Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Book Review - David Copperfield's History of Magic;David Copperfield, Richard Wiseman, David Britland and Homer Liwag (photos)


David Copperfield's History of Magic

David Copperfield, Richard Wiseman, David Britland and Homer Liwag (photos)

(Simon & Schuster Audio - Release date 10/26/2021 - (4 hours 31 min)

I was lucky enough to see David Copperfield's Las Vegas magic extravaganza about twenty years ago, it was such a fantastic show.  So when I saw this new book I knew I'd want to listen to it.  Somehow I thought this was a memoir and in a small part it is but, the book is so much more.

David Copperfield, a New Jersey native, was a shy kid who at the age of ten asked his mother for a ventriloquist dummy -- so began his fascination with magic and illusion.  He was the youngest person ever to be accepted into the Society of Magicians.  

In this well researched book Copperfield along with fellow magicians Richard Wiseman and David Britland share the stories of some 28 magicians and illusionists, some dating back to the 16th century. The book is full of background on the early tricksters, magicians and illusionists and what they became famous for.  It was fascinating to learn how each of the magicians and illusionists seemed to inspire others to become passionate of their craft.

Anyone who has had an interest or curiosity about magic should check this book out. I loved it.  The audio was read by David Copperfield and Fedor Chin who were both excellent and highly recommended. However, now I want to get a copy of the print version as I understand there are some 100+ photographs and objects from Copperfield's Museum of Magic.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Audio download was provided to me by Simon & Schuster Audio in exchange for my unbiased review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Sentence; Louise Erdrich

Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews
Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon.

The Sentence; Louise Erdrich
Harper - November 9, 2021

Time in Time Out

Earth to Earth

"While in prison, I received a dictionary. It was sent to me with a note.  This is the book I would take to a deserted island.  Other books were to arrive from my teacher.  But as she had known, this one proved of endless use.  The first word I looked up was the word 'sentence.'  I had received an impossible sentence of sixty years from the lips of a judge who believed in an afterlife.  So the word with its yawning c, with its hissing sibilants and double n's, this repetitive bummer of a word made of slyly stabbing letters that surrounded an isolate human t, this word was in my thoughts every moment of every day.  Without a doubt, had the dictionary not arrived, this light word that lay so heavily upon me would have crushed me, or what was left of me, after the strangeness of what I have done.

What do you think -- pass or read more?  I have enjoyed this author in the past so I'm looking forward to this one.    (I didn't read anything about this book but, from the intro I'm feeling like the person in prison is female. What do you think?)

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Book Review - The Book of Mother; Violaine Huisman


The Book of Mother; Violaine Huisman

Scribner & Simon & Schuster Audio - 10/19/2021

Translated from French by Leslie Camhi, The Book of Mother, is a deeply moving and, at times, a rather painful read.  It is a story about dysfunctional mother/daughter relationships: what goes on and how the individuals are affected by the emotional trauma and abuse later in life. 

The mother, Catherine, A.K.A. "Maman" is a beautiful but broken woman who suffers from mental illness in the form of manic depression.  Her daughters Violaine age 10 and Elsa, age 12 are the victims of their mother's instability in the form of sometimes violent mood swings and just an overall pervasive chaotic, unpredictable home environment.  The story takes place in Paris in the wake of Catherine's third marriage falling apart.  There is a horrible scene when she deliberately drives her car into traffic with the two daughters in the car.  Fortunately, everyone survives but it's clear that Catherine needs an intervention and  psychiatric stay.  The girl's father (second husband of Catherine) isn't interested in being tied down raising his daughters so the girls try to hide their situation from school officials - at least for a while.

The story is told in three parts - first by young Violaine (yes, same first name as the author but this is debut fiction, one which has a semi-autobiographical feel.)   We learn through Violaine what went on in the household and how she and her sister tried to understand the many things they witnessed and how their mother could mistreat them as she often did.  We also learn about Catherine's early life through a third person POV, which helps the reader understand what has "perhaps" happened early on to cause her to behave as he does and what triggers her violent mood swings.  Finally, the last part deals with the sisters as adults and trying to process what they have endured try to move forward with their adult lives.

I'm always interested in stories involving dysfunctional/mother daughter relationships.  Catherine comes across as vain and self-absorbed yet, there were moments when I felt for her and what had happened to her when she was younger.  This is a tough read but, it is well-written and the translation is excellent as well.  One thing that struck me was how much these sisters loved their deeply flawed mother despite all they had to endure.  Potential readers should be aware of potential triggers: sexual abuse, mental illness, substance abuse and suicide.

