Saturday, April 5, 2014

Resistant - RIP Michael Palmer


For my Amazon review this month, I go the privilege (to me anyhow) to get a copy of Michael Palmer's last book, Resistant.  This is the review I wrote for Amazon.
 
It was gut-wrenching for me to read this book of one of my favorite medical-thriller authors. While I've had other favorites that announced they would be retiring, none have ever died in the midst of a brilliant writing career. I was fortunate enough to read and review one of his other books that he sent me and also had several email exchanges, so in many ways he felt like a personal friend. Michael died in October 2013 when he had apparently finished most of this book, Resistant, and his family took it the rest of the way to complete production. It is hard to think that I will never get another new book of his to read. I tried to read this one slow to make the moment last, but as with all his books I got caught up in the story and the pace of the book and finished it way too soon.

This book was about a strain of bacteria that was resistant (hence the title) to all normal forms of antibiotics and had been released by a domestic terrorist group as a way to motivate the government to cancel out all entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, etc. Of course many in the group lived in luxury so they felt a different sort of entitlement. Dr. Lou Welcome, a recurring character in Michael's last few books, becomes heavily involved for personal reasons in trying find a cure for this bacteria that in Lou's words “turned the inside of a body into liquid”, and not nice liquid. We are introduced to a new character that Lou became great friends with named Humphrey Miller, a brilliant man with the worst kind of cerebral palsy. I could see him in further recurring roles in other books and the same with Lou's friend Cap whose life was changed forever in this last book. Of course there will be no further books, but I could see that the author would have already been plotting what kind of story he could pull off with his characters next.

Besides introducing Humphrey to us and the difficulty he faced as a man with so little control over his own body that people thought he was an idiot, instead of a man whose IQ was probably completely off the charts. Humphrey showed us that we need compassion and the will to treat people like him as normal people.  He also brought up the necessity for the world to quit taking antibiotics for the common cold and anything else that with time would cure itself. All of our overuse of antibiotics as a people hasn't discouraged the germs but has only made them tougher and harder to combat. If we aren't careful, we won't need a group of terrorists to release them on us, we will be inviting them in through the front door so to speak.

I enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written as usual and moved along at a quick pace. It was the epitome of the type of books that Michael Palmer wrote and wrote so well. It didn't disappoint.
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One of the things I never do when writing reviews is read any review of the book before I write mine. Needless to say, I was stunned at the poor reviews this book received (I gave it 5 stars) most of the reviewers claiming it to be too liberal and political, boring and all sorts of other things but mostly hammering on the political leanings that they felt were in the book.

Writing a review for Amazon is like walking through a mind field, at least it is for me. If you give anything about the story away whether intentionally or not, you are jumped on for spoiling the story for the next one who might read it. One book that I read had it's entire story based on a wife whose husband had been working in a high paying career died suddenly and she was destitute and ended up having to go work on a farm. When I mentioned in my review that she should have filed for Social Security as a widow with dependents, I was jumped on with the oddest logic for why I was wrong to even think such a thing. Wishing I could make that little symbol for rolling eyes here!

 So anyway, seeing all these reviews that kept talking about how political and liberal this book was, with of course, no actual examples in the ones I read, I put my mind thinking about it. Well, the whole concept of this book was based on a group of 100 people (neighbors) that thought they could 'fix' our country but only if they follow what these 100 decided was good and necessary. I saw no talk or implications of a political party, or being right winged or left. What I saw were a bunch of crazies that thought if they could undo many of the programs in our country, then the US would be as it should be thanks to these 100, but in the meantime they had no compunction in killing people if it furthered their agenda.

I thought the book was well written. I enjoyed it. I didn't find it 'political' in the sense the other reviewers did. I wish I had another of his books to read now, but know I will never again get a new one unless somehow I missed reading some of his earlier books. Thank you Michael Palmer for many hours of pure reading pleasure which for me is the only reason for reading a fiction book.
 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Anne Perry Part Two

Last night I finished reading Anne Perry's Half Moon Street. This book helped me to understand why I like to read books in a series. You get to know the author and their style of writing and what they feel is important. In the first two books that I read of hers, I could see that she brings much in the way of social commentary and problems into her books and proves the point that everything old is new again, or never went away in the first place and just gets worse. In one book she discusses the Irish question which helped me understand in an historical context why there is still so much problems between the Catholics and Protestants there.

