Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Long Trip Home : A Family Memoir
by Mark Whitaker

Here we go again with an "award-winning" journalist whose writing is sub-par (of course, the publisher wrote these words).
The book is about Mark Whitaker's parents, an interracial couple, and how they coped with life. I gave up reading early on. The writing is plodding. What bothers me the most is the awful editing. There's many misspelled words, wrong tenses, wrong words, duplication of one word in the same sentence. It's obvious that nobody proofread it.
Skip this book.
Not recommended.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sybil Exposed : The Extraordinary Story Behind The Famous Multiple Personality Case
by Debbie Nathan

I remember being caught up in the "Sybil" craze back in the 1970s. She was the woman who supposedly had sixteen different personalities and because of that a new diagnosis was coined in the psychiatry field. The book was a huge success which then spawned a movie. But was it really true? You don't have to read all of Sybil Exposed (and believe me, I didn't) to find that out. The Introduction reveals the duplicity of three women. I probably should have stopped right then and there but I persisted in continuing until I reached Chapter 4 which was about Dr. Wilbur, the psychiatrist that treated "Sybil."
Psychiatry in the 1930s was absolutely horrendous with its unsuspecting patients. Pentothal ( a barbiturate known as "truth serum"), Metrozol (shock therapy that caused broken limbs), lobotomies, and other horrible "treatments" were all being used by psychiatrists because they thought they could cure their patients better. I found reading all of this to be too disturbing and quite brutal.
The writing style is juvenile and repetitive. Don't believe the positive reviews. Read the negative ones.
Not recommended.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What They Saved : Pieces Of A Jewish Past
by Nancy K. Miller

Several years after her father's death, Nancy K. Miller finds a treasure trove of objects about her family in a drawer. There are photographs of people that she doesn't know about. She is determined to track down any information that she can find on these lost relatives.
This book could have been much more interesting but several times it lost me with her going back and forth amongst the grandparents, great-grandparents, and her parents. Halfway through I decided that I no longer cared enough to continue reading.
Not recommended.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ricardo Muti : An Autobiography : First The Music, Then The Words
by Ricardo Muti

I lasted three pages. Pretty bad. Ricardo Muti should just stick to conducting music and leave the writing to an established author. It's so boring and plodding.
Nothing more to say.

My Russian Grandmother And Her American Vacuum Cleaner : A Family Memoir
by Meir Shalev

A family story about living in Israel before the country got its independence and afterward. Mostly, the book centers on a very anal woman whose disdain for dirt is over-the-top. After a while, that gets old.
The book is translated and there are problems with the wording. Also, there are way too many similes, which I normally detest, but in this case the book actually needs them to sustain it.
Kosher Chinese : Living, Teaching, And Eating With China's Other Billion
by Michael Levy

In 2005, Michael Levy goes to Guiyang, a rural village in China, for the Peace Corps. He is there to teach English to college-age students.
The book started out okay with some funny passages and his descriptions of his residence, the school, the environment, etc. Halfway through, it became annoying and old. Not too exciting.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Precious Objects : A Story Of Diamonds, Family, And A Way Of Life
by Alicia Oltuski

I only lasted up to page seven. If an author has to use an exorbitant amount of similes to get his/her point across, the book is no longer worth reading. That is the case here. In one paragraph, Alicia Oltuski wrote three sentences, one right after the other, with those awful similes. They're just useless filler.
So, alas, I didn't find out about her life living amongst diamonds which has been the family's livelihood for generations.
Not recommended.
Beijing Welcomes You : Unveiling The Capital City Of The Future
by Tom Scocca

What promised to be an interesting book about Beijing before the Olympics and during it fell flat for me after reading one hundred pages. Tom Scocca flies to China (his wife is there ahead of him for her job) and tries to ameliorate himself to his new environs by adjusting to his different kind of residence, learning how to get around, watching both destruction and construction, attempting to conquer Mandarin so that he can interview and talk to the people, figuring out how to deal with all of the rules and regulations, etc.
As soon as he began to write about all of the sports and the Olympic arena, I became bored. The best stuff is about Beijing, how the citizens live, the food, the culture, all the things that define China.
Scocca's style is very dry and plodding.
Not recommended.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Killing Lincoln : The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever
by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Before you even get inside of this book, there is a problem with the cover. Whenever you see the first author's name much larger than the title and the second author's name even smaller, we are in trouble. Bill O'Reilly is banking on his name and reputation and it hits you in the face. Supposedly, O'Reilly used to teach history but he certainly did not check his facts. There are many inaccuracies. The writing style is sensationalistic and there's no new information. It's catalogued as an adult book but the wording seems to be geared more for young people.
If you are an avid Lincoln fan, the better book to read about his assassination is "Manhunt" by James L. Swanson which was absolutely superb. Swanson is a Lincoln scholar and the information and details that he wrote about were riveting.
Don't bother with O'Reilly's book. It's really bad.
Not recommended.
Rin Tin Tin : The Life And The Legend
by Susan Orlean

Do you remember watching Rin Tin Tin on television and in the movies? He was the most famous dog in the world.
Rin Tin Tin was discovered (as a puppy) in France during World War I by Lee Duncan who absolutely loved animals (more than people). Duncan brought the German shepherd back to America.
I wish I could say that I loved this book and that it was so heartwarming but that would be lying. In no time at all, I was bored. The tale is mostly about Duncan (not a very likeable fellow) and not too much about the dog. I found the most interesting parts (filler) to be about neither of them. Very early on, I stopped reading. I really didn't care for the writing style.
Not recommended.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Skyjack : The Hunt For D.B. Cooper
by Geoffrey Gray

It seems that every couple of years a new book comes out on D.B. Cooper. Remember him? He's the guy that hijacked a Northwest Orient plane in 1971, got $200,000 and parachuted off into oblivion. He was never found.
With this latest offering, we are introduced to a whole cast of quirky characters that may or may not have had anything to do with Cooper. It's pure speculation. The text jumps around with different time periods so between that and the multitude of people, it can be confusing.
I stopped reading the book after page one hundred. The writing style was not my cup of tea. It's very abrupt and in-your-face but now I know why. The author used to write about boxing for the New York Times. How other reviewers think that Geoffrey Gray is such a talented writer is beyond me.
Not recommended.