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The Day My Brain Exploded: A True Story

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The book opens with an embarrassing scene-which leads to a horrible one. Suffering from a very serious, almost fatal brain explosion, Ashok Rajamani experiences a rare brain disorder. I imagine that one of the reasons the book seems to jump around a lot is due to writing a book when you do indeed, have a brain injury. The writer has a decent sense of humor, and shares some insight into being an Indian in American culture (especialy after 9/11) and tells some coming-of-age stories that are funny- one where he refers to he and his brother as 'young, brown hicks' at the county fair. (Interestingly, he really loved meeting other Indian people, went to Indian festivals and India itself- and the thought crossed my mind that sometimes maybe it isn't prejudice so much, but that we all sometimes like to be with people that are like ourselves. High school is such a hotbed of misery- if they don't call you 'Sand-Nigger'-(which is unexcusably horrible)- they call you 'Fat' or 'Ugly' or 'Slut' or 'Nerd'- in other words, let's compare the things we were sneered at for- in High School no one goes unscathed. It's like teens have to find something, and small minds can only focus on what's obvious-usually physical appearance)But the physical tribulations the writer had to go through were many, and they were sad and scary- and yes- it made me appreciate the simple gift of good health. This is a good-natured read. At times it's immature, and disjointed, and certain subjects were dodged (sexuality- I'm still confused) and his father seems maddeningly callous and put out by having a son who's ill, but overall it was a decent read.
Fiction Ruined My Family

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I really liked this book! A memoir by Jeanne Darst- one of four sisters, who grew up with their eccentric mother (five feet tall, with a fur coat and heels-drink in one hand, cigarette in the other) and her faux 'novelist' father- an extremely well read and intelligent man, who had ambition,but no follow through. Books, reading and writing figure prominently, as do money (the lack thereof) and alcohol. Though both parents come from money and social prominence, they have neither in their life together.I liked the author's descriptions, for instance, when describing her grandmothers lack of interest in reading, she says: 'I don't remember any books in her house at all. Seeing a copy of the Grapes Of Wrath in her living room would have been like spotting a dead falcon on her coffee table' On the other hand, her sister Liz's love of books was something quite different: 'She loved the book as object. I remember the shame I felt, more than once, when Liz caught me placing a book on it's spine or dog-earing it's pages: "Jeanne, you can't do that to books! Look what you did," and she would hold it up for me to consider it's plight. "You can't treat books this way!" she would say, as if you had just stubbed out your cigarette between Lassie's eyes.Jeanne is a wild one, a drinker (like her mom) and and an aspiring writer (like her Dad) and she takes to booze like a duck to water. Ironically, she cuts back on her drinking in college, because her fellow classmates aren't hard enough, are mere amateurs. When they ask her to party she thinks: With three four-packs of Bartles and James? I don't want to be stuck with a case of alcoholic blue-balls when you ladies run out of wine coolers and pass out and I can't get anything else to drink! No way!.There are lots of funny stories, the kind that are funny when you look back, perhaps not so much while you're living it. There is a Lauren Hutton story that had me rolling! I think the author comes across as witty, intelligent and extremely honest. Her parents, themselves much funnier in retrospect (her Mom loses her skirt- literally- while out shopping with one of her daughters- and is walking through NYC in a fancy shirt, jewelry, stockings and high heels for God knows how long. Another great story) There is also sadness, lots of underlying sadness, but overall it's about how our parents are who they are-like it or not- and how we have to deal with them AS IS, and also, how sometimes we posses some of the very traits that we can't stand in them, despite witnessing the aftermath of these negative behaviors. I liked her acceptance of that, and enjoyed watching her come to it. I even liked the cover art of this book. I feel like I went on a really cool, interesting and quirky trip with this author, and the book left me wishing I actually knew her! I will be keeping a look-out for anything she writes in the future!!
The Language of Flowers: A Novel

