Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

5 stars for Defending Jacob by William Landay.

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Likewise, the absence of evidence can also be precisely that: an absence of evidence. So...

Defending Jacob has me hooked from the beginning to the end. It is a riveting account of the events leading to, and of the cross-examination of parties in the prosecution of Jacob.

On the surface, this crime fiction may read like a first-rate mystery or suspense or even thriller. But in my heart of hearts, it is a love story. It is about the love of a husband for his wife, the love of a mother for her child, the love of a parent for his son.

Also, because of my role as a mum as well, a part of me cannot help but reaches out in an attempt to ease the heartache and pain experienced by Jacob's mother (Laurie) even as my heart withers and shrivels up alongside hers. Yes, the story is that affecting and melancholic.

As much as my take on the story is about family and love, at the end of the day, it still boils down to one big question. Is Jacob guilty or not guilty of the crime he is indicted for? Well, my curiosity alone is reason enough to keep me up and reading until the wee hours in pursuit of the verdict.

A story not to be missed. Read this spellbinding tale of truths and lies and betrayals, be embroiled in the heated battles of prosecuting and defending Jacob, and see for yourself the ultimate brilliancy of the truth.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

2 stars for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I will very likely have continued with my non-fiction saga if not for the urging of a friend to read this book. Gi, this reading is done for you, from the beginning right to the end. Once again, if not for you, this book, in all likelihood, will have joined the ranks of a DNF.

Gone Girl is a well executed story, but I am not overly impressed by the messed up, contemptible, conniving, narcissistic characters woven into the story. Basically, they are wolves draped in sheep's clothing, well suited to the likes of the other. But then again, two wrongs do not make a right. And thus, the plot is just so wrong on all levels. Definitely not my cup of tea.

And oh, one more thing; I need to get the brackets out of my system. Seriously, I cannot and do not understand the purpose for the excessive and unnecessary use of brackets. Not that I like the story much, but my reading will surely have been more enjoyable sans the many annoying brackets.

Lastly, even though I do not derive much pleasure out of this book, I am glad for Gi who does. Keep your reading torch burning. Perhaps, one day, we will find that one book that awes us both.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump, Tony Schwartz (With)

4 stars for Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump, Tony Schwartz (With).

I have come to learn about this book from the previous non-fiction book that I have reviewed. Truth be told, though The Art of the Deal piques my interest, I am not at all sure if I want to continue reading yet another book on Donald Trump after The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump and Fire and Fury, both of which did not manage to earn good ratings from me. In the end, curiosity wins. And I find myself enjoying Donald Trump's telling of his building, accumulating, and accomplishing of things against all odds.

This is a man who talks and talks and enjoys it totally. He thinks big and he talks big. Since it is a double-edged sword, I can see why people either like him a lot or they do not like him at all. According to Trump, deal-making depends on a variety of factors - genes, instincts, courage, and good fortune. He thinks he possesses it all.

No doubt much of what has been mentioned in the book has changed in the course of these three decades, the fundamentals of the art of business dealing remain the same.

Think big
Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself
Maximise your options
Know your market
Use your leverage
Enhance your location
Get the word out
Fight back
Deliver the goods
Contain the costs
Enjoy it

In his closing chapter of the book published in 1987, Donald Trump admits to not knowing what's next, only that it will not be the same. Fast foward thirty years to 20 Jan 2017, this man is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. What an unexpected turn of events.

Donald Trump may be criticised for not having the political background, experience, knowledge and tact to lead a nation but, you have got to hand it to him, this man not only hides a shrewd business acumen, he has the uncanny ability to assess situations or people and turn them to his advantage. He is direct and he is persistent, to the point of relentless even in the face of a total lack of encouragement. These qualities are what make him so successful a businessman.

Trump: The Art of the Deal. Everything that makes him Trump and defines his savvy, energy, and charisma is in this book. Whether his business associates, adversaries or even the general public agree with him - his ways and actions - or not, is beside the point since he is the protagonist in this book. In any case, if you want to know Donald Trump, just read the book.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Review: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

2.5 stars for Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.

The United States of America is in deep political trouble and is worse than we can imagine. How does a man who knows nothing other than perhaps building construction become the President of the country?

Fire and Fury is a good read if you are looking for a chronological order of what has happened in the Trump's candidacy right up to Trump's administration in the first two hundred over days.

There are certainly interesting news which has not been made available to the man on the street during the Trump's presidency. This book is after all about how news of the inner workings of the White House go into free circulation and how a group of people struggle, each in their own way, to come to terms with the meaning of working for Donald Trump.

All things considered, this book only manages to capture my full attention for the first half, after which, with the worsening in appearance and disappearance of characters and continued discontinuity of narratives, I find it so chaotic and confusing that I simply skim through the rest.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President by Bandy X. Lee

2 stars for The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President by Bandy X. Lee.

Is Donald Trump "crazy like a fox" or is he "crazy like a crazy"?

