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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: October 2016

Magic And Loss by Virginia Heffernan

magic-and-loss

Just as Susan Sontag did for photography and Marshall McLuhan did for television, Virginia Heffernan (called one of the “best living writers of English prose”) reveals the logic and aesthetics behind the Internet.
Since its inception, the Internet has morphed from merely an extension of traditional media into its own full-fledged civilization. It is among mankind’s great masterpieces—a massive work of art. As an idea, it rivals monotheism. We all inhabit this fascinating place. But its deep logic, its cultural potential, and its societal impact often elude us. In this deep and thoughtful book, Virginia Heffernan presents an original and far-reaching analysis of what the Internet is and does.
Life online, in the highly visual, social, portable, and global incarnation rewards certain virtues. The new medium favors speed, accuracy, wit, prolificacy, and versatility, and its form and functions are changing how we perceive, experience, and understand the world.

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book for review!

To say, “All that is old is new again,” is that same as saying the inverse: “All that is new is old, again.” Note the comma. For Virginia Heffernan, the author of the highly-cerebral Magic and Loss, the critical characteristic of new technologies that supplant their predecessors is not whatever category by which they are categorically different from their parentages. Instead of committing the intellectually lazy act of declaring that a boundary separating incrementalism from interspectralism has been overcome, she presents the compelling thesis that our tech does little to change what is fundamental to our social consciousness. For all time, our technology has been an imperfect mirror.

From the invention of controlled fire up to the present, that mirror has become increasingly exacting in the image of ourselves that it produces. In the United States alone, this mirror now employs over 110,000 miles of heavy fiber-optic cable, and millions of miles of regional and local cable lines. It promotes the easy, pervasive distribution of photos, videos, and alarming, clickbaiting articles. It provides no built-in buffer time for public expression or reactive thoughts and feelings. Pariahs who would have lived in the shadows a generation ago now enjoy the warmth of like minds. Together, they take their seats at the table of public discourse. If we look different today than we did before the internet, it’s because we can see ourselves my clearly. The mirror changed. We did not.

This point, and many others which are related and equally profound, are trotted out in Magic and Loss with language that is never more vigorous than the subject matter seems to warrant. There is a maturity in the voice of this book that lends extra weight to sentences that contain a blow, that serrates the edges of words that cut. Early on, she quotes author Bruce Sterling: “Poor folk love their cell phones.” Heffernan comments: “Connectivity is poverty, eh? Only the poor, defined broadly as those without better options, are obsessed with connections… The connections that feel like wealth to many of us – call us the impoverished, we who brave Facebook ads and privacy concerns – are in fact meager, more meager even than inflated dollars.”

Every word cuts, and especially so if she’s describing you. She’s not cutting for the sake of cutting. She cutting so that you’ll understand that you’re involved in the issues she’s talking about. Heffernan cuts sparingly, but when she does, no word is chosen arbitrarily. That you are more meager than the inflated dollar that pays for your eyeballs should remind you that you aren’t even the consumer. You’re the product.

Finally, Heffernan’s writing is dripping with only the best influences. She quotes Walter Benjamin multiple times, and the structure of the overall work feels like what part of The Arcades Project might have been like had Benjamin lived to finish it. She drops series of short sentences here and there that taste like passages of Theodore Adorno’s Minima Moralia. What an intellectual joy to read this book was!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Murder on Moonshine Hill by Joan C Curtis

murder on moon

When Jenna decides to go to a friend’s wedding, she expects to dredge up old secrets and old hurts, and she expects to see people from her past, but she doesn’t expect to stumble on a dead body.
Jenna’s friend is arrested. The wedding is cancelled. And Jenna’s tendency to stick her nose where it shouldn’t be leads her into the path of the killer.
Set in the serene mountains of North Carolina, Murder on Moonshine Hill is filled with suspense, humor, and a quirky cast of supporting characters.

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this review copy!

One of my favorite things about this book is the extensive cast. From ex-best friend to spoiled trophy wife, author Joan Curtis displays her masterful knowledge of character development. Everyone has an agenda – some are selfish, some are hidden, and one in particular is the thing that Jenna is trying to discover.

Imagine getting a wedding invitation from your best friend – the one that broke your heart when she dropped you like a hot potato after a death in the family. Would you turn a blind eye to the snub to see her on the happiest day of her life? Reluctant at first, Jenna decides to go after a hidden plea for help drops out of the invitation envelope. She becomes immersed in the extensive family drama swirling around the joyous (or not) event, and soon it is up to her to save her friend’s life. Even if her friend doesn’t want to be saved.

