The Surgeon (Review)


Title: The Surgeon

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publication Year: 2002

Pages: 384

Genre: Fiction

Source: E-book borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

He slips into homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, about to awaken to a living nightmare. The precision of his methods suggests that he is a deranged man of medicine, prompting the Boston newspapers to dub him “The Surgeon.” Led by Detectives Thomas Moore and Jane Rizzoli, the cops must consult the victim of a nearly identical crime: Two years ago, Dr. Catherine Cordell fought back and filled an attacker before he could complete his assault. Now this new killer is re-creating, with chilling accuracy, the details of Cordell’s ordeal. With every new murder he seems to be taunting her, cutting ever closer, from her hospital to her home. And neither Moore nor Rizzoli can protect Cordell from a ruthless hunter who somehow understands — and savors — the secret fears of every woman he kills.

I would never have heard of this series if it weren’t for the television show Rizzoli & Isles. So sometimes tv can be a good thing, right?

I knew going in that the character of Maura Isles wouldn’t be in The Surgeon, but what I didn’t know was that the character of Rizzoli isn’t really the same, either. In the tv series, she’s a rough-and-tumble female cop, yes, and sometimes seems to be trying too hard to prove herself, but that’s the key word … sometimes. In this book, I kind of didn’t even like her character. She was trying too hard, it seemed, and I wanted to empathize with her but couldn’t always. I could usually understand where she was coming from, but there were times where I didn’t at all “get” her.

Having said that, I liked the book as a whole. The characters were generally good, and I liked the shift of narrators to give a more complete view of the story. For a crime novel, which I don’t normally read, The Surgeon did good.

Rating:

Sunday Salon: Armchair Audies, 2013 Edition

sundaysalon

armchairaudiesThis will be my third year participating in the Armchair Audies. In 2012, I read and predicted the HumorNarration by the Author/Authors, and Audiobook of the Year categories. Last year, I read and predicted the Non-Fiction and Short Stories/Collections categories. This year, I’ve decided to read new categories.

But first, what’s the Armchair Audies all about? I loved Overreader‘s description so much that I’m mostly stealing it. Here ya go:

It’s Armchair Audies time! What’s that? Never heard of them? Well, they’re new. The Audies are annual “awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment” and are awarded in June. [Over a hundred audiobooks are nominated in more than twenty different categories.] Rather more than even an audiobook maniac like myself can handle, so to get a handle on them all, blogger Literate Housewife spearheaded the Armchair Audies. Interested bloggers will listen to everything from one (or more) categories and give their opinions.

This year, I’ve decided to read in the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories. We’ll see in a few weeks what the nominations for Audiobook of the Year are. Until then, here are the books that I’ll be tackling in the two categories I’ve already chosen:

Fiction

 

  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (read by George Guidall)
  • The Good House by Ann Leary (read by Mary Beth Hurt)
  • The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler (read by Tavia Gilbert)
  • Jacob’s Oath by Martin Fletcher (read by George Guidall)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (read by Neil Gaiman)

Non-Fiction

  • Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill (read by Sandy Rustin)
  • David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
  • The End of Nature by Bill McKibben (read by Jeff Woodman)
  • The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti (read by L. J. Ganser)
  • Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel (read by Arthur Bishop)

On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits (Review)


Title: On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits

Author: Wray Herbert

Narrator: Dan John Miller

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 304 (audio length: 3 hours 35 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

Our brains are marvels, hard-wired by millions of years of evolution to boast a number of mental shortcuts, biases, and tricks that allow us to negotiate our complicated lives without overthinking every choice and decision we have to make. Unfortunately, those ancient shortcuts don’t always work to our advantage in our modern lives – when we don’t also think slowly and rationally, those hard-wired habits can trip us up. This intriguing book helps us to understand how our minds are predisposed to think about the world – and how to avoid many of life’s common mistakes. Among the surprising examples of these mental habits at work in our lives:

  • Experienced skiers make fatal mistakes on familiar terrain more often than less experienced ones.
  • 99.9 percent of the citizens of France are registered organ donors, but only 28 percent of Americans are.
  • Early birds on jury duty are more likely to succumb to racial stereotypes in delivering verdicts when the day gets late.
  • People who are hungry for lunch will donate less money to charity.

