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Original Essays | September 18, 2014

Lin Enger: IMG Knowing vs. Knowing



On a hot July evening years ago, my Toyota Tercel overheated on a flat stretch of highway north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A steam geyser shot up from... Continue »

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Customer Comments

techeditor has commented on (127) products.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
The Sandcastle Girls

techeditor, October 19, 2014

If you know nothing about the Armenian genocide, which began around the beginning of World War I, before the United States entered the war, you'll know enough after reading THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS to want to know more.That's what good books do: while they entertain, they also teach, and they intrigue us enough to look up further information. And this is a really good book.

THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS is two stories: one, the story that Laura, a writer, tells in first person about her research for a book about her grandparents, survivors of the Armenian genocide, and, two, the story she writes along with the secret she uncovers.You may find that the parts of the book that tell of Laura's research are a relief after you read the other parts that describe the Armenian genocide. That is because, although THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS is fiction, the Armenian genocide is real horror. In the absence of actual pictures, Chris Bohjalian is sometimes graphic enough that pictures of the genocide will be in your head.

The story of Laura's grandparents, though, is not horrible. It's a love story in the midst of horror that some countries, the United States included, have yet to OFFICIALLY recognize as genocide. Why? Perhaps because some of the Armenians who the Turks accidentally left alive were not passive.
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The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder

techeditor, October 15, 2014

Four stars or three stars--the rating I give this book is a tossup. The subject matter is hard to read, so it would get three stars for that reason. But Graeber did such excellent research and, most importantly, he tells not only the horror of what Charles Cullin did but, also, the horror of what the hospitals who employed him did.

This is the nonfiction story of the serial killings of as many as 400 patients in 9 hospitals. The murderer was a nurse, Cullen.

Murder is disturbing, especially when it's nonfiction. But worse, at least for this reader, is the realization that many, if not most, hospitals do not adequately prevent something like this from happening.

In all nine hospitals where Cullen was employed, nurses were given too much free access to drugs, when the pharmacy, not individual nurses, should have controlled them. Plus, the hospitals hardly screened prospective employees. Even a highly rated hospital checked only a couple references and asked few questions. Plus, the hospitals they did call didn't tell the truth. They suspected that Cullen was dangerous, yet let him move on to kill again.

Because this happened over and over with nine different hospitals, it can be assumed that hospitals in general, even those that get high ratings in US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, should be suspect. Does your hospital, too, do what is best for the hospital rather than patients? And, worse, would your hospital, too, cover up the truth if their nurse is possibly murdering patients?

So, again, this is hard to read. At the same time, it is important that we know. I hope more people read this.

I won this book through goodreads.com.
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The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers

techeditor, October 10, 2014

THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS--maybe by the end of this book that title is explained. I'll never know, though, because I can't get past page 103. Although this book has received many great reviews, I disliked it before I got to page 50. I read further because of those reviews.

This seems to be one story told, at various points, in 2011 or 1999 or 1988. The only reason the story is "mysterious," as other reviews have described it, is because we skip around from one of those years to another. I wouldn't call it mysterious, though; I'd call it disjointed. Plus, by page 103, Rachman still hasn't explained what is going on.

Perhaps it isn't fair to review a book that I haven't entirely read. But it looks like other readers had the same problem with it that I did, so I'm joining in to agree.

That makes me wonder how many others had this experience with THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS; thousands? Will those people, like me, never want to read this author's books again? Perhaps all authors should heed this advice: get to the point soon before you lose your readers.

I won this book as an advanced reader's edition from Random House.
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Midwives by Christoph Bohjalian

techeditor, October 7, 2014

Sybil is a midwife who is accused of killing, maybe murdering, one of "her mothers," that is, one of her patients, while she was in labor.

The first part of this book tells us what happened before, during, and immediately after the young woman, Charlotte, died. Although this part is interesting and the reader really does need to know what occurred, it is slow going at times. That is because Chris Bohjalian tends to go on for too long about things that have little or nothing to do with the story. But this part does paint a necessary picture.

Then the story--Sybil's surprise at the accusation, the subsequent preparation for trial, and the way her family dealt with all of it--really gets going. I hated to put the book down.

I avoided reading this book because the narrator is Sybil's daughter, who was 13 and 14 years old during this ordeal. Books narrated by children do not appeal to me. In this case, though, the narrator is in her 30s, remembering events that happened when she was 13 and 14. So it feels like an adult book should and not like a book for young adults.

Having read four Bohjalian novels, I observe that he always surprises in the end. I wonder if I should have seen it coming.
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The Denouncer by Paul M Levitt
The Denouncer

techeditor, September 30, 2014

It took me a long time to decide between three and four stars. I chose four because Paul Levitt is obviously smarter than I am, and I should have understood what he was getting at sooner. I'm still not sure that I got all of it.

This story takes place in pre-World War II Soviet Union. My understanding is simply this: Sasha committed a crime (as far as the Soviet Union would have been concerned). The remainder of the book involves his concern with escaping discovery. He has to be suspicious of everyone, just as everyone in the Soviet Union had to be suspicious of everyone, even best friends, even lovers, even relatives. We see example after example of suspicious people and why they needed to be suspicious and what happened when they weren't suspicious.

The Soviet Union was full of all sorts of scary problems. But Levitt seems to be saying that it all came down to this: a country is doomed if no one can trust anyone.

This book deserves a second reading. That is not to say that the subjects--pre-World War II Soviet Union and life under Stalin--are not familiar to me. But, although my reading comprehension is usually quite good, I'm afraid that my mind sometimes wandered because Levitt's storytelling is slow. (Interesting that I should say "although," considering the book's many references to the Soviet Union's preference for "although.")

My copy of this book was a giveaway from librarything.com.
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