Half Moon Street, takes place approximately 150 years ago. In this era, some women were starting to question their roles in society and why they were dependent on their husbands for everything and had to do what the husbands told them to. In the last few years in England the laws concerning husbands and wives had changed and women were no longer consider to be their husbands property and they were able own things, like their underwear and hairpins, in their own right. Theater performances, etc were still highly censored by the chief Chamberlain. Any play that delved too deeply into women's inner most thoughts and gave them voice was closed down. All this laid the groundwork for the societal problem that was considered in this book: pornography. Cameras were new and photography clubs seemed to abound looking for the best way to show light, water, shadows etc. to make for the best and and most beautiful photographs. With the good of photography came the evil of scandalous pictures sold only to certain customers in the back rooms of picture shops. Women that were so inclined at times posed for these photos that no real lady would ever do or even acknowledge that such pictures could possibly exist. It was a huge change from only a few years previously when women were hemmed in on every side.

The murder that Superintendent Pitt is investigating was that of a man that had been found murdered, chained in a rowboat wearing a torn velvet dress in a suggestive pose. After finding out who the deceased was, to find his murdered, they had to go down the rabbit hole of pornographic photos to find out the why and who. At one point Pitt saw a picture and realized that once seen he would never be able to erase it from his memory. Then he thought of his children and what they would think of human nature and most especially the relationships between men and women if they saw something like this. That was the main point that was brought out, even though the person may not mind themselves being in such pictures but what of their children and how would they respond to see their mother or father in these nasty pictures?

A very interesting book to read. I look forward to reading more of Anne Perry's books, but at this point I have four new books to read and review for Amazon and my Christmas present book stack to read before I can get back to her.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Joy of WiFi & Anne Perry

For many years, we only had dial up internet which meant everything took forever to upload or download anything. About five years ago we got Hughes-net satellite but it only connected to our main desktop computer which meant the only way to do blog posts when I wanted to was if it was my 'turn' to use the big computer. Since I used it so much for our sewing pattern business, Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts, some postings fell by the wayside as hubby also had to use the computer for his piano business to update customers.

Fast forward to last month. Finally a chance to not only get cheaper satellite cover but for whole house WiFi for a $100 cost connection. Now I can use my TV time to also use the computer with my legs propped up and comfy in my little nest. I'm looking forward to being able to make a lot more blog posts about the books I have read. This past year, I've had a lot of author's publish their own books and asked me to read and review. Frankly a lot of the books were terrible, so I saw no reason to post about them here.

After reading a lot of frightfully awful books this past year, I was really pleased to find a new author for me that made for an interesting read. The author is Anne Perry. I had been collecting her books from Friend of Library books sales as the synopsis on the jackets looked interesting. As she wrote in two different series, I didn't want to start reading the books until I had a goodly amount to be able to read several in a row if the books were good.

I have now read three of her books from the Thomas and Charlotte Pitts series. They take place at the end of the Queen Victoria's reign. They are investigative novels with Mr. Pitts a policeman (he raises in rank throughout the books). His wife, maid and great aunt are all happy to lend their ear and knowledge to help him solve the crimes. If you are a Downton Abby fan these books, while earlier in time, are very helpful to understanding the different classes in England of that time of the British Empire that was world wide, that men considered their honor their biggest asset and for most of them women's place was most definitely in the home.  If you like mysteries that depend highly on brains and common sense instead of forensic testing, you might really enjoy these series. To see more about Anne, check out her Amazon page here: Anne Perry  Book Page Here are the three books I've read so far and I am excited to have plenty more at home to read and plenty more that have been published so if needed I can find more at the library. What do you think of Anne Perry and which is your favorite book of hers?


