Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Stupidity on Hiatus for Book Review: The Weight of Silence Blogtour

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

After I decided to shove aside stupidity and take the ladies at MotherTalk up on an opportunity to review The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf, I felt instant regret. A novel about missing children and possible abduction is not high on my readability list. But despite my trepidations about the topic,  from the moment I opened this book to the last page, I was hopelessly hooked. Dirty dishes be damned! My hair would dry on its own for once! I could not bring myself to put this hypnotic, page turner down.

The simple story is distinguished by the unusual nature of the protagonist: sweet, sensitive, seven-year old Calli is a selective mute,* unable to speak since suffering a tragedy as a toddler. Her classmate, Petra, is her best friend and voice. Both, coincidentally, go missing early one morning, disappearing from their homes. Calli’s abductor, a dubious, no-good character, is revealed early on to readers, but this kidnapper’s intention is unclear. Petra’s disappearance is more complex. The only trace they leave behind is a bare footprint in the dirt near Calli’s home. The chase is on as local sheriffs, the FBI, Calli’s mother and brother, along with Petra’s father, attempt a rescue mission to locate the little girls. Reader anxiety builds as suspects mount.

Employing multiple narrators with many distinct voices, the reader is provided a glimpse into the mind of each character from Antonia, Calli’s emotionally wounded mother, to Martin, Petra’s mild, but doggedly determined father, and even includes the voices of the missing girls. Their friendship is revealed through a series of flashbacks. The story manages to race forward despite the different voices and perspectives thanks to the well crafted chapters that ably exhibit the author’s care and creativity.

In The Weight of Silence, seemingly average people rise to the challenge of locating the children. The book as a whole does a fine job of ruminating on facing fears and finding truth.

Suspense is consistently maintained throughout the story.  The plot is tantalizing (who snatched the girls and will they be rescued in time?); the reader is kept guessing until the climax. I needed to know what was going to happen next. Hence, the book was attached to my right hand until I completed it. In the end, the book’s impact derives mostly from its assured execution.

If you’re up for a suspenseful read, this is it. Many thanks to the ladies at MotherTalk and especially to Project Manager, Lauren Sleeper, for giving me the opportunity to provide this review.

*If only stupers (short for untantalizingly stupid persons) could somehow become selective mutes or just plain mute.

Keep thinking.


Stupidity Pauses for a Book Tour – Return to Sullivans Island

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I locked myself in the broom closet today, with one, brightly burning overhead bulb, to avoid all contact with stupers (short for peltingly stupid persons). I had to put aside my battles with stupidity so I could review Dorothea Benton Frank’s latest novel, Return to Sullivans Island.

If looks could kill, or should I say, if books could kill, this dust jacket would rub out quite a few readers. It is stunning and quite eye-catching; an author’s dream with Frank’s name set ablaze, top and center in brilliant red. The story itself is genial with many a charming moment sprinkled in this tale of twenty-three-year old Beth Hayes who craves adventure and independence, but is forced, arm-twisted politely requested by her elders to housesit the ancestral home on Sullivans Island, South Carolina while the rest of her clan take off for a year to pursue their own ambitions.

The story begins entertainingly enough: a bon voyage party is thrown, oddball relatives reunite and scatter in all directions afterward. Beth is left to fend for herself among the house ghosts (haints), which no one, including Beth and a few random house guests, seem to find too unnerving. Throw in a suave and dashing real estate developer who is really just a sleazy cad, a bevy of unexpected friends, a little deception by Beth herself and finally the curious death of one of Beth’s relatives, and you’ve got Return to Sullivan’s Island.

The book deals gently with fundamental issues such as celebrating family and misplaced trust and unabashedly desires to rouse the sentimentality in all of us. It’s easy to root for such amiable intentions.

If you’re in the mood for a fairly predictable, light-hearted beach read, you’ll find it in Return to Sullivans Island. Many thanks to the ladies at MotherTalk and especially to Project Manager, Lauren Sleeper, for giving me the opportunity to provide this review.

Don’t stop thinking!


Stupidity Moves Over For The Spare Wife Book Tour

Monday, April 20th, 2009

You’ve no doubt heard of ex-wives, trophy wives and old wives. How about spare wives? Thanks to the wonderful ladies at MotherTalk, Project Manager Ashley Tedder in particular, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to review The Spare Wife by Alex Witchel, for my dear readers.

