, as explained by Stanford medical professor Abraham Verghese during one of his TED talks. He discusses a breast cancer patient who chooses a less prestigious facility over one with valet parking, a welcoming atrium, etc. The reason? The first facility actually gave her a physical exam, using touch and interaction. If I visit a doctor and do not get my eyes, ears, or lung sounds assessed, I feel cheated. Ritual displays, whether they are a placebo or not, satisfy and calm me. I also felt a kinship with the chapter on mindfulness and ADHD, as she discusses electronic addiction and how that is depleting our attention span.

As I read on I realized that I did not agree with her decision to shun yearly exams (her thoughts are that the doctors are “looking for problems that remain undetectable to me”). The author also discusses repetitive x-rays of the teeth, mammograms and their tendency towards false positives, and colonoscopy.

When she started noting the evidence of “overdiagnosing” due to the multitude of various health screenings available, I simultaneously agreed and disagreed. A 90-year old woman does not need a mammogram; a 30-year old should get Pap smears and yearly bloodwork.

The chapter entitled Cellular Treason was most interesting; explaining that perhaps all the steps we take to remain healthy may be for naught; our cells will do what they want regardless. It was at this point in the book that the writing became more scientific and less opinionated, and leaned towards the dry and almost dull. I rather enjoyed the cantankerous, tinfoil hat-like musings from the beginning.

Ehrenreich may be a detractor of medicine, but she is no dope. She is intelligent and can put a sentence together well. This book is certain to spark debate, which hopefully was her intent. Each chapter has the ability to appeal to a wide range of people, as well as invite criticism. I feel better prepared to face my doctor after reading it.

Want your own copy? Head over to Amazon and grab it!

 

Autumn of Fear by Glede Kabongo

An ambitious girl with a promising future, a charming manipulator with a diabolical secret—the truth will destroy them both .
When college student Abbie Cooper wakes up in a hospital bed barely alive after a violent assault, her world comes crashing down. She has no memory of the attack or her assailant, and no idea how she ended up in the Emergency Room.
As she grapples with the horrific aftermath, Abbie is determined to uncover the truth about what happened that night. But to catch a monster, she must piece together the events in the weeks leading up to the assault. Why did charming senior Spencer Rossdale take a sudden interest in her, and why did her quiet study group partner Justin Tate want to meet with her alone?
The deeper Abbie digs into the events leading up to that fateful night, the more she unravels a stunning web of lies that stretch back decades. Revealing them will change everything but the truth is the least of Abbie’s problems. A vicious predator is watching her, and he’s willing to kill to protect his secret.

Thanks to the author for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Abbie Cooper is enveloped in intrigue again when she is the victim of an accident. Unfortunately, she cannot remember what happened. We follow her journey in flashbacks and present day as the author takes us into Abbie’s life.  Once you get used to switching  back and forth from the past to the present, the book flows smoothly. The tension mounts as we get closer to the day of the accident, and we learn about some difficult decisions she needs to make. Loyal friend Ty is at Abbie’s side, which frustrates his girlfriend (whom I love to hate!). Former acquaintances attempt to break Abbie’s tight control of her personal life, and it seems as though no one can be trusted.

Kabongo’s writing style is easy to read, and the suspense quietly builds until everything implodes. Abbie needs to make a life changing decision that will hit home with a lot of readers. I cannot say that I am happy with the way this part of the story turned out, but I know the author has her next book in mind and this twist will be a large part of that story.

The character of Abbie Cooper is growing and maturing. She is letting others get close to her and understands that sometime life throws a curve ball at you. The events taking place in Autumn of Fear are believable for the most part. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to see what adventures Abbie will experience in the next chapter of her life.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0692082611″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Expressions of an Artist by Frances Bildner

“I wonder the wonder, freedom of freedoms, play for you nightly and sing in the rain.I pray for your ghosts to let you off lightly, lessen and get rid of your terrible pain.”Expressions of An Artist: The Whole Shebang is a raw, in depth form of personal expression through the intricate use of English. Frances Bildner’s brave writing speaks from a place of pure honesty and beauty, using a masterful artistry with words to create this unforgettable collection.Using a potent mix of poetry, prose and a stream-of-consciousness style of writing, Bildner creates a completely unique piece that is haunting and moving at the deepest levels. Above all, Bildner emphasises the importance of love, of relationships, of seeing the world and of having an open mind. Her passion for living life away from the beaten track is clear, and her skill with words is nothing short of inspiring.

 

Many thanks to the author and to Publishing Push for this review copy!