 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Michael Palmer

With the greatest of sadness, I have to tell my readers that Michael Palmer passed away on October 30 from complications of a heart attack and stroke. His son Daniel wrote a large post in Facebook announcing this loss to his followers. Michael's latest book Resistant is to be published May 20, 2014.  It is his 20th and last book. the family has requested that "in lieu of flowers donations can be made to Asperger's Association of New England (AANE) http://www.aane.org/ an organization near and dear to his heart". Michael and I had some correspondence about our boys that are on the autism spectrum.  I was so pleased to see a book written by someone that truly understood the problem from the front lines and was able to show just how able this kids can be.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Better Homes and Gardens Baking Cook Book




Doesn't this peach tart look yummy? You too can make one. The recipe for this came from the newest Better Homes and Gardens Baking that is being published in October 2013. You can preorder it now.

Here is the review that I posted on Amazon for this great book. This book is the most exciting new cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens that I have seen in a long time.

I was so disappointed that my advanced reading copy of this book only had the black and white pictures as there are lots of photos in this book, one for every recipe. Usually when sent a cookbook to review it is the final version. Because I was seeing the black and white photo copy, I did notice spots where writing was set against a gray background. I don’t know how this will play out in the final version, but if you have trouble with your eyes, you might want to check on this before buying the final version.

That technical bit about the construction of the book out of the way, we can now go on to the ‘meat’ of the book. The book begins with baking techniques that are supposedly good for both novices and kitchen pros. While the recipes are easy enough for a novice baker to make, the instructions at the front of the book aren’t the best or most thorough in my opinion. They are however a decent enough review for someone who hasn’t been baking for awhile. For baking equipment they showed the usual pans but didn’t bring up the latest silicon ware that is so popular at the stores. Perhaps they found, as I did, that silicon baking ware isn’t all it is cracked up to be and so it was left out purposefully. If it wasn’t deliberate however, they should have mentioned it as currently you can purchase all sorts of baking ‘pans’ made with that material. My other bone of contention with them was when they got to butter. There was no mention made nor do I recall seeing any item using margarine. While apparently some items absolutely have to have butter and not margarine when making them, good quality margarine is a reliable substitute. In over 40 years of baking, including winning blue ribbons at the fair for my baking, I have never used butter in any baked good. The item that I made out of the book I used margarine in instead of butter and it tasted great. Butter is much costlier than margarine as well, so on that point alone, margarine should have been mentioned.

I have always liked Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks and had their earlier version of their baking book so was a bit nervous that I would get a repeat of the same recipes. Not so! I was very presently surprised at the many recipes that I wanted to make as I went through the book. BHG is bringing out another cookbook at the same time as this one called Comfort Foods . While I didn’t get to review that book, I think with the baking book that was their theme as well. Besides the usual culprits of white bread, chocolate chip cookies and apple pies, there were fruit crisps, fruit crumbles, all sorts of baked deserts and yummy things. For many of the recipes they gave master recipes and then how to change the recipe to make one or more other flavors. And for some they gave ways to make smaller versions of the recipe. Most of all though, this book brought back many ‘old time’ desserts with modern variations, I also didn’t see the need to run out to the store for ingredients as long as you have a well stocked normal kitchen.

I made one of the recipes, a fresh peach tart (our area is having a wonderful peach crop at this moment for the first time in several years). Other than the peaches that I had to buy, I had everything on had to make this yummy treat and yummy it was! It called for almond slices at the top which I did include, but as much as I like almonds, they gave a strange feeling to the bites of soft peaches and pie dough. I will leave them out next time I make it. The recipe was easy to follow, hubby who doesn’t like peaches said the dough was excellent and the flavors good but because of the peach factor he would leave the rest of the tart to me. For those like me that have great difficulty, rolling out two pie rounds, one to fit in the pie plate and one to cover and then figure out how to make it cover nice and neatly, making a tart is the perfect answer. With only one piece of dough, there was no need to have it look perfect as that gave it a rustic appearance. I will be using this cookbook again!

