Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

I love the premise of this book. Monsieur Perdu runs what he terms a "literary apothecary" -- a bookshop aboard a boat docked in Paris. He believes that books can heal people if they know the right books to read. Naturally, he knows exactly what books they need and suggests titles when those in need enter his shop.

I once fancied myself a Monsieur Perdu of sorts.

I used to work for Scholastic Book Fairs and traveled to area schools to do Book Talk assemblies. I'd highlight several of the books that would be featured on the book fairs, giving the students just enough information to entice them to read the books without giving away any endings. I often heard that such-and-such didn't like to read and I thought: he/she just hasn't been given the right book. And I'd try to find just the right book, whether it be Guinness World Records or Junie B. Jones, that would suddenly spark an interest in reading in that child.

I loved my job.

So I was naturally drawn to Monsieur Perdu and his literary apothecary. Especially when the first customer he treated was so like me.

A woman came into his shop and wanted to buy a popular bestseller, but Monsieur Perdu persuaded her not to buy it because it wasn't the right book for her; it wasn't what she needed. She was taken aback but finally consented and asked what book he would prescribe for her.

"You need your own room. Not too bright, with a kitten to keep you company. And this book, which you will please read slowly, so you can take the occasional break. You'll do a lot of thinking and probably a bit of crying. For yourself. For the years. But you'll feel better afterward. You'll know that now you don't have to die, even if that's how it feels because the guy didn't treat you well. And you will like yourself again and won't find yourself ugly or naïve."

Oh my god! I felt like the author, Nina George, had reached into my life and my psyche and pulled out exactly what I needed. I just went through a divorce, started redecorating, and told my daughter we'd get a kitten. I didn't care about the woman in the book. I wanted to know what book I needed to read that would touch me this way.

Monsieur Perdu's book reco?  The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which has been sitting on my shelf unread for a year.

I couldn't wait to read the rest of this literary novel and see what other books he'd prescribe. I knew I'd have a stack of books to be read by the time I finished. But really -- what could be better than that? The only bad part about reading an engrossing novel like The Little Paris Bookshop is wondering what in the world you can follow it up with. Now I know. I've accumulated a whole little library to delve into next.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book Review: Hyacinth Girls

The storyline of Lauren Frankel's Hyacinth Girls hit a little too close to home. It is a disjointed story of a young girl being bullied and the lack of awareness by the adults as to what's happening.

Recently a 13-year-old middle school girl in our town killed herself after being bullied. The other kids called her all kinds of things, said she was gay, and made up websites to torment her. Her parents and the school officials were seemingly unaware. Her suicide is such a horrible tragedy.

I could not help but think of her as I read this book. But, the main character in Hyacinth Girls is a girl named Callie who was first a bully her self and then was bullied. She was completely unlikeable. I had trouble drumming up any sympathy or empathy for her, even as she moved toward suicide as the only way out. It's hard to like a book that doesn't let you care enough about it's middle-school-aged character to care whether she lives or dies.

Plus, the book had a lot of flashbacks to her caregiver's younger days and I found that storyline completely uninteresting. What kept me reading was the fact that I was trying to wade through the facts and figure out whether my narrators were even reliable. I didn't entirely trust that what they were telling the reader was true.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Book Review: The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly

I could not put this book down! I read the entire memoir in one day and felt like I was on a roller coaster ride the whole way through.

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly is Matt McCarthy's memoir of his first year of residency at Columbia Hospital. He starts off with one of his first medical diagnostic mistakes; one that haunts him for months (maybe years?) to come. We see immediately how vulnerable these young, fresh-out-of-school residents are and how much they have to learn on-the-job -- which is scary because the only way they can learn to practice medicine is by literally practicing on people!

I have never wanted to work in the medical profession and never will. But recently, my son has decided that he wants to go to medical school and he has already completed a year of EMS training. I couldn't picture my son as a doctor until I read this book and saw so much of him in Matt -- the idealism, the high's and low's, the curiosity, and the sureness that you are making a difference in the lives of these people.

I was appalled as I read some of it. Like the time Matt had to insert a large IV tube into a cardiac arrest patient and missed the spot three times before getting it. Or the time he pushed on the tender belly of a drug mule to assess whether any of the heroin-filled balloons inside her had burst. Both instances turned out fine, but I was as nervous about these things as he was.

Then there was the time that he drew blood from an HIV patient and accidentally pricked himself with the needle right afterward. I won't tell you what happens from there. You have to read the book yourself.

Matt McCarthy is actually a man of many talents. He started out as a baseball player, then went into medicine, and has proven himself a talented writer as well. I don't know what he'll go on to do with his life, but I hope he keeps on writing!

* I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

5 Years of the Same Question

I love this little gold journal! I'm on Year 5 of my Q&A Diary and it's been much more insightful than I could have ever imagined.

I learned early that it's best to provide a detailed answer to each daily question. Some questions seem like they only need a one-word answer:
  • Are you a student or a teacher?
  • Are you happy?
  • When was the last time you exercised?
You could answer with one word, but if you add a little more information, it's so much more interesting to look back and reflect on how you've changed year-to-year.

There are other, more provocative questions, such as:
  • What would you like to say to your father?
  • Who is your nemesis?
  • What would be your theme song?
I always give detailed answers for these and am amazed at how many times my answer is the same. For instance, my nemesis stayed the same for 3 years in row. It was a co-worker of mine who finally left the company. Each year, I included some detail on why she was my nemesis again, and then finally had to identify a new one this year. (Sadly, it wasn't hard.) More insightful to me was that I've chosen the same song as my theme song for 2 of the 5 years: 'Wide Open Spaces" by the Dixie Chicks. And that was without reading my previous answers first. I always answer the question of the day before I look to see what I said in my answers before. To do otherwise seems like cheating.

I was thrilled to receive another copy of this little book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review because I'm about to start Year 6 and now won't worry that I'll miss a single day. In fact, I've bought copies of this diary for my whole family. I truly love this little book!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review: It Was Me All Along

It should come as no surprise that a food blogger like Andie Mitchell has spent her lifetime in a love-hate relationship with food. In many ways, it has defined her. And like many who struggle with weight issues, it has owned her. Andie goes on to lose a lot of weight (133 lbs) and deals with the emotional issues at the heart of her obsession with food.

The book is at times inspiring, at times, painful, but always relatable. Anyone who's ever eaten to fill an emotional void, or because food can be so damn comforting will find truth in Andie's memoir.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: The Expats

I liked The Expats for the same reasons I like the television series The Americans: more than a spy show, it's about marriages based on lies and the dynamics involved.

In The Expats, Chris Pavone takes us to Luxembourg and the oddness that the CIA-wife feels about moving to a country she knows almost nothing about and giving up her career as an agent. Her husband has no idea what her former profession was and she, in turn, knows little about what he actually does for a living. "Something in financial security." Apparently, she wasn't a very good spy; she leaves it at that.

I expected that we'd get a story of him being the same secretive spy that she was, but the story we get seems even more convoluted than that. Honestly, the "spy" part of this spy novel didn't interest me much at all. I read it for the same reason I watch The Americans: to see how the domestic life of these spies works out. Certainly wouldn't be the marriage for me!

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.