This flowing, rambling work of art is most unusual. The author combines her poetry with her paintings in this grand outpouring of emotion called EXPRESSIONS OF AN ARTIST. She explores love, loss, politics, and hatred with her art – discussing uncomfortable subjects and thrusting them almost angrily at the reader.

The first section is autobiographical; read this and the poetry gains another layer of understanding. Ms Bildner is no stranger to sadness, and this is clear in her work. She also lets hope and expectation shine through as well, but not as often. Her words are visceral and filmy at once; the way she combines images and phrases will hit you in the head and the heart.

My favorite section is entitled “Political”.  Bildner sneers at men and their havoc they wreak on the battlefield, weeps for those lost in the Holocaust, and paints a dystopian picture that Orwell would be proud of.  Discrimination, oppression, and hypocrisy are all described, drawn out like sticky taffy being pulled; her words stick in your head and force you to see what she is seeing, what she has seen.  Her paintings in this section are darker as well – rows of skull-like faces below a yellow star gape at the reader. I caught my breath as I stared at them, and felt the weight of a thousand souls inside me.

The mark of a good poet is one who can make you laugh, cry, and most of all, THINK with her words. Ms Bildner is one such poet.  Her words are to be absorbed and considered, for they are very relevant in 2018, where hate and divisiveness still exist around the world.

I dare you to read this book and not be touched by her emotions.  If you aren’t moved by her words, check your chest to see if you still hear a beating sound within.  You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1785546481″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Champagne Crystals 

Champagne crystals, camaraderie, flight, bubbles in the air, bubbles everywhere, aeration, colour, sanguine moments. Spirit alive entering the gates of nirvana. Chrystal, veuve, what’s in a name, the purity, the semblance of a glass of champagne. Jockeys fly, horses neigh, the culmination of another day. Psychics, mediums, bursting through, who’s to say what’s you and you.

Anticipation, bubbles and expectation. I put my hand around your waist and tasted friendship. Not formed in haste. Champagne you asked, is it free, Champagne you queried for you and me?

Bubbles of life, love and laughter floating above the heavier matter. Champagne cocktails, chitter chatter. Corks that pop, love a lot, fizz in the air. Champagne everywhere, in the bath a glass between friends making many amends.

A Painting To Die For by Joan C. Curtis

Jenna’s quiet weekend turns upside down when she returns home to find her house totally ransacked, and the police uncover a dead body with her name in its possession. Meanwhile her long-lost cousins show up on her doorstep with stories about stolen paintings, hidden masterpieces—worth millions, Mafia friends, and much more.

While Jenna questions the motives of her dead father in connection to the stolen art, the police find a second body with Jenna’s name in its possession, and she becomes the primary suspect in two murder inquiries. Sidestepping the police and dodging the mob, she and her best friend, Quentin, embark on their own investigation to save themselves and Jenna’s lying, double-crossing cousins from untimely deaths.
A Painting to Die For forms a web of deceit that leaves Jenna doubting everything she believes about her father and his Italian family.

Thank you, Joan, for the review copy!

A PAINTING TO DIE FOR is amateur detective Jenna Scali’s third outing.

She is back at it again, when she gets dragged into another mystery – this time by her duplicitous cousins asking her help to locate a missing painting. Before you know it, she is getting involved with another kind of Family and dragging her best friend Quentin along with her on a wild goose chase. She is as stubborn as ever, hiding her activities from her cop boyfriend as needed. She is also very patient – I would have walked away from her crazy cousins without a second glance. This is where most of my frustration with this story lies; the dialogue and actions of her family are circuitous and vague. I understand that is all with the intention to further the plot, and I will say if Curtis’ intention was to make the reader want to shake Joey & Co until their teeth fell out, she has succeeded! However, it is my opinion that some of the round and round could have been trimmed and the plot wouldn’t have suffered one bit.

I did enjoy the bits of art and Italian history mixed in – it shows that the author has done her research. We also get to learn more about Jenna’s heritage, which makes her character more familiar to us. She is becoming more mature also, as we see her concentrating on her schoolwork and career. Curtis has done an excellent job giving Jenna another layer of personality. A character that doesn’t grow in a series is dull and makes all the books the same. She is still the same sarcastic girl we know and love! Quentin and Starr seem to have taken a back seat to the rotten cousins, which may be why this book seemed different to me. Jenna is still supported by her co-stars, but they don’t seem to be shining through as with the other adventures.