Rating - 4/5 stars

This was a combo read/listen for me. The audiobook was narrated by Tosca Hopkins who did a very good job. The eGalley and audio download were provided to me at no cost by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Book Review - Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead


Harlem Shuffle; Colson Whitehead

Doubleday & Penguin Random House Audio - 9/2021

After being so impressed and moved by Colson Whitehead's last book, The Nickel Boys,  I decided anything the author wrote next would be an automatic read for me.

In Harlem Shuffle the reader is transported to 1959 Harlem, NY where we meet Ray Carney, a black man and the owner of Carney's Furniture on 125th Street.  Ray went to business school and tries to be an upstanding business man unlike his father Mike, a shady character and not at all a role model for his son.  Ray is also a decent family man who definitely married above his class as his wife Elizabeth comes from a prominent family.  Elizabeth is expecting their second child which means their small apartment will soon be a little more cramped.  For a little extra cash flow Ray begins to take in a few items from his cousin Freddie to sell, of course the items are likely stolen.  What starts out as only slightly dirty hands soon turns into something bigger and involves a bad element from bad cops, gangsters , crooked politicians and bankers and other bad-seed elements of society.  Ray's job now is to find the balance and survive and that won't be easy.

This novel is divided into tile periods: 1959, 1961 and 1964 and the real life Harlem Riots.  This story is vastly different fro The Nickel Boys, but it has well developed, memorable characters that help drive the story as well as a sense of place that seems to come alive as well.  I thought this novel was different and enjoyable. I liked the way the author captured Harlem, its people, the discrimination and the police violence.  The genre is hard to characterize but, to me it was darker crime story but, it did have more than a few funny scenes.  

This book was a combo read (eBook) and audio download. The audio was narrated by Dion Graham, the same person that narrated John Grisham's book: Sooley. He did an excellent job once again.  These books were made available to me at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 4/5 stars

Book Reviews - The Pessimists; Bethany Ball and Nothing But Blackened Teeth; Kassandra Khaw

It's always tough for me to write even a brief review when I just didn't enjoy the book but,  I always feel the need to tell a little bit about everything I read. These are (2) books that I expected to enjoy more.

The Pessimists; Bethany Ball

Grove Press/Dreamscape Media - 2021 

(8 hrs. 13 min.) (Carlotta Brentan - narrator / good)

I don't think I've read a novel set in Connecticut in quite a while so the setting definitely pulled me in.  The story features (3) upper middle class suburban families.  We meet soccer moms who want everything in their lives to be perfect but deep down are failing miserably and dissatisfied with life.  The couples have some serious issues and secrets: fertility and other health issues, infidelities, even preparing a basement cache for the end of the world, Who cares though as long as appearances have these individuals coming across as having it all together.  Besides the couples we have Agnes, the Nazi-like headmistress of The Petra School, an elementary school whose tuition is more than many colleges but where learning early on (even reading and math) and competition seem discouraged and no Jews please.

I know this book was supposed to be satirical but, for me I just never connected with the characters and the absurdity of their situations.  On audio all of the characters, their issues and unhappiness just seemed to blur together without a real plot line to the story.

Rating - Disappointed

Nothing But Blackened Teeth; Kassandra Khaw

Macmillan Audio - 10/2021

(2 hours - 32 min) (Suehyla El-Attar - narrator/good)

This sounded like a decent novella for a spooky October read.  The story features a group of five college-age friends who rent an ancient Heian mansion believe to be haunted as a wedding gift venue.  The Japanese folklore history here is that a bride-to-be was buried alive just before her wedding.  As the story unfolds we learn that one of the friends struggles with mental illness, there is too much alcohol consumed and soon the current day bride-to-be is believed to be taken by a spirit. Now it's up to the remaining friends to see that she is released.

I was never a fan of slasher movies but this short book had that same type of eerie vibe. Some parts seemed downright silly too but, isn't that cover art terrific?  Fortunately,  the entire audio was just 2.5 hours so it wasn't a struggle to finish this one. 

Rating - Disappointed

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Book Review - Lymph & Longevity: The Untapped Secret to Health; Gerald M Lemole M.D.

Lymph & Longevity: The Untapped Secret to Health; Gerald M Lemole M.D.

Simon & Schuster Audio - October - 2021

In just ten short chapters (audiobook is just under 5 hours total) I felt I had a much better understanding of why our lymphatic system is vital in preventing diseases. From such killer diseases like heart issues and cancers to minimizing cognitive decline and inflammation which attacks our body and causing quality of life issues and unnecessary pain.  There are chapters on: heart disease, cancer, GI disorders, weight management, brain & mind conditions and more.  The importance of body/soul/spirit - practicing meditation, the benefits of massages and yoga (covered in some detail). It also discusses why eating right and watching our weight in an effort to move toxins out of our system and stay healthy is so critical. 

