Genre: Literary

Book Review: Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Posted May 26, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Empathy Exams by Leslie JamisonThe Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Published by Graywolf Press on April 1st 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Essays, Literary, Literary Collections
Pages: 256
Format: ebook
Source: library

From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction PrizeA Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain--real and imagined, her own and others'--Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory--from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration--in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.

why I read this book

Many bloggers who opinions and reviews I trust raved about this book, so I just HAD to read it to see what all the hype was about. Plus I love essays, so that was a big plus.

my review

This book started out with Leslie Jamison writing about her role in acting with teaching in training Drs on how to be empathic. My first reaction when reading this was, they teach that I wonder how some of the Drs that I have had got past that one. I have had bad experiences with some Dr’s. Can you tell?

ANYWAY she goes into the role about how they have a script and stuff and how they rate DRS on empathy. At first I was like, I wonder how this book got to be so popular? Then I kept on reading, and Leslie Jamison does a good job on turning the topic of empathy on its head. I love how she takes what happened to her in her life and then tries to apply empathy to it. Like in one essay she talks about how she was attacked in a central American country and while a lot of people would end up putting the whole country on their shit list she writes and explores how she could be more empathic to the person who attacked her. I must admit that that one was my favorite as I have spent some time in Africa and while I was never attacked, After reading this I also feel that I missed the empathy boat.

After reading this I have found myself trying to be more empathic to people around me. After all there are different sides to a situation. Who is to say one side is more valid than another?

I have recommended this book to everyone I know. I feel that lots of people will benefit from this book and the over lying message. This is definitely going to be one of my top 10 books this year.


Book Review: Prayers For The Stolen by Jennifer Clement

Posted March 15, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ISBN: 9780804138789
Book Review: Prayers For The Stolen by Jennifer ClementPrayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
Published by Crown Publishing Group on February 11th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Hispanic & Latino, Literary
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: publisher

A haunting story of love and survival that introduces an unforgettable literary heroine Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight. While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions. An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of an unjust war, PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination.From the Hardcover edition.

why I read this bookI love heavy issue books. When I read the synopsis to this one I had to read

my review

This is not an easy book to read at times. Ladydi is just a kid in our eyes. A kid that knows way to much about the war. I have heard about the drug wars in Mexico but like most people did not know details of it. This book gives us a in-depth look at what the women actually go through. I had to keep telling myself that this is just a work of fiction. It still made me feel ALLL THE FEELINGS. I wanted to reach out and save Ladydi from her life.

This is like a panting of what life is like in a developing country. In it we see how people live in huts with dirt floors but have all the latest appliances. We see the contrast of life. We see how the government pretends to do something about the drug wars but in reality they are controlled by the drug bosses. We see the grinding poverty of a people trying hard to survive, where beauty is a recipe for disaster.

I couldn’t belive some of the things that I read. Hiding in a hole with scorpions to evade the drug mafia. If the drug mafia catches you, then you will become a sex slave. This story is about Ladydi so we do not see what happens when a girl is “stolen” but rather we get the info that Ladydi gets. At times I was frustrated cause I wanted to know exackly what happened but then again, it would have taken away from the story if it was included.

I was shocked at some of the things that the book talked about. Like when someone disappeared then there was nothing to be done. I felt a sense of injustice and rage and wanted to tell them that their lives mattered.

Many people think that one can just pull themselves out of poverty but reading this book I can see that is not always the case. Sometimes where and when we are born determines what kind of life we will have. This book showed that there is no easy answers when it comes to places like this. It also showed how bad life can be, that people will pay anything to get into the USA.

This book is a hard read, yes but it is also an important one. With people complaining about the influx od refugees this book may explain why people are so desperate to escape. I know some people lack the ability to have empathy for those less fortunate, but it is my hope that this book will bring the issue to light to all those that read it.



Book Review: Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

Posted February 10, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

I received this book for free from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ISBN: 9780316278751
Book Review: Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik ClarkSweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark
Published by Little, Brown on August 19th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Family Life, Fiction, Humorous, Literary, Satire
Pages: 352
Source: netgalley

Fast Food Nation meets The Corrections in the brilliant literary debut T.C. Boyle calls "funny and moving."

David Leveraux is an Apprentice Flavor Chemist at one of the world's leading flavor production houses. While testing Sweetness #9, he notices that the artificial sweetener causes unsettling side-effects in laboratory rats and monkeys. But with his career and family at risk, David keeps his suspicions to himself.