There were some suspenseful parts towards the end, and a few twists that always make for good reading. That being said, I was happy to see her cousins in the rear view mirror at the end of A PAINTING TO DIE FOR. I’d love to see what Jenna will get herself mixed up with in the next installment!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B0762D2X2Z” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Playing the Ponies and Other Medical Mysteries Solved by Stuart B. Mushlin

With over forty years of experience as a sought after diagnostician, Dr. Stuart Mushlin has cracked his share of medical mysteries, ones in which there are bigger gambles than playing the ponies at the track. Some of his patients show up with puzzling symptoms, calling for savvy medical detective work. Others seem to present cut-and-dry cases, but they turn out to be suffering from rare or serious conditions.

In Playing the Ponies and Other Medical Mysteries Solved, Dr. Mushlin shares some of the most intriguing cases he has encountered, revealing the twists and turns of each patient’s diagnosis and treatment process. Along the way, he imparts the secrets to his success as a medical detective—not specialized high-tech equipment, but time-honored techniques like closely observing, touching, and listening to patients. He also candidly describes cases where he got things wrong, providing readers with honest insights into both the joys and dilemmas of his job.
Dr. Mushlin does not just treat diseases; he treats people. And this is not just a book about the ailments he diagnosed; it is also about the scared, uncertain, ailing individuals he helped in the process. Filled with real-life medical stories you’ll have to read to believe, Playing the Ponies is both a suspenseful page-turner and a heartfelt reflection on a life spent caring for patients.

Thanks, Rutgers University Press, for this review copy!

This book should be enjoyed most by those in the medical field. It’s a no-frills, straightforward collection of odd cases and the mental acuity needed to solve them. There is minimal gore, yet there is excellent description of the patient and how he is suffering. Each chapter is a new disease process, with the thorough history given, then the doctor’s thought process. Most of the cases have an ending; there are a few where the patient is not seen again or fails to return for a recheck visit.

Some cases are difficult merely because the patient is not forthcoming with complete medical history, where others are truly “zebras” instead of horses (There is a famous statement that notes when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras). Each case can be read on its own, with no continuity between chapters – great for absorbing a single chapter before bed.

Mushlin notes that he was an English major before he went to medical school, something that has held him in great stead as he examines patients. He notes how important it is to listen to their words as well as the silence between the words. Imagine that – a doctor taking the time to actually listen to their patient’s complaints! Mushlin’s quiet and caring bedside manner shines through on every page, even when he is handling an especially recalcitrant patient he does his best to care for her.

All four of the reviews noted on the back of the book jacket are from medical doctors, and expound on the joy of reading this book. Most of the reviews online by lay people are positive, except for someone who calls the writing wooden, and feels the stories are too short. I feel the reviewer was not familiar with this type of book; namely, a kind that minimizes drama and emphasizes the medicine. Mushlin’s style is plain and full of information. I understood everything he was saying, because I am a veterinary nurse and quite familiar with the workings of the body. In fact, I can say this is one of the few books I have read that gave so much detail on each patient before the diagnosis was discussed. I felt as if I were part of Dr Mushlin’s team with the patient right in front of me.

The only part of the book that I have a complaint about is in the chapter Learning From The Patient. The author notes that they practiced studies in a dog lab, so as to learn about basic physiologic processes. He goes on to note that “…the human body is not the same as a dog’s, humans are much more complex…”. This frustrated me, as I feel that many canine and human diseases are shared, such as diabetes, cancer, Addison’s, and neurologic issues. Each species is a complex being, similar yet different. I took his statement as demeaning to dogs and animals in general. Veterinary medicine is just as complex as human medicine, and requires the same mental and emotional effort to heal those patients. Perhaps if Dr Mushlin spent some time at an emergency veterinary hospital he would understand my feedback.

That concern was the only negative feedback I have for PLAYING THE PONIES – I found it a stimulating and fascinating read; educational without being taxing. Every patient should have a Dr Mushlin caring for him.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0813570557″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

City of Endless Night (Pendergast #17) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

What begins as a manhunt for the missing daughter of a wealthy tech billionaire becomes something altogether different when the young woman’s body is discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Kew Gardens, Queens, the head nowhere to be found. It appears there may be two killers on the loose–one responsible for the young woman’s death, another responsible for the mutilation. A pair of such dastardly killers requires a team of equally talented investigators. Luckily, both Vincent D’Agosta and Special Agent Pendergast are back in town.
D’Agosta hopes that working a case back on his home turf for the first time in years will reinvigorate the FBI Special Agent and give him an opportunity to flex his investigative might. But neither is prepared to face a killer–or killers–as diabolical as this. It will take all of Pendergast and D’Agosta’s intelligence and strength simply to match wits–let alone stay alive

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This installment fits firmly in the middle of the pack when it comes to enjoyment value. Pendergast is always wonderful to spend time with, but in this book he seems psychically disturbed somehow, not the invincible man we are familiar with. His conversations with D’Agosta are nebulous, even distant, and there is no chemistry between them. Perhaps this is what the authors intended to create, given the final chapter’s activities. In any case, there are murders, bad guys, and beheadings, with plenty of gory details that Pendergast devotees are familiar with.