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This was an Early Reviewer book which I won. I really enjoyed the first few chapters- learning about the meanings of flowers (something I may actually investigate further, so thanks for that) The foster care stories were sad, but brief (I am not yet done with the book, but in the final third)However,as is wont to happen with me and books, I started to get a little irritated at all of the coincidences in this girl's life- that she 'just so happens' to run into someone who is also into flowers (and gives her a job) and then more and more people-all into flowers and their hidden meanings- it seems at times like the whole town (in real time, and the past) are 'flower people'. And everyone -since she's aged out of foster care- is so overly concerned with her. She even starts curing people's love lives with bouquets, and then she meets a handsome man named 'Grant' (of coarse!), and now I realize this is going to be like a Sunday afternoon Lifetime movie -and so far it is. She's 'afraid to love', but of coarse, Grant won't give up on her, trying to soften her up, or break her like a wild stallion. She gets pregnant (which came from left field, even though she begins having sex all of the time with Grant (Wake up, girlfriend! It's 2012!) She takes all of her belongings and goes to live in the park (!!) rather than tell Grant she's pregnant because he might be 'too happy' about a baby. I don't find this stoic- I find it mental! Run, Grant! (and yes- blame her upbringing, her 'get out of owning up to your own actions' free pass) She can't get an abortion 'because she can't be naked in front of strangers' (the Doctors) Really? That's loony-tunes, right there. (Say you're against abortion, or whatever, but please don't talk to me like I'm an idiot!) Her boss, who guesses she is pregnant is stern and decides 'we need to get you insurance young lady!' then tells her it'll take her all day to fill out the insurance paperwork she's already procured. (All Day? What kind of insurance is this? I could see maybe a half-hour....) but she flees- because- after all- the nerve of people, wanting to help me pay for a baby, who has a father that might be 'happy'. It's terrible. I tell ya! At this point in the story (the page I'm on) she is literally watching as 'Grant' is searching for her ( she's looking out of a storefront attic's window!) - watching Grant asking the townspeople if they've seen her. 24/7 this is what he's doing, for months evidently- while she sleeps in the park. All he needs is to bring along a dainty glass slipper and have the females of the town all try it on, until only her delicate foot slips in!!This is a huge city, but he's right there in her line of sight. It's like a Harlequin Romance minus the bodice and petticoats.. If she REALLY didn't want him to know she was pregnant- why wouldn't she get out of the area altogether? Who would be homeless (like it's nothing, by the way, the book doesn't even discuss the awful logistics of that in any great length) rather than live with a handsome, rugged, 'prince of a man', who is devoted to her?? I'll tell you why she doesn't leave town-because she's a big drama-queen, and she needs him to really, really, really kiss up to her, BEG even. She thinks she's being selfless, but she's actually extremely narcissistic, keeping everyone running in circles over HER! It's so ridiculous. I'm sorry. I'll be back to finish this when I'm done. But who buys into this stuff? Next thing you know she'll have a kid and name it after a flower. It's all so pink bows and frosting flowers.... that it's making my teeth ache.
A Thinking Man's Bully

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I really appreciate the ability to score the Early Reviewers books, and feel an obligation to review them fairly. In the case of 'The Thinking Man's Bully' I'm afraid I may not be do that. It turns out that the author's character reminds me so much of my own father, that I can't seem to separate the two. My relationship with my father is intact, but strained- and much of it has to do with his 'mental bullying'. I realize that Micheal Adelberg's 'Matt Duffy' (is he Michael?) was/is an actual (physical) bully, but all I could glean (loudly) were his constant digs at everyone in his life, the way he could sum up a whole lifetime in a sentence or two, as long as it was negative. When it came to the people in his life, it was: this one was awkward, that one's weird looking, this one had acne, that girl was overweight, this one unattractive, that one: white trash. Much of it about very superficial things, especially physical appearance. People never seem to live up to whatever measuring tool the author/character is using. He's so casual about this criticism, too - like picking people apart is just something we all do, breezily. And it never ends..He makes all kinds of cracks about the people he knew in high school, investigating their current wherabouts and happily discussing what failures they are presently. (Was there something in the water? Surely, everyone except 'super character' wasn't doomed?) Among them, of course, his best friend from High School who committed suicide by self inflicted gunshot. About which he eventually admits 'is a good thing, because his friend was 'a BAD person' Wow!! I can't even wrap my head around that one. In fact, the only person who escaped unharmed (by words) was the one girl he couldn't locate. Nice guy, this 'Mr. Duffy!'The writing was fine- the author is clear and succinct. I felt I was reading a memoir where the names are all changed. I liked' Matt Duffy's' therapist (although I felt she harbored the same feelings about him that I did), and I liked the wife (though I felt for her) and I'm on the fence about the son. His portrayal was clever, but dark (obviously) -though he's 16, so It happens.
Camaro & Firebird Performance Projects: 1970-81