Years later, Sweetness #9 is America's most popular sweetener--and David's family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his daughter is depressed, and his son has stopped using verbs. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David's failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?

An exciting literary debut, SWEETNESS #9 is a darkly comic, wildly imaginative investigation of whether what we eat makes us who we are.

why I read this book


I was browsing on NetGalley and saw this book and loved the blurb so I requested it and was approved for it.

my review


I have to admit that the timing of this book is excellent. It seems the whole world is wanting grass-fed meat and is warning about the dangers of sweeteners. This book is a satire on this topic.

It starts out with two people working in an animal lab testing sweetness #9. David who is charge of the rats notices that they seem to be depressed and suicidal and stuff. He is fired after he points this out. He gets a job somewhere else and life goes on until his boss becomes sick and through a very twisting plot the truth about the sweetener comes out.

I know that the above does not seem like a lot but I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who has not read it. The plot twist keeps on coming. You think you know where the book is going but then PLOT TWIST!. The end of the book where the whole truth comes out will leave you with your jaw on the floor.

This is a fictional work but while reading I kept thinking what if this is REAL? The world created in this book is just like our own expect for this sweetener. And to think that today we use sweetener in almost everything. Most of us don’t give a second thought to the potential effects of sweeteners so it would be easy to imagine the scenarios in this book happening.

I loved David in this book. I could really relate to him. He is a fully fleshed out character and I found myself rooting for him. I think a lot of people can relate to him trying to do the right thing even when there so much gray area. Sometimes in life it is not clear what the right thing is and this book reflects that.

I also loved that the book portrayed the marriage and the raising kids in a more realistic light. So often in books we get the sanitized version of life. This book shows all the gritty side and the messes that can come up.

The plot of the book required no suspending reality. Like I said what happens in this book is so close to our own world that one can IMAGINE the events taking place. This is the kind of book that I like best.



Book Review:Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Posted February 9, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

ISBN: 9780385496094
Book Review:Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne LamottTraveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Published by Anchor Books on February 1st 2000
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Literary, Religious, Women
Pages: 275
Format: hardcover
Source: own

From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Birdcomes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny. With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. She shows us the myriad ways in which this sustains and guides her, shining the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life and exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope. Whether writing about her family or her dreadlocks, sick children or old friends, the most religious women of her church or the men she's dated, Lamott reveals the hard-won wisdom gathered along her path to connectedness and liberation.

why I read this book


All of last year my faith took a very serious nosedive. I am trying to build it back up to where it was but I was not in the mood for a “preachy” book and I LOVED her book Bird by Bird so I decided to pick this book up.


my review


When you thinks about Christian writers most of the time we conjure up someone who has never had any problems and is very into the rules. Traveling Mercies is a breath of fresh air in the Christian book industry. Anne Lamott talks about overcoming her drug and drinking issues. She does not hold back in any way and you never get the feeling that she has such holiness that you feel like throwing the book across the wall and that you can’t possibly meet that level.

She also talks about getting pregnant and her son and about being a mother. I do not have kids but I love her honesty about the things she does and the mistakes she makes. It seems that I am surrounded by perfect mothers and I know if I ever had a kid I would probably lose my cool more often than not. To read about this kind of mother and to know her kid turned out OK gives me hope.

While reading this book I wondered why I couldn’t be exposed to some of the more liberal religious people that she is. I grew up in Eastern Ky and all my life it has been who can follow the rules in the bible the best. Anne Lamott is surrounded by people that seem to GET life in this fallen world.

Over all I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who feels more like a sinner than a saint.



Book Review: Revival

Posted December 18, 2014 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: RevivalRevival by Stephen King
Published by Hodder General Publishing Division on November 11th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Ghost, Horror, Literary, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 384
Source: purchased

A spectacularly dark and electrifying novel about addiction, religion, music and what might exist on the other side of life.In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again - a showman on stage, creating dazzling 'portraits in lightning' - and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil's devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

My Review 2

There was a lot of Hype leading up to this book. So much hype in fact, that I actually pre ordered. Everyone was saying that this would be King’s return to true horror and that I would get the tar scared out of me. I stayed up til midnight waiting for the book to download to my Nook and when it did I jumped right in.