 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tumbling Stones by Carol Clark Roberts

Tumbling Stones by Carol Clark Roberts, Outskirts Press 2013, ISBN 978147871585.

I was asked to read this book and review it. I gave it three stars on Amazon, mostly because this is a the same old story in many respects. It was difficult in some respects for me to read since it hit to close to home and my childhood.

Sometimes your husband isn't who you think he is and neither are your best friends. People hide secrets while acting as if life is going along smoothly. This is a classic tale of a philandering husband with the twist that he is a professor at a `Christian' College. The college appears to be very liberal in what people do and how they act, so the fact that these troubles are taking place with supposedly Christian people shouldn't offend any but very conservative Christians. As someone that went to a Christian College, the one being portrayed in this book and the faculty staff were offensive to me as I would hate for everyone to think that this is what is routinely happening at these types of colleges. Anyhow read at your own risk.

This is a classic book of love and betrayal with a bit of a different spin. Only in this instance it is a case of allowing the fox to guard the hen house. Dr. Rockford under the guise of counseling students and others going through a rough time seduces woman after woman and then his wife finds out because he went that one step too far and seduces her best friend. Anne Rockford finds herself helping to put an end to her husband's behavior with the assistance of the very women he betrayed; since no matter what he says or promises he doesn't stop seducing women. The book has a bit of a surprise ending.

Hard to say whether I would recommend this book as it certainly wasn't entertaining, but for those going through problems such as this, it might provide some comfort although in real life there is no story book ending. In many ways this book is just a retelling of a story that has been heard far too often -- so not very original.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Sheltered Life by Jeremy Reynalds

A Sheltered Life: Take it to the Streets  by Jeremy Reynalds, West Bow Press, 2013, ISBN 9781449790202

This was an interesting book that I was asked to review. While the review that I wrote doesn't mention it, please note that the book itself has strong Christian content. You can allow that to turn you off from the book's message of the homeless need our help or you can appreciate or ignore the Christ centeredness of this book, whichever your leanings on the topic.

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We hear much about the homeless these days, but this book brings is home and makes it personal. The author, Jeremy Reynalds, helped found and directs Albuquerque, NM largest homeless shelter. Not only do they have a homeless shelter, they have a food ministry where they take food to the homeless where they are, on the streets. They also have different programs where the people can stay an extended time while they get their lives in order again.

Many of the homeless aren’t that way due to drug and alcohol addiction although many do slip into that along the way, but also by way of job losses that send them to other parts of the country where they hear the promise of jobs. For many their car breaking completely down or running out of gas and money at the same time stranded many in his town. One of the things that is different about this ministry than in many others, is that if you call them, they will come and pick you up.

This book brought home to me the many needs of the people on the streets. Business owners won’t let them use their facilities for cleaning up or toileting, with no home there is no kitchen to get food warm even in the midst of winter. I thought of many things while reading this book that I’m sure many homeless shelters would appreciate receiving to pass onto their clients. This is just a short list I made up when I finished the book:

Toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and soap, wet wipes for baby and adults (they have no other way to get clean), disposable diapers for babies and adults (babies since they don’t have laundry facilities to wash cloth diapers and adult ones since many of these people have to ‘hold it’ until they can find a place to go which may be longer than their bladders and bowels can tolerate). Also tampons, sanitary napkins, mini-pads for females. Bottled water packs, white tube socks which can fit a variety of foot sizes, blankets for the winter along with hats, mittens, coats, sweaters. The shelters themselves can always use supplies of food if they serve food.

For live-in shelters, especially ones that take in women and children they can use shampoo, child’s barrettes and pony tail ties, soaps, shower gels, brushes, combs, make-up, nail polish, nail polish remover, razors. Why things like barrettes and shower gels? These women and children have lost so much, giving them those articles like other females use, allows them to regain some dignity, femininity and feel that others care about them. Children’s books, coloring books and crayons can be used by bored children as well. Check with your nearest shelter that you would like to bless with these articles and check whether they can use them.

This book has a powerful message and for that I give it five stars although the writing itself could use some help with editing, etc.