Review: While I Was Gone


This book is one for people who love Boston and Massachusetts.

This is also a book that was selected for Oprah’s Book Club years ago.  Again, in my own list of I-finally-got-around-to-it.

This is a coming of middle age life story.  The narrator, Jo, is forced to confront her past when someone from her past shows up in an unexpected context with shocking secrets revealed at the end.

This is a very calm book.  Jo calmly goes through her personal past and her current life.  We all know someone like Jo, perhaps Jo is you reading this.  I didn’t find her hateful or likable, just Jo.  Jo could be anyone.

A great book for settling yourself down into bed.


Review: Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

Football, American style, for the most part makes my eyes glaze over.  I’ve learned a lot about the game over the last few years and have gained some appreciation for it.  Yet, I still grimace while watching it and am puzzled by it and I am usually more puzzled by the affinity for it.

I’ve heard about Friday Night Lights for years.  Somewhere in the house is the DVD set for the TV show.  I may actually watch it now.

Sports, politics, economics, school budget, college recruiting, sex, cheating, redlining, geography, and so much more.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest you do.  Many things have not changed in ensuing years since this was published.  The only thing missing is social media and it would be interesting to know how this would have impacted the story had it been around.



Review: American Fire by Monica Hesse

I was talking about this book today.  This book has been sitting here looking at me for the last couple of weeks since I finished reading it.  I was having a conversation about the couple out in California who kept their 13 children secluded using “homeschooling” and religion as their excuse.  I referred to this book due to the background of the two people who were arrested for the many, many arsons they committed.

This book has something for everyone: first responders, forensic scientists, detective work, psychology, criminal justice…..the list goes on.

Being an EMT and now having been on a couple of fire scenes, (I volunteer so I don’t work all of the time) I have a greater appreciation for what the first responders were going through in this spate of arson.  Working at night in the dark can be confusing enough but being out in the dark on a scene lit up by large lights can be another experience all together.  Add to that all of the gear, vehicles, water everywhere, and these happened in the winter, and the cold, and the adrenaline running.

What can you say about two people who decide to start burning down abandoned houses?  Monica Hesse, the author, talks about Bonnie and Clyde yet does a phenomenal job of walking through this case step-by-step and going over the backgrounds of the two arsonists step-by-step.  Hesse covers the geography of the area, the people, the socio-economic backgrounds, the history of the area.  Hesse even covers the social media aspects and the community’s reaction to the arsons.

Even the end notes are very interesting.

So what makes people burn down houses?  What feeds a dysfunctional relationship?  What do we not see that is right in front of us?  Or do people see things and choose not to respond?

The amazing aspect is that the investigators managed to narrow down where the arsonists lived using modern technology and forensic mapping, based on where the fires were happening.  Yet due to the small town background, the small town connections, no one believed the truth until the couple was caught.

This is a story that even “Law and Order” couldn’t make up.


Review: The Traitor’s Gate by Avi

Traitor’s Gate will keep you at the edge of your seat.  There is so much about the book and the plot you don’t see coming.  You think you know something and then you don’t.

Well researched and written in the parlance of Victorian era Great Britain.

After reading this I want to go back and read all of the Dickens I’ve never read.

A must read.  Suitable for ages 8/9 and up.

Review: Rose

If you, dear reader, liked the series “Downtown Abbey” or “Upstairs, Downstairs”, you will like this book.

Rosina Harrison, known as Rose, tells about her life working for Lady Astor.  The time period is from 1928 until Lady Astor’s death in 1964.  For those interested in history, Rose worked for her all during World War II and describes her experiences being in Britain during that time.  Rose also describes the daily process, their travels, and what it was like being part of the Astor family.  Rose was also witness to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Rose tells her story in this book.  Reading this book was like having her sit across from me and just telling me her story.  There is no buildup of drama.  It’s all very personable and I wanted a cup of tea to go along with it.

Review: This is How You Lose Her

This book opens with a quote by Sandra Cisneros: “There should be stars for great wars like ours.”

This book is about the many, small great wars that go on around us all of the time but we are unaware.  Are we unaware because we want to be unaware, because we aren’t made aware, or people don’t choose to share and don’t want others aware?

In Yunior’s case, Yunior is the narrator/ protagonist, he tells about his small wars with his mother, his brother, his father, and most of all with the different women in his life.  One of those small wars actually set him on the path to college and hence career.

Junot Diaz, the author, writes in a first person narration that is alive and brings you with Yunior. Yunior is completely human, completely alive and so are the people around him. The reader can feel themselves moving along, back and forth with Yunior, as he moves through his early life and relationships, his coming to New York from the Dominican Republic, and his loves and his losses.

A must read.

A.J. Jacobs: It’s All Relative

I found this advance uncorrected proof at a local library.

I also have read A.J.’s other book The Year of Living Biblically and highly recommend that book for fans of and students of religion.  He did something I know I could never do.  It’s All Relative follows in that thread.

In this book, A.J. traces his genetic lineage while setting up a huge family reunion using DNA results.  He goes over the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding genetic testing and how closely we are really related.

This is a great book to read if you are into genealogy and haven’t decided whether or not to get your DNA results tested.  It’s accessible and funny and both highly personal and public at the same time.

A must read.