Sunday, July 07, 2019

Review: The Secret Cyclist

The Secret Cyclist: Real Life as a Rider in the Professional PelotonThe Secret Cyclist: Real Life as a Rider in the Professional Peloton by The Secret Cyclist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Secrets without a lot of drama
A great listen, and easy to digest over a day or two of the TDF. Lots of recent relevant observations, including happenings in the 2018 Tour de France. Having read several books about professional cycling, and having followed the ups and downs of doping and scandals, not much would surprise me, and nothing here did. Instead, I got a refreshingly positive inside look at the life of a professional cyclist, one who has stayed grounded and clean over the years. But it's not bland. Our secret cyclist has strong opinions and shares them with conviction. Insights on other riders relate mainly to the stories behind and around crashes and controversies, but are respectful of others privacy. It's not a tell-all, it's a tell-some. Good choice of narrator, it sounded like it was the rider himself.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Review: The Silent Patient

The Silent PatientThe Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book, but I didn't love it.
The premise was interesting, and it was well written. But it didn't draw me in. I even enjoyed an interview with the author so much I wish I'd liked it more. I realize I couldn't relate to, or feel compassion for, any of the characters. Yes, everyone has a dark side that challenges you to still accept someone, despite their flaws. But I never got to the point of really liking anyone. Perhaps that's beneficial, as there wasn't a pedestal to fall off of.... otherwise I can imagine if you could relate, this could be a real roller coaster ride.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review: The President Is Missing

The President Is MissingThe President Is Missing by Bill Clinton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bubble escape story...
I wanted to read this book simply because I thought it was so interesting that a former President of the United States had written a mystery with one of the best authors of the day....

Spoiler alert.... to read the rest of this review, click here.

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Saturday, May 04, 2019

Review: Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison

Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me OutPrisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out by Jason Rezaian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredible tale
Jason Rezaian had a story to tell, but it's not the one he expected. The man was, and is, a journalist, and he was held without cause in an Iranian prison. At first his wife, also a journalist, was also held, but she was released after a relatively short period of time. Telling his story in his own voice, Jason shares the long stretches of solitude he experienced, the surprising (to me) stretches held in a prison house of sorts with another prisoner, the hope, the dashed hopes, and all the false starts before he was eventually released. It's a compelling story.

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Review: I'm Feeling Lucky - Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The early days of Google, from an insider
I enjoyed this account of the early days of Google, from one of the earliest hired employees. It was a stage of the company's history that could only be told by someone who worked there at the time. Douglas Edwards was well suited to the task, as he is both a writer and a non-engineer, enabling him to give the rest of us non-engineer types a sense of the happenings. As one of those set up for life from IPO, I appreciated the time he took to tell the story. I have a feeling the history post his departure won't be quite as fascinating.

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Review: Room 23: Surviving a Brain Hemorrhage

Room 23: Surviving a Brain HemorrhageRoom 23: Surviving a Brain Hemorrhage by Kavita Basi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brave account
Until now I had not thought about what indicators someone might have of a brain hemorrhage, as the person experiencing it. Kavita Basi took me there, inside her head, as she underwent an assault of excruciating headaches, and her world fell apart. This is an amazing story of recovery, and lessons on the fragility of life.

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Review: The Mueller Report

The Mueller ReportThe Mueller Report by The Washington Post
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dry at times, but fascinating
Of course I listened to The Mueller Report, why wouldn't I? It's a looong listen, but very complete. In addition to a verbatim reading of the report itself (complete with many 'redacted, conflict with ongoing matter' hiccups), The Washington Post provides context and a timeline. They also provide some analysis, but this is clearly separated. Some interesting background on Mueller vs Trump towards the end too. The multiple voices was interesting, presumably used in order to get the darn thing read and produced in a timely manner.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: The Quintland Sisters

The Quintland Sisters: A NovelThe Quintland Sisters: A Novel by Shelley Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliant approach to this story
As a Canadian, I have long known about the Dionne quintuplets, and have thought it a sad and disturbing story. In recent years I have heard bit of news about the surviving sisters and their difficulties later in life. So, I wanted to read an account, to understand more. I was initially hesitant about a fictional account but Shelley Wood has done the story justice ~ and it really works. The history of what actually happened has been woven into the fictional story of a young nurse who was with the girls from birth to girlhood. It's rather clever, and a great listen.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Review: Escape from Jonestown (the Laurence Bouvard story)

Escape From JonestownEscape From Jonestown by Laurence Bouvard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great telling of a tragic story
This was a very well done series, although I listened to it all one go. I particularly liked the approach taken to tell the story: through the story (eyes/heart/words) of one of the (very few) survivors, supplemented with words from the others. These perspectives were balanced with those of a woman who lost two sisters in the tragedy. There is much that is so very disturbing in this story, but it is told in a way that was listenable, calmly and without hysterics. If you don't know the Jonestown story, it's worth a listen.

