Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Wrap Up

I can't believe 2015 is already over. I have to admit this was a difficult reading year for me. I had a hard time keeping focused and making the time to read. I have much higher hopes for 2016. 

The one bookish resolution that I had for the year was to not buy any books. Having moved this year, I was well reminded of all the books I have that still need to be read so I hoped I would be able to get through the two moving boxes full. I read a few, I got rid of some I was never really going to read, but I didn't make the dent in it I wish I had done. Instead, I borrowed a lot more from the library and I read a lot galleys on my Kindle. The only book I purchased was The Scorpion Rules at Texas Book Festival, which I really consider more of a souvenir, and so I feel entitled to claim the year as a success. I'm not sure yet of the resolutions I'll make for 2016, but I'm working on it. 

I read a few books this past year that I didn't really like, but I also read some that were really good. Here are my top five six (oops!):

This book surprised me with its depth and heart. It was so much more that I thought it would be and it is firmly on my To Be Reread list (because my to be read list isn't long enough).

Oh, this book cuts right to the bone on the topic of mental illness in young adults and I think it is one book that should be required reading.

This book brought science, innovation and imagination to the forefront of conversation. Add to that fact that it made me laugh so hard people looked at me funny and it was a complete win.

Imagine waking up and having lost ten years of your memory. I recently also listened to the audio version and it was wonderful as well.

Erin Bow says everyone tells her they love Talis and I am no exception. I can't wait for the rest of this series.

What a wonderful book about body acceptance and Dolly Parton love. This is another book that I recently listened to the audio version and it is one of the best I've heard. 

So how was the 2015 reading year for you?

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

Adrienne and Harper were unlikely best friends all through college. The were also part of what they called The Five: a group consisting of the two girls, Adrienne's twin brother Will, his friend Jackson, and David, the boy Adrienne has loved from a distance nearly all her life. But that was years ago and Adrienne and Harper have both run in opposite directions as fast as they can from the tragedy that took the life of one of The Five. Adrienne is now a nurse in a small village in West Africa and Harper, well Harper has gone so far from where and whom she used to be that she hardly recognizes herself. When the death of a family friend calls Adrienne back home she is finally forced to face the memories she has tried so hard to escape.

This book was a slow start and I was frustrated with all the hinting of something big that had happened with no real explanation. While I know this is a writing technique used to add drama, it kind of just annoys me. The author wants to keep the reader in the dark, but sometimes it goes on too long and the risk is that the reader will lose interest. I nearly did. I was 25% of the way through this book before it really grabbed me and that's too long. However, it did get interesting and I was glad I had stuck with it.

This book was unexpectedly a thriller. There was a bit of a mystery and some of the other story elements were very exciting. I really can't tell you more because it would ruin it for you, but I can tell you that it kept me up late at night reading. If you can just get through the first quarter of the book I think you'll really like it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Shift by Theresa Brown, RN

I love listening to NPR and I was very interested when I heard this interview with nurse Theresa Brown about her newest book The Shift. The first thing that caught my attention was that Brown has a PhD in English and had been a professor at Tufts University when she suddenly made a career change to nursing. I am fascinated with the paths people take to their careers, especially when it leads them to what they feel is their life's work. I also really enjoyed the narrative way that she spoke about her experiences working as a nurse and thought I might enjoy reading her book. I reserved it from the library and when it came in, I honestly thought I might skim through it and just return it mostly unread. I was wrong. I sat down just to read the first few pages yesterday and was immediately drawn in to her words. This book reads with exactly the same conversational description as her spoken interview. It is rare that I find a work of nonfiction that I can't put down, but this was one of those.

Brown begins the book with her 6am alarm waking her for her day. I knew I was going to like her when she described her bike ride to work. I am a cyclist myself and it was great reading about her short commute by bicycle. She then walks us through an entire twelve-hour shift as she experiences it. There is a brief disclaimer at the very beginning explaining that the identities of some of the patients have been changed and that some are even composites, but it reads as a very real day. She begins the day with three patients, but a fourth comes in later in the day. They are each very different in need and in personality and Brown doesn't insult the reader with the idea that a nurse has lovely feelings for all of her patients. She also doesn't refrain from showing her feelings of compassion for her patients, either, and this make her tale ring true. 

While there is medical terminology and some explanation of  illness included, it never overwhelms the reader. In fact, I finally understand a little more about those blood pressure numbers that always mystify me at the doctor's office.We also learn about the frustration many nurse's feel about the state of health care as it affects their patients. A computer system in which they enter data about each patient makes her "sometimes wonder if sadists designed our software." As she says, "It should not be easier to order a sweater from Lands End than to chart on my patients, but it is." And while wishing she could provide more care for her patients, she says, "I wish we could occasionally slow down, but the pace won't change unless caring becomes as lucrative for hospitals as tests and procedures."

I was under a library return deadline to read this book so quickly, but even if I hadn't been, it still would have captured and kept my attention. I am anxious to read Brown's first book about nursing, Critical Care.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

And another book I learned about at Texas Book Festival is A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern. In this novel, a young woman with a developmental disability, Belinda, is attacked at a high school football game. Lucas and Emily both witness the attack, but, frozen with confusion, fear and weakness, they do nothing to help her. The punishment for their failure to act is community service helping people very like Belinda. As they both spend time with these people who are a little different from them, they learn much about this group and about themselves.

This was a very sweet book that makes clear that just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they don't have a lot to teach the rest of us. I can read messages in this book that speak to the students that need a little extra help, the students who could be doing the helping, the young women who may think an attack is her own fault, the school staff who may need to be reminded of the rights of all students, and anyone entering into a new relationship. This is not just a book about a young woman with a disability. It is a book that has value for all of us. I would highly recommend this as a book to be added to that "Required Reading for all Teenagers" list I keep intending to create. Compassion, courage and acceptance are lessons we all need to remember.