It was a completely enthralling engrossing read. King only seems to get better with age. The only down side was it was not as scary as I thought it would be. Even at the end I was like huh? Where the horror at? hmmph this is NOT SCARY. How ever it was a damn good story. I am glad I bought it and will re read it.

Now my thoughts on the story. I was reading and the build up was good. There were a few times that I felt that the horror was starting. Jamie  and the Pastor was so fleshed out I felt as I knew them personally. I kinda feel in love with Jamie to tell you the truth. I had to keep reminding me that he was a fictional character. Even the semi love story was realistic and not that fake love crap you find in other books. After all life is not all happy endings.

The relationship between Jamie and the Pastor was OMG. King was BRILLIANT in creating a dynamic relationship between the two. You know how most books you can see what the author is TRYING to do but it just well.. it is good…but in the end you know it is just a figment of someone imagination. Not so in this book. It has EVERYTHING that a real relationship that seems to be joined by fate or hell would be.

King is even realistic in Jamie’s heroin addiction. I have never tried drugs myself but reading this I felt that I could grasp the hopelessness in which Jamie found himself before he was cured.

View Spoiler »

This book was so good that I wanted more. However the ending was sort of anti climatic. I felt that the horror was just building up then..THE END.

That was the ONLY fault I had with this book. Everything else was just perfect. Hers to hoping King writes many more books to come.


Taste Of Salt

Posted June 8, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

From Goodreads:Josie Henderson loves the water and is fulfilled by her position as the only seniotaste of saltr-level black scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In building this impressive life for herself, she has tried to shed the one thing she cannot: her family back in landlocked Cleveland. Her adored brother, Tick, was her childhood ally as they watched their drinking father push away all the love that his wife and children were trying to give him. Now Tick himself has been coming apart and demands to be heard.
Weaving four voices into a beautiful tapestry, Southgate charts the lives of the Hendersons from the parents’ first charmed meeting to Josie’s realization that the ways of the human heart are more complex than anything seen under a microscope


My Review: I admit that I picked up this book because it has Cleveland Ohio as a setting. I live near there so I was curious how the author would describe it and incorporate it into the story.

The city is like a character in the story. The author describes it spot on. The two main themes of this book is alcoholism and adultery.

The plot is authentic and believable. The characters draw you in and while they are messing up their lives you still root for them because you want everything to turn out OK. While I like happy endings as much as the next person, I also like authentic endings. In real life a sistuation does not always lead to a perfect resolved ending. This is the case for this book. It ends like such a situation would happen in real life.

The writing itself was beautiful. The rich detailed settings makes you feel as if you are really there. You can almost smell the ocean and see the streets of Cleveland while reading this book.



Posted April 5, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments

I get that this book is supposed to be about freedom and the consequences thereof, but seriously it just felt sloooooow and nothing happens for pages and pages.
This is like the epitome of character driven novels. Frazen goes into detail about each character and why they do the things that they do. I understand that this is central to the plot but seriously throw some action in there with it.
I stuck with it because it is supposed to be this “great novel” and I was hoping it would redeem itself in the end. I started to see beauty in the way it seemed that everyone was decaying but then Frazen had to go and tie it up in neat little ways. So even the end disappointed me.
I could not connect with any of the characters. I felt like punching each one and tell them to do thing differently. Especially the main character Patty. I was like what IS her problem? She spends most of the novel falling in love with her husbands best friend and wishing her husband was better in bed. I was like make up your damn mind. And this goes on for PAGES. There is a whole section where we are subjected to Patty’s thoughts on the two.
Then there was her son who I hated. He seemed stuck up and to think he knew best about everything. I wanted to punch him in the face and tell him to get over himself.
The parts I like about this novel was the talking about the issues. There was talk of overpopulation, environmental issues among other things. That was the one redeeming feature.
Just because I hated this novel does not mean you will. Most people at Good Reads liked it. So If you like long character driven novels that talk about important issues then this might be for you.


