84. Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon
When I first met one of my friends her mom was getting ready to undergo brain surgery to have a tumor removed. Though not her primary doctor, Dr. Q has been involved in her care at points. Over the summer I happened to be at dinner with my friend’s mother and she mentioned this book, which sounded intriguing to me. Dr. Q actually illegally immigrated to the United States and now is a renowned brain surgeon at Johns Hopkins. It’s an impressive story. He doesn’t really get into the issue of illegal immigration at all except to tell the story of how he came to the US and to touch briefly on how he was able to remain legally. Even with a secondary writer the book definitely reads as if it was written by someone who is not a writer. I would still recommend it for the story, but don’t expect to be wowed by the writing itself. I give it a 6 out of 10.
83. And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
I am sure that there are many people who would love for Laura Lippman to go back to writing books in the Tess Monaghan series, but I am not one of them. I quickly grew bored of reading any of those. Those type of crime procedural thrillers do nothing for me. I have loved most of Lippman’s standalone novels though and this was another good one. The story centers around Heloise/Helen who is a suburban madame, running an upscale prostitution ring from her home in as much of a legitimate business way as possible. However, something from her past is haunting her and current issues are threatening to expose her secret and the life she is not sure she even wants anymore. It’s not my favorite Lippman book, but I quite enjoyed reading it. If you like her other books you should enjoy this one too. I give it a 7 out of 10.
82. The Road Back: A Journey of Grace and Grit by Michael Vitez
This book is the true story of Matt Miller, a University of Virginia student who was severely injured when being struck by a car during a bike ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The injuries he sustained to his head were so severe the doctors did not expect him to make it, but instead Matt defied the odds to an incredible degree recovering at an incredible pace and going on to attend medical school and run a triathalon. It’s truly an incredible story of an amazing young man. I’m not sure it was something I needed to read an entire book about though. The book was written by a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who profiled Matt in the paper. I imagine I would have gotten just as much out of the newspaper profile as I did from the book. Not that I’m dissuading anyone from reading the book because it is an impressive story. I give it a 7 out of 10.
81. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
Swimming Home was on the short list for this year’s Man Booker Prize. It lost out to Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, which I won’t be reading because I found Wolf Hall to be insanely long and boring. I do usually enjoy many of the Man Booker Prize winners though, so I have read a decent number of books that have either won it or been on the short list. Swimming Home definitely felt exactly the kind of book that finds itself up for this award.
It’s rather short book that takes place over a week’s time in a summer villa in France. I wasn’t really taken in by the plot of the book, but it definitely felt of a certain place and time in a way that I really liked but don’t really know how to put into words. In some respects it sort of felt like watching an episode of Mad Men if that makes any sense. I’m obviously not doing a very good job with this review, but I’m not really sure how to formulate my thoughts on it especially now that it’s been several weeks since I read it. I’ll leave it at this, if you typically enjoy books that have won or been on the short list for the Man Booker Prize you will probably like this one. I give it a 7 out of 10.
80. Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth
It’s 1962 and Jackie Hart has moved from Boston to racially segregated Naples, Florida where she is not content to let the status quo stand. She starts up a literary society composed of a rag tag bunch of people the rest of the town is not too keen on (a divorcee, a gay man, an African-American maid who dreams of going to college, and a woman just released from prison for killing her husband). She also gets a job as the mysterious Miss Dreamsville, who broadcasts an evening radio show that that whole town goes wild for. Will the fact that she is the beloved Miss Dreamsville get her out of the trouble she stirs up with her literary society?
I would peg this book squarely in the Southern fiction genre. Despite what could be interpreted as the serious subject matter of prejudice in the South during the 1960s, it really feels kind of light and inconsequential. I don’t generally read books that would fall in this genre, so I can’t say if it’s a good or bad example but it definitely really wasn’t my thing. I like my books to have to have a little more weight to them. I give it a 5 out of 10.
79. In One Person by John Irving
The fact that I enjoy John Irving’s writing is the only reason I finished reading this book. Be warned that the remainder of this review contains spoilers.
The story revolves around a man named Bill who is now in his 70’s and recollecting his life in this book. He is a bisexual man particularly attracted to transexual/transgendered men. Essentially the book is over 400 pages of him coming to terms with this fact and exploring it which just got old after awhile. Additionally, it was one of those ridiculous books where for some reason everyone in this small town is hiding some big gay/transexual secret. His maternal grandfather is a cross-dresser, his father who has been absent his entire life turns out to be a gay cross-dresser, the town librarian with whom he has his first sexual experience is transgendered and living as a woman, one of his good friends is gay, and the boy everyone in school has a crush on also turns out to be a transsexual. The whole thing is rather unbelievable, and I just got more annoyed with each big reveal. Almost every single male this kid knows seems to turn out either gay, a cross-dresser, or both. If you want to read a John Irving book he has much better ones out there. I would give this one a pass. I give it 4 out of 10.
78. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: On Your Own (Season 9, #2)
I was very excited to get an ARC of this through Netgalley as I was anxious to continue the story after finishing the first volume. Though I suppose now I will have to wait extra long for volume 3 to come out since this one isn’t due on shelves until November. I don’t really do much in the way of reviewing these, but I enjoyed the story. The Buffy comics are always fun, quick reads for me and so far have been far more enjoyable than the actual final season of that show.
77. The Other Life by Ellen Meister
Quinn is a happily married mother pregnant with her second child. However, she knows lurking out there is a portal to another life in which she made the exact opposite choice for every major decision in her life. She has always felt its pull but faced with the tough decision of whether or not to continue a pregnancy with a severely disabled child she begins to explore her other life in which she is married to a different man, childless, and in which her mother is still alive. Which life is better? How can she choose?
I found the premise of this book to be intriguing. However, I found this book to be better in concept than in execution. There was something I can’t quite put my finger on that just didn’t get me very excited about it. Summarizing the plot even makes it sound interesting to me again even though I was far from enthralled while actually reading it. I give it a 6 out of 10.