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Suzy’s Case by Andrew Siegel……

July 17, 2012

One of my favorite classes in college was Biomedical Ethics. So, when I received a request to review Andrew Siegel’s medical malpractice story titled Suzy’s Case, I jumped at the chance. Plus the main character’s name is Tug Wyler. That’s a fabulouso name for a medical malpractice attorney.

The story starts a little slow and it involves a tough set of circumstances to read about. Suzy is a little girl with sickle cell anemia who leaves the hospital in much worse shape than she arrives in – she walks in sick and leaves in a wheelchair, brain damaged and paralyzed. Her mother believes the hospital did something wrong – the hospital suggests Suzy is simply a victim of her own disease and an unfortunate turn of unpreventable medical events.

Tug Wyler is brought onto the case when the original attorney decides after 6 years of litigation that there really isn’t much of a case. Tug is a little crass and very quirky but he is a dedicated attorney looking to get the best results for his clients. Admirably, he tries to distance himself from cases that he knows to be fraudulent. In the beginning of the story, we see Tug  defending his own actions in front of the Disciplinary Committee. He knew one of his clients was lying and refused to represent him in a “zealous” manner as required by the Professional Code of Conduct. This reveals his honest nature and makes him more than just an “ambulance chaser” – which is important given the negative stereotypes surrounding medical malpractice attorneys.

As we meet and get to know Suzy and her mother, it’s hard to not to care about this little girl and to be curious about what exactly happened to her – not only because her story is tragic, but also because medical malpractice is a reality. Sadly, it can happen to anyone. Siegel did a good job of building suspense and answering questions slowly to keep his readers engaged in the story.

The real beauty of this story, though, is its exploration of what Tug is willing to do to ensure justice is served for the victims of medical malpractice. Tug makes decisions that teeter on a delicate balance between defending the truth and bending it.

I have not read a medical malpractice novel before and this was an interesting journey into a complicated and contrived world – where the truth often hides behind self-preservation and big payouts.

This is Andrew Siegel’s debut novel and it was published by Scribner, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Defending Jacob by William Landay……..

May 10, 2012

(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story – if you haven’t read the book and want to, you might want to wait to read what is written here – just in case.)

I read Defending Jacob by William Landay for my book club. If you want a book rich with discussion possibilities, this one is it.

Jacob is a high schooler who lives in a small town. In that town, one of his fellow students is murdered. Jacob’s dad is the Defense Attorney on the case – until Jacob is accused of the murder. It turns out that Ben (the murdered boy) was bullying Jacob, giving him quite a motive.

This book opens a lot of avenues of discussion….

  • Nature v. Nuture
  • The Impact of Working Parents
  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Bullying
  • Community Reaction to Crime
  • Murder and Suicide
  • What Defines Normal Behavior in Children
  • What Parents Are Willing/Unwilling to Believe About Their Children

You better serve wine. 😎

The story was well-paced and I really liked the first half of the book. I felt like Jacob’s story could go either way and I struggled to decide whether Jacob was innocent or guilty. But then the book turns and a lot of surprising things happen. Which is generally good in a book. But this story just had too many twists. It felt contrived and too easy at the same time.

It really would make a good book for any discussion group and maybe even a good book for parents/teenagers to read together. I just wasn’t thrilled with plot development toward the end.

Hi My Name Is Loco and I Am a Racist by Baye McNeil………..

April 10, 2012

I met Baye through blogging. He was one of my first followers and one of the first people to really take my blog seriously. He read, he commented, and he complimented.

Thanks Loco!

Baye (aka Loco), of course, has his own blog about living and teaching in Japan. He took his life story and turned it into a memoir called Hi! My Name Is Loco and I Am a Racist.

Baye McNeil's thought on life and racism

I loved Baye’s writing from the first post of his I ever read. Admittedly, initially, I thought he was a little angry. (Sometimes he was.) But he was never dismissive of someone else’s ideas – he was always willing to consider a different point of view. I quickly found the discussion sections of his blog to be the most insightful. And he was open to any question – even silly questions from a white chick like me. And he was open to changing his perspective.

This book of his is no different. He looks at himself in a mirror that most people aren’t willing to hold. Baye shares stories of how he was taught to hate (in defense of being hated) and how he continues to fight those internal demons. He shares how race has impacted many of the relationships in his life, personally and professionally.

Beyond being a open discussion about racial tensions and pressures in America and the world, Baye’s own story is compelling. He grew up in New York, did a stint  in the military and college, and ultimately ended up teaching English in Japan. Baye found the love of his life and lost her. She left him a legacy of encouragement to “write!” and be the real writer he was meant to be. He was in New York City the day the twin towers were brought down and (exactly 9 1/2 years later) he was in Japan the day it rocked with an earthquake that changed the Japanese landscape but not the Japanese people.

Baye’s constant companion throughout his time in Japan is an empty seat on a train. He does a beautiful job of weaving the importance of this unlikely character throughout his memoir. She buffers him and angers him and teaches him to dig for the truth.

Ultimately, what I enjoyed most about this book is the way that it showcases how overwhelming stereotypes can be and how insignificant they become in one-on-one relationships. And I love how Baye constantly looks for (and generally finds) the good in others and in himself.