This book is a collection of articles written by 27 different mental health professionals, citing all the reasons, to the moon and back, why Donald Trump, the 45th and current President of the United States, is now the most dangerous man in the world.

These articles, categorised into 3 parts: The Trump Phenomenon, The Trump Dilemma and The Trump Effect, are interesting and even educational in the sense that we see the application of psychological concepts on Trump behaviour. Some of these mental health professionals associate Trump with a variety of diagnoses, such as narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, malignant narcissist, and even some form of dementia.

I get it that these psychiatrists and mental health experts recognize the urgency of the situation in which they come to the conclusion that the most powerful man in the world is also the bearer of profound instability and untruth. Yes, I dig it. What I don't understand is the need for repetition. Reiteration. Be it personality disorder, or dangerous individual psychological patterns, or creation of own reality, or inability to manage the inevitable crises, it is not necessary to harp on the same over and over, again and again. Seriously! I have lost count of the number of times it has been mentioned about Trump's assertion that President Obama wiretaps Trump Tower during the election campaign, or Trump's claim that he has the biggest inaugural crowd in history, or Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey, to name but a few.

In any case, the die has been cast. The choice made. What's done is done. Barring an impeachment, resignation or assassination, Mr Donald John Trump will remain president until at least the end of his four-year term: 20th January 2021.

Well, the world as we know it may cease to exist with a 3:00 a.m. nuclear tweet. If it comes to pass, so be it.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Review: The Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside by Sherwin B. Nuland

4 stars for The Soul of Medicine: Tales from the Bedside by Sherwin B. Nuland.

This book is a collection of narratives on the most memorable patient ever seen by Family Physicians, Anesthesiologists, Bronchoscopists, Cardiologists, Dermatologists, Gastroenterologists, Geriatricians, Nephrologists, Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Obstetricians, Pediatricians, Surgeons, Urologists and some others. These personal recollections demonstrate the aspects of the ethics of medicine, the ways in which science changes and how doctors approach certain kinds of problems in their own particular ways.

The topics shared range from a simple case of a minor facial rash to a complicated one involving life threatening pneumonia and partial collapse of the lung, from treatment of a bleeding polyp to organ transplantation, from simple observation and traditional physical examination of the body to technologies that approach the most advanced that medicine now offers.

At the end of my reading, the phrase that keeps popping up in my mind is "Primum non nocere", a Latin phrase that means "first, do no harm." It is a simple dictum that the duty of the healer is "to do good, or at least to do no harm". Another way to state it is that, "given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good."

And to me, "Primum non nocere" is the real lesson of humanity for all, physicians or not, but physicians especially.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Review: How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland

4 stars for How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland.

All life has a finite span and each species has its own particular longevity.

In this book, Dr. Nuland describes in frank detail the process of dying in its biological and clinical reality, by which life succumbs to disease, violence, accident or old age.

Organised into chapters and sections on the most common disease categories of our time, How We Die covers the cardiac chapters; the sections on aging and Alzheimer’s disease; the trauma and suicide section; the AIDS chapters; the clinical and biological aspects of cancer; and last but not least, the discussion of the doctor-patient relationship.

Amidst the deep desire to understand the nature of dying, the topic on hope is never far away. The deep impression that Dr. Nuland leaves behind on me is his confession on how he tries to give his brother hope - by letting his instincts as a brother overwhelm his judgment as a surgeon who has spent his career treating people with lethal disease - by offering him the opportunity to try the experimental new treatment which only serves to intensify his brother's suffering and rob him of an easier death. Dr. Nuland's brother, Harvey, died of colon cancer in 1990.

In face of the wildly unpredictable process of living, dying and death, it is in our favour to learn as much as we can about our bodies, their strengths, their weaknesses and their ultimate inevitable failings. By doing so, we may/will be better prepared to deal more gracefully with the end. This book is as good a place as any to start.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

4 stars for The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs.

A maelstrom of thoughts and emotions swirled within me each time as I pick up this book to continue from where I leave off. I want to read this book. Fast. Finish it quickly. But I also want it to last. Slow. Read it slowly.

Fast because I cannot wait to find out what happens next, to Nina, to her mother, to her good friend Ginny, to her father's dog, to the chasm between living and dying.

Slow because I cannot bear for the story to come to an end. I feel that as long as I am still reading the book, the events and happenings on the page that I am reading are taking place in the present. The book is alive; Nina, the protagonist, the author, is alive.

With short, easy-to-manage chapters, the collection of reminiscences is poetic, nostalgic and reflective of the writer's natural capacity for irony and deadpan humour. It is also very much doused with endless expressions of love, joy, fear, denial, anger, guilt, happiness, sadness, relief, longing, hope and acceptance.

In a wink, a blink, a flicker, I have reached the end of the memoir. Nina is no longer alive. I am overcome with sadness and a sense of loss and emptiness.

The Bright Hour is another good reminder to us that life is short. Live a life - work to live, not live to work. Laugh more often - laughter is the best medicine. Love with your heart - love encompasses all. Live, laugh, love.