Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #16-20

The Death Cure by James Dashner – 4 stars

This one was stronger for me than The Scorch Trials because I at least felt like there were actually things at stake. And I appreciate that several main characters died since lately I’ve been reading a decent amount where that is not the case. I read this one much faster than I did The Scorch Trials because I was actually invested in the characters. I’m not sure what was different about this one compared to The Scorch Trials, but I just felt compelled to find out what happened to them. Maybe it was the fact that I knew it was the last book so the story had to end. Who knows?

I’m still frustrated that there are several questions that Dashner did not answer. I know that there are a couple of prequels out there, but come on. Give us a little bit more. I did think it was a bit of a cop out that Thomas did not get his memories back. It felt like Dashner’s way of avoiding having to answer questions.

It was intriguing that there were those who were immune to The Flare and those that were not. And it was a little bit heartbreaking to find out which character was not. I thought it was interesting to have them end up back in the Maze and that the Grievers came back out to play. Seeing Gally again threw me for a loop and the whole Right Arm situation was a little weird for me. The way that they were treating Munies and the fact that it was just like WICKED made me doubt everything about the resistance. I thought the ending was interesting because I am really curious to know where exactly they were sent since the entire planet was supposedly screwed over. I kind of like that it is left open ended and you can imagine how the rest of the characters’ lives go.

Now I really want to read the prequels because I want to know more about this lab-created zombie virus plague thing that was created as a means of population control. I am intrigued to find out who in their right mind thought they could control something like that.

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Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Dr. Sheri Fink – 3.5 stars

I picked this up at the recommendation of my clinical instructor after we went through a emergency medical training and I’m glad I did.

It is clear that this book was thoroughly researched and presented as true an account as possible about what happened at Memorial Hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina. I thought that the first part of the book was much more powerful as it described the five days. I was invested in the lives of the patients, family members, nurses, and doctors that were involved. It was heartbreaking to read about the lack of supplies, the increasing heat, and the lack of proper coordination from the parent company.

However, once it got to the part where the authorities came in to investigate, I found myself getting less and less interested. I found the investigation to get confusing at times and I did not particularly care for a couple of the individuals mentioned. It also got to be repetitive for me at times.

However, the discussion about medical ethics and disaster preparedness was intriguing. It really made me sit back and think what I would do if I were in the situations presented in this book. I also appreciated the epilogue, where there was discussion about what has been learned from Hurricane Katrina with regards to being prepared for emergencies.

Overall, I’m glad that I read this. I wish that the second part of the book was a little bit more succinct, but the beginning and epilogue were well worth it.

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My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand, and Brodi Ashton – 5 stars

This was just so wonderfully delightful.

I absolutely loved this twist on Tudor history where the Protestants and Catholics are replaced with shapeshifters and non-shapeshifters. I think I may have a new ship and the slow burning romance was just so swoony. The wit and humor in this was absolutely fantastic and I loved all of the different references that were strewn throughout the entire book.

I was a little worried that once they really got off track with history that I would lose interest or the humor would decrease, but I am so glad to say that I was completely wrong. I absolutely adored the entire cast of characters from Jane to G to Edward to Gracie to Bess to Pet. Hell, I even loved the narrators interjecting their thoughts and opinions here and there.

I’ve had this book since it came in my June 2016 Owlcrate and I am absolutely kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. The premise should not have worked, but in the hands of these authors, it totally did and I can’t wait to read their next work together.

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The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – 3 stars

So I knew approximately zero things about this other than H.G. Wells is a master of science fiction and it contains time travel (wow, I’m so good at deductions). I received it in my OwlCrate last February and was mildly intrigued, but set it aside for other books that piqued my interest more. I ended up picking it up now because I needed a quick classic that I could finish before the end of February to meet my goal of reading a classic a month (since I failed at January and finished reading Jane Eyre in February).

I was pleasantly surprised by this since I had no expectations for it. I thought that the story itself was an exciting adventure that also looked at what humanity will become in the future. I thought Wells’s take on the Eloi and the Morlocks was interesting and that he was trying to have a political and social commentary for his time. The Time Traveller wasn’t the most like-able character, but he also definitely wasn’t the most dis-like-able. I was pretty meh on him, to be honest.

Overall, it was a fun, quick read and I thought it was interesting that Wells had the Time Traveller go forward in time rather than backwards.

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand – 4 stars

This was such an interesting look at the life of Louis Zamperini. I really liked that Hillenbrand didn’t just start off with Louie’s plane crash and subsequent life as a POW. Instead, she set up the story and let us get to know not only Louie, but his family and crew as well.

