Tag Archives: HarperStudio

You Never Give Me Your Money

The Reviewer’s Voice

I have people say to me that writing book reviews is hard.   I would generally agree.   After you’ve spent hours, days, maybe even a week or two reading someone else’s words, organized in their own fashion, it can feel difficult to organize one’s own thoughts and reactions.   Plus, there’s always a sense of self-doubt…  You may have written 80 reviews but there’s the back-of-the-mind thought that you will not be able to put the words together that are needed to finish review number 81.

Sometimes we may need to pretend in order to lessen the self-perceived stress.   There’s a nice story about the Beatles that proves this point.   After the death of John Lennon, Yoko One found two cassette tapes with unfinished song bits (ideas) that John had recorded.   She gave these tapes to Paul, George and Ringo and asked if they might consider working on the bits, to complete the songs.   Paul, for one, responded that he didn’t think he could do this; it would involve too much pressure in a time of grief.

Yoko thought about this and returned with a novel approach.   She said to the three remaining band members, “Why don’t you put aside the fact that you’re doing this because John is dead.   How about if you just pretend that he left for a nice vacation?   He mailed you these tapes, noting that he didn’t have time to finish the songs before leaving.   He’s asked if you lads would help him do so.”   This mind-set changed everything, especially for Paul McCartney.   With the able assistance of Jeff Lynne, two new Beatles songs (“Free As a Bird” and “Real Love”) were released to the world and went to number one.

When I finish a book, I start a review with a game of pretension.   I pretend that an avid reader good friend has sent me an e-mail:  “I am really interested in the new book by John Jones.   One of our friends told me that you’ve just read it.   What do you think?”   My first draft is, in my mind, an e-mail response that’s written quickly and informally.   Yes, I will do some subsequent re-writing and rely on an editor or two to reorganize or touch up my thoughts, but simply getting the thoughts out there – putting them on the screen – helps me to remember that I can do this.

To me, the hesitation of the book reviewer (wasn’t it Jackie De Shannon who wrote the song, “Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe”?) is due to the notion that somewhere in the Universe there exists an ideal book reviewer voice.   But we all have different ideas of what that voice should sound like:  authoritative, bitchy, humble, folksy, friendly, obnoxious, learned/professorial, artsy, formal, positive or chirpy cheerleader, chippy, negative nay sayer or doomsday crier.   And none of these are the real voice of the helpful reviewer.   That reviewer speaks in your voice or my voice – a voice that expresses an honest opinion that the reader of the review is free to either accept or reject.   But the highest honor a review reader may pass on is to say, “Yours was an honest voice.”

Sometimes it may even arrive in the form of an e-mail message, “I didn’t agree with your conclusions about this book, but I know that you spoke (and wrote) honestly.”   High praise, indeed!   Enough to get us ready to write review number 81, 82 or 182.

Joseph Arellano

This is one article in a continuing series.   Pictured:  You Never Give Me Your Money – The Beatles After the Breakup by Peter Doggett, released by HarperStudio on June 8, 2010.   “Peter Doggett’s book about the Beatles’ split is a real page-turner.”   Annie Lennox

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Angels on Earth

CC Theresa Brown

Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown (HarperOne, $14.99, 224 pages)

“Death.   It casts a long shadow in this book, and in these stories.   Even when death is not present it hovers just around the corner, unbidden and unwanted, but waiting nonetheless.”

“People say, why wait?   But really they should say, don’t wait.   Listen when you can, tell the people in your life you love them…”

If doctors are the mortal gods of medicine, then nurses are its angels.   At least that’s the case put forth here by Theresa Brown, a former Tufts University Journalism professor turned Registered Nurse (R.N.).

It seems that Brown and a former close female friend were looking for meaning in their lives when they decided to go to nursing school.   Brown started at Penn but finished at Pitt.   In Critical Care, Brown pulls back the curtain on what she somewhat successfully labels the Science of Nursing.   My mother was an emergency room nurse, so much of what I read in Critical Care sounded familiar and true…  Good hearted nurses are worn down by tough-minded superiors.   These nurses rarely receive praise for medical successes but often are blamed for the failures.   And, they have to clean up stool because “doctors don’t do poop.”

