Bad Blood by John Carryrou – **TOP PICK**

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

Bad Blood is a startling account of how young Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, used misleading information, persuasive speeches and downright lies to advance her start-up company’s interests by pulling the wool over the proverbial eyes of investors who collectively contributed to the nine hundred million dollars she amassed before finally relenting and succumbing to the accusations of fraud, which eventually caused her net worth to plummet to zero dollars. Elizabeth Holmes maintained that her mini-lab invention would revolutionize healthcare. With her striking blue eyes, unusually deep voice and Steve Jobs-like work attire, Elizabeth’s charismatic charm and convincing sales pitch mesmerized audiences and won her listeners over, time and time again. Her staff was impressive both in size and credentials, although turnover was high. Nevertheless, the money poured in. There was only one problem. Elizabeth’s invention didn’t work.

Before I started listening to this book I wondered how the author would keep me interested in a start-up company’s downfall for a whopping 11 hours, 37 mins.! I underestimated his ability and the intensity of the story. This book blew my mind!! I had so many emotions while listening, but the foremost one was disbelief. I was astounded by how long Elizabeth Holmes was able to fool so many people with what amounted to a product that never advanced from the prototype stage, but that nonetheless made its way into a major drugstore chain.

I want to believe that Elizabeth had good intentions in the beginning, but that perhaps greed slowly began to crowd out her vision, and as a result, somewhere along the line her actions belied the very cause she set out to advance. Maybe she got caught up in the fervor of being the successful female entrepreneur that so many people were rooting for. Perhaps in her quest for fame and fortune she stopped considering the human factor involved and the lives she could harm by pushing her invention when she knew it had failed miserably.

The fake it ‘til you make it tactic worked for an impressive amount of time, but eventually the jig was up, and it was all downhill from there. In the end, Elizabeth had a good idea, but she couldn’t implement it. The question that still lingers within me is did she ever think she really could?

This book was incredibly well written and kept me immersed in the narrative the entire time. Very highly recommended.

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Confessions of a Mediocre Widow by Catherine Tidd (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

**TOP PICK**

I have to admit that based on the cover I didn’t know this book was non-fiction. It quickly became apparent to me that it was. This is an emotional read that left me with a tear-stained face several times. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read thus far.

Brad Tidd, thirty-four, could not have known when he left his house one morning in 2007 that a single decision would immediately change his life, and then end it. Catherine, his wife, thirty-one, and the mother of their three small children, would spend her eleventh wedding anniversary planning her husband’s funeral. She details the agony of that experience, along with the surreal feelings that followed her husband’s sudden death and the ways it affected her life. She chronicles the many stages of grief she experienced, and she does it candidly and in a poignant, yet inspiring way.

Tidd talks about many pertinent aspects relating to the grieving process, and gives excellent advice to widows, as well as to friends, relatives and associates of widows, emphasizing what to say, what to avoid saying, and how to help. I found her advice very practical and beneficial since I’ve had the awkward experience of feeling at a loss for words when speaking with newly widowed friends. She recites her journey through the beginning stages of widowhood, and shares her experiences and feelings about dating, her in-laws, counseling, anxiety, the widow stigma and much more.

This book had a profound effect on me. As I listened to the author recount the sudden loss of her husband it shook me to my core and made me uncomfortable. It forced me to think about what it might be like to lose my own husband, or for him to lose me, a thought I try to avoid. My heart went out to Catherine because she was so young when it happened to her, and it was totally unexpected. Having to plan a funeral, deal with feelings of intense loss, raise three children under the age of five, alone, and become the sole breadwinner after having been out of the workforce for several years would feel overwhelming to anyone. And yet, she eventually confronted her fears, got her life in order and triumphed.

Confessions of a mediocre widow was gripping, moving and memorable. If you’re a widow, young or old, this book will likely resonate with you and stir up many raw emotions. If you have not yet come to terms with your widowhood status, this book might be a bit difficult for you to get through, but I can say confidently that it will be informative and affirming as well. For the rest of us, especially those who are married, if you read this book you will look at your spouse in a very different way. I felt the need to make a conscious decision not to take any days that I share with my husband for granted. Very highly recommended.

After reading this book, as regards the title, Confessions of a Mediocre Widow, I’m convinced that the author is anything but.

