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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].

CATCHING BREATH by Kathryn Lougheed

With more than a million victims every year–more than any other disease, including malaria–and antibiotic resistance now found in every country worldwide, tuberculosis is once again proving itself to be one of the smartest killers that humanity has ever faced. But it’s hardly surprising considering how long it’s had to hone its skills. Forty-thousand years ago, our ancestors set off from the cradle of civilization on their journey towards populating the planet. Tuberculosis hitched a lift and came with us, and it’s been there ever since; waiting, watching, and learning.
The organism responsible, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, has had plenty of time to adapt to its chosen habitat–human lungs–and has learned through natural selection to be an almost perfect pathogen. Using our own immune cells as a Trojan Horse to aid its spread, it’s come up with clever ways to avoid being killed by antibiotics. But patience has been its biggest lesson–it can enter into a latent state when times are tough, only to come back to life when a host’s immune system is compromised. Today, more than one million people die of the disease every year and around one-third of the world’s population are believed to be infected. That’s more than two billion people. Throw in the compounding problems of drug resistance, the HIV epidemic, and poverty, and it’s clear that tuberculosis remains one of the most serious problems in world medicine.
Catching Breath follows the history of TB through the ages, from its time as an infection of hunter-gatherers to the first human villages, which set it up with everything it needed to become the monstrous disease it is today, through to the perils of industrialization and urbanization. It goes on to look at the latest research in fighting the disease, with stories of modern scientific research, interviews with doctors on the TB frontline, and the personal experiences of those affected by the disease.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the research and science are excellent and multilayered. You can easily discern the love the author has for tuberculosis and how to contain it. On the other hand, some of her attempts at humor and lightening the mood seemed out of place to me. A reader who is not familiar with pop culture may find some of her sentences confusing – such as:

“Basically, in some settings, the machines are just sitting there like big ugly espresso machines that no one really knows how to use. Even if someone does get the urge to brew some coffee, George Clooney has used the last cassette and not put in a new order”.

I would be totally immersed in the science aspect and she would throw something like that in there from time to time. It seemed as if she was attempting to lighten the serious subject up with these humorous asides, but it just didn’t work for me.

There are a lot of facts and statistics about TB, which are staggering when you stop to consider how many people have been, and are, suffering from this disease. Certainly TB doesn’t get the airtime of, let’s say, AIDS or cancer – but its presence is still felt daily in places like Africa or India. I hadn’t realized how prevalent it still is, or how stricken these countries are.

The writer goes deep into the origin of TB and the different ways scientists are trying to defeat it. It’s a canny bacteria, though, and has the ability to mutate or take advantage of other sicknesses in the body. After reading CATCHING BREATH, I know more about TB than I ever have; from the obvious to the minutiae, the author gives us everything she’s got. I definitely appreciate her effort but the writing style was at times too dry, too broadly humorous or too rambling. Maybe a bit of editing would do the trick? In any case, don’t avoid this book if you are a fan of diseases – just be prepared for a little strangeness. You will be educated, amazed, and humbled by this tenacious germ.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1472930347″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

A PIECE OF THE WORLD by Christina Baker Kline

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.
As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

I purchased this book on my own and so have no one to thank but myself 🙂

Who doesn’t love this iconic Wyeth painting? When I was growing up I had a print on my bedroom wall. There was a terrible beauty in the stark juxtaposition of the girl and the house; even without knowing that she had an affliction, I just knew that there was something wrong with her. Regardless, I wanted Christina in my life. I wanted to be her friend.

After reading A PIECE OF THE WORLD, I have changed my mind. I would not want to have the author’s Christina in my life. Despite the designation of “historical fiction”, my soul has been crushed by the portrayal of Christina as a mean spirited, stubborn, cold individual. Many times I wanted to grab her fictional neck and wring it! There is a lot to be said for staying the course and holding true to yourself, but there is also holding yourself back and making bad decisions. I’d love to know what impelled Kline to create this version of Christina. I have to hand it to her – she took an icon and tarnished it well, without fear of repercussion.

Kline brings us into Christina’s world bit by bit, making the years sadder and sadder, until we are numb. There are so many chances to make a change, and yet our heroine digs herself in stubbornly. In a way she is the sun around which various planets (Wyeth, her brother) revolve, and in other ways she is just a distant, minor, and fading star. Kline’s writing style is illuminative and evocative. She can make us cringe, gasp, or cheer appropriately. The Maine farming mentality is well illustrated (no electricity!) and helps us understand Christina’s reasons for living the way she does. The best thing about this book is that you will continue to wrestle with the characters for a while after you are done reading. What motivated Christina? Why did Al make the choice to stay with her? I wondered if I truly hated Christina or if I felt sorry for her after all she had been through. I also wished she had been written differently – but then the book wouldn’t have made the impact that it did. This is the crowning moment of what it means to be a writer…having readers continue to discuss the plot and characters long after the book is done. Regardless of whether I liked the fictional Christina, I was impressed with the author’s ability to stoke my emotions.

Whether you are a fan of Wyeth or just want to read some provoking historical fiction, grab this. You won’t be sorry. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”0062356267″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

FINAL GIRLS is a book that reads a little differently from its description. It wasn’t much off – but off enough that I wished the blurb was more accurate.

Quincy starts out as a sort-of-sympathetic character, then becomes annoying and confusing. Understandably she is happy with her food blog and her ineffectual boyfriend, but somehow changes persona 180 degrees when fellow survivor Sam comes into the picture. Together they become a two person mini-mob, stealing things and causing trouble.

Sam is a character that is not only unreliable, but unhinged. Her motives seem to be clear one minute, then murky the next. I wasn’t very fond of her at all and wondered how mealy little Quincy could enjoy her company. I also wondered how some of the things they did escaped unnoticed. In any case, the plot advances until the house of lies they built comes crashing down. Then follows a plot twist that I hadn’t seen coming (always a good thing) and the story abruptly ends.

Despite all the activity and violence, I wasn’t truly engaged in the story or the characters. I read through it halfheartedly hoping it would get better. I felt that I had to suspend my belief a few times and I struggled to care about the outcome. Perhaps if the story was a bit shorter, or there was less instances of Quincy’s monologues, and baking, and flashbacks (which had no detail, really), and love-hate interactions between Quincy and Sam ……. I’m not sure. Is it possible to call a thriller “dull”? It was certainly true in this case. I’d say without a doubt FINAL GIRLS is an instance where the plot holds great promise but the writer doesn’t deliver. Maybe this would have been better as a movie, given that the backdrop was similar to those silly-but-not-really 80’s horror flicks. Some things just don’t transition well from screen to page.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1101985364″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

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