There were times where it was hard to read about what the men went through. But it was also amazing to read about how strongly they persisted and just how ingenious they were (mainly when they were on the raft and had to use what little resources they had available). I also really appreciate that Hillenbrand did not shy away from the fact that most of the men who were POWs suffered from PTSD once they got back to the United States. And it broke my heart that the men did not get proper help for their PTSD due to people wanting to tune it out and pretend that it didn’t exist.

I like that Hillenbrand included Louie’s flaws throughout the book. It made him seem all the more real and seeing him straighten out his life was really interesting to witness. It was clear that Hillenbrand did her research and was trying to paint Louie in as fair a light as possible.

This was definitely a hard read at times, but I think it sheds light on a rather dark moment in history. Louie’s struggle to survive was harrowing and his life after the war is something that is so rarely talked about. I’m really glad I read this.

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Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #11-15

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by Colin T. Campbell – 2 stars

Ooof.

So I picked this up because one of my professors recommended it last semester.

I also read this on audio, so it’s not like I had the physical book to check the references. I just want to put that out there from the beginning.

I found it increasingly annoying that throughout the course of the book, there were simply mentions of research showed “in one study” (with references to different studies each time) rather than naming the actual studies. But again, I only had the audio, so I didn’t have the reference list. It was just sketchy to me that there were rarely, if ever, study names or authors mentioned. Unless the author was Adkins. In which case, he was mentioned several times.

I also thought that a majority of the time in the book was spent by the author congratulating himself on all of his work without really providing much to support his self-congratulations. For a book called The China Study, there was very little time spent on the study and very little data actually spelled out. But the author continuously said that “the data show.”

It was clear from the beginning that the author had his own agenda that he was going to push and it became super antagonistic towards others in both the medical and research field. Like, unnecessarily antagonistic.

I also have a huge problem with his repeated claims that by changing diets, you can reverse cancer and heart disease. I know I’m just a nursing student at this point, and we all know that I’m being taught by the pharmaceutical companies (or at least, that’s the author’s claim – spoiler alert, he’s wrong – we spend a good portion of each course talking about nutrition and changing life styles and that we need to work with our patients on providing education), but what I’ve been taught is that once you have heart disease, it’s a life-long process. You will always have to be on, say, anti-hypertension medication. Yes, you can stall it from becoming worse, but to claim that you can reverse it is really dangerous in my opinion because plaque doesn’t just go away. And again, with cancer, you don’t reverse it. You can become “cancer free” but that just means that you are in remission. There is always a chance that it will come back, unfortunately. But then again, that’s just what I have been taught.

I appreciate that we need to change our diets. I do. But I think that the heavy-handed manner in which this book was presented will do a lot more harm than good because the author a) repeats himself a lot without really saying much, b) is ridiculously antagonistic and comes off as being better than other researchers and c) presents the material in a “my way is the only way” fashion that is really off-putting. I could see using parts of the book as evidence, but overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend others to read this in its entirety.

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 5 stars

I absolutely adore Jane as a character. She is fierce, strong-willed, compassionate, resilient af, educated, and just such a breath of fresh air of what was expected of women during that time. I loved reading about her relationship with Adele and how much she cared for her. I loved that she did what was best for her when the truth came out about Mr. Rochester’s wife. And I loved that despite all of the absolute sh*t she went through growing up, she never lost herself nor her beliefs.

I have very mixed feelings toward Mr. Rochester. It is clear that he loves Jane and is a pretty good master and can be kind but jeez. He is kind of an absolute d*ck to his first wife, lies to Jane about marrying Blanche, and then begs Jane to become his mistress once she finds out about his first wife. And he really treats Adele rather awfully. I was surprised at the end when Jane mentions they have a child because he was so very clearly against children for the majority of the book. But there’s still a part of me that was really intrigued by his character.

I absolutely adore Adele and Mrs. Fairfax. I loved seeing Jane interact with Mary and Diana and wish there could have been more time with the three of them being awesome together. St. John is just blah for me. Mr. Brocklehurst is the literally worst. The Reeds can all go where the sun don’t shine. And Bessie. Sweet Bessie. I was sad that we didn’t get more time with her, either.

I liked that the story takes the reader through the majority of Jane’s life and that we get to see her grow as a character. And I loved the little bits of feminism that shine through. Like how in the epilogue, she specifically points out that she married Rochester. I also liked the little breaks where she would talk directly to the reader. It made it feel more like a conversation than reading a book. If that makes sense. I just really enjoyed this book.

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Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Dr. Atul Gawande – 4 stars

This is the first book I’ve read from Dr. Gawande and it made me so excited to read the rest of them. The fact that he kept me engaged in an essay about hand-washing says a lot about his power as a writer. Despite the fact that he is writing about the medical world, Dr. Gawande manages to keep an almost conversational tone and manages to explain conditions in such ways that those who are not in the medical field can understand. I hope that one day I am able to do the same in my practice as a nurse.