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I am lucky enough to know some real cool car guys. Muscle car enthusiasts (three of whom own cars of the make/models/years included in this book) One has an 1982 Firebird and insists this book is absolutely relative to his car as well. I don't build cars, but I ride in them, the badder the better. But even was impressed by the quality of this book. Flipping through it, I noticed it was divided into neat, sensible chapters, explaining each project, along with colorful pictures that pop. I took it down to the 'cool guys' Automotive Shop, and still have not gotten it back. Rumor has it that everyone who sees it on the shelf, flips through it, and several are interested in said projects. I have a feeling by the time I get this book back, it will be very dog-eared!!
Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir

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I've never before read a book that was about one of the saddest things ever (the tragic illness of a child), and yet managed to turn me off because the author was such a braggart!! I know, I know- it seems impossible, right? Yet this author manages to brag about everything! His child -which I understand-to a degree. A big degree even. But it seemed incredulous that everything this kid touched turned to gold, and that he was adored by every single human being in his life. Even his birthday parties were described as an event where people 'from all over the globe' flew for days to attend. People in their life are more focused on his family, than their own!The father will tell you that he demands the best of everything, and he knows everybody in the world (of a 'certain' status, of coarse!) In medicine, in Hollywood, in art, in theater- you name it- he knows the top guy. (He even gets the kid a walk-on part on 'Deadwood' and I was half waiting for him to win an Emmy for his performance. He calls famous neurosurgeons and argues with them (because he is the smartest person in any situation) As much as you feel for the child, this book seems so much more about the father. And I'm sorry, but he's the guy at a dinner party you pray you don't get seated next to because he will one up you right under the table with his superiority. If I had to call him anything, it might be a blowhard. I'm sorry, but it's true. I'll give him this though: He's a good writer, a very good writer and he explained his son's disease in laymen's terms which was fascinating, and there was no way I was putting the book down. Every now and then he'd pull back on the bragging and then I'd feel bad for being so annoyed, but- it would always start up again. And underneath it all, every time he pulled strings for his son (because of his connections) I kept thinking: What about the 'regular' people, or poor people, who don't know brain surgeons and scientists, and can't call them at midnite with home phone numbers obtained through powerful world figures? Are our 'chattel' doomed? But alas, the book did have one lesson that prevailed: Even if it's not what you know but who you know, it still might not be enough. In that way, perhaps the field is more even than Mr. Weber would ever want to admit. I'm sorry things happened as they did. I just wish he'd been humbled by it.
Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, Country, and Football at West Point

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This was an Early Reviewers book. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Military Schools, College Football and the teaching of discipline to today's college students. Obviously, anyone who attended the military academy would really enjoy this book. Very details oriented, and lots of discussions about particular games and their outcomes.
Drinking with Men