Some other reviews have stated that they could see the plot twists coming; I could not. Mostly I spent my time mentally urging the characters to make better choices and communicate more.

Some of the more enjoyable parts: having Pendergast battle things out in the abandoned mental hospital (I am an urban explorer and love hearing about places, even if I can only be there vicariously), and some of the dialogue is utterly delicious. Case in point – as Pendergast is trying to get into an office without an appointment:

“An appointment was merely a courtesy,” he said, allowing a little iron to mingle with the butter. “As a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, looking into an active homicide, I go where I please, when I please, as long as I have reasonable suspicion to do so. Now, I suggest you speak to your minders and arrange an audience….without delay. Otherwise, there might be unpleasantness in store for each of you, personally.”

This is the kind of dialogue I live for in a Pendergast book.  Often there are hidden gems like this, bright spots among dull moments in the plot. Perhaps these books are like pizza – as the saying goes: even if it’s done bad, it’s still good. Despite the characters not having chemistry, it was still great to spend time with them. Perhaps the next installment will show a happier Special Agent, given the plot twist at the end. I miss his smooth arrogance and confidence, and I’m sure you do too.

Summation: great characters behaving in ordinary ways. Pendergast is not shown in the strongest light, and there isn’t any real furthering of the big picture. However, it’s not the worst P&C book ever written. Let this book tide you over until the next one comes along.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1455536946″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Counting Backwards ( A Doctor’s Notes on Anesthesia) by Henry Jay Przybylo

For many of the 40 million Americans who undergo anesthesia each year, it is the source of great fear and fascination. From the famous first demonstration of anesthesia in the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846 to today’s routine procedure that controls anxiety, memory formation, pain relief, and more, anesthesia has come a long way. But it remains one of the most extraordinary, unexplored corners of the medical world.
In Counting Backwards, Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo—a pediatric anesthesiologist with more than thirty years of experience—delivers an unforgettable account of the procedure’s daily dramas and fundamental mysteries. Przybylo has administered anesthesia more than 30,000 times in his career—erasing consciousness, denying memory, and immobilizing the body, and then reversing all of these effects—on newborn babies, screaming toddlers, sullen teenagers, even a gorilla. With compassion and candor, he weaves his experiences into an intimate exploration of the nature of consciousness, the politics of pain relief, and the wonder of modern medicine.

Filled with intensity and humanity, with moments of near-disaster, life-saving success, and simple grace, Counting Backwards is for anyone curious about what happens after we lose consciousness.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

There is nothing as fascinating as anesthesia. The very idea of being in a state where your insides could be cut, manipulated, and sewn back together is mind-blowing; yet this happens on a daily basis all over the world. COUNTING BACKWARDS is the personal account of a person with intimate knowledge and respect for this phenomenon.

He shares stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly surgeries that he has overseen. From babies to gorillas, he has seen more than his share. The book is not just medical jargon; he recounts his interactions with patients and shares some of his most intimate thoughts with us. We learn what his routine is when setting up for a surgery – and why it never varies. We learn the history and development of anesthesia drugs – and why he creates a new plan for each patient. Dr Przybylo is a caring and meticulous man, one that I would want in the surgery suite with me.

This memoir came about when he enrolled in the MFA program at Goucher College; a step that is admirable and daunting. His professors must have loved encouraging and developing his writing style, as the story flows as smoothly as isoflurane into the lungs. The good doctor draws from his years of experience as he discusses patients, medicine, and humanity. Each story has a moral of sorts – they don’t always have a happy ending – but there is always a lesson to be learned.