—————-

Narrator – Celeste Oliva: I cannot think of a better narrator for this book. Celeste Oliva’s voice was composed, mellow, and pleasant to listen to; comforting, but not weak. Many times I had to remind myself that the voice was that of a narrator and not the author herself. She sounded so convincing, as though she was telling her own personal story. She was appropriately animated when necessary, which brought the author’s feelings to life. Excellent!!

—————-

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Confessions of a Mediocre Widow. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Amy by James Renner (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

This book is about a young reporter’s unceasing quest to find out what happened to Amy Mihaljevic.

Amy Mihaljevic disappeared in 1989 when she was ten years old. In early 1990 her body was found. James Renner, around the same age as Amy at the time, had been following the story about the cute little girl with the side ponytail. When Amy’s body was found James was devastated. The perpetrator was never caught. Sixteen years later, James, now a fledgling reporter for Scene magazine, revisits the story about Amy, hoping to uncover what really happened to her. As he gathers information from family members, friends and detectives who worked on the case, James quickly discovers there were a number of viable suspects who walked away, a few of them still living, and that one of them could be responsible for Amy’s death. As his investigation intensifies and he tracks down and interviews some of the suspects, along with those who knew them, James is struck by the deviance and depravity that surrounds him, and he becomes obsessed with finding Amy’s abductor.

James Renner’s tenacity in pursuing the Amy Mihaljevic case was captivating. Although a fledgling reporter at the time, Renner’s interviewing techniques were impressive. He cautiously spoke with anyone he could find that was connected to the case or considered a suspect, regardless of the danger to his own life. Each new chapter seemed to present another suspect or perspective regarding what happened to Amy, and I couldn’t stop listening to this book until I’d devoured the entire second half in one sitting. The suspense was such that I couldn’t tear myself away from it. There were real-life bogeymen, conspiracy theories, cover-ups, and almost too many suspects to keep straight. Some of it was very sad too though, like the impact that Amy’s death had on her mother, Margaret. She’d appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1992—the show was about unsolved child murders. Margaret had a rough go of it after Amy died. I won’t divulge what happened to her, but it was sad.

It’s fascinating to me how some seemingly ordinary people are really cold, calculating, and manipulative at their core; capable of committing heinous crimes. People we see in restaurants or who we have casual conversations with as we go about our daily lives are these same people. It’s frightful imagining the number of disturbed individuals who lurk among us. Renner’s book exposes us to some of the personalities of such characters.

This book was compelling. In the end, I was hoping to learn that justice had been served for little Amy, but it was not to be. I didn’t receive the closure that I thought was sure to come. The investigation is still ongoing nearly thirty years later. Nevertheless, the story gripped me, enlightened me and educated me in a way that I won’t easily forget.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a free download of AMY, by James Renner. The author, whose voice is somewhat monotone but serene and welcoming at the same time, did a great job narrating his book.

Throwback Thursday – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing an incredibly profound book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

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Why I chose this book:

This book was unlike any other I’d read.  I don’t read or post a lot of non-fiction books, but when I was perusing an independent book store while on vacation a while back, and it was on display and highly recommended to me by one of the workers, I decided to download the audiobook and listen to it.  I’d heard of it, but wasn’t sure what it was about.  O….M….Goodness.  I was blown away.  I couldn’t believe that Henrietta Lacks could have possibly affected my own life, and/or the lives of my loved ones.  My emotions were all over the place while getting through this book, but mostly I kept thinking this …

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Henrietta and her family were wronged in so many unimaginable ways.

Rebecca Skloot spent approximately a decade researching and writing this book before it was published.  It involves a young, underprivileged black woman who died of cervical cancer, but her cancer cells kept multiplying after her death in 1951, and they continue to live on in laboratories today.  They’ve been used to develop treatments and vaccines that many of us have probably benefited from.  Apparently the cells are so prolific that at last count they could wrap around the Earth several times.  But there’s much, much more to this story.  Although so many people, including medical professionals, profited from Henrietta’s cells, her family languished in abject poverty, some without medical insurance.  AND, consent from Henrietta or her family was never given to use Henrietta’s cells for research or otherwise.  See my more in-depth review here.

You might recall that the movie was released on HBO earlier this year.  Oprah Winfrey starred in it as Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah Lacks.  It was a good effort, but the book is exceedingly more detailed.  I recommend this book to the entire world.


Have you heard of, or read, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?  What did you think?  I’d love to know your thoughts.

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Thank you for stopping by.  Have a wonderful day.