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Rosie Schaap grew up in my 'neighborhood'- or at least she got on the train in Westport, Ct. as did I. Between Conn, Vermont and NY City, I'd say we enjoyed the same geographical aesthetics. This is how I knew I would stick with the book no matter what (if nothing else, she was talking about the places I was raised in), and it was actually a decent read. I liked it in a 'medium' kind of way. It's all about hanging out in bars- really, really hanging out-getting to a bar's 'next-level' status, by becoming an actual regular there. I agree with her when she says there is a stigma associated with meeting people in bars. Of coarse this is because people are usually somewhat inebriated in such places, and not everyone 'drinks responsibly' (whatever that is)What was surprising to me was the sporadic mention of alcoholism, or alcohol related mayhem. You would think that logging in all of those hours inside bars she would have seen a lot more in that category. She also seemed to drink a LOT, and it never presented a problem, even though she drank the hard stuff. I wonder if she held things back because she is the New York Times 'Drink' columnist? It's like writing about a cruise, but never mentioning the water. Personally, I've partied hard (and had a blast) and have nothing against drinking whatsoever- it's just that I've witnessed some strange behaviors in inebriated people (and myself), and I don't even hang out at bars. Alcohol is what these rooms revolve around, so it must have been difficult to skirt the (negative side of drinking) issue. She also spoke simultaneously about being so intensely bonded with her bar friends, yet also said that bar relationships were more on the surface. Surface is fine, but for some of us we need the deep bond, so I'm not sure that being a bar regular would be sufficient, personally. To each his or her own, right?Ms. Schaap attended college in Vermont, and was an English Major. I'm not going to veer off into an education discussion for too long, but I became really curious (in my community college way) about why people study the same people over and over again (William Blake, for example, but you could say Robert Frost or any poet who has been dead for at least a hundred years) and write all of these complicated papers about them (after so many years hasn't it all been said?) And it's all theory! Nothing can be substantiated! Maybe Blake wrote that poem because he just did. Why all the pondering about their lives? I realize how absurd that sounds to an English Major, but really: Once anointed, these same people are always in place. Haven't any better (or equal) writers been born since?) Not that I am worthy- but I'd be pissed if people were ruminating incessantly about how I thought, or wrote, like their opinion had any weight. It's so easy to put all your theories onto dead people-they can't argue back. Anyway- I also made connections between Ms. Schaap, who I pictured physically as Janice Soprano (one of my fave characters on that show: ballsy), and mentally like Diane Chambers- particularly when she was staging a Shakespeare play in a New York bar. (She's obviously deeper than the cardboard cut-out character of Diane, but did share a certain sensibility about certain things) Our taste in music could not be any more opposite (Schaap was a dead-head, and from there we veered further) but that has no bearing on my opinion of her book, though I cringed when she started waxing poetic about Bruce Springsteen- a guy I picture way more grabbing a Latte at Starbucks, then working out at the gym before shopping at Barney's than anywhere near the deep dark side of town since forever. Since decades.I liked Ms, Schaap's stories, though I feel she didn't quite convince me why bars are so great. She's naturally more social than I am, but the camaraderie of a Pub or corner bar, lost much of it's luster once I entered my thirties. Even the logistics of drinking and not driving seem hardly worth it, and I have all of the people in my life I need, and the amount of relationships I can sustain and nurture. But there was a time when clubs had their appeal, and it's sure better than being lonely, or fighting against the urge to hang out if that's what you want to do. Live your life,however it feels right, and I always appreciate reading about the roads not taken. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and will add it to my library. I give it three and a half stars.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

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I liked a lot of things about this book, though at a certain point, I started getting irritated at all of the things that seemed to be automatically falling into place. First: what I really liked: The subtle wisecracks in the beginning, the description of the bookstore (of coarse) and Mr. Penumbra himself, whom I pictured part Tolkien character, and part Led Zeppelin album cover wizard. It was hard to picture him in real time , in our Kardashian plagued, reality show cheapness. In a world where Snooki has 'written' a book. (A world I'd like to check out of from time to time, too....but there seems nowhere to go! lol)So, the bookstore was spooky but inviting, (only missing a cat...and one of those green library lamps) and the premise was intriguing. I got all wrapped up in the secrets and impending situations, and the slight chance of danger. The Google stuff was interesting (and scary in it's own way-who's making decisions over there, and are they for good or evil? And what of us, who aren't in the clique?) but I wonder if that will date the book, the same way that references to Friendster and MySpace do now. My favorite part was when the BAM! girl (of Google) talked about imagination and it's limits. It went:"Okay we're going to play. To start imagine the future. The good future. No nuclear bombs. Pretend you're a science fiction writer"Okay: "World government...no cancer...hover boards.""Go further. What's the good future after that?""Spaceships. Party on Mars.""Further""Star Trek. Transporters. You can go anywhere.""Further."I pause a moment, then realize: "I can't."This led to a conversation about how we probably imagine things based on we already know, and that our imagination runs out in the thirty-first century. Interesting!On that note, however- this Google girl named Kat, was not my favorite character. She was way too young to be obsessed with living forever, and her whole hybrid-driving, gluten-free, eyes-glued to her computer screen regardless of who was present smacked of every young adult who thinks they have it all figured out, and are the center of the universe to boot. Her and her quirky shirts and disciplined food choices. Eyes rolling. Hopefully it all won't be too embarrassing in hindsight, Kat!For some reason I felt all along that the 'mystery' would be a let-down, because no matter what, there would be no route to immortality. How would you even write that (without a vampire?) But again, I stuck with it and rode the wave.I started to get a little annoyed with our 'boy wonder' Mr. Clay Jannon, and all of his moneyed, semi-famous friends, stellar connections, etc. He certainly didn't have much adversity due to the fact that he knew the exact people he needed to know in order to get (weird) things done. Which made me wonder how he could have had such a hard time finding a job in the first place, and how he could have been so timid and lost in the beginning? His rich best friend brought to mind millionaire Bruce Wayne- with Clay happily playing 'Robin' to-well, just about every main character in the book! The epilogue was ridiculous, a really over the top destiny for all. I know it's fiction, but come on! Anyway, I would recommend this book- maybe not quite as enthusiastically as many others. But I'm glad, having read it, and I'll take away some new thoughts because of it -which is the greatest thing about reading!
Destination Tent City, AZ