Wray Herbert introduces us to 20 of these shortcuts and biases, explaining how they affect us in the real world and how they’re being studied in labs around the world.

What I really enjoyed about On Second Thought was the way Herbert turned the research into something that the average reader could understand. I’m not very likely to go looking through the literature about current psychological research – and I might not understand it all even if I did – but this book did a great job of making the information accessible to laymen. Some of the hard-wired habits that he discussed were things that we somehow innately know – like that most people will go with the presumed option if you ask them to opt in or out of something – but some of them were completely unexpected (or at least things that I never would have connected on my own).

I would have liked, though, for the book to go into more detail about how we can avoid following through on these hard-wired habits, particularly for things that affect us in everyday life. Having said that, I’m fairly sure that I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to slow my thought process down when making important decisions since reading this book. I’m definitely still not giving more thought to a lot of things that are hard-wired routines … but baby steps, right?

Rating:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Review)

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Author: Susan Cain

Narrator: Kathe Mazur

Publication Year: 2012

Pages: 352 (audio length: 10 hours 39 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts — Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak — that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts — from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.

I really enjoyed the subject matter of this book, and was pleasantly surprised that the author managed to avoid so many of the stereotypes of introverted people while writing it.

Cain not only described common traits of introverts, but explained the strengths of introversion and the many advantages it can have in different types of careers and situations. Most importantly for me personally, she gave examples of effective strategies that introverts use in their lives to cope with situations that are necessary but uncomfortable for introverts. It was really empowering to hear someone “talking” about the trials of introversion as if they are simply characteristics and not necessarily problems to be overcome. Quiet never implies that being an introvert is a bad thing, simply that it is something that needs to be understood to be fully appreciated.

I think that this book can be helpful to so many people – not just to introverts themselves, but to the extroverts around them, who might be their partners, bosses, or friends. I would absolutely recommend Quiet as important reading for pretty much anyone interested in how human psychology affects our daily lives, and who might want to better understand how the personalities our society values have changed over the years.

Rating:

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (Review)


Title: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison

Author: Piper Kerman

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 352 (audio length: 11 hours 14 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money 10 years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to 15 months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424 – one of the millions of women who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system.

From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Orange is the New Black offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison, why it is we lock so many away, and what happens to them when they’re there.

I have a confession to make: I watched the NetFlix series based on this book before I picked it up. I hadn’t really had much of an interest in reading it, to be honest, despite my usual taste for memoir. After watching some really fantastic acting, though, I decided to give Kerman a try.

Orange is the New Black is a personal story of one woman’s experience in the American prison system, and I do emphasize one woman’s experience. She doesn’t really go into much detail about the lives of the other women she’s incarcerated with. Whether this is because of the “code” in prison that she mentions repeatedly in the book - you don’t ask someone what they’re in for – or because it’s a personal story, I’m not really sure. But, for me at least, I found myself curious as to why the other women were in there with her, particularly the ones with longer sentences but who are in the minimal-ish security facility anyways.

Some of the things Kerman writes about in the book, I found fascinating. It was interesting to me, in particular, to read about the way that she adapted to the rules and routines of being in the system, and how she managed to deal with knowing that she, unlike quite a few of the others around her, was there for the first time and probably the last. I think this is what makes her story both unique and less valuable as an “insider’s look at prison”: Kerman isn’t the “typical” American prisoner.

Before I got around to watching the NetFlix television series a few months ago, I had heard lots of critique about it – and about Kerman and her book itself. In particular, I heard that it was a very privileged look at the prison system, and that it wasn’t really giving an authentic look at the experiences of most women who go to prison in America. This is definitely something that I found both as I was reading the book and watching the series. I mean, really … how many people in prison today in the US self-surrendered after having a going-away dinner with their fiance and best friends, complete with sipping wine?

To be honest, though, I think this was more a critique of the book. Maybe, when the series was being done, they took this critique into account, because there was definitely a more diverse look at the other prisoners in the series than there was in the memoir. I actually felt like I knew a bit about the people I was watching, whereas in the book, I just felt like they were extras there to populate Kerman’s backdrop.

If you’re interested in the prison system, or you liked the tv series, give Orange is the New Black a shot. It’s definitely not the best memoir I’ve read, but it’s still an interesting look at one person’s life and experience.

Rating:

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