It takes a special person to have the intelligence to understand the workings of anesthesia, while also possessing the compassion to care for people. The human race can be a frustrating and ugly bunch while sick and/or scared – I’ve been one of those people a few times. Dr Przybylo is kind enough, as well as strong enough, and that is what made this book stand out for me. There was just enough anesthetic detail and gore to keep me interested, while keeping the human condition firmly front and center. This book would be a wonderful addition to someone’s medical library.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0393254437″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Closer by Shaz Kahng

The decision was irreversible. . .Vivien would become either the most remarkable female executive in the sports industry, or the biggest failure.
Vivien Lee has spent her entire consulting career helping CEO’s look good, so when she finally has the chance to go after her dream of running a business, she grabs it. A lifelong athlete, Vivien arrives at the Smart Sports campus in Portland, Oregon and is introduced as the first female president. It’s one of the highest-profile jobs in an industry inhospitable to women. Principled but slightly naive, Vivien believes her male peers will give her a fair shot.


Stumbling early, Vivien makes a series of rookie mistakes. With guidance from the Ceiling Smashers, a secret society of successful professional women, Vivien learns to navigate the treacherous business terrain. A tight-knit group of male sports executives is determined to show that an industry outsider cannot prevail. The challenge is all too clear: will Vivien triumph in the sports industry against impossible odds?
You’ll want to stay up all night to find out what happens to Vivien and share her inspiring story with your friends. This is a fresh, riveting tale about a strong woman endeavoring to succeed with smarts, scruples, and style.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This book caught my eye because it was advertised in a runner’s blog. The plot is not mainly about athletic ability; it’s about a businesswoman trying to break through the glass ceiling at a fictional Nike rival. It began with the main character, Vivien, being lauded at her job for solving crises and rescuing sales accounts in danger of being lost. This part sets the stage to show Vivien as an overachieving Type A that succeeds at everything she does. All her friends are equally perfect, having MBA’s from the Wharton School, shiny hair, and stunning wardrobes. It began to be too much for me, and the book was almost a DNF. There was a lot of girl conversation and wine; then the plot twist saved the day – Vivien quits her job as a consultant to move across the country to work for Smart Sports in Portland.

Things improved a great deal with the change of venue. There was less perfection and more struggle, with the glass ceiling in full effect. Misogynistic coworkers lay traps for Vivien, which she occasionally falls into. I had a hard time believing someone so savvy could be tricked like that. She was way too trusting – I kept thinking about how obviously the men were plotting against her and she was just trying to be “friends” with them.

The best part of the book for me was reading about the clothing and shoes, and how they were designed and marketed. Second best was seeing Vivien out-think the men, despite treachery  and politics everywhere. It’s too bad that this book is designed to appeal to women; more men should be reading about the struggles that we face in the business and sports world. None of these things seemed over the top or impossible; I’m sure that the author is writing from personal experience, with names changed to protect the guilty.

There is satisfaction as Vivien lives to fight another day against the evil male empire, but I may not be picking up the second book in the series. It’s enough that I live it, I don’t want to read about it.

Having said that – this book is recommended for its erudite and resilient main character. Chick lit fans should grab this to experience a different kind of strong woman. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”0998656607″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

THE EDUCATION OF A CORONER by John Bateson

In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides.
Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the country. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, and comprises a large percentage of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—which is different from what is depicted on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, preparing testimony for court to notifying families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena such as autoeroticism.

Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coroner provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Fans of true crime will love this book. Coroner Ken Holmes’ cases are described in great, gory detail, along with his thought process for cause of death. Some go unsolved, but all of them are a part of him.

Holmes is a self-deprecating man, which helped him move up the ladder within his department. As each case unfolds, the author portrays him with the right amount of confidence and respect. Some cases are more convoluted than others, so I am not sure who is at fault when the particulars get confusing. There were times where I had to read over the cast of characters a few times in order to determine who killed who, who had the motive, and other items of note. That is really the only caveat I have about this book – otherwise it’s an enjoyable, if dark, read. There are plenty of cases to appeal to everyone’s interest, whether it be prurient or otherwise. Holmes has an outstanding memory and usually has a philosophical turn when sharing his stories.

I got the impression that he is proud of his work, pays great attention to detail, and truly cares about those affected by the victim’s death. He emphasizes personal contact and shows empathy to those left behind.

Any book that teaches me something is a gem. In reading THE EDUCATION OF A CORONER I learned about rigor mortis (starts at the jaw, which is the strongest muscle in the body), suicide (apparently the Golden Gate Bridge was a mecca for those seeking to shuffle off this mortal coil) and government (how to work your way up through the ranks).

This was an excellent departure for the norm for me, and a thoroughly wonderful experience. If you have an interest in true crime or want to know what really happens during an investigation, pick this up. You won’t be sorry.

You can grab your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1501168223″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

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