Year 5, Book 42

42. Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder
Strength in What Remains is the true story of Deo, who escapes from Burundi during a civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis. I heard a lot about the fighting between these two groups in Rwanda, but was really not aware of the war that occurred between them for slightly different reasons in neighboring Burundi. The book begins with Deo’s escape to New York and chronicles his life as he tries to settle there. It is heartbreaking to read of the condition he lives in and the life he, a former medical student in Burundi, is reduced to. Eventually a nun he meets takes him under her wing, which eventually provides him with much great opportunities and an eventual return to medical school in the United States. Deo eventually begins working for Partners in Health where the author, Kidder, meets him while writing his book Mountains Beyond Mountains. The second half of the story kind of shifts focus with Kidder switching from talking the third person telling Deo’s story to writing about his experiences with Deo including going back to Africa and tracing his experiences during the genocide. It is a very compelling story. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 5, Book 41

41. Day After Night by Anita Diamant
This book takes place at the end of World War II and follows a number of Jewish women who are attempting to go live on kibbutzim in Israel, but in the interim are forced to live in camps guarded by the British. At least I think that is what was going on. Honestly I was fuzzy on where exactly they were and why for the entire book. I also found myself having a hard time distinguishing between all the characters. Either the book was way confusing or my concentration level while reading it was off. I didn’t find it that compelling of a book. I give it 5 out of 10.

Year 5, Book 40

40. Dave Barry’s Money Secrets by Dave Barry

I always find Dave Barry an amusing writer, so when I found this book available to borrow as an e-book for my Nook I did so. It was a nice diversion in the middle of reading The Story of Edward Sawtelle, which I struggled through at the end. Dave Barry’s Money Secrets I did not have to struggle through though. It was a quick amusing read. If you enjoy Dave Barry’s humor you’ll like this book in which he gives you some not so great money advice. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 5, Book 39

39. Adventures of a Continental Drifter: An Around-the-World Excursion into Weirdness, Danger, Lust, and the Perils of Street Food by Elliott Hester

I read this book for one of my book clubs. Rather than being a true travel narrative with a flowing story, the book is pretty much a collection of vignettes written as the author traveled around the world. Some of the stories were amusing and some kind of horrifying. I was annoyed at several parts in the book though where he would divulge into these fantasies about women. I don’t really care about his wet dream version of his trip that didn’t actually happen, but apparently that is what he would like to offer me on a number of occasions. There are much better travel writers out there, so unless you’re desperate for a travel writing book and this is the only one available I would find a different one. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 5, Book 38

38. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larssen
I read and enjoyed the first two books in the Millenium series by Larssen so I was looking forward to this third book in the series. I don’t think it lived up to the first two books though. The main mystery in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was compelling, and after reading it I was really curious about the background of Lisbeth Salandar which was addressed in The Girl Who Played with Fire. Fire left us hanging a bit in the plotline so I was anxious to read Hornet’s Nest to find out how everything resolved. Unfortunately the whole book was pretty much dragged out the conclusion to Fire over a 500 page book when really it could have been a few chapters tacked on to the end of Fire. I also didn’t feel like the writing in this book was as sharp as in the first two. I don’t know if any of that lies with the translation, but my guess is it’s probably not the root cause. If you’ve read the first two and enjoyed them you might as well read the third, but I don’t think it lives up to the expectations. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 5, Book 37

37. The Story of Edward Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
This book got a lot of press when it came out, won some awards, and was featured by Oprah yet based on the description it never appealed to me. The only reason I even read it was because it was available to check out in e-book form from my library right before I left for Alaska. Wanting to download as many books to my Nook as possible prior to my trip I went ahead and decided to give this book a chance based on the press.

The story revolves around a family who breeds dogs for a living. The son is afflicted with mutism from birth, although he’s not deaf. I actually enjoyed the first half of the book which set up the relationship between Edward, his parents, and his father’s estranged brother. So I thought wow, maybe it’s a good thing I read this book. Unfortunately I didn’t really care for where the story went in the long run and got rather bored reading it. In the end my reservations about reading it the first place wound up being accurate. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 5, Book 36

36. The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
Like Sushi for Beginners I checked out The Falls because it was readily available to download from Overdrive. Oates is one of my friend Alison’s favorite authors. As such I have read several books by Oates, none of which I have really enjoyed. After the last one I vowed I wouldn’t read any more of her novels as I just didn’t like them. I made an exception for this one because of it’s convenience and really wish I had stuck to my original proclamation as I didn’t like this one either.

The story revolves around a newlywed woman whose husband commits suicide by throwing himself over Niagara Falls on their honeymoon. She winds up getting remarried to one of the people involved in searching for her first husband after he disappears. The book is mainly the story of their life together. Like all of Oates books it was pretty depressing and I hated all the characters. So there you have it. I give it a 3 out of 10.

Year 5, Book 35

35. Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes
I am very much not into chick lit, but Marian Keyes is one of my friend Heather’s favorite authors. We read another book by her for our book club, which I didn’t much care for. However, Heather assured us that not all of Keyes books contained such stereotypical chick lit characters. I was looking for something that was available to check out last minute via Overdrive for my Nook to take on my Alaskan vacation, and this was available so I decided to give Keyes another chance.

The book still wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I will agree that it was much less chick litty than Last Chance Saloon. This book centers around a new start-up fashion magazine in Dublin. The main characters are a native Dubliner who is being promoted to this magazine, but who feels very much out of her element; the best friend of the previous character who is stay at home mom not very fulfilled in her life; and a transplant from London who was as she sees it banished by the publisher to helm this new magazine.

The themes are all still pretty much of the chick lit genre, but I found this book to be a huge step up from Last Chance Saloon in that I didn’t want to stab any of the characters because of their complete self-hatred and reliance on men. All these women seemed to be pretty self-possessing and capable of making decisions and not just sitting around getting walked all over. I give the book a 5 out of 10.

It’s not high literature by any means, but it was decent light reading for my trip. Who knows, maybe I’ll even check out some more of her books when I’m looking for something frivolous to read.

Year 5, Book 34

34. Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals by Peter Pronovost
This book is written by the doctor at Johns Hopkins University who established the checklist as a way to increase patient safety. I originally became aware of this book because my book club read Josie’s Story and met with the author Sorrel King who mentioned the publication of this book. The death of Josie King due to a preventable medical error and Sorrel King’s fight to increase patient safety was what led Pronovost to develop his checklist methodology. The book relates the incidents surrounding Josie’s death and how he became involved in the fight for patient safety protocols. It details its adoption by the state of Michigan and why he has had such difficulty instituting it elsewhere including in his home state of Maryland. It is an area that I find extremely interesting so I enjoyed the book, although he is not the best writer in the world. I am looking forward to reading Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto, which covers Pronovost’s efforts as well as other efforts at patient safety.