If you’ve ever longed to spy on residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side while they indulge in lavish parties, illicit affairs, infertility issues and general feckless caprice, this book’s for you. Gorgeous ex-model turned attorney now wealthy widow Ponce Morris, becomes The Spare Wife, acting as ideal companion, party thrower and loyal hand holder to her high-maintenance, overly sensitive and mostly superficial friends, also known as New York’s powerful, upper class (excuse me while I take a deep breath). These are friends whom Ponce has bonded with over countless gallons of champagne. Forty-two-year old Ponce appears flawless as she effortlessly manages other people’s lives; totally and unselfishly dedicated to helping her pals. Or is she?

Young, ambitious journalist, Babette Steele (also a beauty, naturally) is determined to reveal Ponce’s Achilles’ heel: her affair with a very married man who is also a prominent (and quite handsome – again, naturally) physician. Babette epitomizes the multi-tasker because she is bent on exposing Ponce while Babette herself is coming out of her own illicit love affair. Babette’s goals are twofold: to make a name for herself in a trendy, huge national publication (so what else is new?) and/or to snag an older, stunningly wealthy husband.

Sound promising? I thought so.  And it is, with just a few caveats: if you’re expecting new insights, you’re better off reading something by the Dali Lama; The Spare Wife is about the predictable evolution of mostly superficial souls. And this book shoehorns a story that requires patience for the first 140 pages as the cast of characters and cameos are multitudinous and hard to keep track of. I considered using a Venn diagram listing the many names to figure out who fit where. For instance, readers are told,

“Ponce is really an imaginary friend for the middle-aged man,” one guest notes. “She watches football with Stan Crandall, while Bitsy reads magazines in bed and thanks God she doesn’t have to; she plays golf with George Stein, because Carol only likes tennis; and not only does she go to Knicks games with Larry DeLynn but she lets him eat as many hot dogs as he wants and never tells Lila, who forbids him to have nitrates.”

The problem: none of those named immediately above appear in the story.  Pushing the first half of the book aside, it gains speed the moment Babette accidentally discovers Ponce’s affair and decides to unveil it….in a big way. This is where the tale suddenly lurches forward.

If you’re looking for a satirical, fairly fast-moving, entertaining read, this is it. There’s revenge, compassion, adultery and forgiveness scattered about. The Spare Wife is unsparing in providing a fun read.

Thanks again, MotherTalk!

Keep thinking.


MotherTalk: The Natural SUPERWOMAN – book review

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Stupidity gets the boot today so that I may indulge in a book review.

When I learned that the good people over at MotherTalk were seeking reviewers for a new book on women’s health, I was mildly interested. I’ve read loads of books on that very topic. I’m almost surprised I haven’t written my own by now (key word, almost). I know what to do to stay healthy: exercise regularly, eat organically and take every supplement known to man (or woman in my case). Or so I thought.

Then I discovered that the author of this “groundbreaking” new book believes that one doesn’t need to endlessly exercise, give up favorite foods or stock walk-in size closets with expensive supplements and vitamins; I quickly signed-up. And I’m glad that I did.

Clear. Concise. Chock full of common sense advice. These aren’t necessarily words normally associated with a book written by a physician. But they were the first words that came to my mind upon reading a chapter of The Natural Superwoman by Uzzi Reiss, M.D., OB/GYN and Yfat Reiss Gendell, a knowledgeable father – daughter team. Their professionalism is nothing to be sneezed at. Everything is underscored by scientific research.

The Natural Superwoman: The Scientifically Backed Program for Feeling Great, Looking Younger, andEnjoying Amazing Energy at Any AgeDr Reiss believes that focusing on four basic principles or “pillars” enable women to manage and maintain health and well-being in meeting the challenges of everyday life. These four pillars are:

1. Nutrition 2. Activity Maintenance 3. Hormone Balance 4. Mind and Mood

The chapter on osteoporosis caught my immediate interest as my sixty-six-year-old mother was recently diagnosed and advised to begin a strong, conventional treatment program. After some research, Mom decided the abundant and unpleasant side effects outweighed the potential benefits of the treatment. Her physician had not bothered mentioning the downside of the medication. Dr. Reiss not only ably discusses the serious side effects of conventional treatments, but also offers a viable, safe and alternative method for battling osteoporosis, consisting of a practical “regimen of natural supplements and exercise.” Additionally, he suggests activities to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Valuable information for those seeking choices.

I’ve read extensively about nutritional supplements for osteoporosis. But Dr. Reiss offered a first in explaining the benefits of a higher than usual dosage of magnesium and Vitamin D.