Still, this seemed like a somewhat lightweight survey of a crucial field.   There are some specific problems with the telling.   Brown shows us her empathy in writing about patients like the all-too-young David, who is battling leukemia; and Irene, the Pittsburg television personality who does not realize that she’s dying until she hears her former co-workers talking about her on TV.   But as soon as we become engaged with their lives, Brown’s off describing other things – like a voluntary job change.

Brown also loses track of former patients (some of whom have likely died) and their families.   In this age of the Internet, it’s odd that she did not pursue some basic research to find out what happened to them.   Also, the book begins with multiple pages of acknowledgments which seems distracting before we get to the actual content.

A last flaw is that we do not get to know the author’s husband or daughter.   They remain on the edges of the stage.

What Brown does quite well is to convince the reader of the need to enjoy life (and other people) while good health lasts.   Today’s tiredness may be diagnosed as leukemia or some other energy-robbing disease tomorrow.

Critical Care lets you walk in the shoes of some very ill patients, both young and old.   Yet for a better overview of today’s world of medicine – as practiced on a daily basis – I recommend two books by Dr. Atul Gawande.   The most recent is Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (2008).   The contemporary classic is Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science (2003).

Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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We had winners!

We’ve been so excited about our current book giveaway contests that we forgot to post the names of the winners of our most recent contest.   Congratulations to the three (3) winners of Double Take: A Memoir by Kevin Michael Connolly.   Our winners were:  Marianna Ballard of Louisville, Mississippi; Sarah Emmerson of Westminster, California; and Renee Grandinetti of Valleyford, Washington.   This goes to prove, once again, that those with last names in the early part of the alphabet (A through G) are luckier than those who come later!

Thanks again to SallyAnne McCartin & Associates and HarperStudio for providing the contest books and mailing them out to our winners.   It was much appreciated!

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We’re giving away an amazing book!

Double Take: A Memoir is an amazing new book from Kevin Michael Connolly; it’s 5-star rated at Amazon.   We will post our own review of this inspiring book in the near future, but in the interim you can win one of three copies that we have to give away!   Yes, we have 3 new, hardbound, copies of Double Take to give away courtesy of SallyAnne McCartin and Associates and HarperStudio.

Here is a synopsis of the book:

Kevin Michael Connolly is a 23-year-old who has seen the world in a way most of us never will.   Whether swarmed by Japanese tourists at Epcot Center as a child or holding court at the X Games on his mono-ski as a teenager, Kevin has been an object of curiousity since the day he was born without legs.   Growing up in rural Montana, he was raised like any other kid (except, that is, for his father’s MacGyver-like contraptions such as the “butt boot”).   As a college student, Kevin traveled to 17 countries on his skateboard and, in an attempt to capture the stares of others, he took more than 30,000 photographs of people staring at him.   In this dazzling memoir, Connolly casts the lens inward to explore how we view ourselves and what it is to truly see another person.   We also get to know his quirky and unflappable parents and his spunky girlfriend.   From the home of his family in Helena, Montana to the streets of Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur, Connolly’s remarkable journey will change the way you look at others, and the way you see yourself.

Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants said of Connolly’s book, “Kevin Connolly has used an unusual physical circumstance to create a gripping work of art.   This deeply affecting memoir will place him in the company of Jeanette Walls and Augusten Burroughs.”

And a reader, Cathy Yetter, said:  “I read the book straight through, only stopping to sleep and snack.   Kevin Connolly’s book ‘Double Take’ gave me the feeling of sitting by a campfire with intimate friends just back from distant parts unknown, listening to their adventure tales that you know are true but hard to believe none the less.”

Here are the simple rules for entering this book giveway contest.   To enter the contest once, just send an e-mail to josephsreviews@gmail.com .   For a second entry, you just need to indicate who has been your inspiration in life, and why.   That’s it.   Only persons who live in the United States are eligible and you should be able to supply a residential (street) address rather than a P.O. Box for delivery.   Prior contest winners at this site are again eligible.   This contest will close to entries at midnight Pacific Standard Time on Friday, January 8, 2010.  

Munchy the Norwegian Forest Cat – our contest administrator – will pick the names of the three winners out of a large plastic container on January 9th, and we hope and expect to announce the winners on this site on Sunday, January 10, 2010.  

Good luck and good reading!

 

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Coming Up Next…

 

We’re going to be giving away 3 copies of the amazing book Double Take: A Memoir by Kevin Michael Connolly.   “Kevin Connolly has used an unusual physical circumstance to create a gripping work of art.”   – Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants.

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