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I felt this book was more a 'manual' of the aftermath of getting a DUI than a personal story, but quite interesting nonetheless. It is a 'told to' account of one woman's self-inflicted plight into the world of arrest, fines, court dates, more fines, and jail. I know that LOTS of people drive under the influence, especially 'buzzed' driving, and I believe a lot of people reading 'Destination Tent City, AZ' will feel uncomfortable looking back on all of the examples of having done it, or been in cars where someone else is doing it .Most of these people are not alcoholics either, but rather people of all ages who have a drink or two with a fancy dinner, or at a sports bar during a game, or at a summer barbeque.I'm not judging- but I don't think I'm dealing with a non-alcoholic in this particular story. As the book opens, the woman -I'll call her 'X' - heads to a bar she refers to as 'Church' at nine am, where she knows everyone by name. She has 'a beer' to start off her day, and I was immediately thinking: 'This is NOT a casual drinker' (not judging, just being honest) She refers to failed relationships- one with a man she calls 'Lucky'- though I get the distinct impression that he is named by the 'opposites rule'- like a fat guy they call 'Slim'. But what really shocks me, is when- after procuring the DUI and being arrested, 'X' decides to kill herself (!!) and this is where I part ways with relating to her. I absolutely can understand being highly upset about a DUI-who wouldn't be?- but to actually take 20 Klomapin and 20 Ambien pills, write suicide notes and lock your two beloved dogs in a separate room- seems incredibly out of of proportion with the situation at hand. (She did, however send out texts and e-mails- so part of her wanted to be found- and she was) Worse, though- is when she is brought to the hospital, where, upon waking up, grabs a plastic knife off of her food tray and saws her wrist open, bleeding out all over the room. There is MUCH wrong in 'X''s life, the DUI is obviously tip of the iceberg. She is also very, very bitter towards her family, and this often makes her sound like a petulant child. After all- she's 46 years old!Still, the author charts the trajectory of the drunk driving charge in a pretty straight-forward way. The money it costs (lots!) the court ordered classes, the SR-22 insurance forms, the interlock ignition system (wherein one must blow into a machine in order for their vehicle to start) and of coarse, 'Tent City'-the mostly outdoor facilities that is a 'make-shift' jail in Arizona. Once again, I was startled when I realized that 'X' was serving a TEN DAY sentence, and was released for 10 hours a day to 'work' (though where did she work? It seemed like she was going home to her apartment?) on weekdays. Her response to this sentence, and the facilities, was more appropriate to someone serving 'real' time (a year or more?) but by now I was used to 'X's' dramatic take on pretty much everything. What I learned from the book apart from 'X's' personal story, is that there are lots of people who work within the penal system, whose job it is to make life difficult for 'criminals', and treat them in a terribly degrading manner. There is a distinct conflict of interest as well, wherein many people who run the system make boatloads of money off of the misery of lots of even one-time convicts, many decent human beings- and that there but for the grace of God go any one of us, should we make even one mistake (drunk driving is only one example of many) But since the system has people up against the wall, and can use the excuse of 'If you don't want to be here, don't do the crime'- they virtually have no defense, and no one to defend them. On top of this, most people are too embarrassed to admit these things have happened to them, and this plays right into the hands of the profiteers. It's probably not relevant to most of us, as we will not go to jail, but to degrade people as a sport, and to make big money off of them- can't possibly be right- or help to 'rehabilitate' them. These actions have a way of 'coming home to roost' in my opinion. There must be a better way.I think anyone who wants to see what goes on in jail, and understand the monetary impact a guilty verdict has on the system and the people who profit from it, would do well to read this book. But maybe imagine 'X' to be a family member or good friend instead, as 'X's' dramatics can be exasperating at times.
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