 

Review: An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny
An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s amazing how far a little compassion can go. That was my overall feeling about An Invisible Thread. Laura Schroff, a busy executive, could have just continued to ignore Maurice on the street, but she didn’t. She took notice and did what she could, which was a lot at times, to assist him. I admire how she was moved to help this child, even allowing him into her home, washing his clothes and feeding him. She took a personal interest in him, and for that she should be commended. Laura Schroff suffered through dark periods in her own childhood and I appreciated reading her backstory because it gave me a bit of insight into how her own experiences shaped her in adulthood. An Invisible Thread was a deeply moving story of how just one woman could change the course of someone’s damaged life, and I truly enjoyed it and recommend it.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

IMG_3496.JPG⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is easily one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read (or listened to, as this was an audiobook). Deeply moving, I experienced so many emotions while listening to this book: shock, outrage, sympathy, anger, frustration, fear, astonishment, enlightenment and wonder. I was astounded when I read about how the cancerous cells of a young, poor, black woman were used after her death, and without her consent, to develop vaccines and other equally valuable medical and scientific breakthroughs to benefit countless people, while her own family languished in abject poverty. Henrietta’s cells are still alive today and continue to be used although she died in 1951. They have been multiplied to a number that if measured, according to one assertion, would wrap around the earth three times!! That’s a whole lot of cells considering the fact that about 5,000 could fit on the tip of a pin. Although most of us have probably benefited in one way or other from Henrietta’s cells in the form of medicines, vaccines, etc., the problem is her family didn’t get anything, and could not even afford medical care. Most of them didn’t have medical insurance. This is unjust and disconcerting considering the family never truly consented to having Henrietta’s cells used for medical research, her name (or by extention, theirs) revealed, and her privileged medical information exposed to the world. This was clearly an invasion of privacy in the severist form and my heart went out to the family. I learned so much while listenting to this book; terms such as bioethics, civil liberties, and informed consent were spoken of. I found myself thinking about how important it is to take a closer look at documents that are presented for signature before having medical procedures performed in doctors’ offices, hospitals, etc. I also pondered how some medical professionals and others related to the field can take advantage of the minimally educated, unsuspecting and underprivileged individuals to advance their own objectives; exploiting those who lack knowledge of complex medical terminology and biological science without regard for the humiliation, pain and suffering they may cause to fellow human beings in the process. I came away from the book feeling sad, as though the story was somehow incomplete in some way. I wanted more justice for the family-for them to have been compensated for the way they were dealt with. I salute Rebecca Skloot for taking on such a monumental task as writing this book, which I read took roughly 10 years of research before its completion. I felt it was masterfully written and I recommend it to anyone breathing.

My Accidental Jihad

My Accidental JihadMy Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 3.5 stars. I truly enjoyed the first 3/4 of this book; it was the last 1/4 that went a little south for me. Krista Bremer shares her life with us, exposing what it’s like to be an American woman married to an older Libyan-born Muslim man. It began as a memoir in which she gives us a glimpse of who she is and what she stands for, and then we gradually become familiar with her husband Ismail. I have to give Bremer credit for the candid way she reveals some very personal aspects of her life with Ismail. She’s also very descriptive in the way she enlightens us about her own religious beliefs, which I have to admit I found a little disturbing. Her irreverent and flippant descriptions of God made me cringe at times. She appears very gullible and quick to adopt whatever traditional views pervade our society without having any real foundation of her own. This perceived personality trait helped me to understand (possibly) her initial attraction and subsequent marriage to her husband. He may have represented something unfamiliar and mystical. However, as we read on we can see how this fascination leads to revelations that are at times very difficult for her to relate to and comprehend. She takes us through her visit to Libya and the appalling conditions that shocked and saddened her. We also see the conflicts and struggles between her and Ismail because of cultural differences; but not enough so. This is where the book began to lessen in strength to me. I started to feel as though we weren’t getting the full story of their lives together. This was a memoir after all, but it got a little disjointed and I felt as though there were parts of their lives that were excluded. When I read Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody, a true story of an American Woman who married a Muslim man who held her and their young daughter captive in Iran, I got to know all of the characters so fully that when it was over they stayed with me for a very long time. When I finished reading My Accidental Jihad It felt wanting, like I didn’t get the full accounting of their lives together. I really didn’t get to know enough about Ismail and their family in general. Nevertheless, the writing started out very strong and it held my interest nearly to the end. I applaud the author for revealing what we were privileged to learn about her family. I liked it and feel confident recommending it to others. I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for a fair and honest review, which I have given. Thank you LibraryThing and Algonquin Books.

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