Book Review | If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

This is an interesting collection of 11 short stories involving Indian Americans. Recurring topics include interpersonal relationships, family business, sexual relations, and cultural perceptions, among others. Most characters seem to be in their 20’s to 40’s and dealing with issues present in everyday life. While the narrators could be from any background and experiencing their issues, the stories are injected with an Indian flavor that makes the book stand apart from other similar works.

Easily digestible, each tale has a specific focus and voice. While none of the stories is particularly uplifting, each one does hold the reader’s interest and create a curiosity for what is to come. Clearly, many of Patel’s cultural insights come from personal experience, which he is able to share in a way that makes the characters relatable. This book is recommended for fans of ethnic fiction, realistic short stories, or those looking for a quick read while in transit. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating. *Fans of If you See me, Don’t Say Hi, may enjoy A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma (2017).

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Book Review | The Story of a Marriage by Geir Gulliksen

story of a marraige cover.jpgOriginally published in Norway as Historie om et ektenskap, The Story of a Marriage introduces married couple Jon and Timmy, and focuses on the effect of Timmy’s extramarital relation with Gunnar. As neighbors, Timmy and Gunnar are able to frequently participate in physical activities like running and skiing together. At first Timmy denies any romantic interest in Gunnar, but as they spend increasingly more time together, she is unable to deny that her feelings have changed. Jon, as a stay at home dad and author, is left with too much time to reflect on their relationship and identify fears he has about their crumbling romantic future.

Gulliksen has created a searing portrait of an unbalanced marriage. As he tells the story from the husband’s perspective, it is made clear that this in not an entirely reliable narrative point of view. The imbalance in the couple’s thoughts and feelings is palpable and, as their relationship devolves, so is the emotional pain. Readers with a failed love story of their own should be able to relate to the text on multiple levels. (It does involve sex, so if that’s a trigger, maybe avoid.) Overall, well written book. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating. *Fans of The Story of a Marriage, may enjoy Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016) or The Only Story by Julian Barnes (2018).

Book Review | Damselfly by Chandra Prasad

damselfly cover.jpgReminiscent of Lord of the Flies, Prasad’s latest YA novel details the events of teens surviving a plane crash on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean. The high school fencing teams from an elite East Coast boarding school were in route to a competition in Japan when their private jet went down. As they learn to utilize the island’s resources to survive, they are simultaneously threatened by discord among themselves and an unknown enemy who wants them gone on threat of death.

Damselfly is an easy text to jump into. The story proceeds at a good clip, focusing mainly on the plot. While the cast of characters is not very likable, they aren’t off-putting enough to discourage the reader. Prasad includes social issues such as racism, eating disorders, mental health and environmentalism, perhaps making this text more relevant today than Golding’s classic. It could serve as a quick read for an adult seeking adventure, or be used in a teen book group to generate discussion. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

Book Review | The Only Story by Julian Barnes

the only story cover.jpgAt home on summer leave from university, Paul joins the tennis club where he is paired with Susan for a mixed doubles tournament. Despite her being married and his mother’s age, the two hit it off and before long are involved in an affair. Recounted by Paul, the memories provided are pieces of their love story, which spans more than a few years. Of course, as many love relations do, this one has its thorns.

The Only Story is a great read. Paul’s tone is intimate and direct, drawing the reader in from the first page. The story flows quickly, delving into his relationship with Susan. Barnes’s choice to use the second person narrative style works well and serves to engage the reader mentally. Readers with a failed love story of their own should be able to relate to the text on multiple levels. This piece will be especially of interest to those whose partners have had addiction issues. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of The Only Story, may enjoy Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016).

Book Review | To Lose the Madness : Field Notes on Trauma, Loss and Radical Authenticity by L.M. Browning

to lose the madness cover.jpgIncorporating beautiful photographs from her travels to the Southwest, Browning’s mini-memoir focuses on her experience with post traumatic stress disorder. To Lose the Madness reveals events that led up to Browning’s breaking point and discusses ways she tried to work through her trauma, ultimately explaining what it all meant to her. Without asking for sympathy, this account lays undergone hardships bare for the reader in a manner the author terms “radical authenticity”.

More of an essay, this memoir reveals a very personal struggle. It conveys the idea that not all trauma can be worked through or simply left behind. Browning stresses the importance of being able to carry one’s trauma with grace. Readers who have experienced similar losses or attempted to overcome their own mental health issues will certainly be able to relate to many of the passages in this text. It is a well-written, thought-provoking, quick read. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Aroused : The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything by Randi Hutter Epstein

aroused cover.jpgI went into this book thinking that it might explain to me why certain people are attracted to each other, but that was not what it was about. Instead, Aroused consists of gathered scientific anecdotes and topical research on various hormones and their effects on humans. Each of the book’s chapters focuses on a different piece of the hormonal puzzle. This table of contents provides a clearer picture: 1. The fat bride 2. Hormones … as we may call them 3. Pickled brains 4. Killer hormones 5. The virile vasectomy 6. Soul mates in sex hormones 7. Making gender 8. Growing up 9. Measuring the immeasurable 10. Growing pains 11. Hotheads : the mysteries of menopause 12. Testosterone endopreneurs 13. Oxytocin : that lovin’ feeling 14. Transitioning 15. Insatiable : the hypothalamus and obesity. While a reader may still have questions, rest assured, Epstein will address them all.

This text is written for all audiences. While many of the topics covered are complex and scientific, Epstein has written about them in an approachable way, even for someone with little or no scientific background knowledge. By choosing interesting individual anecdotes to focus on, she draws the reader into each of the hormonal topics. Chapters are of reasonable length, making the book easy to pick up and put down. The reader is sure to gain new knowledge, while also finding herself laughing aloud from time to time. Check out this informative and entertaining read from a library near you.

*Fans of Aroused, may be interested in the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Book Review | The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

death cleaning.jpgIt sounds a bit odd to read a book on the topic of death cleaning, but this little volume is a helpful and thought-provoking piece, which may serve as the welcoming introduction some older folks need. It makes a lot of sense when getting on in years to decrease some of the clutter that may have accumulated over a long life. By whittling away at this cleaning process, heirs may be saved the daunting task of having to rid the recently deceased’s house of years of stuff.

Magnusson provides basic direction for how to undertake such a cleaning by dividing it into more manageable parts. She explains how this project can create positive feelings in both the cleaner and the recipients of the aged person’s belongings as they are passed on. While dealing with a sometimes sensitive subject in death, Magnusson keeps a light and effective tone by incorporating brief personal anecdotes. At times the book even leads to a quick giggle. Some advice was so helpful I immediately passed it on to someone I thought would benefit. This book is certainly recommended for those later in years who may be downsizing or preparing for a more permanent end, but also to those who may be dealing with parents in such situations. Check out this quick and entertaining read from a library near you.

*Fans of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, may be interested in the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by García & Miralles.