Note: these is another book with the same name, make sure you pick the right one.

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Review: Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap

Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical MishapTogether: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap by Judy Goldman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adapting when things go wrong
This wasn't my normal type of book, as it was really about marriage. But the calamity that was at the heart of the story ~ a 'quack' medical procedure gone wrong ~ was interesting to me: how they got into doing the procedure in the first place, what did (and didn't) happen, and the aftermath ~ was what drew me. That part of the story was well told. The rest of the book was still interesting enough to keep me listening.

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Review: Unheard: The Story of Anna Winslow

Unheard: The Story of Anna WinslowUnheard: The Story of Anna Winslow by Anthony Del Col
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was aware that this was fiction, but thought I'd give it a try, but it just didn't grip me. Perhaps it was the set up ~ like a multi-episode podcast investigating a crime ~ was just too contrived for me. On the other hand, I did admire the creativity, and applaud pushing the boundaries of what is expected.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Ayita

AyitiAyiti by Roxane Gay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A loosely connected collection of short stories.
Is there a name for this type of literature? It is a collection of short stories that at first seem unrelated, but they are all from one woman's life. Her life is set in Haiti and the USA. Over time, questions from one story are answered in another, filling in the blanks and curiosities. It has opened me to more short story collections in the future.

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Monday, April 08, 2019

Review: In Plain Sight (the Elizabeth Smart story)

In Plain Sight: The Startling Truth Behind the Elizabeth Smart InvestigationIn Plain Sight: The Startling Truth Behind the Elizabeth Smart Investigation by Tom Smart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The other side of the story
After listening to Elizabeth Smart's own story of her abduction, captivity and rescue (My Story, by Elizabeth Smart), I was curious about the investigation into her disappearance. In Plain Sight was written by Elizabeth's uncle, the sometimes family spokesperson who played an active role in the efforts to find his niece. Aside of a little TMI on his own issues, it is quite an interesting story. The efforts to find Elizabeth were remarkable and, it seems, were instrumental in her discovery and rescue. If not for this, she could well have continued to remain hidden in plain sight, if she had survived. Thankfully that is not the case. I might prefer a telling of what happened from someone less involved, but this was a good listen nonetheless. It should definitely be read by anyone else seeking a missing loved one.

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Sunday, April 07, 2019

Review: My Story (Elizabeth Smart's story)

My StoryMy Story by Elizabeth Smart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply inspiring
I remember Elizabeth Smart's abduction when it happened, as well as the startling revelations when she was rescued, that she had spent time on the streets in her home town, behind a veil, controlled by her captors. Elizabeth tells the story of her kidnapping, her captivity and rescue with courage and unapologetic honesty. Its a compelling story, made especially meaningful by the telling in her own voice. How one moves on after such incredible trauma is fascinating to me. I am endlessly curious about why some crumble and stay in the grips of their trauma, while others ultimately emerge strong, resolute and determined to embrace their second chance at life. The latter certainly describes Elizabeth, and she tells it well.

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Review: The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crack the code behind what triggers habits
This book surprised me in that it wasn't what I was seeking, but the sample audio clip was so compelling that I had to know the rest of the story. That need was satisfied, but then the book got into research and case studies about habits. It was starting to feel a little bit too textbooky for me (especially the corporate examples), but I'm glad I hung in there, as it got better again. The components of a habit ~ the trigger, the habitual action and the reward ~ were well explained. Don't skip the epilogue, as it has the best example of how to change a habit (very detailed and practical, based on the author cracking the code behind his afternoon cookie habit). I like the suggestion to study the habits you want to change as an observer, not expecting to overcome them right away. I will probably listen to this book again.

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Saturday, April 06, 2019

Review: Duped

Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost MarriedDuped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married by Abby Ellin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How can a woman be duped?
I've always wondered how a woman could be duped by a man living a double life with another spouse/finance/family/life. Could I be duped? Of course, I think I couldn't, but that's what the duped women say too. So, this book satisfied some of that curiosity. Not completely, as the things that swept her off her feet probably wouldn't appeal to me, but that's not the point. The slimebucket figured her out and lied his way into her mind and her heart. I was more interested in her reflections later, when she got out of the relationship, and reflected on the warning signs she ignored. Fascinating stuff.