The book is presented in a genial, conversational tone. I can almost feel the patient doctor sitting next to me on the couch, chatting while sipping tea…mineral-rich green tea, of course, per his recommendation.

I greatly appreciate books written by physicians who encourage patients to explore alternative, less invasive and less intrusive means of treatment. This is just such a book. Dr. Reiss believes the patient knows more about her body than anyone else. And he attempts to help her along by asking a series of questions regarding symptoms.

Another chapter explores strategies for “proactively preventing and treating breast cancer,” through weight management and diet, among others. I was surprised to find that iodine deficiency was associated with breast cancer. Needless to say, I immediately went to my supply room and took a Kelp supplement the moment I finished that section.

What makes this book particularly innovative is the doctor’s stance on bioidentical hormones as a safe and effective alternative treatment. Bioidentical meaning an exact replica of what our own bodies produce. Unfortunately, I have not had enough time to give this section a proper read, but I’d like to and will as this type of therapy has been controversial in recent times.

As Dr. Reiss explains, to be a “natural superwoman” simple lifestyle changes enable women to reach their maximum potential. He believes our bodies can run “glitch-free,” hence making us superwomen. After reviewing much of this book, I find it easy to believe that we can indeed become superwomen.

Keep thinking!


Many thanks to Marjorie and Melissa for generously making this review possible, through the courtesy of Mother Talk.

MotherTalk Book Review: Maximum Ride 3

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Maximum Ride 3

Stupidity takes a well-deserved day off (I didn’t leave the house at all yesterday or answer any phones in case I’d run into a vacant mind) to give me a chance to review the latest young adult book offering by brand name author, James Patterson: Maximum Ride 3 ~ Saving the World and other Extreme Sports.

Science fiction and fantasy are not my genres of choice. But from the very start, this energetic read showed no signs of letting up. Fast-paced and well planned, the short, crisp chapters reeled me in; I couldn’t help but fly right beside Max, Fang and the whole gang as they set out to save the world from obliteration.

Six genetically modified kids, ranging in age from six to fourteen, strive to overcome the very mad scientists that created them. The “whitecoats,” become these children’s, and the entire planet’s, worst enemies. Another tome about the co-existing forces of good and evil. Hardly an original concept, but what the plot lacks in inventiveness, it makes up for in action.

The kids in Maximum Ride 3 are hip, smart and just happen to have amazing flying ability. They’re the only ones of their kind to have escaped the whitecoats and survived on their own. Consequently, they’re street-wise and world-weary. I hadn’t read the first two books of this trilogy, but I felt unhampered as this was simple to follow and to the point.

The leader of the flock is sassy Max, a young girl with grit and moxie, not one to hold back when it comes to speaking her mind. At first, I found her nonstop sarcasm a bit much. But honestly, what did I expect from a parentless girl forced to fend for herself against the odds and elements? The majority of grown-ups in her short life were wicked and bent on wrecking havoc. When did she have time to learn ladylike manners with survival on her mind, not to mention saving the world?

Details that could delay the action are conveniently discarded (how did the kids buy airline tickets without money? And who was the mutant in the castle that passed the note to Max?). I wish James Patterson had opted to discard the attempt at romance between Max and Fang. It seemed out of place. And weren’t they a little young and terribly busy? For me, it was an unnecessary distraction from the action; I was relieved it was brief.

No search for deeper meaning required in Maximum Ride 3. Just a carnival ride, exciting and fast-moving. Don’t get me wrong. These kids are set on doing the right thing and surrounding themselves by the right people. Responsibility, loyalty, and trust are often put to a test. Not bad virtues to pass on to young readers.

If you’re looking for flowery prose and detailed description, you’re not going to find it here. The rare similes that appear consist of examples such as Total the talking dog squirming inside Max’s “jacket like a gopher in a hole.” But you’ll find action galore.

My sixteen-year-old, currently reading The Scarlet Letter for his English class, peeked over my shoulder as I read.

“Wow!” he marveled. “this looks really easy to read.”

Maximum Ride 3 appealed to his sense of brevity and fun; a light-read, not requiring a dictionary by his side to define terms like “assiduous” and “desultory.” What you see is what you get and that was just fine with my son.

If you give youngsters a choice between going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Disneyland, which do you think they’d choose? If it’s Disneyland, then this is the book for them.

Tomorrow my quest to overcome stupidity while maintaining sanity resumes with A Case of Mistaken Stupidity.

Keep thinking!