Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Book Review: The Murder Stone by Louise Penny
The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder in the U.S.) is book number four of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache murder mystery books.  It begins with Armand and his wife Reine-Marie taking an anniversary holiday to the Manoir Bellechasse.  Despite stifling heat and irritating, entitled fellow hotel guests, the Gamaches enjoy their time together, away from the demands of Armand's job as Chief Inspector with the Sûreté du Québec.  That is, until murder strikes at the historic and foreboding Manoir.

Once again, Penny creates memorable and complex characters in a picturesque yet dangerous setting.  This book gives faithful readers a deeper look into returning character, Peter Morrow's, family and past.  He has always been a quiet, seething background character overshadowed by his eccentric and energetic wife Clara.  I've often wondered about some of his jarring actions and this book offered answers to some of my questions about him.

The great thing about a murder mystery series is that Penny can leave some mysteries unsolved to be answered in future books.  This keeps her readers reading and offers satisfaction when a mystery is solved several books later.  The Murder Stone also gives readers a peek into Armand Gamache's early history.

I was also pleasantly surprise by Penny's acknowledgements at the end of the book, where she reveals her inspiration for the character of Armand Gamache as well as the real-life basis of the Manoir Bellechasse.  I have now caught up to the other Gamache mysteries I read out of sequence.  My next Penny book will be A Trick of the Light.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Book Review: A Walk In The Woods

Several people have recommended I read Bill Bryson, so when I noticed A Walk In The Woods at my
parents house this summer, I took a little peak.  Fortunately, both my mom and dad have already read the book, so I was able to bring it home with me.

A Walk In The Woods is the true story of Bryson's experience hiking The Appalachian Trail.  I would expect a book on The Appalachian Trail to be written by an avid and experienced hiker, but the charm of the book is that Bryson is quite average in his hiking experience and readily tells of his shortcomings and misadventures.  To top it off, Bryson takes along an old friend, whom he calls Katz in the book, who is overweight, prone to seizures and given to hurling important hiking necessities (including his water bottle) off cliffs when he gets tired.

Bryson has the uncanny ability to make the long, arduous journey entertaining and outright hilarious in some parts.  He weaves in fascinating research Appalachian Trail history, hiking and survival as part of the story.  He writes his research in the best way possible, you don't even realize how much you've learned because it's all so interesting.

The best parts of the book are the relationship between Bryson and Katz.  I had to wonder if Katz wasn't a bit embellished.  Such a perfectly unique character seems the stuff of fiction, but I wouldn't ask Bryson to change a thing.  An excellent read, even if you have no intention of ever walking The Appalachian Trail.    

Friday, 5 August 2016

Book Review on Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

I feel like this should be required reading for life.  And especially death.  I just finished the book
and think I need to wait to see how this books affects the rest of my life, but I also know I will forget important things if I don't write them down now.

Being Mortal is written by Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, a professor at Harvard, etc., etc.  Yet this book is so well written, honest, informative and thoughtful, it's as if he's spent his whole life writing it.  In some ways, this is true, as the stories and research he shares in this book are mostly his own, or if nothing else, part of his personal/professional research.

In this book, Gawande takes a hard look at current medical practices, especially focused on how they relate to end of life care.  He discusses the history of care of the old and infirm up to and including current practices.  Although Old Age homes are a thing of the past in North America, even the best and most expensive nursing homes are filled with unhappy patients.  He carefully and methodically outlines why this is and finds Assisted Living homes where patients are happy because they have more control over their own lives, are allowed to make bad health choices if they want, and statistically use less medication, live longer and are, more importantly, happier than their unfortunate counterparts in Nursing Homes dedicated to safe and healthy living.

I would find it difficult to recommend this book to friends and family members in end of life situations.  I think some of the findings would be difficult to deal with in such stressful situations.  But I hope their doctors will read this book and their family members who want to do what's best.  I'm glad I read it before facing such difficult situations myself.  I feel much better prepared.