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Review: Looking for Madeleine

Looking For MadeleineLooking For Madeleine by Anthony Summers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A tragic story, still a mystery
What happened to little Madeleine McCann remains a mystery after all these years. Snatched from bed in the Portugal resort bedroom she shared with her siblings (who slept through the whole thing) while her parents were out for dinner nearby (checking on the children at intervals), Madeleine's disappearance captured the world's attention. I was always curious about aspects of the case, especially after the many bizarre suspicions, sightings and suspects in the news. Without knowing what is or isn't true, I felt this telling of the story was balanced and largely neutral, and put things into perspective. Having said that, there are many more questions than answers, leaving me to wonder if the truth will ever be known.

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Review: Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an ExhibitionPictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The art world post WWII
I really enjoyed this book, and my only complaint was that it wasn't longer. Set in Paris on the heels of World War II, the story provides unique insights on what the city was like at the time when concentration camp horrors were just coming to light, and those who had gone underground for years were reemerging. Who had survived and who hadn't was still unknown. Owners were returning to the homes they fled only to find them occupied, abandoned after serving as Nazi facilities, or destroyed. I haven't encountered many books that captured this time so well. It is against this setting that the story is set. The son of an art dealer scours the city, looking for works that had belonged to his family, unearthing forgeries and family secrets as he goes. And, yes, re-finding his lost love and slowly learning of the lengths she went to save great works of art, disguised as an obedient clerk in the Louvre. A great listen for art and history fans.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Why so many book reviews?

Even casual readers of my blog will have noticed that I am posting tons of book reviews, and not much else these days.

The first big reason is that I have been listening to audiobooks, and Audible asks me to review each book when I finish it. This serves to remind me.

I'm also satisfying my curiosity, to see how many books I end up "reading" since I began listening, versus physical books. Not sure proportionately, but it is a LOT more.

I've also started commuting by bus, so I'm getting extra audiobook time. I enjoy the interlude and the bus ride passes quickly.

I'm aware I post the reviews in clusters... essentially I catch up when I can, so its a bit of a storm as these get posted. Then a lull again.

Its not easy to say why I'm not blogging about much else... just busy with life, that's all.

Review: The Au Pair

The Au PairThe Au Pair by Emma Rous
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great distraction
The Au Pair proved to be great distraction. Told from two perspectives: a family's au pair at the time twins were born, and the quest one of those twins to untangle the truth as an adult. What were the family secrets behind this twin's story? Her father had a recent fatal accident... or was it? Her mother committed suicide on the day she was born... why? The only photo of her parents on the day she was born showed only one baby... where was the other twin? There are more twists and possibilities than one can imagine, so this novel kept my attention through to the end.

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Review: Tokyo Rose (the Iva Toguri story)

Tokyo Rose: The History and Legacy of Iva Toguri and Japan’s Most Famous Propaganda Campaign during World War IITokyo Rose: The History and Legacy of Iva Toguri and Japan’s Most Famous Propaganda Campaign during World War II by Charles River Editors
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A hero and a scapegoat
Iva Toguri was an innocent Japanese-American who got stuck in Japan in World War II. Having arrived for vacation on the last ship to sail, when she was unable to return home, she had to fend for herself for the duration of the war. Unwelcome as an American, she did her best to stay of the radar and blend in. She eventually fell into broadcasting, one of several women broadcasting in English, and all loosely referred to as "Tokyo Rose". But Toguri's broadcasts were unique: American soldiers listening to her broadcasts would hear news of attacks and anti-propaganda slipped in between the music she played and the official propaganda. Anything she could do to support the Allies and undermine the Japanese, she did. Despite these courageous acts, she was dismissed as a disloyal Japanese-American, sadly not surprising given the roundup and detention of Japanese in the USA during the war. She was furthermore treated as a scapegoat and prosecuted. Her brave efforts to support her country were lost in the process. In the end, it's a pretty sad story, and it is too bad she wasn't celebrated as a hero. I'm glad this book was written so that her story is not swept under the rug and forgotten.

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Review: Lost in My Mind

Lost in My Mind: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)Lost in My Mind: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injury by Kelly Bouldin Darmofal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Courageous insights into living with a brain injury
I admire Kelly's courage and openness in telling her story. Her thoughtful and articulate account of the accident that resulted in her brain injury, her long road to recovery, and the lasting impacts on her life is told with both brutal honesty and humour. I learned so much about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); it was a real eye opener. What stayed with me most is how tenacious Kelly was in reaching her academic goals; she had to work SO hard! Today Kelly is a speaker and advocate for TBI, and is already making a difference in this world. Listen and be inspired.

