Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Sunday Salon: June and July in Review

Books Read in June and July
The Inquisitor's Key (Jefferson Bass): "So, I loved Body Farm book #1 and found Body Farm book #7 to be tedious and poorly written."
Left Neglected (Lisa Genova): "I loved everything about this novel."
Arranged by Catherine Mackenzie:  "… too much was missing for this to be particularly memorable and engaging for me. Maybe you'll like it more."
Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman:  "As it is, it's a nice beach read that will take you back to your own coming-of-age days."
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks:  "The novel brings up an array of issues: the European conquest of the New World, the role of religion, gender, race, education, societal and cultural expectations, and even child rearing. Brooks is a beautiful writer and captivating storyteller."
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen: (Haven't yet reviewed)
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer: (about 50 pages left to read!)

Best Book of the Month(s)
No question: Caleb's Crossing. Left Neglected would come in second.

Added to My Ever-Growing TBR List 
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe
Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: The Inquisitor's Key

Before I had a chance to read this newest Body Farm novel by Jefferson Bass, I loaned it to an older gentleman—an archeologist— who needed something to read. He devoured it in about one day and absolutely raved about it. I then passed it on to my father, who also was between books. He enjoyed the premise of the book but wasn't crazy about the writing itself.

The real Body Farm is quite close to where I live; you can take a virtual tour of it here with Dr. Bill Bass. I am fascinated by the forensic science presented by writing duo Jefferson Bass. The only other Body Farm book I have read is the first one (there are seven), Carved in Bone, which we read for book club. I really liked Carved in Bone and was excited to have the opportunity to read another one.

Unfortunately, much of the appeal of Carved in Bone was lost for me in The Inquisitor's Key. Carved in Bone was set locally in a neighboring county here in East Tennessee. I loved the characters. But The Inquisitor's Key is set in France and flashes between present day and medieval times in a completely disruptive fashion. I just was annoyed with that whole thing. And the dialogue was rather dreadful. But again, the older gentleman to whom I loaned the book absolutely loved it, stating that it was one of his favorite books ever.

So, I loved Body Farm book #1 and found Body Farm book #7 to be tedious and poorly written. That said, I love the forensic science so much and the character of Dr. Bill Brockton that I will probably read at least another of the novels—but only one that is set in East Tennessee. And I still really, really want to visit the Body Farm!

*FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Left Neglected

Lisa Genova's first novel, Still Alice, was terrific. I have been waiting to get my hands on her second, Left Neglected, for quite awhile now and was thrilled to find it on the library shelf. Genova has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard, so her novels, which deal at one level with complex neurological issues, feel so completely believable. But it isn't just the medicine that's good: Genova is a fantastic writer. She can get spot-on into the heart and soul of her characters.

Left Neglected centers on Sarah Nickerson, who is barely hanging on in her dual roles: as a high-powered business exec who thrives on her job and as a wife/mom with three little ones. Her dreams (done amazingly well!) reflect her inner turmoil and call out warning to her that she is about to crash, but she shoves them aside each morning. One morning, though, she really does crash. While talking on her cell phone on her way to work, she has an accident and ends up with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The rest of the novel focuses on how Sarah and her family deal with the new Sarah. She suffers from a condition called Left Neglect, which causes the left side of her brain to ignore everything on the left—including her body. Sarah is Type A to the max, so she is determined to get over this condition. She has conquered everything in her life: why can't she conquer this? Ultimately, though, her victory comes in learning to readjust her priorities and reconsider what is really valuable in this life.

I loved everything about this novel. I found reading about Sarah and Bob's pre-accident life so painful yet so well done. It was like the life that Randy and I deliberately decided, early on in our parenthood, not to pursue. Still, I felt these moments if panic thinking: what if we had chosen that life? Yikes. And the sections after the accident were amazing, as Sarah realizes that she has tremendous worth outside of her expertise in her field.

Highly recommended!