I highly recommend this book as a fabulous tale and a needed lesson. You can purchase it here. I myself have a signed copy. (Don’t hate 😉  )

Follow him on Twitter @Locohama.

Smooches Baye – great job!

If You Ever Need Me, I Won’t Be Far Away… By Bruce Farell Rosen

April 5, 2012

(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story – if you haven’t read the book and want to, you might want to wait to read what is written here – just in case.) Bruce Farell Rosen

Bruce Farrell Rosen’s memoir outlines the major events of his life. In If You Ever Need Me, I Won’t Be Far Away, he shares his connections to music, sports, writing, traveling, his family, and above all his mother.

At the beginning of the book, we learn that the strength of Bruce’s marriage is teetering. He tells us that he had an affair with a woman he met when he was buying a piano in New York for his son. The piano was to be a graduation gift from him and his wife to their son. The relationship understandably created a rift in his marriage and he struggles with mixed feelings about his wife throughout the book. He wants to make his wife happy (and even feels responsible for her happiness) but cannot commit to their relationship.

He shares that “perhaps (for his ex-wife) the thought of being here without romance was too painful a consideration. She wasn’t interested at all, though I did try; I so much want her to be happy, to enjoy life in its richness. Sometimes I am so sad that she is sad.” He goes on to say, ” She cannot be my medicine, but often, I would like to be hers. And when I try, I get pulled into a place of sadness from which it can take a few days to emerge. I strive to observe borders, to recognize limitations, but the lines are often amorphous – emotions, thoughts, feelings just spilling over like a faucet that continues to pour into an already-full glass.”

Bruce also writes a lot about his mother and his special relationship with her. She was a seer and tremendously important in Bruce’s life. He believes that her death was a troublesome turning point in his life. Her absence weighs heavily on him. Bruce tells us “God, I know, truly does give us just as much and no more than we can handle at any moment in time. The loss of my mom will take a lifetime to digest, so profound was her influence.”

It seems as though Bruce battles with depression at times, or at least intense sadness. The book has a maudlin feel to it. The connections to music, sports, foreign cities, and world events are certainly interesting. And it is clear that Bruce cares a great deal about the people in his life.

But the book’s 600 pages are just a lot. I think the story could have been told in about half of its current page count.

Lexile…..

March 25, 2012

Normally, I write about what I have read. But as the mom of three kids, I appreciate any help I can get in finding appropriate books for them to read. So, I am sharing a post I wrote about Lexile over on A Reason To Write.

Please check that post out here if you have ever had a hard time finding “just right” books for your kids.

Happy Reading!

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain…..

March 8, 2012

(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story – if you haven’t read the book and want to, you might want to wait to read what is written here – just in case.)

The Paris Wife is a novel but, in the epilogue, Paula McLain tells her readers that she tried to mirror the true story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, as much as possible. The story takes us through the first marriage of Hadley and Ernest and their exciting beginnings in Paris.

The story is very well-written and the characters are entertaining. Wonderful literary personalities like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald dance across the pages. We learn about Paris in the 20’s and the artists who journeyed to the city to hone their talents with like-minded souls. And we learn, maybe a little too much, about the famed Ernest Hemingway.

There is a lot to really like about this book, however, the story is just sad. Hadley tells us in the beginning that things won’t work out – but I wanted to believe I read it wrong – that I had confused myself with the silly truth of it all. But she did tell the truth and so the whole journey has a melancholy overlay that never dissipates.

Reading this book is a bit like watching sugar dissolve in clear water. There is the promise of sweetness, but we realize the crystals can  mostly only sink, their load too heavy for the frigid water to gracefully absorb it. In the end, we are just left with a cloudy, murky mess.

If you are mad at your spouse, wait to read this book. Otherwise, dive in. You’ll will be glad you read it.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott……

March 8, 2012

by Anne LamottAnne Lamott is a (pretty well-known) writer and she writes this book to encourage others to write. She doesn’t even demand that writers write better – at least not at first. She just wants us to write.

It’s wonderful.

It’s funny in unexpected ways. Many times I read a line and thought, a second later, “now that was funny”. Anne Lamott writes with a humor that is natural and seeps into her words. I love her conversational tone and her advice is fabulous.

In Bird by Bird, she gives us permission to write a “shitty” first draft – because we must. We must get something down on paper and then fine-tune it. She reassures us that she knows no-one who can write perfectly the first time. Well, she admits to knowing one person who can do it – but she doesn’t like her very much.

The gist of her message is that we should take our writing bit by bit. Anne shares the story of her brother writing a paper for a school project. He waited until the last minute, of course, and was overwhelmed by tackling the whole world of birds at once. Her father simply said to him, “take it bird by bird”. He encouraged his son to write in little bits. That’s great advice for life, too, by the way.  One thing at a time.

Readers also get insights into plot, character development, jealousy, and tons ‘o writing stuff. There is a lot to learn between the pages but it never feels like a text book. Anne shares her knowledge through stories and examples that really “show, instead of tell”.

Even if you hope to never pick up a pencil again, you can enjoy this book.

This is another book that I will give as a gift to friends. It’s all sorts of yummy!