I think the story that captivated my attention the most was the one about the doctors in Iraq during the war. It was amazing to read about the conditions and their solutions to the lack of resources. This story was followed closely by the story of the doctors and surgeons in India as my second favorite. Again, it was fascinating to read about how they coped with limited resources and the fact that they usually had to send their patients out to get the supplies they need.

This is a bit of a side-note, but I was really proud of myself for recognizing the symptoms of cystic fibrosis that Dr. Gawande wrote about before he actually called it cystic fibrosis. And I also loved reading more about the development of the Apgar score for newborns. I also thought the chapter on malpractice lawsuits was interesting since it feels almost taboo to talk about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and I loved the afterword where Dr. Gawande suggested his ways of becoming a positive deviant. I truly am looking forward to picking up another book by him soon.

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – 3 stars

I don’t really know how I feel about this book. There were very high points (such as Herr Silverman) but the majority of the book was just blah for me.

It took way too long, in my opinion, to reveal what it was that Asher did that caused Leonard so much pain. And I was really confused by the letters from the future because at first they seemed so out of place. The flashbacks with Lauren also seemed a little out of place for me at first, but then it made sense when I realized it was setting up who the last gift was being given to. I didn’t really get the relationship between the two of them and didn’t understand why he wanted to kiss her so badly. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Baback and I thought he was a bit of an asshole when Leonard tried to give him the check for True Democracy in Iran. Walt was an interesting character and I liked seeing his interactions with Leonard, but I didn’t feel any particular attachment to him.

The true highlight of the book for me was Herr Silverman. It was so refreshing to see a teacher portrayed who actually saw the signs of a pending suicide and actually acted (unlike portrayals in other novels such as Thirteen Reasons Why). The fact that he dropped everything to go make sure that Leonard was okay and was able to talk him out of killing himself was really awesome to read. And the fact that Leonard just left the way he did really pissed me off. I honestly didn’t particularly care for Leonard as a main character throughout the majority of the book (especially after reading about him creepily following adults on the train and to their work – I kind of understood it, but don’t follow women down an alleyway for goodness sake) and his treatment of Herr Silverman really sealed the deal on my dislike for him.

My biggest gripe is the ending of the novel. It just felt so anti-climatic. For me, it would have been really powerful if he actually went and got the help that he clearly needs (especially since it would help to remove some of the stigma of getting professional help that is still very prevalent today) rather than just walking out. Also, I really really despise his mother. I realize there was a purpose to her being so awful as it helped to contribute to Leonard’s mental state, but oh my God. She is just so horrible at the end. Her saying that he isn’t suicidal and complaining about having to leave New York and not even acknowledging Leonard’s birthday was just so infuriating to me. It was easy to see how her treatment of Leonard contributed to how messed up he got after what happened with Asher.

I listened to the audiobook along with reading the physical book, and I’m glad I did because the narrator did a fantastic job of incorporating the footnotes into the narrative (much better than I would have if I was just reading my physical copy). I would suggest that anyone who has trouble with footnotes to try the audiobook. Also, the narrator did a really good job with the different characters and portraying the emotions of the story.

Overall, this was just an okay book for me. I don’t know what I was expecting when I went in, but it didn’t quite deliver for me.

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The Scorch Trials by James Dashner – 3 stars

I read The Maze Runner back in 2014 for my young adult literature class and even though I didn’t re-read it before picking up The Scorch Trials, I found that I was sucked right back into the world and remembered a good majority of what happened in the previous book. But despite my initial reaction, I found myself not really caring about the characters or the world that much anymore.

I thought that the Scorch was a much weaker setting than the Maze since at least in the Maze, there was the logic part of it. And while I appreciate that this really is a survival story and Dashner tried to show that it wasn’t easy, there were parts that I thought didn’t work very well. The lightning storm seemed so weird and the fact that Minho was on fire and managed to survive without too much pain, little to no fluid loss, and was able to pretty much jump right back up to continue to fight was super unrealistic to me. Especially when later in the book, a reasonable reaction to an injury occurs.

I wanted to love the character of Jorge, but I was increasingly frustrated that he was the token Hispanic side character who always says key phrases like “hermano,” “compadre,” and “muchacho.” I didn’t particularly care for Brenda and from the beginning, I didn’t trust her, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with her character in The Death Cure.

The whole thing with Theresa, Aris, and Thomas was annoying and I’m kind of sick of all of the twists and turns and people saying that WICKED made them do this or that. I also still don’t understand what the point of these trials are and how they will help cure The Flare. I hope we get answers in The Death Cure because at the moment, I’m really frustrated with the lack of information.

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