Curtis enjoys the setting of North Carolina; it’s evident in the loving and descriptive way she describes the scenery. When a book is written in a way where the setting complements the plot, that adds another level of enjoyment to my reading.

Jenna’s friend Quentin is adorably protective of her, often deflecting her overbearing mom’s attention away from her and onto himself, using tried-and-true methods that had me laughing. What girl doesn’t need a Queer Eye For The Straight Girl BFF?

Another hallmark of Curtis’ writing is that the villain is not always obvious. My mental finger was pointed at quite a few people before the troublemaker was finally exposed. I love when a book is written in this manner; my interest is held all the way until the end, no early boredom sets in!

Jenna’s character is not without flaws – she is a strong woman with feelings that can be hurt, as demonstrated in her internal dialogues detailing her confusion and sorrow after her childhood girlfriend suddenly vanishes from her life without an explanation. Most of us have been there in some way or another – but we may never get the chance for closure like Jenna does.

I strongly recommend picking up this book; it’s an easy, well written mystery that will keep you entertained all the way through. You can pick up your own copy here.

The Joy Of Nursing by Juliana Adams

joy of nursing

Juliana Adams has lived her dream of being a nurse for 50 years. Her stories are stunning and startling; raw and revealing; heart wrenching and heart soaring. In her eye-opening experiences, she provides a deeper perspective … to always look beyond the diagnosis … because every nurse is more than just a nurse!
The Joy of Nursing: Reclaiming Our Nobility is provocative and riveting as the stories from new nurse to intuitive experienced nurse unfold. Far more than a memoir, it is a rich journey from novice to expert, a concept with historical roots for all who enter this profession.
-Are you a nurse or exploring nursing as a career?
-Are you wondering what is true about being a nurse?
-Does your nursing reality match the dream you once envisioned?

With courage, insight and optimism, Juliana Adams reveals the challenges and barriers that face the profession. To be a nurse is an honor.
She shares stories, her insights, and her dedication to nursing are exactly what the overwhelmed, disillusioned, innocent and anyone entering nursing needs.

Many thanks to the author and JKS Communications for gifting me this book for review!

Nursing is not an easy job – there is heartbreak, stress, and backbreaking work involved. THE JOY OF NURSING illustrates all that, but with an undertone of hope, pride, and strength.

To have a career that spans 50 years is impressing and daunting in itself, never mind having to deal with human suffering for all that time. Imagine the innovations that one would see, watching the field grow and develop! Adams starts with  the beginning of nursing, as created by Florence Nightingale, and discusses how doctors would view these eager young women entering the field. She then ties that in with her own nascent desire to become a nurse, and describes her journey.

Patient care itself has not changed since the first nurse started doing her job; rather, it is the albatross of Health Insurance that has skewed how hospitals are run. The objectives are still the same; ease pain and suffering, provide a friendly face to those who worry about their loved ones, and advocate for those who have no voice.

Adams does all of these things and more – and tells how she tries to find joy in each day. One story that touched me a great deal was the gently used clothing bin she and other nurses created; for indigent patients whose clothing was soiled due to illness, or for those who simply didn’t have another change of clothes available. What a thoughtful thing to do – provide a basic human need at a time when it is needed the most.

As you read through this book, you will see that Adams is intent on keeping nurses in love with their job, by sharing her own struggles and solutions. Words of advice can be found on almost every page, with scenarios that show how Adams grew within her profession and how she overcame her own disillusionment. She is honest and open about her own strengths and weaknesses while telling us the lessons she has learned over the years.  It is easy to see how each of her patients has touched her as their lives intersected.

The underlying intent of THE JOY OF NURSING is obvious – Adams has done a wonderful job of sharing the love she has for her calling – and the message comes through loud and clear. The blurb notes that it is good for either new nursing graduates or for those who are feeling disillusioned.

We all need a bit of encouragement now and then; and this book will certainly provide that for nurses. Who will heal the healers? Adams understands that advice from someone who has “been there” is invaluable. She gives the field of nursing a valuable and necessary gift in this book.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H Konis

Conversations cover

The Conversations We Never Had is a new memoir/historical fiction novel by Jeffrey H. Konis. It tells the tale of a grandson who had taken his grandmother for granted, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “Years later, I moved in with Olga for a period of time, but I allowed history to repeat itself – a classic mistake – and failed to ask her the same questions my father avoided. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I am left with a sense of guilt and profound regret, wishing so badly that I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.

Many thanks to Book Publicity Services for introducing me to this touching story. Many of us have regrets that we didn’t spend time with our family when we had the chance – myself included. Reading this story should encourage you to rectify that situation sooner rather than later.

Conversations Jeffrey H. Konis


Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and…”
”Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.


Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

About the Author

After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning. His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016. Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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