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Review: The Threat (the McCabe book)

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and TrumpThe Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump by Andrew G. McCabe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More FBI insights in the age of Trump
A worthwhile listen, although I confess to tiring of reading more on Trump's antics. I chose this book, as it essentially picks up where James Comey's account left off. With Comey fired, McCabe began the acting director of the FBI, but not for long. Cruelly and vindictively fired just hours before he would have received his pension, Americans have McCabe to thank for getting Robert Meuller installed as special investigator - and ensuring he couldn't be axed. Bit of a nail biter on that front. Lots of FBI and White House insights.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Review: Identical Strangers

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and ReunitedIdentical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Paula   Bernstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating story.
Identical twins separated at birth. It sounds like a movie plot or an engrossing novel, but this is real life. Unfortunately, there was no tragic crisis that caused the two girls to be separated; rather an adoption agency sees an 'opportunity' to settle the 'nature or nurture' question by intentionally splitting up twins, then studying the results. It's appalling to realize there are people who are alive today who are still living out this reality. Elyse and Paula tell their individual stories, and their shared discoveries, with honesty and grit, with a good dose of humour thrown in. All of the things you might wonder if they thought, they share them. Very revealing, and very inspiring.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: A Serial Killer's Daughter

A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and OvercomingA Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A courageous story.
Wow. I can't even begin to imagine the traumas that Kerri and her family experienced. Given that there are murderers and serial murderers in this world, Kerri gives insight as to the shock, trauma and distress one must feel upon discovering a loved one has committed such heinous crimes. I admire her courage in sharing her story; it will help many. In terms of relatability, the bible and God references didn't connect for me, but this is not a criticism (it's her story, afterall), and they didn't get in the way of the story. Time well spent listening.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: Team of Vipers

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White HouseTeam of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A look on the other side...
Overall, a pretty good book, but I had a hard time staying engaged, partly because it was long, but also because the author reflects different political ideologies than my own. Reading about the day-to-day goings on of the Trump White House was at first interesting, but I just got bored. But I intentionally stuck with it, as I believe that if we only ever expose ourselves to those that think like we do, we don't do ourselves any favours. Plus, this book reiterated to me that most people are passionate about doing good work, and that's what I saw in this book.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: Agent to the Stars

Agent to the StarsAgent to the Stars by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I forgot to review this book when I first 'read' it (listened to it), but six months later the delight is still with me. Part science-fiction, part light mystery thriller, mostly it was a fun, funny, surprising and unfathomable adventure. I'll definitely read another John Scalzi.

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Review: The Paris Architect

The Paris ArchitectThe Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a complelling book!
I loved this book, all while it broke my heart, and fed my soul. As soon as the book starts, wham, you are taken immediately to the horrors of World War II in Paris, as Jews are torn from their homes. This experienced through the words and eyes of a little girl, and how she tries to save the life of her little brother in a hiding place they used for hide and seek. Fast forward 3 or 4 years, and the theme of hiding continues, as we learn the story of the architect who risked his life creating places to hide jews in Paris. Fast forward to almost modern times, and the stories that unfold as a woman and her husband get ready to move into the home that was once that of the little girl who hid her brother. Many twists and turns, compelling characters, and insights into the stories from Paris in wartime. Brilliant.

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Review: The Day That Went Missing

The Day That Went MissingThe Day That Went Missing by Richard Beard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How a moment changed everything...
Poignant story of a little boy who drowned in the UK, told by the brother who was with him, and only just saved himself. But oddly little was said following the incident, the family went on with their lives, even finishing their summer vacation, barely speaking about what happened. As if pretending nothing happened. Rarely mentioning the absent family member caused grieving to be stunted. As an adult, the surviving brother sets out to find out what happened. Compelling and surprising - and very interesting.

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Review: L'Appart

L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris HomeL'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ah, an apartment in Paris! How lovely! Or maybe not...
David Lebovitz has a way with words. Maybe it was the thought of an apartment in Paris that grabbed me, but he even had me listening to recipes, with pleasure (and I don't cook!). Equal parts appalling and amusing, follow David as he buys and renovates an old flat in Paris. OMG! This should be MANDATORY reading if you are even thinking of doing the same. I swear you will be too frightened to do it, which is probably a good thing. For someone like me, however, I learned a lot more about the quirkiness of Paris, Parisians, and the French. Nothing is as simple as you can imagine. An enjoyable light read.

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