Yes, some of these things covered in this book we've learned though other sources but just how crucial a healthy lymphatic system is to a good quality of life and a long healthy life is what is key here.  How we achieve this is critical in healing our imperfect bodies and preventing the more dreaded diseases in the future. 

I was so impressed with this audiobook.  The book is narrated by Fred Sanders who did an amazing job speaking at a pace which was conducive to absorbing all that this book had to offer.; he voice was quite pleasing as well.

The printed version includes some menus, recipes, information on supplements and foods to eat for flow discussed which was a little difficult to fully take in on audio so I hope to also pick up a copy of the print edition as a guide for future reference as well.

Thanks go to Simon & Schuster Audio for providing me access to this audio download in exchange to my unbiased review.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

About the Author

Gerald Lemole, MD, is a board-certified cardio thoracic surgeon, integrative physician, and a pioneer in the study of lymph. He is a full professor of surgery at Temple University and Thomas Jefferson Medical College. In 1968, Lemole was a member of the surgical team that performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States. He lectures at medical centers and universities around the world and lives in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Think Halloween with a few great books for Kids: Rise of Zombert and Return of Zombert; Kara LaRue - Poultrygeist; Eric Geron and Twitchy Witchy Itch; Priscilla Tey

 Rise of Zombert; Kara LaRue 
(Book 1 of 3)
Candlewick Press - 2020
(ages 8 - 12)

Nine year old Mellie has twin younger brothers that keep her parents pretty busy.   Mellie has plenty of time to spend with her good friend Danny, a boy who loves everything of about horror movies including making them.  One day the duo comes upon a scrawny looking black cat and Mellie decides to take it home and keep it a secret from her family by keeping it in her room. Big mistake...when the cat she named Bert destroys her stuffed animals and does some other freaky things her friend Danny is convinced Bert is not an ordinary cat and perhaps the renaming of Bert as Zombert  is more appropriate as he is acting like a bit of a zombie cat!

This book will amuse cat loving kiddos who enjoy the antics of a sometimes psycho-cat.  I liked the Danny and Mellie characters a lot and the way the story is told from multiple POVs including that of the cat.  The story does have a bit of a cliffhanger ending but, worry-not as book #2, Return of Zombert, has now been released.

Return of Zombert; Karen LaRue
(Book 2 of 3)
Candlewick Press - 2021
(Ages 8 - 12)

ZomBert is back and now he is an official member of Mellie Gore's household and we know a little more about where he came from and why he was acting a bit wild. Zombert escaped from the YumnCo Laboratories, a company that does not have animals best interests at heart.  Now at Mellie's house Bert is resting, eating and is healthy once again. He looks so good that Mellie is convinced he can win first prize, $200 in a contest, but the sponsor of the contest are up to no good and have other plans for the cat.  Of course Mellie and her friends are not about to let harm come to Bert.  

A very good follow-up with just enough mystery and spooky suspense for the targeted age group. Fun illustrations only add to the overall delight of the series.

Poultrygeist; Eric Geron (Ill. Pete Oswald)

Candlewick Press - 2021

(ages 4-8)

Do you remember the corny joke --"Why did the chicken cross the road?"  Well, the answer, "to get to the other side" has a whole new Halloween, ghostly meaning in this delightful kid pleaser.

Chicken's job is one that no one wants ---scaring people by pretending to be a ghost.  You be the judge -- is chicken a friendly ghost or a spooky one?

I loved the clever premise of this book and it's perfect for younger kids and Halloween.  In some cases adults may need to explain some of the funny, clever parts of the story so the littlest ones can fully enjoy it but, 7 and 8 year olds who enjoy spooky stuff will enjoy the darker elements here.  It's cute, intended to be funny and I thought the art was incredible as well.

Twitchy Witchy Itch; Priscilla Tey

Candlewick Press - 2021

(ages 4 - 8)

It's tea time with friends but, Itch is a bit of a Twitch when it comes to obsessing over preparations before friends arrive.  She get's herself all worked up into a bit of a frenzy.  Is it all that important having everything just perfect?  

There is a great message of friendship here. The story is told with humor and fun tongue-twisting rhymes. Have no fear parents, there is nothing really scary here. The perfect, fun Halloween book for younger children.  The illustrations are outstanding.

Thanks go to Candlewick Press for sending these fun books to me in exchange for my unbiased reviews.