From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant- A Review

Posted April 3, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments


From GoodReads:

High fashion and homeland security clash in a masterful debut.
Boyet Hernandez is a small man with a big American dream when he arrives in New York in 2002, fresh out of design school in Manila. With dubious financing and visions of Fashion Week runways, he sets up shop in a Brooklyn toothpick factory, pursuing his goals with monkish devotion (distractions of a voluptuous undergrad not withstanding). But mere weeks after a high-end retail order promises to catapult his (B)oy label to the big time, there’s a knock on the door in the middle of the night: the flamboyant ex-Catholic Boyet is brought to Gitmo, handed a Koran, and locked away indefinitely on suspicion of being linked to a terrorist plot. Now, from his 6′ x 8′ cell, Boy prepares for the trial of his life with this intimate confession, even as his belief in American justice begins to erode.
With a nod to Junot Diaz and a wink to Gary Shteyngart, Alex Gilvarry’s first novel explores some of the most serious issues of our time with dark eviscerating wit.

My Thoughts: This is a book that packs a political punch. We get the story from Boy perspective and we are left wondering if he is really that naïve or did he know and just did not care?

I did not agree with the whole Gitmo debacle and this book in its sometimes light sometimes dark meanderings shows why. It is easy to see how one can so easily get caught up in the wrong people and take the fall.

This book is not preachy but rather through excellent storytelling shows the reader what happens when one gets caught up in dubious circumstances. While one thinks that in America we have our freedom and protection in reality we can fall victim to circumstances.

I found myself invested in the story. I could understand that Boy wanted to realize his dreams and when the opportunity for money came along he took it. I think this is a decision that most of us can empathize with. The plot is believable. It flows effortlessly from one event to another. It gives a face to those we find ourselves criticizing.

When the story starts Boy is a strong character who proclaims his own innocence. As the story progresses we see how the system breaks someone down to the point where Boy no longer is sure of his innocence. He becomes a broken man.

This book is recommended for no other reason than this issue is one that needs to be discussed. If you like issue books without being preachy then I would recommend you read this book.


Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Posted March 26, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

A book review of Tolstoy and the purple chair

After her sister died of cancer the author decides to read a book a day for a year. She wrote reviews on her blog Read All Day for every book that she read. Prior to this she was trying to cram as much into her day as possible to escape her grief. Then one day she realized that to come to terms wit her grief she needed to slow down to heal.
Sankovitch and her sister shared a love of books. So it made sense that the author selected books as a way to figure out how to come to terms with her grief. And she did come to terms with it. I felt this was a moving and compelling read about that process.
I like many other people I am sure wondered how she would read a book a day and keep up with the fluctuations of daily life. She writes about this. About how it took her a few days to get in the rhythm of things. The most important thing she does is to make reading a priority. Many of us feel that we make reading a priority but do we really? In her book she explains how she always has a book with her and anytime she finds herself in a position to read she does. Waiting in line, waiting for an event or whatever she makes time for reading
In her book she speaks of the healing power of books. How reading such books taught her to live again. This is beautifully written and and can help other people attempting to learn to live with grief.



Posted August 17, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews, literary fiction / 0 Comments


This is a historically imagined polio outbreak in Newark in the summer on 1944. Bucky who wishes he was in the military fighting in the pacific is disqualified because of his bad eyesight. Instead he is the playground director for a local school. Apart from his bad eyesight he is the epitome of manliness.  When the chance arises he goes to the Poconos which is polio free. Then the twist occurs which I am not giving away for it is spoilirsh.

I have to be honest I had a hard time getting through this book as it seemed nothing happened. I know usually the first 100 pages is used for scene setting but this book dragged on past that. The book went into detail about the playground. Kids died. It described in excruciating detail about Bucky’s past and how he wanted to join the military. The overall theme of the book was what kind of God would let polio happen? I was getting pissed. I wanted a twist or SOMETHING big to happen in the book. In the end I got what I wanted. I really did not see that twist coming. It is at the end of the book so you will have to suffer through 200 pages to get to it but boy, it it worth it!

To be fair it did give an accurate portrayal of the horrifying conditions and the panic that ensued.I was able to empatize with the characters. While reading this book I felt bad for the people that got polio and suffered it devastating effects before the vaccine was created. What it must have been like for those people not knowing where polio came from or how it was spread.Philip Roth does a brilliant job of creating a historically accurate portrayal of that summer. How the kids on the playground felt when their friends died or was confined to an iron lung. How healthy kids were falling one by one to the disease.

The part that bothered me was the long drawn out descriptions of the summer camp. That I could do without. I am sure most of us have been to summer camp and is aware of what it entails. However it is here that the twist comes up and it makes suffering through the 200 pages prior worth it.