Monthly Archives: December 2013

Review: Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors

Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors
Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors by Andrew Shaffer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Literary Rogues consists mostly of capsule biographies of writers famous as much for their self-destructive behavior as for their literary work. It’s a light read and enjoyable enough, but anyone seeking new or insightful thoughts would be well advised to look elsewhere.

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Review: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a revelation. I’d never read the Zombie Survival Handbook but had read several reviews of the film “World War Z” which complained that it wasn’t as good as the book, so I had to find out what the book was like.

I enjoy works of alternate history, and World War Z does not disappoint on that note. The book really makes you believe in the characters and feel every moment of the terror and will to survive they exhibit. I suspect some of the passages will stay with me for quite some time. I’m no zombie enthusiast, and I absolutely could not put this book down. Highly recommended for those who enjoy zombie fiction, alternate history, and apocalyptic fiction.

(Companion Viewing: Film School Rejects’ “Ken Burns’ World War Z,” available on YouTube…that’s how the film should have been done!)

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Review: Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century
Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fascinating look at the murder which inspired the Peter Jackson film “Heavenly Creatures.” When two misfit teenage girls develop an obsessive friendship, their desire to remain together leads to the murder of one of their mothers.

The girls’ background and trial are discussed in depth, as well as information on what happened to them after their release from prison. One of the girls changed her name and became the mystery novelist Anne Perry, although Ms. Perry never revealed this information until the eve of the “Heavenly Creatures” film’s release. Recommended for fans of true crime and of the film based on the story.

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Review: Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This “Peter Pan” prequel is a good book to read out loud to your kids at night, a chapter at a time, which is how I read it.

The writing is a bit uneven, and the edition I have could have done with some better copyediting, but overall it’s a fun read, kind of like a good fanfic.

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Review: Manhattans & Murder

Manhattans & Murder
Manhattans & Murder by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m a sucker for a TV tie-in novel, let alone a series! Jessica Fletcher, Cabot Cove, Maine’s own Angel of Death, is off promoting her latest novel in New York when she witnesses the street-corner murder of a hometown boy gone bad. In true J.B. Fletcher style, she snoops around until she finds out what’s happened and who’s responsible.

A few wonky character misfires here (Sheriff Mort’s from New York, not Cabot Cove!), but an enjoyable enough look into Jessica’s off-screen exploits. Spoiler alert: nobody drinks any Manhattans. 😦

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Review: Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America

Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America
Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America by Elaine G. Breslaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve ever wondered how this country’s healthcare situation got so screwed up, this slim volume reveals the roots of our deep divide over how, why, and to whom quality medical care should be provided.

American exceptionalism leading American doctors to dismiss new theories championed by European healthcare providers? Distrust by many Americans of vaccines? Poor people’s bad health being blamed on moral failings rather than on the unsafe and sometimes unsanitary environment in which they live? Religious leaders seeking absolute control over women’s reproductive health? Shocking disparity in the quality of care provided to white and nonwhite patients? It all started here, in the early days of the United States, and the decisions made in those early days still reverberate today.

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of medicine in the United States, and it should be required reading for every politician on any healthcare task force.

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Review: Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted

Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted
Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted by Gerald Imber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genius on the Edge is a fascinating portrait of Dr. William Stewart Halsted, who revolutionized dental surgery and also invented the gallstone extraction, the radical mastectomy, and the resident system of medical education. His disciples went on to found the disciplines of urology and neurosurgery, among other specialties. It’s hard to believe that one man could cast such a long shadow and yet virtually disappear from history.

Dr. Halsted achieved all of these momentous things while struggling with addictions to cocaine and morphine, the former addiction a sad byproduct of his work on dental anesthesia. He went on to a great career in teaching and research at Johns Hopkins, and is immortalized in an oil painting hung on the grounds that depicts him and the other three lights of Johns Hopkins’ early days.

I highly recommend Genius on the Edge for anyone with an interest in the history of medicine.

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